Although Vancouver is known for its bustling film industry, there are still plenty of people willing to work for free. Many of them also happen to be established filmmakers and actors.
The annual Crazy 8s celebrated its sixteenth birthday on Saturday night at the Centre and, as usual, the place was packed. Every year sees more and more people seeking to be one of six finalists chosen to put together a short film in just eight days – three days to shoot and five for post-production – with donated equipment and a budget of just $1,000. The latest round saw a total of 196 scripts pitched to judges, 40 more than last year and roughly twice the number of applications from two years ago.
One of great things about the Crazy 8s is that it attracts volunteers from all different career levels, from grips and PAs used to working on big-budget fare like Godzilla, Robocop or the upcoming Deadpool movie to fresh-faced Vancouver Film School grads looking for their very first imdb.com entry, and all of them happy to work their asses off for a week straight with little to no chance of ever seeing a dime from it.
Imagine if the Vancouver Canucks teamed up with a bunch of beer leaguers, referees, Zamboni drivers, skate sharpeners and shovel girls to put on an annual best-of-seven series few people would ever actually see and you get the idea. It's a true labour of love, although also a potential ticket to bigger things.
The latest round at a gala event hosted by newly notorious Diana Bang and American Mary's Nelson Wong offered typically eclectic fare, ranging from the absurd (a grown woman is forced to return to pre-school after her corporate employer discovers she never graduated in Kalyn Miles and Aubrey Arnason's Kindergarten, Da Bin Ich Weider) to the sinister (an elderly man is targeted in a deadly home invasion in Mo Soliman's Under a Glass Moon), the depressing (Scott Belyea offers a believable glimpse into the lives of professional phone scammers in Outside the Lines), the moving (a down-on-her-luck young blues singer makes an unexpected connection with an East Indian cabbie in Caitlin Byrnes' One Last Ride), the subversive (the Cinderella fairy tale gets a makeover with Angie Nolan's campy The Twisted Slipper) and the even more absurd (a young girl is not pleased to discover her mother is dating a werewolf in Jem Garrard's hilarious The Wolf Who Came to Dinner).
Crazy 8s' licensing rights prohibit filmmakers from posting their projects online afterward but many of the shorts get a longer life through screenings at various film festivals. For example, last year's Earthlickers and Bed Bugs: A Musical Love Story were both screened in December at the Whistler Film Festival, and three more past winners are part of the lineup for next week's Women in Film + Television Vancouver fest.
And an eventual paycheque isn't necessarily out of the cards. Crazy 8s regular Mackenzie Gray's noirish Under the Bridge of Fear from 2013 was later broadcasted on CBC, and he told me at the pre-show reception this brought in a small windfall he was able to share with the cast and crew.
But it would be crazy talk to suggest anyone is in this for the money rather than simply a love of film. Which is a literally a credit (lots of them, actually) to Vancouver's tight-knit film community.