Five of the eight BVU alumni who developed the winning entry in the recent Des Moines 48 Hour Film project are, in front row, from left, Danielle Vandehaar and Megan Schettler Schug. In back, from left are Phil McLean, Mark Haugen and Cody Schug.
Several Buena Vista University alumni recently proved they can effectively put their media skills to use after winning “Best of City” at this year’s Des Moines 48 Hour Film Project for their original film entitled, “The Last Airbander.”
The team of BVU alumni included: Phil McLean, Class of 2008, Dani (Payne) Vandehaar, Class of 2006, and Eric Krueger, Class of 2006, all of Des Moines; Mark Haugen, Class of 2012, Matt Clark, Class of 2008, and Darren Johnson, Class of 2012, all of Sioux City; Cody Schug, Class of 2006, Megan Schettler Schug, Class of 2007, of Windsor Heights.
The 48 Hour Film Project — which occurs internationally throughout each year — is a contest in which teams of filmmakers must write, shoot and edit a seven-minute movie within 48 hours. In addition, the teams are assigned a genre, a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue that they are required to incorporate into the film. This year’s elements included a coloring book (prop), a musician named Chris or Christina Samuels (character), and “let’s do it” (line of dialogue). The team drew “mockumentary” as the genre.
“We all know someone who has air guitared before,” says Phil, who wrote and developed the film’s concept. “The movie is all about the underground ‘air banding’ scene and follows three people getting ready for the biggest air band competition in the world, ‘Airstock.’”
“We have been competing for a long time and have all wanted this award,” adds Phil, who majored in media studies and theater at BVU and is now employed as a producer/shooter/editor at Meredith Corporation in Des Moines. “We felt like we had a chance this year, but you never know what the other teams will create. What people don’t realize is that there are very talented people in Des Moines making films. The competition gets more and more impressive every year and it is an honor to say we are at the top.”
This year, three local judges and one judge from truTV evaluated the entries. As part of the assessment process, each judge gives qualifying films a score ranging from one to 100. Forty-five percent of the overall score is based on artistic merit (creativity), 30 percent is based on technical merit, and 25 percent is based on adherence to the assignment (use of all of the required elements).
In addition to winning the top award for “Best of City” out of 46 other competing films, the team won awards for “Best Use of Genre,” “Best Use of Prop,” “Best Original Song,” and the “Audience Award” within their respective screening group. Phil and Megan were also awarded “Best Actor” and “Best Actress.”
“I worked very hard on the music, and this year it played a vital role in the film,” says Mark, who wrote the film’s winning theme song. “I wanted the song to sound very 80s so I stuck with a lot of synths and electronic drums, and I wanted it to be fun and to fit with the ‘mockumentary’ genre. What I ended up with was something that I felt would have worked well for an old Saturday morning cartoon.” At BVU, Mark was a media studies and music production/technology double major.
As a prize for winning “Best of City,” the team received $5,000 and the opportunity to sign a development deal with truTV. As part of the development deal, the team will have the chance to pitch new television show ideas to the network. “The Last Airbander” will also be shown in Los Angeles at “Filmapalooza” in March 2013.
“Our current team formed four years ago and we have progressively gotten stronger as filmmakers,” says Matt, who was the team’s editor and director of photography. “I think the main reason our team works so well together is because we have all been trained by the same talented professors at BVU. All of us think very similarly during the filmmaking process and that allows us to work well together to create a great film.” Matt, who was a media studies major at BVU, is a creative services producer at KTIV Television in Sioux City.
Both Matt and Phil have been involved in the competition every year since 2006. Since then, the team of BVU alumni has expanded and received several awards including finishing in the Top 12 consecutively since 2007. In 2010, the team won “Best Overall Audience Favorite” and “Runner Up for Best of City” among other awards.
“We worked seven years to try and win this competition and although we didn’t go home empty handed in years past, we had yet to reach the top,” says Phil. “Now we are a part of a very select group of filmmakers and it is a real honor.”