Arts + Entertainment

Locally-founded Super Gr8 Film Festival Returns More Popular Than Ever

On November 20 and 21, 2013, the Super Gr8 Film Festival will return for its fourth year of showcasing films in downtown Harrisonburg. This local festival, founded by Tim Estep and Paul Somers, is held at Court Square Theater and will feature more than 50 locally produced films.  All films in the festival were shot using vintage cameras and Super 8 film, the format popularized for home movies in the 1960s and 1970s.

Artwork created by Andrew Connor for the Super Gr8 Film Festival 2013. Andrew Conner is the owner of A.E. Conner Fine Art Studio at 66. East Market Street in downtown Harrisonburg.

Artwork created by Andrew Conner for the Super Gr8 Film Festival 2013. Andrew Conner is the owner of A.E. Conner Fine Art Studio at 66 East Market Street in downtown Harrisonburg.

Super Gr8 Film Festival 2012 logo, designed by artist, graphic designer, and filmmaker Chris Whitmore.

Super Gr8 Film Festival 2012 logo, designed by artist, graphic designer, and filmmaker Chris Whitmore.

Sign-ups for the festival began in August 2013, where interested participants gathered to pick up their film, cameras, and tips from local film professionals and enthusiasts. Participants then had until October to shoot and turn in their films.

Tim Estep talks about film techniques at Super Gr8 Film Festival sign-ups and trivia night at the Artful Dodger. Photo courtesy of the Super Gr8 Facebook page.

Tim Estep talks about film techniques at the Super Gr8 Film Festival sign-ups and trivia night at the Artful Dodger. Photo courtesy of the Super Gr8 Facebook page.

Each filmmaker makes their film on a single cartridge of Super 8 film, which amounts to approximately 3 minutes and 20 seconds of footage. There are no second takes or editing of the films; each film has to be carefully planned out scene by scene and shot in order.  Upon completion of shooting, filmmakers turn in their film reel along with original audio they created to be put together by Tim and Paul. Filmmakers do not get to view their finished films until the night of the festival.

Filmmakers are also asked to create a poster for their film, all of which are on display throughout the festival. Below are just a few of this year’s selections:

The poster for a two-part film (Part 1 showing on Black & White Night and one showing on Part 2 showing on Color Night) for this year's festival by Lynda Bostrom.

The poster for a collaborative two-part film (Part 1 showing on Black & White Night and Part 2 showing on Color Night) for this year’s festival by Alex Kent, Rashaad Jones, Victoria Torpor, and Lynda Bostrom. While all of these filmmakers are downtownies in their own right, bonus points go to Lynda as the newest member of HDR’s Board of Directors and Promotions Committee. Learn more about Alex later in this article; Rashaad is a talented cellist who can often be found playing at First Fridays art openings, like last month’s Photography Expo at the Spitzer Art Center; and Victoria is active in the downtown arts scene and most recently as part of the Artery group that participated in the 2013 Halloween on the Square.

Nicole Martorana_Super Gr8 2013 Poster

Nicole Martorana, HDR’s Promotions Manager and Editor of the Do Downtown blog, received her degree in digital video from JMU but had never worked with actual film until the Super Gr8 Film Festival. This will be her third year participating in the festival. Her film this year focuses on local Autumn Olive Farms, which specializes in heritage breed pigs and South African Boer Bok goats. Autumn Olive Farms meats are featured at downtown Harrisonburg restaurants Local Chop & Grill House, Joshua Wilton House, and Rick’s Cantina, as well as restaurants in Staunton, Charlottesville, Richmond, and Washington, D.C. Poster photograph and design by Nicole Martorana.

A poster for "Hikari," a film by Patrick Fitzgerald, starring Kelly Miller. Both Patrick and Kelly work at the Artful Dodger, and Patrick also works for Court Square Theater.

A poster for “Hikari,” a film by Patrick Fitzgerald and starring Kelly Miller. Both Patrick and Kelly work at the Artful Dodger, and Patrick also works for Court Square Theater, where the festival is held. Patrick built the sets for this film and used an array of miniatures to create this space odyssey.

This action-packed apocalyptic film, "Blood Driver" includes a number of talented people who can often be found in the downtown scene, including Teale Davies of Glen's Fair Price Store. You may remember her handiwork in helping to create the store's 2012 Halloween window display which earned the award for "Scariest Design."

This action-packed apocalyptic film, “Blood Driver,” includes a number of talented people who can often be found in the downtown scene, including Teale Davies of Glen’s Fair Price Store. You may remember her handiwork in helping to create the store’s 2012 Halloween window display, which earned the award for “Scariest Design.”

Downtown attorney Aaron Cook returns to the festival with a new film, "What Roger Sees." The film thought-provoking documentary-style film Aaron produced for last year's festival, titled "The Birds and Lady Justice," received

Downtown attorney Aaron Cook returns to the festival with a new film, “What Roger Sees.” The thought-provoking documentary-style film Aaron produced for last year’s festival, titled “The Birds and Lady Justice,” received the award for “Best Color Film.”

“The Peace Pipe” is a film created by downtown Harrisonburg massage studio owner Rebecca Joyner in collaboration with Lindsay Simmons.

The Super Gr8 Film Festival is the only festival of its kind in the world and it has sold out for the past two years. Anticipation of each year’s festival is incredibly high and the excitement and collaborative spirit is palpable at each night of the festival, when cheering, applause, and shout-outs resound throughout the historic theater with the showing of each film.

The crowd waits in anticipation and socializes in the aisle before the festival begins. Photo by Paul Somers.

