Saving the world 24 days at a time

Story by Eric Larson

Twenty-four days, in hindsight, is a relatively short period of time. Mathematically, it’s 6.5 percent of a year: That’s equal to the length of the Texas-based AdvoCare weight loss program, the average amount of time between Lindsay Lohan court hearings* or the life span of a male ant after mating season.

Since last month, it was also the duration given to this year’s film project presented by the UAC, Local Independent Filmmakers, Community Television and The Forum.

The premise was simple: Filmmakers (from both the community and university) were given 24 days to write, direct, shoot and submit a film. Films were to be under 10 minutes in length, include the line “I’m Batman” in the script (with respect towards Tuesday’s forum speaker and Batman franchise originator Michael Uslan; see page 4A for a full story) and revolve around a “Superhero” theme.

Also, the winners get a 30-minute session with Uslan himself for tips and a critique of their films.

“I’d say (the project) was a big success,” said Jim Brockpahler, student activities coordinator of the UAC. “In total, we received almost 30 applicants.”

Of those who applied, Brockpahler said, 20 were selected for the ‘super’ screening on Sunday — exactly 24 days after the project’s Jan. 28 launch.

Among the applicants was senior English creative writing major and UAC Films Committee member Tarek Shagosh. His film “8-Minute Origin,” which he co-wrote with fellow UAC member Dan McHugh, highlights a “delusional” college student’s dream to overcome all odds and become — you guessed it — a superhero.

“I’ve always been a fan of superheroes,” Shagosh said. “So naturally, I … well, all of us, really … had a lot of fun with this theme.”

After polishing up a script, constructing a cast of UAC members and renting out equipment — an HD camera and tripod; no boom was necessary, he said — the crew was ready to shoot.

“Shooting mainly took place in my apartment, the Firehouse downtown and Banbury Place,” Shagosh said. “It was tricky to work with everyone’s schedule. Whenever one person was free, the rest of us couldn’t make it. We spent about two weekends shooting and used three days to finalize and edit everything.”

Inspiration for “8-Minute,” Shagosh said, came from the 2010 film “Scott Pilgrim VS. The World” — the innovative comic book flick starring Michael Cera.

“We tried to incorporate similar elements from (Scott Pilgrim) … the surrealist shots, quick takes, etc.,” Shagosh said. “The (8-Minute) script actually looks quite similar to it.”

Throughout the process, Shagosh said the biggest challenge — the Kryptonite of the entire competition — was the short duration.

“More time definitely would have helped,” he said with a brief laugh. “But I guess that was the challenge of it — I’m still happy with the result.”

Awards distributed at the screening included Best Video, Most Creative Video, Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Video in Youth.

John Rose of Struck Productions, whose film “Origins” won best video, said he’s honored with the award; ultimately, he’s excited for the opportunity to sit down for a chat with one of the Batman franchise’s biggest legends.

“My cousin Russ Slack and I, who worked on ‘Origins’ with me, are very excited to meet Mr. Uslan,” said Rose, who is also a UW-Eau Claire alumnus. “It will be great to just meet him, see what he thinks (about ‘Origins’), and just hear his stories … Both of us have seen a number of his movies … We’re huge fans.”

Although “8-Minute” didn’t win any awards, Shagosh said he’s still pleased with his group’s accomplishment. Looking to the future, he said he’d love to land a job in the film industry; since the completion of “8-Minute,” he’s looking for a new movie to embark on (his March 8 Facebook status reads “needs more video projects”).

“I’ve got a notebook full of ideas,” he said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

Watch Shagosh’s film, “8-minute Origin.”
* Author guesstimate