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Aspiring filmmakers brace for 50 Hour Slam

Beginning tonight, , filmmakers from around the region will have 50 hours to create six minutes of cinematic perfection.

That’s the idea of 50 Hour Slam, a relatively new but already substantial competition and festival showcasing the work of local filmmakers.

In only its second year, the nonprofit slam has already made a name for itself. Last year, 42 teams signed up to compete (which amounts to 280 or more people participating), the May screening of the competing films filled the Magic Lantern’s largest theater to capacity, and the organizers of the festival were recognized with the Spokane Art Commission’s Bold Strokes Award.

The concept behind the slam is simple: Aspiring filmmakers in the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area have 50 hours to write, film and edit a short between three and six minutes in length. On top of the time limit, all competing films must follow a specific set of criteria that are revealed immediately before the 50 hours begin – for example, last year’s contestants were required to prominently feature a piece of art from downtown’s Sculpture Walk and to include one of three songs provided by local artists on their soundtracks.

Upon completion, the qualifying films are screened by a group of seven judges. In hopes of gaining diverse perspectives on the films, this governing panel consists of locals from various ages and professions, ranging from writers and teachers to radio personalities and visual artists. The 15 highest-rated films will be screened twice on May 13 at the Magic Lantern, and audience members can vote for their favorite short.

The slam is reminiscent of First Night Spokane’s 48 Hour Film Festival, but Adam Boyd and Juan Mas, two of the festival’s organizers, see this as no ordinary film competition.

“Everything at the festival has an educational bent to it,” said Mas, who helped establish the First Night competition. Two weeks before the festival, potential entrants are given the opportunity to attend a workshop at Community Minded Television overseen by local industry professionals that focuses on the technical elements of the filmmaking process.

So what separates the 50 Hour Slam from the region’s other filmmaking competitions? “One word: community,” Boyd said, “and not just the filmmaking community, but one that involves the arts community in its entirety.”

“We have so much stuff going on at an artistic level,” Mas added, “and people either forget to notice it or aren’t aware, and the slam highlights the artistic aspects of Spokane that we take for granted.”

Both Boyd and Mas hope that the 50 Hour Slam grows and endures and that each year’s participants continue to take part and improve as artists. “The competition aspect pushes the filmmakers’ creative boundaries,” Boyd said. “Now that they know the technical side from last year, maybe they can focus more on the storytelling aspect this year. They can only get better.”