Dordt students participate in Prairie Grass Film Challenge

Garth Van Donselaar — Chief Editor


Photo by Courtney Dolieslager
Pictured (L to R): Ladd Wielenga, Jacob Koehler (2018), and Eric Rowe (2017)

2019 marked the 13th year of the Prairie Grass Film Challenge (PGFC), which is hosted annually by Dordt’s Digital Media department.

Participants are giving a set prop, line of dialog, character and genre they must incorporate in their film. They have 48 hours to write, shoot, edit and submit their film. There are three categories for participants, high school, college, and post-college.

“We started it thinking ‘hey, this will be fun,’” challenge creator and digital media professor Mark Volkers said, “sometimes I’m just amazed that we’ve been at it this long.”

During the first year of the challenge, the awards ceremony was held in the De Yager Student Activity Center. Subsequent ceremonies were held in the B.J. Haan Auditorium. The Awards Ceremony is now a formal event—a contrast to the first year, where attendees wore t-shirts and jeans.

“[We] didn’t know what we were doing and just sort of winged it,” Volkers said, “and we thought, ‘Oh, that’s cool, we made it through a year. Let’s try a second year.’” It was not until the fifth year when Prairie Grass officially became an annual event.

Due to the challenge’s time restrictions, the team behind PGFC have not been the only ones resorting to winging it.

“You can definitely tell if a team is prepared or not,” senior Hayden Veurink said. This year marked his fourth time completing PGFC with various teams. Veurink’s first two years were not well-organized, but he said it got better with time.

“Filmmaking is all about taking the extra time to do things that might seem easy,” Veurink said.

As for the challenge itself, Veurink enjoys the opportunity of working on a team to tackle the project. This year he joined a team lead by Ben Kuiper, a 2018 graduate from Dordt college who took the challenge for the eighth time this year.

“I’m never as productive as I am in Prairie Grass,” Kuiper said. “Whatever problems may come up, it’s amazing to take them head-on and make something everyone can be proud of.”

Both Veurink and Kuiper are digital media majors, but the challenge has attracted others outside of the filmmaking profession, such as senior business major Jordan Knight.

“I first did it because there was a friend that asked me to,” she said. “I was a freshman in college and wanted to try new things.” The challenge sounded like fun to Knight, and she thought it would be a good opportunity to work with other people.

This year will be Knight’s third year participating. She’s enjoyed the opportunity to try something new.

“I think that it’s a really good program,” Knight said. “It introduces people who probably aren’t interested in film into film.”

Professor Volkers acknowledges this aspect of the challenge, as well, and notes how newcomers who have never made a film before have as good of a chance of winning as more experienced filmmakers.

The filmmaking part of the challenge was completed on January 19th, and now participants wait until the awards ceremony on February 22nd to find out if they are a winner. The ceremony is free, family-friendly and open to the public.

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