Lights, Camera, Waiting

Second Chance To View Super Gr8 Films

Posted: November 23, 2012

As in life, there are no second takes in creating a Super 8mm film.
There will, however, be an encore: Harrisonburg’s 2012 Super Gr8 Film Festival, held earlier this month, will open its curtains for a second bow on Nov. 29 and 30.
 Forty-seven films — each three minutes and 20 seconds long, spread silently over 50 feet of film holding 3,400 frames and often layered with local musicians’ soundtracks — will be shown during the festival’s two-night encore event, beginning both nights at 7 p.m. at Court Square Theater.
The Filmmakers: ‘Mistakes And All’
Founded by Paul Somers and Tim Estep, the festival starts forming as early as July each year, with calls for filmmakers. Each participant borrows a shotgun-style Super 8 format camera and a cartridge of film.
After shooting their plotline — the only edits happening in-camera — they return the cartridges to Somers and Estep, which are then sent to be processed and converted digitally.
Once the cartridges are sent away, the filmmakers are as in the dark before curtain as the rest of the audience — none get to see their film before it hits Court Square’s big screen.
This approach “proved to be an excellent way to build excitement and anticipation,” said Somers.
“It’s part of the buzz” of opening night, Estep added. “They’ve got to have a little faith.”
“There is no post-processing,” said Elwood Madison III (“Paper Plane Pilot”). “This means that the film that we see in the theater is exactly how the director filmed it and in the order that the scene were shot. Mistakes and all.”
It’s a thrill third-year filmmaker Brandy Somers calls “terrifying and exciting,” the climax of creatives’ chatter around town before the premiere. “Everyone is unified with the same lump-in-your-throat excitement.”
Jay Zehr, whose film “The Other Side of the Record” won this year for Best Color Cinematography, calls it “trusting the process.” The tenuous combination of “endless options and severe limitations” is what makes Super Gr8 unique, said fellow filmmaker Anthony Pakingan (“Camp Pain 2012”).
Ivan Christo (“Jaguardini’s Electric Jesus”) agrees. He say the editing and time constraints “challenge the filmmaker to either harness complete control of their environments, or let go and allow the film to make itself.”
The Audience: A ‘Firework Show’
With as much suspense as Super Gr8 holds for those behind the camera, the audience-community is equally enthralled by the action.
Compared to a multi-million dollar production, notes Somers, these showings are different: “People are laughing out loud, hooting, cheering and clapping at least every three minutes and 20 seconds.”
“Expect the same excitement as a firework show,” said Christo. “Essentially, they are both the same: a brilliant display of dancing light.”
Hundreds of community members were involved this year, according to Somers, spanning a gamut of experience: from professors and attorneys, nurses and bouncers, seven and ten year olds and schoolteachers, to waitresses and cooks. “And they are all successful at it, which is kind of crazy, but true,” Somers said.
This year, they’ve put more emphasis on the peripheral components of the filmmaking process, encouraging poster designs and local musicians to score the works.
But most of all, those involved want to translate their passion from screen to spirits. “I want each person in the audience to share the inspiration, the appreciation, the sheer awe and the sense of communal creativity that I feel whenever someone even mentions the Super Gr8 Film Festival,” says filmmaker Joseph Wade Vanover (“No Chances”).
It’s more than just a festival to Madison. “It’s a window into the heart of the Shenandoah Valley’s thriving arts community ... What’s equally impressive is the staggering amount of time and talent that so many folks donate to make this festival what it is.”
For more information and encore tickets, visit or call the Court Square Theater Box Office at (540) 433-9189.
Contact Samantha Cole at or 574-6274

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