LA Scene: 168 Hour Project Film Festival, May 13-14, 2005

The 168 Hour Project is in its third year. The concept is to produce short subject films of about 10 minutes working under three constraints: (1) the film is to be based on a passage of the Bible drawn at random (2) pre-production is limited to one-week and (3) production-post-production is limited to one-week. One week is 168 hours long.

The Film Festival has grown each year and this year it was even featured in a KNBC-4 news story and drew a team of film makers from Canada and Italy as well as over fifty others.

All finished films were shown at the festival all day Friday and Saturday. I opted to attend the final evening screening of the top 10 films which was followed by an awards ceremony.

What follows are my observations about the 10 films. I'll comment on my reactions to the film as storytelling and then briefly on how I felt it illustrated the Bible verse it is based on.

"Man of the Hour" Matthew 7:13-14

Synopsis: Man receives his US citizenship and attends a party in his honor.

Reactions: Some really funny moments but at times I found it hard to hear the dialog so that kind of hurt my interest in the film.

Integration: At first, I couldn't figure out the connection to the Bible passage. But after the film was over I realized they had made a modern day parable to illustrate the point that people often don't understand the significance of a given moment: they just see the party but don't see the meaning.

"Wall of Jericho" Matthew 18:21-22

Synopsis: Three generations of women tied by a tragic event set the stage for a tale about forgiveness.

Reactions: Easily one of the most emotional of the films of the evening because the story is tragic and the performances so strong. The visual symbols of the film are direct and effective.

Integration; A very direct reading of the passage.

"Harvest" Matthew 10:16

Synopsis: Strange man visits mom and daughter of a broken home and leaves behind inspiration.

Reactions: Has a spokey X-File-ish look and feel. Nice music to help further that atmosphere. However, I don't know why but for some reason it just didn't work for me.

Integration: Didn't get the connection to the verse.

"Ready or Not" Matthew 24:6-7

Synopsis: Man is obsessed with following world events and is fearful.

Reactions: Probably one of the most striking films of the evening in terms of visual style. It sets itself up in the horror-suspense genre. I'm glad it is a short film because you can only sustain that knife on the edge tension before the audience becomes immune. Because they read the Bible verse prior to the film, you knew there would be a point when the film would "flip" from its very atmospheric mood and hit home the point and it did so in fine fashion in the last 2 minutes.

Integration: A very direct reading of the passage and I think the "flip" was very effective and hammers home what it really means to get ready for the return of Jesus.

"Pieces" Matthew 7:6

Synopsis: Office worker tries to do good deeds but suffers the consequences.

Reactions: I thought it was the most hilarious of the evenings films. The physical humor is terrific. The paper shredder humor both direct and visual were just great. The lead actor on it has terrific timing and facial expressions.

Integration: A murky passage. The film makers opted to highlight the back half of the passage and did so with great humor. The ending was great because it leads you to a place of tension feeling guilty pleasure yet waiting for the "Christian" payoff which comes in the nick of time.

"The Stranger" Mark 9:45-46

Synopsis: Man has dark family secret and finally faces up to it.

Reactions: Psycho-drama genre that starts well in the set up well but finished weak. Very good acting and interesting camera angles but the whole seemed to be less than the sum of its parts.

Integration: Another murky passage. There is some tie in through specific details in the plot line but the overall tale doesn't seem to help illuminate a difficult passage.

"Entereza" Matthew 5:37

Synopsis: Guy who lies big and small finally gets his just due when he is $800 in debt.

Reactions: Very funny. Lead actor has a comedic gift.

Integration: A direct reading of the passage.

"The Commission" Mark 16:15

Synopsis: Studio heads try to figure out how to revive the Jesus franchise of movies.

Reactions: Mixed feelings. Great visuals and atmosphere setting. Powerful point that we try to "package" Jesus a certain way and how that is a bad thing. However, the whole "The Big Sheep" satire was a little over the top. I don't mind satire but when it draws upon the confused ideas propagated by "Da Vinci Code" you maybe paying too high a price for laughs. Also, because I live in a neighborhood with a lot of Orthodox Jews, I was troubled by some of the casting choices for the studio board members. Even the hint of anti-Semitism really detracts from the important message of the story. Jesus ministering to the theme music of "Shaft" was very funny.

Integration: The passage is about proclaiming Jesus and the film tell us how we are messing that up.

"A Temp for All Seasons" Matthew 5:10

Synopsis: A temp refuses to tell a lie for the boss and all sorts of hilarity and drama ensues.

Reactions: Easily one of the feel good movies of the night that hits so close to where we all live. Great performance by the lead actor and the supporting cast.

Integration: A direct reading of the passage.

"Better of Said" Matthew 12:11-12

Synopsis: A young man with Tourette's Syndrome is healed but now he has a new problem.

Reactions: Very funny. Great physical humor by the lead actor. Pokes fun at the often lack of spontaneity of Christians.

Integration: A direct reading of the passage.


Supporting Actor - Kevin Lineham, "Man of the Hour"
Original Score - Ed Smart, "Temp for All Seasons"
Cinematography - Cliff Jones, "Harvest"
Editor - Josh Greene, "Commission"
Supporting Actress - Beth Payne, "Notes"
Production Design - Joseph Middlekoop, "Ready or Not"
Sound Editor - Kenneth Johnson, "Ready or Not"
Actress - Karen Geraghty, "Walls of Jericho"
Scripture Integration - Keith Ray Putman, "Temp for All Seasons"
Screenplay - Josh Greene, "Commission"
Direction - Keith Ray Putman, "Temp for All Seasons"
Actor - Robert Wu, "Temp for All Seasons"
Comedy - Josh Greene, "Commission"
Short Film - Michael Toay, "Temp for All Seasons"

I pretty much agree with the awards committee in recognizing the overall excellence of "Temp for All Seasons" and the strong production values in "Ready or Not." I'm obviously much less sold on "Commission" for the reasons I've mentioned and really felt "Pieces" was the stronger comedy. Karen Geraghty for her part in "Walls of Jericho" was a lock to win.

UPDATE: Click here to see QuickTime clips of excerpts from films of the 168 Project.

UPDATE: If you think making a movie in 2 weeks is crazy, these people will do it in 48 hours! HT to N.Z. Bear.