Kent State alumni take on film festival


Director Dustin Lee behind the scenes of “The House of Boredom.”

Audrey Fletcher

A film team composed of Kent State alumni and students faced the unknown. The team members were participating in a contest that required creativity, skill and hard work.

The Producers Guild of America’s Weekend Shorts Contest was an online national film competition in which teams had 51 hours to complete a film from concept to finish, a challenge that Dustin Lee, film director and Kent State video production supervisor, found fun.

The first place prize for the contest is a more than $100,000 video production package that includes rentals of high quality cameras and other equipment certificates.

“That could fund our next film,” Lee said.

The crew of the second place film receives a mentoring session with Ian Bryce the producer of “Saving Private Ryan,” “Spiderman” and “Transformers” and third place receives a $3,500 video production package.

In order to decide which teams will receive these prizes, the films will be judged by a panel that includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Steve Buscemi and Paul Reubens.

Lee assembled a team of 11 people he had worked with in the past to work on the contest.

In order to ensure that no team had an unfair advantage, all teams had to include certain thematic elements that were not released until the competition began.

The setting was to be Halloween, the story elements were a chess knight, a cassette tape and a knitting needle, and the thematic elements were escape, grace and forgiveness and an unlikely hero.

All story elements had to be included and at least one had to be central to the story. Only one thematic element had to appear in the three- to five-minute film.

As soon as this information was released, the team began working.

“I’m surprised it took as long as it did to come up with a storyline,” Lee said.

Filming took approximately 10 hours due to the setup required for each scene. Lights and cameras had be adjusted, and the actors and actresses also had to make sure that their lines and expressions were correct.

“Getting the correct expressions is the most difficult part,” said Joe Adams, junior theatre studies major and actor in the film. “You can interpret it one way, and then the director can decide if he would like to take it in a different direction.”

As soon as the first shots were complete, the editing process began. This process includes synchronizing sound and video files because they were each recorded separately.

“It’s sort of an organizational mess,” said Jon Jivan, film editor and Kent State Communications and Marketing videographer.

Jivan used Final Cut X to edit the film. This program synchronizes sound and audio for the editor, which shortened a once long process, according to Jivan.

The team created a comedy, which presented an additional challenge.

“Just as actors have comedic timing, an editor does as well,” Jivan said. “If you wait too long to cut to a shot with the punch line, you’ve ruined the joke.”

After all elements of the film were complete, the team had to upload the video. As Jivan was uploading the film, he met several technical difficulties, despite testing this process beforehand. The film was submitted four minutes before the cut off time.

The results of the contest will be posted no later than Nov. 15.

“It’s definitely fun doing this, but I’ll probably take a break,” Lee said. “But that’s what I said last time.”

Contact Audrey Fletcher at [email protected].