In the afterglow of this year’s highly successful 168 Film Festival, we wanted to give SCH readers a chance to get to know some of the talented filmmakers who went all out in this short film competition. Though there was only one Grand Prize Winner of a Feature Film Budget of up to $1 Million Dollars, sponsored by Echo Light Studios, there were many other gifted filmmakers who made it to final round.
168 simply means 7 days X 24 = 168 hours (or a week). It’s long enough to make a 10-minute film and short enough that people can work for free. The goal is artistic excellence through real-world experience.
Founder & Director, John David Ware stated “This year the filmmakers brought more passion and heart than I thought ever possible. These films will leave audiences inspired and believing that we can all achieve great things in a very short amount of time.”
This the first in a series of five filmmaker portraits, SCH talks with Dana Marie Newell, the Austrailian Director/Producer of the short film Lost in the Dark.
Sonoma Christian Home: What attracted you to the 168 Film Project?
Dana Marie Newell: I’m really excited about the 168 Film Project for a lot of reasons. I love the aspect of using scripture as inspiration and the foundation of a film, and this festival offers that challenge and provides the motivation to get it done. I also love the crazy challenge of making a film in a week because you learn so much from yourself, your capabilities and your team than you would if you spent a month making a film with them. It’s high pressure and intense and I LOVE IT! I am also excited about the festival because of the type of filmmakers who it attracts. There’s not many places where you can meet as a group of artists who are on a similar journey as you. I think it’s going to be a great opportunity to be inspired by stories from the other teams and hopefully join forces one day.
SCH: What was it like when you picked your bible verse for the film, and did this verse have any special significance to you?
DN: Being in Australia, we couldn’t get to the mixer so our verse was emailed to us. Our verse is “But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise” (Exodus 21.23-25).Personally I was so excited about this verse because it had the promise of action and a little bit of roughing up the characters. My director, on the other hand, was not as excited because he was keen to make a film that really expresses God’s amazing love, and this verse, on first or second read it does not reflect that. However, after we explored the verse and the context we both were in a place where we were excited about the story we were going to tell.
SCH: Did you pay your talent and/or crew or did they volunteer? How did the team come together?
DN: Our team coming together was a little bit of a miracle. Both the Director and I are new to Melbourne, so we haven’t had a chance to really connect with the film industry down there. For 3 weeks I was on email, phone, Facebook, whatever, asking friends of friends if they knew anyone who knew anyone who is an amazing sound designer, etc. It’s pretty tricky to convince strangers to work on a film with someone they haven’t met or on a script that isn’t written yet. But everyone was super supportive and phone numbers kept coming my way. Some of my team I never even met personally through the making. We communicated over the net and or phone. Some of the crew I met for the first time on set! Chris and I both felt in the end God had brought this team together, it was great to be able to trust in His casting. haha. Seriously, the team that rocked up that day to shoot “Lost in the Dark” or “The Falling Dark” as it was originally titled, just seemed to fit like we’d worked together on many films before.
SCH: What was your budget?
DN: We didn’t have any money for this film. Teaming up with Campus Crusade for Christ Australia was such a blessing as they supplied us with equipment. The stunning dilapidated farm house location was free thanks to a kind farmer, and the cast and crew also worked for free. In the end we managed to make the film for under $1000.00.
SCH: Is there anybody we might recognize who was part of your team?
DN: Unless you are keeping up with the Aussie film industry, we are all fresh faces to you.
SCH: What was the hardest part about doing making the film in 168 hours?
DN: For us, the hardest part was putting the team together and finding a location which all happens before the ‘go’ is sounded. Also, it was difficult for me, the producer, to work full time while managing my post prod team at the same time. However, everyone stuck to the schedule I had spent hours laying out before we shot, so it all ran smoothly. Goes to show that spending so much time in pre-prod and scheduling in time really does pay off. The entire team knew what their role was and was 100% dedicated to doing it to the best they could, which really helps a film set to run smoothly.
SCH: What did you learn from making a film in a week?
DN: Because of the intensity when making a film in a week, I learnt it is so valuable to have people who are as passionate about the project as the core team. If everyone is enthusiastic and supportive it makes the craziness of the week so much fun!
SCH: What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers and actors?
DN: Make as much as you can, as often as you can. The more practice the better. If you can, work with people who are better than you, watch them and study them.
SCH: Are you planning to participate in the 168 Film Project next year? Would you recommend participating in the 168 Film Project to your peers and colleagues?
DN: Of course! Can’t wait for next year. The 168 team are amazing people and I’ve really enjoyed getting to know them a little and look forward to next year already.
SCH: Is there anything special on your heart that you would like to share with our readers?
DN: I feel so extremely blessed to have worked with everyone on my team, and now being in LA from Melbourne, Australia and hanging with other fellow 168 film makers. I am so thankful for the 168 team who created this festival and continue to dedicate so much of their time and heart into this project. You guys rock heaps!!
SCH: What’s next?
DN: GMR Pictures and WonderGate will continue to support each other in their separate film ventures while continuing to also working together and create more films that challenge the world view, provoke thought and conversation among its viewers.
Click here to watch a trailer for Lost In the Dark
Visit 168 Film Festival to learn more.