As much as I’ve been raving how great the movie season has been this year, sometimes it’s nice to take a break from the epic sensory overloads many of us have been experiencing at the theaters. UCSB’s 16th Annual Reel Loud Film Festival offers just that breath of fresh air, while at the same time honoring Santa Barbara’s rich film history during the Silent Era. Reel Loud films are shot silently on 16mm and come with an accompanying live act. Yet after four years, being a mere spectator to this unique event wasn’t enough for me.
Still fresh from last quarter’s completion of “The Titan Sting” for Film Studies 106, I felt like branching out and tackling an animated short of my own for Reel Loud. The guidelines were straightforward. No sound, no need to use a technologically complicated camera and no going over the six minute and 30 second time limit. It sounded easy enough, at least to the uninitiated, like myself.
Working on a Reel Loud film felt like a complete U-turn from any of the other productions I’ve been involved with. It wasn’t necessarily the difficulty but rather the alien nature of not knowing what I was doing. Tackling a Reel Loud takes a tremendous amount of initiative and guts. Unlike other film production classes I’ve been in, there was no professor hassling me to get my work done on time. Going the animation route meant I didn’t have to deal as much with casting or camera technique. Instead, it resulted in more work for me since I had to draw most of it.
I often questioned my sanity for even attempting to create a short, let alone with minimal crew. Luckily, I had help from a reliable group of people. My thanks go out to J, Simon, Evan and Dianne. Without them, the stress of production certainly would’ve gotten to me. For two straight weeks, it seemed like my life was nothing but a string of all-nighters. I could almost feel my body shutting down as my eyes strained, my nose bled, my voice gave out and my hand cramped.
Then came the time when I actually had to shoot the film and the realization that I had no idea what I was doing. It was the first time for many things. Up to that point, I didn’t know a single thing about picking out, shooting, processing and editing film. Each step was a nerve-wracking moment of not knowing the end result. It certainly didn’t help that I was alone for most of it, either in the vacuous, after-hours Nexus office or the cramped loft in Buchanan Hall.
On the day of the deadline, I submitted my film for consideration. Over two dozen were submitted, but only about half would be chosen for Reel Loud. The next day, I got the unfortunate news that my film didn’t make the cut. So ended my first attempt at Reel Loud.
Despite the bad news, it hasn’t done anything to deter me from creating more shorts. The experience of working on a Reel Loud has taught me to persevere through production, no matter how unsure or agonizing it is, and to learn from my mistakes. I’ve got even more respect for the films that were able to make it into the festival after experiencing firsthand the journey it takes to get there. For those films that didn’t make it into the festival, there are plans for all of them to be exhibited at a future date by the Film and Videomaker’s Co-op.
I would suggest visiting the Reel Loud website for more information on the event, but most computers I’ve tried to access it on have slowed down to the point of uselessness. The people that designed that gorgeous website need to consider function over flash for next year. Instead, I recommend checking out the Facebook group. Each year’s Reel Loud looks to be better than the year before, so make sure you don’t miss out on this great UCSB tradition.