The Adrenaline Film Project celebrates 10 years at VFF

Jeff Wadlow (right) guides budding filmmakers through his top speed master’s class, the Adenaline Film Project. Image: courtesy of VFF Jeff Wadlow (right) guides budding filmmakers through his top speed master’s class, the Adenaline Film Project. Image: courtesy of VFF

When writer/director Jeff Wadlow suggested adding a production component to the Virginia Film Festival in 2004, he didn’t foresee that the 72-hour filmmaking competition would become his baby. “This is the 10th year, and I’ve only missed one,” said Wadlow. “And now we do it in the spring in Eugene at the University of Oregon.”

As many as a dozen three-person teams pitch, write, cast, film, edit, and screen their films—all in three days under the guidance of professional filmmakers like Wadlow. “The emphasis is on collaboration,” he explained. And all aspects of the production have to receive a green light from Wadlow or a mentor—just like in Hollywood. “This forces them to see how it’s done,” he said.

Adrenaline alum Steve Robillard, who won an Emmy for his work on the reality show “Deadliest Catch,” agrees. “In order to get it to an audience, you’ve got to please an executive first,” he said.

“The more films you make, the better you’re going to be,” said UVA professor Kevin Everson, who teaches film in the  art department, is an Adrenaline mentor and is on the board of Light House Studio, the nonprofit that teaches filmmaking to students. “The non-experienced teams, they can’t imagine staying up all night or not eating.”

Wadlow kicks off the event with a crash course in filmmaking on Wednesday. “The workshop tutorial Jeff does is an hour-long master’s class on how to shoot a short film,” said Nick Lazo, whose team won in 2007 and who now works in L.A. “It’s something I’ve used at Adrenaline, at USC film school, and in projects since then.”

Lazo remembers Evan Almighty director Tom Shadyac coming into his wrecked hotel room that reeked of Chinese take-out, “sitting over my shoulder while I was editing, giving me tips. That was incredible.”

Adrenaline participants have had other high-profile guest mentors, like Brad Silbering, Norman Jewison, and Mark Johnson.

“One year we had Peter Bogdanovich stop by,” said Rom Alejandro. “I went pretty gaga over that.” Alejandro participated for two years before becoming a mentor himself. He now runs the Oregon Adrenaline Project and is head of post-production at Ketchum Labs in L.A. “It’s the best film experience you can get in 72 hours,” he said.

More than 500 people have participated in the Adrenaline Film Project. “I’ve never had a film not completed,” said Wadlow. “Although it’s been close.” He tells his teams, “Just get it done. If it’s good, it’s gravy.”

And then it’s showtime—and the payoff for Adrenalites. “It’s giving them the chance to realize the end product is not a movie,” said Wadlow. “The end product is a screening. The final step is an audience watching a movie and becoming active participants, making meaning from it from their own lives. That’s the rush.”—Lisa Provence