How to make a Film for the Hundred Dollar Film Festival – Part 7

Contingency edit

In the previous posts, I’ve looked at how I made some of my films for the Hundred Dollar Film Festival. In this post and subsequent posts, I will use those experiences to give advice on how to make a film for the Hundred Dollar Film Festival. I will begin with the limitations that technical side of filmmaking impose. This will be important to keep in mind when it comes to the creative side of filmmaking.


Now that digital video is so much part of the culture, many people do not understand the technology of film as much as people used to. If you don’t have experience with film technology, I encourage you to experiment with film and cameras before you start your film. You may be able to use some of your experimental footage in your film, but don’t count on that.

Most cities have groups like the Calgary Society of Independent Filmmakers that can provide the support you will need to make your film. This can include access to equipment, training, and advice.

If you can find a more experience filmmaker to help you, that can make the process easier for you.

Film Length

I would plan on a film between three and four minutes long. The original rule limited filmmakers to four rolls of colour film, or five rolls of black and white film. This gives you about twelve to fifteen minutes of film.

I know some filmmakers were able to use almost all of the film they shot. More often though, you use only a fraction of what you shot in the final film. It’s common for a feature film to use just one per cent of the film shot. For a three to four minutes long Hundred Dollar Film Festival Film, you will need to have between 20% and 25% of what you shoot in the final film.

That goal can be difficult to meet, so you need to avoid complicated and tricky shots that may not work. Some may see this as stifling creativity, but it can also be a spur to be more creative.

Type of Film

Super 8 film is available in reversal and negative, but as far as I know, you can’t get prints from the negatives. For Super 8, reversal film is the only real option if you want a final version you can project.

In 16mm you can use reversal as well, but I prefer negative. I used negative film for Contingency and then I edited the print for the final film. You can go back to a negative cut and answer print, but that is more expensive. One reason I prefer negative is that I still have that to fall back on if something happens to my print.

Post Production

The approach I have used for the last few films I made was to transfer the images to video and edit them on the computer. Then I used information from the video cut to cut the actual film. That can be tricky to do, and I have used different approaches with each of the films I have done.

On My Next Film, I wrote some of the edge numbers on the print so I could match the video to the film print. This wouldn’t work as well if you want to use the print for your final film.

When I did Contingency, I planned the shots so that the exact cuts were not critical. I only needed to get the length right. The final shot of the film was an exception, but I could identify the correct frames visually.


Super 8 sound film is no longer available, and 16mm sound requires a much more sophisticated, and expensive, approach. That pretty much limits your options for sound to non-sync sound. If sync is critical, you may be able to achieve that will live sound at the screening.

For Contingency, I created the sound track in my video editing software (Premiere Pro), and then output the sound on a CD. I had a beep on the CD that corresponded to the “2” frame, that allowed the projectionist to do a rough sync. Projects all vary slightly in their run speed, so the sound could be a second or two out of sync. It can vary through out the film.

If you work with non-sync sound, it is best to stay with either music or voice over on the sound track. Sound effects that don’t need to be in sync work as well.

Another option is to have no sound at all. Sound can add a lot to the impact of a film, so a silent film can be more of a creative challenge to make.

In the next post, I will move on to the creative side of filmmaking. Creativity is difficult to explain, but I feel some aspects of the creative process are easier to convey.

Note 2015 May 20: I fixed a broken link.

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