With 15 minutes until midnight on Friday, Feb. 20, 76 groups of UC Irvine students began filling the grassy amphitheater located near the ArtsTEC Lab in the Claire Trevor School of Arts. As the high level of energy and exclamations of excitement echoed through the halls of the arts center, there was no hint that students were about to endure 24 hours of exhausting and extensive work.
At midnight, 350 participating UCI students would embark on the 5th Annual Mad Film Dash, a 24- hour adventure in which students had to shoot, edit and produce a short film by midnight of Feb. 21.
The 5th Annual Mad Film Dash, put on by the UCI Bookstore and the Claire Trevor School of Arts, is a 24-hour short film competition meant to showcase the talent of the university’s amateur student filmmakers. Registered teams of up to eight students met at midnight on competition day, where they received a prompt containing a genre and a prop that must be incorporated into their film. The teams then had 24 hours to conceptualize, write, rehearse, film and edit a short film no longer than five minutes.
Once teams received their prompt, they were free to film wherever they chose and whatever they wanted, as long as it stayed within the genre guidelines and included the required prop.
“I’ve heard of groups going as far as San Francisco to Las Vegas,” said Vincent Kabaja, a Mad Film Dash participant.
“When I participated last year, we shot in Palm Springs. We wrote our skit in the car on the way there,” said Colin Stack, one of this year’s coordinators. “I think judges appreciate seeing places other than campus.”
Whether it is Campus Drive or Las Vegas, NV, participants of all majors and levels of experience seem to have one thing in common: preparation. Without knowledge of what the genre is until kick-off, most teams are restricted in how much they can plan their concepts beforehand. Food, sleep and energy drinks are generally the best and only way to prepare.
Freshman Evelyn Del Real’s formula was easy. “How do we prepare?” she laughed. “With Monster energy drinks.”
Aside from focusing on storing energy, students realized that the spontaneity of the competition required creative minds and spur-of-the-moment mentalities.
Jeff Chung, a first-time competitor, explained, “Since there is really no way to prepare, you just have to choose diverse members and hope for the best.”
When the clock finally struck 12:00 a.m., caffeinated students bolted away in a matter of minutes, leaving the amphitheater as quiet and still as every other part of campus on a Friday night. By 12:15 a.m., the only ones left were a couple of slow-starting teams and two of the three coordinators, Janet Lee and Stack, who were busy all night distributing genres and registering last-minute participants.
“The hard part is over … for us,” Lee said.
The participants were not the only ones who lacked sleep for the 24-hour turnover. Coordinators Ambrose Wu, Lee and Stack had to be available throughout the entire 24 hours for questions, available to all teams via cell phone and AIM. In the contest packet, they reiterated this fact by stating in bold font, “Believe it or not, we are available to help you the entire 24 hours. We gave you our cell numbers – how’s that for support?”
Over the next 24 hours, the 76 teams put their creativity and patience to the limit as the lack of sleep, technical and editing difficulties and anxiousness to finish began to settle within them.
“I’m crashing…” was a proclamation made more than just a couple of times by exhausted students.
By 10 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 21, the ArtsTEC Lab, where students edited and submitted their final product, was filled with snoozing students, concentrating editors, frustrated team members and none other than the coordinators themselves. As obscenities flew and coffee continuously poured into cups, the high energy level that was so apparent just 22 hours before was almost nonexistent.
In two instances, when asked to recreate their experiences, group members were too exhausted to reply, shaking their heads “no” and signaling to be left alone.
It was only when the countdown began that the energy reappeared. With just 10 minutes until submission time, the array of emotions almost drove some to insanity and others to simple elation. Frustrated cries of “What just happened?!” to blissful exclamations of “We’re done!” filled the stuffy, body odor-ridden computer lab.
As the teams yelled “5 … 4 … 3 … 2 … 1” in unison, the responses were mostly of relief.
Submitting their film just 10 minutes before midnight, Ricardo Gabriel, Maral Aghazarian, Elizabeth Privitt, Dale Olguin and Jason Bullemer were exhausted yet relieved to be done.
“It starts off really fun. But by hour 23, you want to kill everyone,” Gabriel, a second-time competitor, said. “Even so, we’re definitely doing it again next year!” added a giggly Aghazarian.
Although the level of energy and array of emotions fluctuated drastically over the 24-hour time frame, the echoing laughter that filled the amphitheater at kick-off was the same laughter that surrounded the parking lot as students drove off to make up the lost hours of sleep. These shouts of laughter could have been of joy, exhilaration, relief or just pure disillusion. Either way, they were finally finished.