The crowd waits in anticipation and socializes in the aisles before the festival begins. Photo by Paul Somers.

This year’s crop of filmmakers continues to be diverse, with people of all ages and from all walks of life. Some filmmakers in the festival have never made a film before, some have only shot on digital formats, and some have been making films for years.

“The beauty of the Super 8 film format is that it levels the playing field since not many people actively use it anymore,” says Paul. “It’s a leap for everyone, and the most amazing thing is that you see people who have never made a film before making amazing films.”

Downtown Film Series_May 2013_Flashback Night with Super Gr8 Film Festival_Photo by Nicole Martorana

Paul Somers describes the process of making a film for the Super Gr8 Film Festival at the Downtown Film Series May 2013 Flashback Night. Flashback Night featured local storytelling and showcased film selections from the Super Gr8 Film Festival 2012. Photo by Nicole Martorana.

Harrisonburg’s creative community has welcomed Super Gr8 since its inception as an opportunity to pool their collective abilities, talents, ideas, and visions.  The medium of film provides a meeting ground for actors, directors, cinematographers, designers, musicians, and artists, and the festival further helps to bring all of these creative people together.

Each year, the festival grows not only in the number of people involved, but also in what it offers to the community. This year’s festival featured Film Trivia Night and prizes at the festival sign-ups in August. Trivia was created and hosted by Super Gr8 filmmakers Brent Finnegan and Wade Vanover at the Artful Dodger.

Super-Gr8-Trivia 2013

Wade Vanover (left) and Brent Finnegan (right) created and led Super Gr8 Film Trivia. Photos courtesy of the Super Gr8 Facebook page.

The festival also hosted a benefit dinner in September with a menu created and prepared by Chef Ryan Zale, Rachel Herr, and Mike Hill of the Local Chop & Grill House. The menu featured local products, seasonal specialties, and whimsical interpretations of classics.

Chef Ryan Zale (right) and Mike Hill (left) of downtown Harrisonburg's Local Chop & Grill House collaborated to not only donate their culinary skills to produce a delicious meal for the Super Gr8 Benefit Dinner in September, but also to make a film about the experience. Photo courtesy of the Super Gr8 Facebook page.

Chef Ryan Zale (right) and Mike Hill (left) of downtown Harrisonburg’s Local Chop & Grill House donated their culinary skills to produce a delicious meal for the Super Gr8 Benefit Dinner in September. Photo courtesy of the Super Gr8 Facebook page.

Super-Gr8-Benefit-Dinner
Left: Mike Hill and Ryan Zale prepare dishes for a hungry crowd. | Top right: The dinner was held outdoors to enjoy the early fall weather. | Bottom right: Aaron and Matt Sedeen, filmmakers with the festival since its beginning, enjoyed local beer from Three Brothers Brewing. Photos courtesy of the Super Gr8 Facebook page.

Another new element that is sure to raise additional excitement about the festival is a documentary titled “Life Is Super Gr8,” set to premiere on WVPT (PBS) tonight (Thursday, November 14) at 8:30 PM. The documentary was created by Alex Kent and Wade Vanover of local production company Lurid Pictures. Alex and Wade have worked with the Super Gr8 Film Festival for three years, not only submitting their own films but also creating the popular promotional videos for the 2011 festival and 2012 festival and intermission video for the 2011 festival, all of which featured festival filmmakers.

According to Wade, their success as a company is due in large part to their work with the festival and, in particular, the opportunity to create the 2011 intermission film. “I credit much of our success as Lurid Pictures to the Super Gr8 Film Festival,” says Wade. “Tim and Paul offered us a chance to create something interesting. If it wasn’t for that project, I think Lurid Pictures would be an entirely different entity, if it existed at all.”

A production still of Wade Vanover from his 2011 film for the festival, titled "How to Film a Breastfeeding Film." Photo courtesy of Wade Vanover.

A production still of Wade Vanover from his 2011 film for the festival, titled “How to Film a Breastfeeding Film.” Photo courtesy of Wade Vanover.

Due to Super Gr8′s growth and reputation, Lurid Pictures and festival organizers all saw the need to create a documentary about the festival. “We want people to understand the process of Super Gr8 filmmaking and what makes the festival so unique,” Wade explains. “We also wanted to start documenting the entire process as thoroughly as possible for any future projects.”

Alex Kent behind the camera. Photo courtesy of Wade Vanover.

Alex Kent of Lurid Pictures behind the camera. Photo courtesy of Wade Vanover.

The Super Gr8 Film Festival 2013 will be held at Court Square Theater at 41 Court Square in downtown Harrisonburg. Black and white films will be shown at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, November 20 and color films will be shown at 7:00 pm on Thursday, November 21. Immediately following each night’s showing, an awards ceremony and after-party will be held at the Blue Nile at 181 North Main Street.

Tickets are available for $10 each online at http://www.supergr8.com. Any tickets not sold online by the time of the festival will be sold at the door for $15 each. Get your tickets early because it tends to sell out quickly!

A Super Gr8 film in the making. Photo by Paul Somers.

A Super Gr8 film in the making. Photo by Paul Somers.

Thanks to the organizers, sponsors, filmmakers, composers, actors, artists, and all involved for bringing this festival to our community! Thanks to you, life in Harrisonburg is Super Gr8!

Nicole Martorana is the Editor of the Do Downtown blog and the Promotions Manager for Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance. This is her third year creating a film for the Super Gr8 Film Festival.

3 thoughts on “Locally-founded Super Gr8 Film Festival Returns More Popular Than Ever

  1. Pingback: Life is Super Gr8 Wrap 2013

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