The Super Gr8 Film Festival first hit Harrisonburg in 2010 with one night of 17 black and white Super 8 films. In November of 2011, Super Gr8 came back again, this time expanding to 46 three to four minute films over two nights- one night of black and white films and the other of color films. The festival was so popular that tomorrow night, Thursday, January 26th, the Super Gr8 Film Festival will be back for an encore at Court Square Theater thanks to the help of one of the Super Gr8 team members, Randall A. See. Doors open at 6:30 pm for the 7 o’clock showing with a small suggested donation upon entry. All of the films will be shown on this one night, with black and white films showing first, followed by an intermission and then the color films. I can’t believe I missed Super Gr8 the first time around in November (especially the film by Harrisonburg Downtown Renaissance’s own Nicole Martorana), but I will definitely be catching the encore tomorrow night. In the meantime, I caught up with the two co-founders, Paul Somers and Tim Estep.
Chatting with Paul and Tim gave me some great insight into the creation of the Super Gr8 Film Festival. Paul got into film and cameras at a young age recording skateboarding stunts. While always a camera and film enthusiast, he didn’t discover the Super 8 format until he came across an old camera in a middle school library while teaching in North Carolina. Tim, on the other hand, began experimenting with Super 8 film as a kid about 25 years ago, but became even more familiar with the format after attending film school.
Since most people don’t have a Super 8 camera lying around, at least not one in working condition, one of the biggest initial challenges was coming up with enough cameras for the participants. Paul and Tim scoured thrift stores and eBay, and along with the help of a particularly handy friend, got them back into working condition. They also provided film festival participants, most with no film experience, with hands-on instruction on how to operate the Super 8 cameras. Paul pointed out that the Super 8 format, at the time of its invention, was marketed as an easy-to-use camera for families, so it isn’t a terribly complicated medium once you get the hang of it.
Paul noted one of the most difficult aspects of the medium is the fact that participants only use one cartridge and there are no edits, so all the scenes have to be filmed in the correct sequence from the get-go. While initially a challenge, Paul described the format as “a haiku, you’re limited in so many ways” but those limits force you to boil everything down to the true essence of the project.
After speaking with Paul and Tim, I really got a feel for how much the festival has grown in just one year, more than doubling from the original 17 entries they featured at the first festival. Paul described the need to reach out to people last year versus this year’s outpouring of support and individuals wanting to get involved. This year, Pro8mm, a company dedicated to the Super 8 medium, stepped in to do the film processing for Paul and Tim at a discounted rate. The company, known for their work with Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and J.J. Abrams on the film “Super 8,” even came to Harrisonburg to see the Super Gr8 Film Festival in action and wrote about the experience on their blog. With the festival growing at such an astounding rate, I was curious if Paul and Tim planned to continue the Super Gr8 Film Festival next year, to which Paul responded quickly with a resounding “definitely.”
The biggest thing I took away from meeting with Paul and Tim was their passion for our community. Tim spoke of the exciting direction Harrisonburg is going in artistically, and I have to say I agree. The Super Gr8 Film Festival’s strength lies in the fact that it involves the community, not only on the level of viewing art, but in the actual creation stage. Super Gr8 serves as a catalyst, sparking locals’ untapped artistic talents. Whether it’s the filmmakers, actors, musicians, makeup artists, or the audience, Super Gr8 was able to unite hundreds of people in our community in something Paul described as “a web of committed and interested individuals.” On their website, they state that the mission of the Super Gr8 Film Festival is “to bring a community together through film” and they certainly succeeded.
I know I’ll be at the encore showing of Super Gr8 tomorrow night; I hope you will be too!
Katina Stevenson is the Promotions Intern for Spring 2012. She is a senior Communication Studies major with a concentration in Public Relations at James Madison University.