Christian Filmmakers Challenged to Make Masterpiece in 168 Hours

An upcoming film festival tested 58 teams of Christian filmmakers from around the world to see if they could create their own movie masterpiece in 168 hours - or one week.

Of the 58 projects, 53 will be displayed at the 5th Annual 168 Film Festival on Mar. 23-24 in Burbank, Calif., where they will be judged by an expert panel including X-Men producer Ralph Winter, Hoodwinked director Cory Edwards, BET television producer Marilyn Gill, and several others. The contestants will be nominated for a number of awards in 15 categories, including best film, best director, best actor, and so on.

"It's like a management retreat," noted Winter in a statement, "and you've got 168 hours to figure how to work together."

The theme of this year's festival is "Decisions and Destiny." Each participating group of "speed filmmakers" chose a random Bible verse based on this theme, and they then rushed off to film a 5-10 minute piece relating to the scripture.

According to the founder and executive director of the competition, John Ware, the 168 hour time limit gives "just enough room for the filmmakers to put the finishing touches on their submissions so the pieces don't look rushed."

Ware reported that there have been several interesting filming cases during this year's competition.

The film by former Power 106 FM DJ Frank Lozano about a youth flight school, Walking High, was so rushed that he had to revert to editing his picture while driving.

"In Frank Lozano's case, he had a prior commitment to speak to school kids on the day he needed to lock his picture for his sound editor and composer," explained Ware in a report. "So he plugged his gear into the cigarette lighters in his car and had his girlfriend and line producer on the project, Arlene Sacco, drive while his fingers raced away on Final Cut Pro. We have affectionately dubbed Frank 'the freeway editor.'"

Another interesting incident revolved around past director Chris Douridas, whose daughter Marieke had won the best actress award in 2006. Due to a tragic accident weeks later, his daughter passed away, and Douridas returned to the festival this year, making the film in memory of her. Ironically on the night they drew Bible passages, his passage was of a synagogue official who lost his daughter, and to whom Jesus said, "Do not fear, only believe." The director finished his film, The Wondering Kind, with only an hour to spare.

Genres for the pieces are quite varied, and this year's passages ranged from inspirational quotes to brutal scripture.

"We don't dictate genre," stated Ware, "and it's always interesting to see how the verses manifest themselves."

This year's screenings will be held at the Stars Art and Alex Theatres in Burbank, Calif. Following the Saturday previews, there will be an awards celebration and dessert reception at 9:30 p.m. PT.