Free-flowing beer, the ambient light of tiki torches and homemade art -- all under a summer night's sky: No wonder the Soap Factory's Fourth Annual Ten-Second Film Festival was such a popular destination this past Independence Day.
Immediately following the fireworks display over St. Anthony Main, at about 10:15 p.m., more than 2,000 people started straggling in the direction of the Soap Factory gallery, on nearby SE. 2nd Street.
They came as they were: lots of retro T-shirts, lots of ladies clad in cotton dresses and fellows in tattered, baggy jeans. If they lacked the foresight to bring a lawn chair, eventgoers simply perched themselves on the railroad tracks running through the Soap Factory's backyard -- anything to avoid sitting atop the dry, prickly grass.
Frequent trips were made to a beer truck from August Schell Brewery, where the brew flowed freely into plastic glasses. But little by little an increasingly intoxicated crowd settled in, turning its attention to the Soap Factory's exterior wall. That's where a series of short films -- most of which had been shot by amateurs on cell phones -- were about to screen.
The ubiquitous visual artist Scott Seekins was on hand to serve as the event's celebrity judge, whereas Ian Rans of the popular cable-access show "Drinking With Ian" was the host.
"We got 100 10-second films for you," roared Rans. (Top of the show, and he was already tipsy.) "You guys like round numbers?"
But before the proceedings could begin, Seekins and Rans had to pluck a pair of citizen judges from the audience. Seekins quickly settled on Lacey Prpiÿ Hedtke, a fashionable young woman with dark hair and cat-eye glasses (basically his female look-alike). Rans made two men thumb-wrestle for the opportunity. The victor was Jonas Lindberg, a Minnesota sculptor and artist who later had to excuse himself from judging a round because he had entered his own 10-secod flick.
Winners of such categories as "Under the Influence" and "What the Hell Am I Looking At?" walked off with whimsical trophies constructed and festooned by Vera Carlson, an artist volunteer at the Soap Factory.
One of the cleverest films, by friends Andrew Dayton and Erin Fenton, captured an elaborate chain reaction set off by a series of items (rakes, ladders, buckets) found in the typical garage; for this effort, they won the "Kubrick Award."
There were several clunkers featuring two men costumed as a priest and a panda. By the pair's third appearance, during the "Best Sound" category, the audience was booing. Flicking his cigarette into the nearby grass, Rans lifted his glass and screeched about the "Panda Backlash."
By then, however, attentions were starting to splinter. Rumor was that the beer truck was empty (it wasn't). It was 11:30 p.m. Eventgoers started scattering, bleeding into the adjacent street or ambling toward home.
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