Like the rest of Canada, Calgary is a pretty desolate and unforgiving place during the five to seven months of winter. Most residents huddle indoors to wait out the frigid weather and local filmmakers are no exception. For the past two years a pair of local filmmakers have organized the Super 8 Challenge, designed to keep local talent active during the lean winter months.
"Just the winter alone sort of keeps you a shut-in," says challenge co-founder Mike Peterson. "You can't shoot a lot of stuff, even if you have an idea for it. Productions locally kind of shut down. There aren't too many feature films and there aren't too many commercials shot over the winter."
Peterson hopes that the Super 8 Challenge strengthens the local film community. He notes that while the films produced through the challenge are always important, the collaboration itself remain a crucial part of the event.
"The challenge is sort of a vehicle to build the community amongst the filmmakers and other artists in town," reflects Peterson. "But it's also a way to get filmmakers to collaborate amongst themselves, when usually you don't know other directors or other filmmakers necessarily, and to see what our other fellow filmmakers are up to."
Following an October call for entrants, 14 invitees were split into 10 groups and each group given the winter months to shoot a film using a Super 8 camera. To shake things up, though, Peterson and co-founder James Reckseidler added in a twist: four elements that must be part of each film.
"All the filmmakers that I invite submit suggestions for the four elements," notes Peterson. "Based on their suggestions and my own suggestions, we draw them out of a hat and that's what we end up with."
As a result of these suggestions, all films were required to address the theme of communication between cultures, include stop-motion animation, a parking lot attendant character and an appearance of the letter F. These wrinkles force the filmmakers to create a bevy of short films that, while similar, are bound to be unique.
"This is a great place to see the local film talent that's in town, because there's a lot and I don't know that it always get recognized," shares Peterson. "Of the festivals and events around filmmaking, none of them are focused on Calgary so much [while] this is very much a Calgary event."