High Noon on Pearl Street
High Noon on Pearl Street
Photo by Michael Conti

Wanted: Filmmakers for Boulder Shootout

No different from the days of the old west, the Seventh Annual Boulder Shootout Film Festival will test film makers' nerves and speed. Given 24 hours to craft a seven-minute production, challengers must follow strict guidelines going back to the roots of filmmaking. And on Saturday, the race gets started with a free workshop giving you the mettle you'll need to succeed.

"The Boulder Shootout is an homage to the beginning of filmmaking and the days of the nickelodeon," says Michael Conti, the festival's executive director. "These days people expect a film to be an hour and half to two hours long, but originally they may have only been five minutes."

At 5:55 p.m. on September 24, teams will be given their "brief," which includes a list of specified props, Boulder locations and phrases that must be incorporated into the film. The rules: films can not be any longer than seven minutes including credits, they need to be handed in 24 hours from receiving "the brief" and the final production must be crafted on a tape using in-camera editing only, meaning scenes must be shot in a linear succession according to the script.

"In-camera editing is probably the hardest to do right, but it's one of the easiest things for anyone to do," explains Conti. "The event is open to anyone who has a camera, and we see a lot of weekend warrior film makers."

But don't let the open invitation fool you -- judging not only considers the specifics outlined in "the brief" but technical aspects as well. Of the 50 films that typically make the deadline, only ten will make the final cut and be shown that Sunday at the Boulder Theatre during the weekend's award ceremony.

"Usually when a film doesn't make the top ten, it's not because it failed to incorporate the guidelines in the brief, but because of a lack of story or some technical error," Conti says. "We encourage filmmakers, who may be frustrated that their films don't make it into the top ten, to be a judge one year when they are not competing."

The first "shootout" was originally organized by Australian film maker Kristi Street in 1999. Intrigued by the event, Conti contacted Street in spring of '04, flew to Newcastle to see the whole process play out and watched as a small town outside of Sydney became a film mecca for a weekend.

"When I was there it just blew me away how excited people were for it, and I knew we had to do this in Boulder," Conti reminisces. "In Australia, it had a much broader marketing appeal because it had the financial backing of the city tying it to local restaurants and hotels. They don't do it in an area where there is going to be a lot of competition from other events and happenings; it's done in a place that would be a destination for a weekend, and I think that is unique."

The success of the Newcastle Shootout prompted the event to be duplicated across the Australian states and into New Zealand. The event is catching on here too, with Cheyenne organizing to host its second Shootout next month.

"My dream is to do more of these events in the middle of the country, like Nebraska and South Dakota," Conti says. "I think there are more similarities to the Australian experience in the middle of the country than in the metropolitan areas."

On Saturday, the Shootout hosts a free workshop from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. that first-timers are encouraged to attend, where they can learn the ins and outs of the process. Registration for the shootout itself is $100 per team of two, but this year, the ante has been raised to the tune of $2,000 for first place.

And what makes a good film?

"It's all about the story," Conti says, "and the ending. A good twist or chuckle."

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