Eric Rowe-Staff Writer
From a personal story of walking in on a roommate in the bathtub surrounded by pizza to a mutual love of mystery crime TV shows, inspiration for the Prairie Grass Film Challenge (PGFC) can come from anywhere. On Feb. 17, production teams and members of the community celebrated films created within the span of 48 hours. All films are required to use a given character, prop and decade – either 50s, 60s, 70s or 80s.
All 45 submitted films were screened in 10 rooms in the Science Building from 5-7:30 p.m. The awards ceremony hosted by digital media professor Mark Volkers and PGFC committee member, Mark Verbruggen began sharply at 8 p.m. Volkers and Verbruggen presented four main awards: one in each entry category and a best overall.
The coveted ‘Dordty’ award for the highest-scoring film in Prairie Grass 2017 went to Lost Utopia Films for Lava Lamp, a thriller in the vein of classic sci-fi complete with UFO’s and alien jump scares.
Movie Knight Productions took home the Best of High School for its film, A Mildly Inconvenient Ghost, a mockumentary about a man who bought a very cheap house and learns to live with the consequences.
Junior Jacob Koehler, a member of last year’s Dordt-winning Player 2 Productions, applauded Movie Knight Productions’ shots that were well-timed to sell the humor.
The judging panel – comprised of media professionals from all over the country, though their locations are somewhat concentrated in L.A. – awarded Evergreen Productions with Best in College for A Stolen Signet, a film following an FBI agent investigating a 50-year-old mystery.
Post-college overall winner Paragon Productions’ film H2O, dove into deep issues and a bathtub at the same time. Dordt Alum Nick Engbers spent six hours in the tub before they finished the shoot.
Paragon Production team member Nathan Walter competed in PGFC for the third time, this year being his first as a post-college participant working with professional filmmakers.
“Their role was what they do for a living,” Walter said. “We could enjoy watching each other work.”
Last year, Dordt alum Jill Nydam brought a group of her high school students from Mitchell Christian School in Mitchell, S.D. to the event as part of the creative writing class she taught. Though only a spectator at this year’s ceremony, Nydam intends to weave the PGFC into her future writing classes and sees it as a valuable exercise in creatively telling a story.
Junior Benji Lee visited the PGFC screening because his friends were involved with a film.
“It’s a good opportunity to look at what’s happening in film,” Lee said. “I didn’t realize how big film is around here.”
Volkers commented that this year there seemed to be more members in the audience compared to last year. He attributed the larger crowd to television advertisements promoting the contest that debuted in a sweet spot of airtime created after the political ads of election season left the big screen.
Though the celebration and major awards have been given, PGFC isn’t done yet. The People’s Choice Award needs your vote before Feb. 27. You can watch all the films and vote for your favorite at https://www.dordt.edu/events/prairie-grass-film-challenge/peoples-choice.