Last month Phil and Rhonda attended the fourth annual Super Gr8 Film Festival in Harrisonburg, Virginia, a charming little town in the Shenandoah Valley. This is the 3rd year in a row that they have sponsored and attended this spectacular community celebration of super 8 story telling shot on a single roll. The life long friendships being cultivated with this incredibly welcoming community on the opposite end of the country stem from a shared passion of the infinite possibilities of what can be shot on a single cartridge of Super 8 film.
Organized by two local residents and SuperGr8 guys, Paul Somers (artist, poet, filmmaker and educator) and Tim Estep (TimeStepFilms), The Super Gr8 Film Festival is a community-organized event that featured 50 super 8 short films, shown over two nights at the Court Square Theatre. Night one was all black and white film shot on Super8/66; night two was all color negative shot on Pro8/13. Many of the filmmakers had never made a short film before this event.
Each August Pro8mm provides Tim and Paul a sponsorship package for the 50 rolls of film, processing and scanning. All the short films, approximately 3.5 minutes in length were edited in-camera, without sound. Each filmmaker then created an original soundtrack for his or her project that the festival directors add to the digital master of the film. The filmmakers see the films for the first time with the audience.
Super Gr8’s mission is to bring the community together through film. It is amazing to see how in this small Shenandoah Valley college town, everyone, everywhere steps right in to get totally behind Super Gr8. Actors, filmmakers, crew, artists creating posters, musicians creating original sound tracks, live performances in conjunction with some of the films, and a community fan club of business owners, were all a part of the festival is some way. This was a community labor of love unlike any other we have seen before.
Tim and Paul have spent endless hours finding cameras, getting them repaired, lending them out to contestants, and training them how to use them. They contacted local merchants to sponsor the event and local artists to raffle off their work as a fund raising effort. Even the trophies were unique, one of kind objects of art hand made out of old super 8 cameras, mounted on a stand.
Rhonda states, “I have to say with absolutely honesty, that the Super Gr8 festival continues to be the highlight of my year. Never have I met people more appreciative, warm, and friendly as I have in Harrisonburg. It affirms what I have always believed. Give people a creative opportunity, make it affordable, accessible, and add in a chance to collaborate with others without competing for anything other than a chance to totally immerse themselves in something enjoyable and enhance a sense of community pride, and you have the perfect recipe for a life that is Super Gr8! It is like the best of the red carpet and the best of the high school musical all rolled into one. Filmmaker receptions, after parties, and a sold out audience rooting for their son, daughter, friend, or significant other makes this event unique, memorable and compels me to want to be a part of it year after year”.
Every year the films get better and better, especially as some filmmakers have had there 3rd or 4th go of it. This year’s audience pick in the color negative category was “Clay Hard”, a hilarious claymation spoof film by “The Brother Sedeen.”
Directors Choice was Persian Blue, directed by Wade Vanover and Angela Albanese. She was awarded a Rhonda Cam, donated by Pro8mm. The Pro8mm award was given to Sarah Elizabeth Murphy for her beautiful narrative The Greatest Show On Earth.
The word is getting out about the unique experience , and not only in the Harrisonburg local media. Residents will tell you The Super Gr8 Film Festival has become one of the largest community events of the year and has definitely put it on the map as a hot spot film friendly community.
On a larger note, a fantastic documentary about the festival, its founders and some of its participants aired on PBS last month just prior to the festival And I have heard rumblings of other SuperGr8 things on the horizon. Until they are revealed, Keep Calm and Film on!
© Rhonda Vigeant 2013