They always wanted to make a buddy cop movie. But every year when the 50 Hour Slam secret criteria is announced, Davin Perry and Andy Gardner's dream is always thwarted. Once again, the filmmaking duo didn't make that movie this year. Rather, they made a film they dreamed up Saturday around 3 am.
"We have really tried to pre-plan our story," says Gardner, who along with Perry is competing for the third time. "But it hasn't ever been possible for it to work that way."
On a Friday evening early last month, the pair is just one of the many teams crowded into a KSPS broadcast room, eagerly awaiting their assignment for the 50 Hour Slam. When festival co-creator Juan Mas walks to the front of the room, he has to hush the group multiple times. Finally the participants, a mishmash of ages and clothing spectrums, listen intently — clearly wanting to start this beast as soon as possible.
Aided by a video projector, Mas animatedly explains the process; the 50 hours each team will have to create a wholly original three-to-six-minute film, the legal paperwork that must be turned in to participate, the credits that have to be included. Finally, the secret criteria: Each film must include a safety pin, one of three provided photographs and a location in Spokane given in riddle form.
The filmmakers know what's at stake; the top 15 movies as voted on by the panel of judges will advance to the audience screening and awards ceremony on Saturday, May 3. The film crew that tweets the most will take the 16th spot.
Also in the crowd that night is director Brooke Kiener and her team of seven women. There's never been an all-female team at this event. They tried last year, only to see those hopes dashed after taking an Easter egg — literally a plastic Easter egg plucked from a basket containing added film criteria that, if completed, earns a team five extra points — that said, "Make a film with an all-male cast."
"That was devastating," Kiener says. "But this year nothing can stop us."
Over the course of the weekend, Kiener says she maybe managed six hours of shuteye. Her crew pulled a grueling schedule many teams followed: Write Friday night, film Saturday, edit Sunday — turning in the final product with just 15 minutes to spare. A theater professor at Whitworth University, Kiener was extremely comfortable at the helm but says the final cut is quite ambitious.
"I am so happy to know the fruits of our labor are going to be seen at least by the judges," she says with a laugh.
A couple of weeks after the kickoff party, Perry says he's relieved to have finished his film with Gardner; that they turned it in on time Sunday night, along with 25 other teams.
"For us, we're just never totally satisfied with what we do," Perry says. "There was a point on Friday night where we wondered if this was all worth it."
Perry compares the 50 Hour Slam to running a marathon every time: stressful at first, but an earned sense of accomplishment once it's completed. That buddy cop genre may once more be on the back burner, Perry says.
Oh well, there's always next year. ♦
50 Hour Slam Audience Choice Awards • Sat, May 3, at 6 pm • $10 at the door • All-ages • Bing Crosby Theater • 901 W. Sprague • 50hourslam.com