Two more weeks down, and twenty-five more teams have exited the CineCoup contest. I’ve been blogging about being part of Team Starkers in the CineCoup Film Accelerator, a grueling socially-driven contest to award one three-person team $1 million to make their feature film. We started at ninety-one teams from all over Canada. Now there’s fifty-seven. And this weekend they’re voting on the Top 40, so another seventeen teams will be shown the door.
The competition’s been heating up, and the best teams are definitely raising their game to earn a shot at that Cineplex money. There were two challenges to deliver over the past few weeks. The first was to create two possible movie posters for your film. I was surprised to see how professional and well designed the results were, once again showcasing the talent so many of these teams possess. There’s a great gallery of all the posters you can check out on Pinterest. (You can still vote for your faves, if you click on the images, taking you through to each poster’s CineCoup page.)
For the second challenge we had two weeks to prepare. CineCoup wanted each team to deliver a 90-second sequence from their film with an emotional wallop, but sans dialogue. This forced teams out of their usual comfort zone, as everyone had to create a unique pseudo-silent video (music and sound effects were still allowed). The Starkers Speechless clip turned out to be the best one we’ve done for CineCoup, but it didn’t feel that way when we were making it! A day that started out well shooting at Wimpy’s Diner at Kennedy and St. Clair in Scarborough slowly spun out of control, turning into one of those endless shooting nightmares anyone who’s made movies knows so well.
The shoot called for a ground-floor room in a motel, so we could have a creepy stalker staring in through the window. When we arrived at the hotel, a charmingly sketchy Howard Johnson’s, all the ground-floor rooms were gone. The team had to throw the script out and reinvent the ending of the sequence. At 2am, we tried climbing the tiny balcony to see if that would be feasible, but there was nowhere to shoot from outside, and the windows didn’t line up properly. Director Paul Thompson and cinematographer Brent Robinson hit on the simple idea of a tracking shot off of the mother and daughter in bed and into a new room, where our creepy stalker friend sits listening. The slide worked perfectly, and the sequence was stronger for it. Starting our day at 1pm, we wrapped at 5am the following morning. That’s commitment from a determined cast and crew. A few days of mad editing for both picture and sound, and the video turned out to be emotive and expressive, capturing the difficult relationship of a mother and daughter meeting for the first time. You can watch our Speechless video here, and explore all the teams here.
We encountered an abnormal voting experience, too, over the Easter weekend watching our score plummet from the mid-7s to a low 5 over the course of four days. We can respect the judgement of people – Starkers isn’t going to be for everyone – but something seemed fishy with the overwhelmingly negative blast we were getting. Sure enough, CineCoup agreed, and scrubbed a lot of our low scores, putting us back on fair footing. Their algorithm caught some gaming going on, and it’s good to see that the trolls won’t spoil the outcome of this contest. Well done, CineCoup!
This weekend voting is on for the Top 40 teams. We are getting closer to a serious winnowing down to the top teams. These forty will all have to submit their feature-length screenplays, and another round of voting a few weeks from now will bring us to the Top 15. If you like indie film and want to see some of the great ideas percolating around Canada, check them out, and vote for your faves. You could be giving one team the chance to make their feature much more than a dream.