Mike Place didn’t have a particularly difficult time selecting which genres to enter projects in at the upcoming SNOB Film Festival.
He just drew them out of a hat.
Place, a Concord filmmaker, has a pair of short films showing at this year’s festival, films he originally entered in The 48 Hour Film Project, a contest in which you draw a category out of a hat and have two days to create a movie that is seven minutes or less.
You are given a character, a prop and a line of dialogue and must create a movie from start to finish – writing, shooting, editing and scoring – in 48 hours.
“I basically just try to think of a joke and tell the joke in seven minutes,” Place said. “But you try to put a lot of plot inside those seven minutes.”
But while the genre selection process may be stress-free, coming up with a coherent film in two days certainly isn’t. Place said the typical schedule includes receiving topic information on Friday night, writing until 2 a.m., catching a quick nap and then shooting all day Saturday. Saturday night and Sunday are reserved for editing both the film and the audio, which often includes music.
Place’s entries this year are Love and Magic and Charlie and the Hamster Eggs, a pair of quirky comedies. Place, who teaches filmmaking at Lakes Region Community College in Laconia, uses his students to help create the films, often assembling a cast and crew of a half-dozen people or so, and shoots them wherever he can in the time he’s given.
Love and Magic is centered around a Father’s Day tournament of Magic: The Gathering, where a loss quickly escalates to something of a hostage situation. Proving how creative one can be in working in the genre, Place actually drew romance as the category for the film and worked it in by creating a scene involving two women who meet at the tournament (don’t worry, it’s not as steamy as it sounds).
Charlie and the Hamster Eggs features a boy having a discussion with his grandfather after eating what he thinks are hamster eggs. There’s not much else that can be revealed without a spoiler alert.
Place took part in last year’s festival, as well, and has worked with organizer Jay Doherty to help create some of the animations that will be used in the festival’s opening this year. It’s all work Place is proud to be part of, especially given that the festival takes place in his hometown.
“SNOB is an amazing film festival, and I’m happy to be a part of it,” Place said. “It’s a cool family atmosphere. I like the idea of it being in a small city where you get to walk up and down Main Street. It’s a (weekend) for filmmakers, and there’s a great sense of community we have when all the shops have SNOB events during the weekend.”
Place started in graphics before following what he called a “natural progression to animation,” a skill he certainly utilizes in his films. He started the media program at LRCC, which eventually morphed to include filmmaking, a subject he’s been teaching for more than six years.
He uses the SNOB festival as a teaching tool, as well, encouraging his students to attend so they can dissect techniques in class.
“I like seeing the imagination of people, seeing the creative effects they use,” Place said. “That’s the eye candy, to see how people pull off camera tricks. Then we try to break things down in class, say how did they do this or that?”
And while filmmaking is certainly part of Place’s life, teaching the skill has been equally fulfilling.
“You grow up quick when you become an independent filmmaker and have to work with people. You have to organize and rally people, support and motivate them. And that’s what a teacher has to do every day,” Place said. “To see them grow from a student in their own world to a respected, organized manager is the biggest thing I get out of it. It’s not our job to make someone Spielberg right out of the gate. Our job is to motivate them to continue on and improve their art.”