Imagine that you’re listening to someone telling a story. They give you the opening lines, and you’re ready to move into the second act, the real meat of the story. And then, the storyteller looks at you and says, “I’ll tell you how it ends, but you have to take over for the middle part.”
That’s the task that 10 local independent filmmakers and their teams recently took on as part of the 2nd Act Film Project. EAch were given the first and third acts of a story, asked to create the second act, and then tasked with making a six-minute film with their version of the story.
The project was created seven years ago by Emmy-nominated filmmaker Wade Sellers, who also works as film editor for Jasper Magazine, a publication that focuses on the arts in the Columbia area. Both Sellers and Jasper editor-in-chief Cindi Boiter also serve on the board of The Jasper Project, an outgrowth of the magazine dedicated to facilitating multi-disciplinary arts projects — such as 2nd Act — among emerging and established artists.
“Cindi asked me to come up with an independent-film-oriented event that could go under the Jasper umbrella,” Sellers says. “I had this idea in my head for something that was more project-related than a typical film festival. I had this idea about giving independent filmmakers the first and third acts of a script and having them come up with the second act and make the movie.”
Sellers says that the first and third acts, written annually by himself, Boiter and a different local author, are deliberately vague and brief.
“We give them four or five lines from the first part and then four or five lines from the last part,” he says. “There are no genders and no scene descriptions. There are no character names. There's not even punctuation. The main rule of the project is that the first lines that we give you have to be the first lines said out loud in the movie and the last lines we give you have to be the last lines said out loud. Other than that, you're on your own.”
The project solicited this year’s participants through an open call this summer, receiving 34 entries from both experienced filmmakers and novices. And unlike many other film festivals or contests, the filmmakers don’t have to pay anything to enter.
“We don’t believe in charging artists to make their work,” Sellers says.
This year’s winning submissions will be shown in two different screenings at Trustus Theatre. The second screening was added because of the project’s increasing popularity, Boiter reports.
“What we’ve learned is that we need more space,” she laughs. “We need a bigger place to be able to show our films. We used to do it at Tapp’s Arts Center, which held about a hundred people, and then we moved it to Trustus. And we sold out as soon as the tickets went on sale. So we added a second screening last year and again this year, and I think the tickets for the second screening are going to sell out, too. Ultimately, I’d like to do a day-long event that would allow us to screen all of the past films, as well as the new films, and also bring in some filmmakers as guest speakers.”
Boiter admits that when the 2nd Act Film Project was originally introduced, people had a little trouble with the concept, but that’s changed considerably over the years.
“People didn’t get it at first,” she says. “They didn’t know going into it that they were going to hear the same language, these same lines at the beginning and at the end in each film. But every year you’d see people realize, ‘Oh I see what they’re doing now!’ It was really cool to see people getting the concept.”
Sellers says that 2nd Act is less interested in finding technically flawless films than shining a spotlight on how diverse the local filmmaking landscape is.
“We’re not looking for the ten best independent filmmakers in South Carolina,” he says. “What we’re looking for is a group of ten independent voices with a story to tell. If we feel like, as a whole, we have a great group of diverse independent voices, then that’s the field we put together.”
What: 2nd Act Film Project
Where: Trustus Theatre, 520 Lady St.
When: Wednesday, Oct. 30, 7 and 9:15 p.m.