I thought the firetruck on the street outside my apartment at 4 a.m. was a dream until I browsed through my digital camera the next day. Awakened and dazed, something encouraged me to grab the camera, film 10 seconds of flashing lights in the night, and go back to bed.
That something was the fourth annual Ten-Second Film Festival, which asks budding Twin Cities filmmakers to make and submit movies no longer than 10 seconds. The 100 "best" films will premiere Friday night at the Soap Factory in Minneapolis.
Prizes include Grumpy's hamburgers, trophies and mike time for a speech.
For me, the fest is about more than a possible burger: I might meet others who delight in pretty, and pretty worthless, little videos. "4 a.m. Firetruck" is one of six films I sent for consideration. Each followed the simple rules: Don't use a video camera (try a cell phone camera or still camera with video function). Don't edit. Keep sound in mind. Keep it short.
Having 10-second films on the brain meant everyday events such as the arrival of a firetruck became "content." That included the speech I attended by evolutionary biologist Olivia Judson, whose video presentation of animal sexual behavior sparked my own bizarre video-of-a-video (more funny than explicit).
For about a week I found myself looking for poignant 10-second moments. With my newly shortened attention span, I got peeved when such moments took longer.
By the standards of last year's festival, which attracted 1,500 spectators reveling amid tiki torches, my films are most likely suited for the Documentary, Arthouse or What the Hell Am I Looking At categories.
Last year's documentary winner, posted on the festival's Youtube account, showed a man laughing and wiping gum from his lips.
"But what is that on your face, sir?" comes the prompt.
"What kind of gum?"
Then a wheezing laugh, and ... cut.
That's it. That's a documentary. I made two of my own. First, "Yahtzee," the cliffhanger six-second video of my father rolling the final die. Can it win the documentary category? That depends on my father's star power.
I also sent "Somebody Else's Wedding," shot while I was biking past a bridal party on the Stone Arch Bridge. I took a shaky camera shot and submitted it.
Event organizer Chris Pennington, 33, a teacher at North High School, says the contest is "wide open."
"There are some people who are by nature quiet people. The videos they make are almost meditative. Then we get the crazy, zany kids and we put their videos in the Funny Ha Ha category," said Pennington, who came up with the idea for the festival because his old camera's memory stick couldn't hold a video longer than 10 seconds.
"We're trying to make everybody able to participate in some part of this process. A lot of times people feel alienated by art."
My computer now holds videos of bike rides, rippling waves, a bat in flight and a little ant carrying a big ant.
But those are longer than 10 seconds. Who has that kind of attention span?
Tony Gonzalez • 612-673-7415