In 2005, CVS drugs stores released a disposable video camera. The small one-time-use device cost $30, and could shoot 20 minutes of standard quality film. Afterward it would be returned to the drug store and processed into a DVD. The camera would be repackaged and sold to someone else.
These disposable gadgets were never a hit, largely due to other cheap video recording devices that exploded onto the market, but they did inspire media makers Carlton Evans and Eric Slatkin to create The Disposable Film Festival.
“This seemed like a total game changer,” Evans said. “Anyone would now be able to afford the basic tools for making a short film.”
For the fifth annual event, over 2,000 videos from around the world were filmed on cell phones, webcams and other similar devices, edited down to under 10 minutes and then submitted for review.
Over the span of a couple of months, every single submission was watched by a group of people who whittled them down to the best 18. Those were passed on to a group of acclaimed people in the film industry including Ted Hope, Joe Walker and Hawk Ostby who chose the top winners.
Ostby is a seasoned judge at the film festival. He is known for his work in co-writing “Children of Men,” “Ironman” and “Cowboys and Aliens.”
“I really like the style of it, it’s sort of like haiku film making,” Ostby said. “You have a very short amount of time to tell your story and very limited resources to do it, you have to use ingenuity.”
Experimental filming techniques are one of the key characteristics that the films are judged on, and landed the top 18 films their spot in the premier showing at The Castro Theatre this past Thursday.
Evans believes that the kinds of films being made for the festival are the perfect opportunity for innovation and unique techniques of storytelling which aren’t often seen in Hollywoods and even independent films which are both restricted by the need to get revenue from their films.
One such technique that is popular in this year’s top 18 films is called screen capture. In these movies no filming is actually involved, instead the creator is using pre-existing video and crafting something new with it. Evans described it as the remixing of filmmaking.
Ken Al-Shatti submitted his short film “Old Flame” which features one shot of a lighter and a edited version of a Julia Lennon song. He believes that filmmaking brings about self-realization and with the tools now so readily available it is accessible for everyone.
“How many great musicians are lost because don’t have an instrument or how many great film makers are lost because the idea of putting something on the screen is too overwhelming?” said Al-Shatti. “So I think as these things become more accessible it’s really great.”