How My Filmmaking Career Began in 18 Hours

Four years ago, I was sitting in my English class my freshman year of high school when my teacher called me to the front of the classroom. She told me she had learned about a competition through our school district where you made a short film in under 18 hours following certain parameters. She thought it would be perfect for me because I was so attached to my camera. I thought it sounded fun, so I signed up.

My first ever short film was called Party Puzzler. It focused on the aftermath of a party where everyone tried to piece together what had happened. We were given a genre, character, prop and quote we had to use in the film. I couldn’t tell you what they were, honestly. The film was rubbish. We put in everything that no high school student should ever work with. The film didn’t win an award. The only thing it accomplished was changing the rules of the competition.

The second year, we created a film called Lucky or Loner. We were given an “emo” character, the genre Rite of Passage from Blake Snider’s Save The Cat Goes to the Movies, fuzzy socks and the quote “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?'” from Dirty Harry. That year, we were cursed with bad weather, which prompted us to chance our plan because we couldn’t film what’s we wanted to. We ended up winning “Best Costume and Makeup.”

The third year was by far our best. We made a film called Emmett, which went over very well. We had some scheduling problems, but in the end it all came out fine. We had “My name is Max. My world is fire and blood,” from Mad Max: Fury Road as our quote, fairy wings as our prop, Out of the Bottle as our genre and Doc Brown from Back to the Future as our character. We won “Best Film in Genre” that year, one of the best awards ever.


Our final year, beginning on January 19th, we ran into so many problems. We had the biggest storm to be seen in our region in years, dropping two inches of snow before production time began. We lost actors due to that, so we had to change our script and ultimately our film. Things just did not go well. We had to use a candle as our prop, a baby sitter as our character, Monster in the House as our genre and we ended up with the same Dirty Harry quote as in Lucky or Loner. We went into the awards ceremony with the mind set that we wouldn’t be awarded anything. The ceremony began and it was very clear we would not win our genre, yet we still held onto some hope that maybe we’d end up with something. Near the end of the ceremony, they announced the final individual award, “Best Director.” I slumped down in my seat, thinking I wouldn’t not get it, but I was wrong. They called my name and we were all taken by surprise. I got my award and cried a little, as most would being taken by surprise. Two teams from our school entered the competition, yet I was the only one from the 9 people to walk away with an award. The other team’s film was much better than mine, though they did not win an award, which took me by surprise. I thought for sure they would have gotten something, rather than me.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m so proud that I won this award, but I do feel like someone else should have gotten it. It’s something that I have worked hard for, but the film, Demon’s Candle, just was not good. We didn’t- I didn’t- get to do the things I had planned and it was not up to par with some of the others.

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