Slamdance forces filmmakers to work off-the-cuff, on-the-fly

“On-the-Fly Films”Directors Karin Hayes, Paul Willis, and Amy C. Elliott

Clint Eastwood is known for shooting his movies at a blazing speed, but even Dirty Harry himself might have a tough time finishing a film in five days.

That’s the challenge Karin Hayes, Paul Willis, and Amy Elliott faced last week when they were chosen to participate in the “On-the-Fly Filmmaking Challenge,” an annual Slamdance event.

On Friday, Jan, 21, each filmmaker drew a word from a hat-“snow,” “art,” and “fame.” Using those words as inspiration, they set out to conceive, shoot, edit and screen their movies in five days. The movies weren’t to be longer than five or 10 minutes.

Their work was unveiled during a special screening Thursday night on Jan. 27 at the Treasure Mountain Inn.

“What is Art?” was Hayes’ entry. It’s a charming movie about four guys named Art who live in the Park City area. Art No. 1 loves his family, Art No. 2 is a carpenter, Art No. 3 skis a lot, and Art No. 4, well, just basically loafs around the house.

How does one find so many Arts in such short notice? Why, you call every Art in the phone book, that’s what. Many said no, a few said yes. Art No. 1 and Art No. 4 were at the screening-sudden celebrities for, oh, about 10 seconds.

“Famed,” by Paul Willis, stars Jerry Allen, a Slamdance shuttle driver who impersonated Elvis Presley for many years at the Stardust casino in Las Vegas. In the movie, Allen hikes up and down Main Street, asking people who the most popular person in Park City is. Robert Redford? The mayor?

“What about Jerry Allen?” he asks. “Ever heard of him?”

“No,” is always the response.

“Famed” is funny in the uncomfortable way Leno’s “Jay-walking” segments are funny. Willis has found a fascinating leading man with Jerry Allen. Alas, we never hear his Elvis impersonation.

Finally, Amy Elliott showed her movie, the plainly titled, “Snow.” It’s a slice-of-life piece about a man and his dog sled. He takes us for a ride. The dogs bark, the sun flares, and that’s about it.

During the Q&A session, Elliott told the crowd how she had played ring-around-the-phone-lines with dog sled-owners to Idaho and back. After two hours, she finally found a guy within 30 miles.

All three movies are a testament to the tenacity, resourcefulness, and creativity of their makers. Hemingway defined courage as grace under pressure. Hayes, Willis, and Elliott are certainly courageous.

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