Results: “Dubious Distinction” won the Most Likable Award at the 48 hour film festival after receiving the most “likes” online. The short “Super Duper Friends” won the Judges’ Choice and Peoples’ Choice Awards.
The challenge: To make a film in 48 hours that includes a ladder, glitter, the title of a Beatles song, someone petting a live animal and the line, “Fine, I’ll eat it, but don’t you think I’m going to like it.”
Not only did a group of Lewiston-Clarkston Valley residents take on the First Night Spokane 48-Hour Film Festival, their short is among the Elite Eight to be shown at the city’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration.
“Dubious Distinction” is a work of film noir shot in downtown Lewiston at Jazzy’s in Towne Square, Northwest Media Productions and outside BoJack’s.
“You need places with character,” says David Witthaus, who shot and co-directed the film with his friend, Mike Bly, director of business operations at Inland Cellular in Lewiston.
Witthaus, regional manager of TD&H Engineering in Lewiston, discovered the festival last fall while searching online for things to do on New Year’s Eve. He recruited Bly, a fellow movie buff, to write a screenplay. They’d talked about making a movie before. Witthaus’ background is in making short corporate promotional videos. As a writer, Bly follows in the footsteps of his father, Christy Award winner Stephen Bly. He helped his family finish his father’s final novel after his death in 2011.
The idea of having a hard and fast deadline for a film was appealing, Bly says. It’s easy to talk about it and get started, but a deadline makes it happen.
Films entered in the festival must be written, shot, edited and delivered within a specific 48-hour period. Entrants are only allowed to organize a cast, crew, equipment, locations and rights before then. Through friends and co-workers, they found actors from the Lewiston Civic Theatre and others willing to help. They brainstormed ideas in several genres and got to know each other. At 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 15, the parameters for this year’s festival arrived by email, and the crew got to work fitting them into a three- to five-minute story that flowed.
“At 2 a.m. everything sounds great and makes sense, but you’re in a vacuum,” Witthaus says of the long hours that weekend.
Time management was crucial, one of the reasons nearby locations were chosen, he says, but they also wanted to shine a light on downtown Lewiston.
“I think Mike and I’s hearts are in promoting our community. We live in a beautiful place. It has great local talent.”
Set in the 1940s, the film stars three Lewiston-Clarkston Valley residents: Kelsey Grafton is a jazz singer whose act is interrupted by a dressing-room murder; Calen Martin plays her would-be suitor; and Nathanael Tucker is a detective out to solve the crime.
Other locals involved included Marty Lukenbill, Jennifer Opdahl, Michelle Bly, Jesse and Heather Calkins, Dave and Penney Rudd, Michelle Witthaus, Lisanne Bingman and Tacoma the dog.
Any camera, even a phone camera, can be used to shoot a film for the festival. They used a Canon DSLR. After filming, shots were delivered to Steven Reed, director of creative services at KLEW-TV, for editing.
“One thing we did right was to have a full-time editor,” David Witthaus says.
Twenty films were submitted to the festival. Bly says they thought their idea might be good enough to land them in the top eight, and he was right.
“We’re obviously very excited about that,” he says.
“We just wanted to do a good job and do something we could be proud of,” Witthaus says.
They plan to attend First Night where awards for Judges Choice, People’s Choice and Most Likable will be announced. The two anticipate their next project will be a 15- to 20-minute film.
if you go
What: First Night Spokane, a Dec. 31 celebration of the arts and a new year, features more than 150 performances in more than 40 downtown venues. Started in 2001 the family-friendly festival now draws more than 30,000 people.
When and where: Main events start at 6:10 p.m. with a Masquerade Parade at the Spokane Convention Center. The parade ends at the Riverfront Park Fountain where opening ceremonies begin at 6:30 p.m. and a 5K Resolution Run starts at 6:45. Indoor and outdoor venues feature bands, musicians, magicians, demonstrations by visual artists and hands-on activities. Entries in this year’s 48-Hour Film Festival will be shown every hour on the hour starting at 7 p.m. in City Council Chambers in the lower level of City Hall, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd.
Closing fireworks over the park start at 11:50 p.m.
Cost: Tickets are $15 in advance or $18 the day of the event. Kids age 10 and younger are free. Tickets are available through Ticketswest outlets, (800) 325-SEAT or at ticketswest.com.
Sneak preview: You don’t have to go to First Night Spokane to see “Dubious Distinction.”
You can watch the Elite Eight and “like” your favorite. The film with the most likes by Dec. 31 will receive the Most Likable Award.