Some might say the current global state has all the makings of a horror film.
The Nickel Independent Film Festival is hoping that new and established local filmmakers might find inspiration amid anxiety to create participate in its Nickel 48-Hour Horror Challenge this weekend.
“I think everyone’s getting weird at this point,” says the film festival’s Devin Shears with a chuckle. “I think everyone’s mind has gone to some dark places over the past few months. We’re hoping to see some of these anxieties manifested and explored in film.”
Now in its ninth year, the horror challenge is one of the Nickel’s biggest and most popular annual events. The concept is simple but not easy to execute: participants are given a movie prop and a single line of dialogue and must incorporate them into a short horror film (five minutes or less), with the entire project written, shot and edited between 7 p.m. tonight and 7 p.m. Sunday. The sub-genre of horror and type of film is completely up to the filmmakers.
“Five minutes isn’t a lot of time and 48 hours is somehow even less. Don’t over-complicate things. Horror and suspense need some room to breathe so you don’t want to be overwhelming your story with story."
The challenge is open to everyone — “If anything, we encourage people who have never made a film before to take part,” Shears says — and requires no special equipment, other than a phone.
“Everybody has a perfectly good video camera in their back pocket. It’s all you really need,” Shears explains. “We’re so excited to see what people come up with.”
Sometimes the best way to learn to do something is to jump right in, Shears says, and local award-winning filmmaker and author Mike Hickey agrees.
Hickey’s “Terror Nova,” an anthology of Newfoundland-inspired horror stories by him and 11 other local writers which he edited, was published Oct. 1, having already reached bestseller status on Amazon through pre-orders.
“Making movies is hard and it can take a long time for them to come together. The thing that I’ve always loved about the horror challenge is it’s an excuse to just get out and make something, and with a deadline,” Hickey tells The Telegram. “You plan and give yourself a weekend to just create something and force yourself to stick to it. Then you have something you made and it’s incredible.”
Hickey’s advice to those making films this weekend? Keep it simple.
“Five minutes isn’t a lot of time and 48 hours is somehow even less,” he says. “Don’t over-complicate things. Horror and suspense need some room to breathe so you don’t want to be overwhelming your story with story.
“The other big lesson I learned from making movies for the challenge is don’t bog yourself down with special effects unless you’re confident with them. You have a finite amount of time to make your film; you don’t want it to rely on special effects that are time-consuming to put together and take your audience out of the story if they don’t work well.”
So far, 22 filmmaking teams have signed up to participate in the challenge. Registration is free and can be completed online by visiting the Nickel’s Facebook page at facebook.com/nickelfilmfestival.
Completed films will premiere online Oct. 30.