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$100 + 8mm film = Huzzah!

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They're shot on Super 8 film with budgets as insignificant as the contents of a starving entertainment writer's wallet. They bypass garish fire-breathing pharaohs and play in theatres that don't have ticket dispensing sarcophagi. In their world, short is sweet and colour just subtracts from the experience. They're independent films, and beginning March 13, they'll be showcased at to the 11th annual Calgary Society of Independent Filmmaker's $100 Film Festival.

The festival features over 40 Canadian short films, two feature-length presentations and a free forum on the future of Canadian cinema. While the $100 budget limit has been lifted, the spirit of the festival is still entirely independent.

With her Super 8 film, The Tooth Maker, stored in a cream cheese container, Calgary filmmaker and Alberta College of Art and Design graduate Amalie Atkins is a decidedly independent filmmaker, with an obviously independent motivation.

"I basically shot this to test to see if my Super 8 camera worked," she says, "and when it turned out I was like, 'great,' and so I entered it."

Though a film made more to test capabilities than pull audiences might be an anomaly in mainstream cinema, Atkins' movie is just what the festival attempts to showcase. As a cost-effective medium, Super 8 film allows would-be filmmakers to produce short films on budgets that are not prohibitive. With her cast composed entirely of family members, Atkins' production costs were an infinitesimal fraction of those associated with a feature-length, professional production.

"I would say that this film cost me less than $70," she says. "Fifteen for the camera, 15 for the projector, 15 for a splicer and 20 for props."

While the medium may afford filmmakers the luxury of low costs, not all productions are as small as Atkins'. NUTV training and technical director Tim Mooney's film--a story following the gas-induced hallucinations of a down-on-his luck petroleum engineer entitled Dream of the Dragon--was shot on Super 8 film for $300. While this may seem significant compared to a $70 production, it's important to bear in mind the context of big budget movies. Three-hundred dollars is strictly no-frills.

"My actors worked for free," says Mooney, "and I didn't even feed them."

Though the festival has a definite emphasis on creating opportunities for upcoming filmmakers, it also offers artists the chance to blend their disciplines in a way that silent Super 8 stock doesn't usually allow. One-hundred dollar Super 8 Music Film Explosions will mix music and film, creating a live performance that places the artists on the stage with their work.

Presenting two of these fusion pieces, Poppies and Captain Koenig in: What's Wrong With You Other Than Everything, A Captain Koenig Adventure, directors James Sky and Nina Khosla hope to portray a personal vision that includes claymation puppies and ladybugs.

"We don't seem to fit anywhere," says Sky. "Maybe one festival will fit, but I hope not."

With the festival providing both film stock and processing facilities, the stop-motion productions were completed with a budget of only $0.79--the cost of a sun-ripened orange and apple.

In addition to the movie-music fusion contribution to the Film Explosions, local band The Red Hot Lovers will be performing against the backdrop of their own frantic preparations for a show--an ironically appropriate film given one member's late entry to the interview session. This year's contribution will not be the first from this local band.

"I had taken a year-long CSIF course," recalls guitarist Randy Romance. "I won best first film."

Promising to eventually transform their $100 entry into a full-length feature complete with ninjas and women, Romance emphasizes a point that's as true for The Red Hot Lovers as it is for the festival itself. It may be campy and it may be local, but it's independent, and that's enough to make it fine entertainment.

So, if you're looking for local filmmakers, film/music explosions or simply a slice of the Canadian film community, come to the CSIF $100 Film Festival. After all, it's only $8 a screening. That's cheap, right?

The CSIF $100 Film Festival runs until Saturday, March 15. For information, call: 205-4747 or visit www.csif.org/festival.

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