Filmmaking doesn't always cost mad coin

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An old filmmaker in his rocking chair, slowly swaying back and forth discussing the practice of making movies on the classic 8mm film stock. As he sits in his rocking chair, reminiscing about the good ol' days of grabbing an old Super 8 camera and shooting to the heart's content. As he slowly puffs on his pipe, he bemoans a lack of films that disregard the desire to make money and just try to use their budgetary limitations to their benefits.

Well, the Calgary Society for Independent Filmmakers wants to bring that back old-fashioned, do-or-die attitude with the $100 Film Festival's super-sweet 16 this coming weekend. Although the rules have changed--it originally started out as a local competition for filmmakers to make films under $100--it has now blossomed as a showcase for both international and Canadian short films.

"The budget limits were a hundred dollars for the first few years when [the festival] was focused solely on Super 8mm film," explains $100 Film Festival co-ordinator Melody Jacobson. "When we allowed 16mm films into the festival, we got rid of the budgetary limit. They're all still low-budget films and it's still important for people to know that they can make films for under $100."

Despite the now-international flavour to the festival, there's still very much a local edge. With films from across Canada, including animation from Halifax, America and Europe there's an impressive sense of cohesion in the festival. Varied locations also mean varied styles of film--not only will short films be on display, but animated shorts as well.

"These films are coming from all over the world," says Jacobson. "There's animation from Halifax that was done through the Atlantic Filmmakers Co-Operative. There's also stop-motion animation from Austrailia that is really cool. It's quite amazing."

These filmmakers all explore different facets of their own lives, from environmental sustainability to memory. One of the local filmmakers has even begun to explore an important aspect of our own Calgarian life, using a comedic concept to make us question our own prejudices.

"There are a lot of themes that the programming community and I picked up on," explains Jacobson. "Quite a few films deal with living in an urban environment. There's a local film called Madeline and the Wrong Part of Town [by Farrah Alladin and Alex Mitchell] which is a send-up of how [we're] like at Calgary's downtown inner core. It's about a housewife who wants to go to a sale downtown but is frightened because of the people who live downtown, the 'scary' ones that are really marginalized."

Another prevalent theme throughout many of the short films is the concept of memory. While time heals all wounds, time also helps to frost over memories and make them blurry and unclear, something explored by the short film Mechanical Memory by Amanda Dawn Christie.

"It's made from old super 8mm footage that was shot by her father," explains Jacobson. "She found it, but there was a fungus growing on the film. When she went to print the film using an optical printer to blow it up to 16mm, the fungus ended up looking like snowflakes when it was on screen. While you watch the film, you see the images that her father shot and these snowflake things as well. It's absolutely gorgeous."

With the advent of digital filmmaking and micro DV tapes, the roots of filmmaking are slowly being forgotten. 8mm and 16mm film, and the wondrously rich grain it can produce, is slowly becoming but a memory. That doesn't mean that directors are willing to forget this important medium. To see it featured on the big screen is a rare opportunity indeed.

The $100 Film Festival plays at the Plaza Thu., Mar. 15 through Sat., Mar. 17. Screenings start at 7 p.m., and with tickets at $10 with student ID and $12 otherwise.