The teams for Dalby Sisters Productions and Sisters Cinema shared the spotlight with Richard Miller (left) in the winners’ circle March 24. Photo: Tom Collins

Key Peninsula elementary, middle and high school students took home top awards from the Gig Harbor Film Festival—some for the second year in a row.

The Gig Harbor Film Festival held its annual 72 Hour Film Competition March 24, with teams and participants from the Key Peninsula earning top awards.

Winners from the Key Peninsula included Sisters Cinema for Best Director and Best Actress, Dalby Sisters Productions for Best Film (age 13 and under category), and Calm River Productions for Best Technical Achievement.

The 72 Hour Film Competition was part of GHFF’s schedule for several years but was spun off from the main festival into its own event in 2016. This year’s competition attracted about 30 teams, mostly from the Gig Harbor and Key Peninsula areas.

“The advice I would give is when you are acting, don’t be shy. Everyone will know you are scared.

With only three days to assemble a five-minute movie, teams were pushed to the limit to finish their projects on time. Each team was required to include a character named Chris, a shot of an apple being thrown, and some variation on the line, “That’s not how I would have handled it.”

Participants were not allowed to begin working until the competition began on a Thursday at 6 p.m., which meant writing a script, finding props and locations, and filming and editing the movie before the Sunday 6 p.m. deadline.

“You have to be so fluid and flexible,” said Dale Elison of Calm River Productions, whose film “Weekend Getaway” won Best Technical Achievement. “We got kicked out of one house, and we had to go back to our house and pretend we were at different houses shooting all kinds of different scenes,” Elison said. Despite the limited amount of time to work with, “Weekend Getaway” was shot at several locations, included detailed costume changes for the lead actors, and features aerial shots taken from a camera-equipped drone.

“You have to make sure everything is thought out and prepared, so that everything turns out well in the end,” said Amber Dalby, an eighth-grader at Key Peninsula Middle School whose team’s film, “Playtime,” won the Best Picture award for their age category. Amber and her sister Bonnie felt encouraged to take up moviemaking as a hobby after participating in last year’s competition.

“This year, we knew what we were doing, and we were way more prepared.” Even with more experience, the limited time still meant some last-minute fixes needed to be made. “There was one point where one of our props failed, and Bonnie, she actually had to sew the prop back together,” Amber said.

“Three days, 15 hours a day, 18 hours a day, to get four-and-a half-minutes’ worth of movie.”

Emma and Annie Stafki of Sisters Cinema won Best Director and Best Actress, respectively, in all age divisions for their film “How Hard Can It Be?” Annie, a fifth-grader at Minter Elementary School, also won Best Actress last year. “The advice I would give is when you are acting, don’t be shy. Everyone will know you are scared. It’s better to just go out and do it,” Annie said.

“We had to get very creative with the final editing to figure out which scenes to cut to fit it into the five minutes,” said Emma, a freshman at Peninsula High School. Like her sister, this is also her second film trophy: Emma won Best Picture last year in the 13 and under division.

Some teams went short on sleep to make sure their final product was delivered on time. Editors struggled to include the best parts of the movie while keeping it within the time limit.

“Three days, 15 hours a day, 18 hours a day, to get four-and-a half-minutes’ worth of movie,” said Richard Miller, a Key Peninsula Middle School teacher and Calm River Productions team member (and KP News contributor). “There’s so much that goes into every scene, the continuity, the costumes…all the moving parts.” Calm River’s production pulled in over a dozen actors, editors, and even a dedicated hair and makeup technician.

Teams assembled at the Galaxy Theater in Gig Harbor to watch the completed films on an IMAX screen. Over 400 people attended the final screening and award ceremony March 24.

“It felt like the entire town had turned out in support of their friends, family, neighbors and co-workers who were involved,” said GHFF Executive Director Jenny Wellman. Although this marked the end of the event, teams are brainstorming ideas for the 2020 competition. “Before we had turned it in, the team was already planning next year’s project,” Miller said.

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