Monday, Jun 18, 2018
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Kirk Baird


Tree City Film Fest a chance to try new skill



There’s irony in there somewhere.

A week before Hollywood’s annual summer film onslaught begins, Sylvania’s second-annual Tree City Film Festival delivers its own cinematic musings — albeit on a much lower budget and scale — with a collection of 17 shorts by local filmmakers to be screened at 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday in the train barn at the Sylvania Historical Village. Tickets are $8, with $5 matinee tickets for students and senior citizens.

The films are part of an event known as the 50-hour challenge, in which teams are tasked with writing, filming, and editing their own shorts — running times not to exceed 8 minutes — in a little more than two days.

Simple enough, right?

It’s trickier than just the time element.

RELATED ARTICLE: Humor, horror a hit a Shorties Short Film Challenge

Each group drew its own topic/genre from a hat — anything from “a bad kung-fu movie” or a musical, and had to incorporate the name of Pat Lathrop, who was part of the Underground Railroad in Sylvania, a National Geographic magazine, and the line of dialogue “if a tree falls” into their film. And if a movie crew wanted to compete for the Spirit of Sylvania Award, they needed to shoot at least one scene at the intersection of Maplewood Avenue and Main Street in downtown Sylvania.

Rae Betz’s team drew “dating a video gamer” as their topic.

So the 23-year-old Sylvania township resident, her boyfriend, and uncle wrote a screenplay about a video gamer’s odyssey of comedic setbacks and obstacles on his way to a date with his dream girl. “He basically goes to sell a comic book on Craigslist and everything goes wrong from there,” she said, with the question of “whether he will make it to the date or not” looming through most of the film.

Making the movie had its challenges, namely shoehorning the collaborative process into such a tight production schedule.

“But at some point, someone has to give in, and you say let’s go with this and make the best movie you can,” Betz said. “But, overall, it came together well.

“It really is a different way to get together with people and make a movie. It’s also cool to see what everybody else did the same weekend as you.”

The communal experience of making and sharing art was the point to The Tree City Film Festival, said Jennifer Archer, executive director of the Sylvania Community Arts Commission, the organization behind the event, which, by the way, is open to residents beyond Sylvania borders.

“It’s really inspiring that people who maybe never thought about the possibility of doing this before give it a try. That’s the part that moves me the most, seeing we have this impact on people to do this, to take a risk,” she said. “You never know where the skill and craft comes from, and to see this kind of talent in our community is pretty amazing.

“To think that people are coming up with this stuff in just 50 hours, it makes me wish I could be writing and making movies all the time. It’s amazing where talent lives.”

The films will be judged by four industry experts — Colin Nusbaum, a Toledo-born documentary editor and cinematographer; Ellyn Exley, film producer and Northview High School graduate; Oliver Pearce, a writer-director-editor of independent horror films; and and returning Tree City Fest judge Scott Weinstein, a co-producer on Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update — with a $300 first-place prize at stake.

In addition to Saturday’s 50-Hour showcase, the festival will be screening all of 2013’s Oscar-nominated short films — animated and live-action — beginning at 6 tonight at Northview High School. Tickets are $8.

For more information, visit or call 419-517-0118.

Contact Kirk Baird at or 419-724-6734.

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