For the fifth year, a group of HWS Media and Society students traveled to Lake Placid, N.Y. for the “Sleepless in Lake Placid” 24-hour film competition that requires them to conceive, write, cast, shoot and edit a 10-minute film in downtown Lake Placid. This year, Jillian Collins ’15, John Conard-Malley ’15, Dinneo Mmutla ’15, and Kelsey Rowley ’18 participated in the competition under the guidance of Marilyn Jimenez, associate professor of Africana studies and member of the Media and Society Program. The team won best-actor for the main character in their film.
“Sleepless in Lake Placid” is part of the Lake Placid Film Forum, an annual event that gives filmgoers, directors and actors the chance to interact and view films not likely to be shown at a local movie theatres. This year, the Forum ran from June 3 to 7.
The competition, which is invitation only and included teams from Marist College and Burlington College, began on Wednesday, June 3, when the students received a list of elements or items that had to be integrated into the film. This year the group was required to include a postcard of Lake Placid, a quotation by Herb Brooks, and a shot of Main Street. Using these elements and their combined creative script-writing skills, the group came up with a six-minute video titled “Real Magic,” about a young man named Chris who is miserable on his family vacation until he meets an enigmatic magician who helps change his outlook on the trip and his life.
“The original idea came to me at 4:30 a.m. the day before we arrived in Lake Placid,” says Conard-Malley. “It started as just the images and strong emotional feelings of a young boy who meets a magician, has faith in the authenticity of magic, and in the end the life-changing effect of it.”
Once the group arrived in Lake Placid on Thursday, June 4, they set to work finishing the script, which they all agree was one of the most difficult aspects of the competition. Collins says that writing a script that was “flexible enough to work with a variety of actors and felt complete in under 10 minutes” was a challenge because they didn’t know who their actors would be when writing their script.
“The competition certainly puts what the students had been taught in their studies in media to the test,” says Jimenez. “There’s no time to look things up or spend a couple of days figuring something out, they have to use whatever knowledge they’ve brought with them.”
The team agrees that the lessons and experiences learned in their Media and Society classes at HWS were instrumental in their success at the competition, particularly the screenwriting and editing courses that they each had taken as Media and Society majors.
After the script was written, the team set out to enlist a cast of actors and start filming. On Thursday morning, they had the opportunity to choose from a limited group actors provided by the competition. They were then allowed just 24 hours – from noon on Thursday until noon on Friday – to film and edit the video.
The competition concluded on Friday evening when the films were screened in front of judges and a live audience. They say that although there were things they would have changed if they had more time, they were happy with what they accomplished in such a short period of time.
“We really lucked out with a phenomenal team and wonderful cast,” Conard-Malley says. “The film competition was an incredible experience and I look forward to what future HWS teams will be able to create. With a continued strong and hopefully strengthening Media and Society department, I know that our films will only become better and better.”