Ever want to participate in a filmmaking competition? Get a feel for the experience through this insider’s perspective from filmmaker and community organizer Indy Cho. This guest post part two of two about the Renton FilmFrenzy. Learn about how the City of Renton supports and encourages filmmaking, and the steps they’re taking to make the area a film-friendly destination.

Be sure to check out the shorts produced during the 2013 Renton FilmFrenzy. Screenings are open to the public, all ages are welcome and there’s no admission fee.  Films screen Saturday Oct 19th at 7pm at the Renton Civic Theater and and the top films screen again during the Curvee Awards Gala at the Ikea Performing Arts Center at 7pm next Tuesday, Oct 22.


I glance at the clock of my computer, then look back at the progress of the export as it renders. 60%. Almost there with time to spare. Time to kick back and relax. Why not take one more look at the footage to do a triple check to see if there are any odd exposures or spikes in audio. What could it hurt right? Sometimes ignorance would’ve been bliss, but sure enough, there it was at a little over 3 minutes into my 4-minute film. I quickly stop the export and correct the audio spike and start the clock over again. The clock seemed to have jumped forward at twice the speed and the progress of the export seems to be hanging at 30%. It’s 6:30pm Sunday evening and the turn in deadline is 7pm at the Berliner Pub.

This was the end of another harrowing Renton Film Frenzy at 49.5 hours into the competition. 49.5 hours earlier, I sat at my computer and waited for the email that would contain the “Curveballs” and kick off the Frenzy. At exactly 5pm on Friday evening, I hear the bell as an email drops into my inbox. In the past, there were lines of dialogue, art pieces, locations and props. This year the Curveballs were:

  1. Character:  incorporate a character with the name of Gene Coulon in your film.
  2. Location: include a scene filmed at the Downtown Renton Piazza, Third Avenue. Between Whitman and Burnett Avenues. NOTE: The Harvest Festival is taking place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.
  3. Prop: use an airplane in your film. Can be a model, photo, toy, Boeing plane, etc.

I quickly call a crew meeting and we are now making a mad dash to develop a story that will incorporate each of these criteria.

Because the event is sponsored by the City of Renton, it’s easy to see why all of the criteria are very focused on highlighting local venues, history or art. This year’s curveballs are much softer and subtler than ones in the past, which included dialogue such as “Boeing” or “SIFF-Renton”. Instead of having overtly un-relatable curveballs, these challenges still gave me flexibility as a filmmaker to focus more on a story that can appeal to a broader audience. If Renton continues in this trend, it’ll open up the doors to more filmmakers outside of the city to come and realize Renton extremely film-friendly. Well played, Renton.

As usual with these film competitions, by Friday night my cast and crew all knew the story, the locations and call times. The next full day is reserved for principal shooting.  Although Renton has a lot of great geography, the requirements do generally involve a downtown location. When shooting downtown, it’s always fun to see other filmmakers and scope out the competition. “Who’s on that crew?” “What gear are they using?” “Holy crap, check out the makeup!” Kelley Balcomb-Bartok of the City of Renton is generally seen running around to take pictures of the film crews and mediate any issues or disruptions that businesses or local law enforcement may raise an eyebrow to during filming.

I have a firm belief that these timed competitions have a secret arrangement with Murphy’s Law. It always seems that I can think of at least 3 catastrophes that occur on every production. These aren’t always bad and it challenges the crew and cast to be creative in being able to overcome challenges and still come away with a great story. Losing cast, losing locations, not having the right equipment, too many reshoots, etc. The list goes on. At the end of the day though, everyone waits for the director to say those famous words to release the cast and crew – “That’s a wrap”.

The truly hard part comes next: managing hours of footage of principals, retakes, b-roll, audio, wild shots, etc. This year I took on the role of Director/Writer/Producer/Editor. If someone placed a camera on me and did a time lapse for the next 24 hours, you would think it was a still photo. Finally, the story comes together in a rough cut.  At this point, being tired and weary, I highly recommend that editors and directors get as many people to look at your final cut as possible. After they’ve done that, take a nap and check one last time.

Finally, the render is complete and I throw it quickly onto a thumb drive and race to the Berliner. By race, of course I mean follow the speed limit, although I did hear that some teams did indeed have a speedway experience to get their films in on time. When I arrive at the Berliner, I see several other teams waiting and checking their watches. There were even two teams quickly rushing to the Frenzy staff and asking technical questions about why Premiere or Final Cut Pro X is giving them error messages as they sat with their laptops waiting for their final renders to complete. As for me, 6:50pm and my film was turned in. (The last picture you see here is my prize, credit to me!)

The next step will be to screen all of the completed films on Saturday Oct 19th at 7pm at the Renton Civic Theater. Those films that met their deadlines, the criteria and win an award will be shown at the Ikea Performing Arts Center at 7pm on Tuesday Oct 22. Come cheer on Washington filmmakers and if you happen to see a very fast paced film titled “Last Chance”, give an extra loud applause!

A huge thanks to my cast and crew: John Wu, Josephine Hoy, Sammy Applegate, Susan Echols-Orton, Karen Damm, Eva Duran, Mike Montoya, Fabian Sanin, Milsev Sanin and Persephone Vandegrift. Special thanks to my wife and executive producer, Amy Cho.


Indy MeetupMore about Indy and what he’s organizing: Indiana Cho is a filmmaker who has worked on a number of shorts, ranging from 4 to 44 minutes, and is actively working towards his first feature film.  He is primarily a Director / Producer / Writer / DP. Indy also runs a successful series of bi-monthly meet ups that alternate locations between Seattle and Renton. The Seattle meetups are sponsored and held at Clatter & Din. The Renton meetups are sponsored by Puget Sound Access and held at Carco Theater.  Each meet up has guest sponsors, experiential engagements and highlights from all aspects of narrative filmmaking with focus on the Northwest.