Faster Than The Speed Of Film

Faster Than The Speed Of Film

Culbreth Theatre, UVA Grounds. Sunday October 30, 2005. 4pm.

8,640 hours, 30 minutes to go.

Shea Sizemore, Paul Metzger, and Kim Bonner are taking in the applause. The filmmaking team has just won the Mentor Award for the 2005 Adrenaline Film Project for their short movie, Small Loss. The prize, given by the project’s directors, rewards the team that overcomes the largest odds and still makes a great film. Every team in this movie-making contest faces at least one major challenge: to complete a movie, start to finish, in only 72 hours. Some teams confront other issues. Shea’s team had arrived in Charlottesville from Radford knowing nothing about the area. They stayed at a rundown hotel far from everything. Fifty-four hours into the contest, Paul, scouting actors to play drunkards, had found two perfect and actually drunk guys. Coaxing them to be in the movie, he had joined them for a beer on no sleep and an empty stomach, with predictable results: Though the drunks were struggling to chase him (as the scene called for), it was Paul who ended up puking.

“We didn’t know what to even expect,” Shea says, exactly one year later.
But that was then. Going into the third annual AFP, which took place this year from October 26 to October 29 in tandem with the Virginia Film Festival, Shea & co. knew exactly what to do—and how to do it.

Wednesday October 26, 2006.

Sponsored this year by Volvo, the Adrenaline Film Project returned for the third time as part of the Virginia Film Festival. Ten teams of three people each again have 72 hours to write, film and edit a five-minute movie. At the screening of all the AFP movies at the end of the weekend, the teams will compete for three prizes: Jury, Audience and Mentor.

The AFP was born in 2004. That year the film festival’s theme was “Speed.” Jeff Wadlow, a Charlottesville native and filmmaker who is on the festival’s Board of Directors, had idly suggested a filmmaking event designed to compress movie-making into a very limited time, a kind of mobile film workshop cum extreme marathon. Audiences routinely pack the auditorium for the Sunday showings; it’s a bona fide crowd-pleaser.

So, Shea, 23, and Paul, 26, are back this year. Their 22-year-old friend, Tim Grant, joins them for the first time from Asheville, North Carolina. Tim is their ringer and they know they have a good chance to win this year. Shea and Paul say Tim’s a genius behind the camera.
Though it’s a competition, at heart the AFP is a collaboration among Wadlow, his writing and producing partner Beau Bauman, and the teams. It’s also a collaboration between the teams and the capricious heart of fortune. Oh yes, and time. Always time. During the course of the event, Jeff and Beau will join each team at several key points: a story pitch, a script pitch, an on-set meeting, and an edit room meeting.  They will approve and disapprove, suggest and correct, clarify and shape.

And they will set up obstacles. Shea and Paul’s previous films lean towards thrillers. They profess a taste for horror and sci-fi. So Jeff and Beau will make them work in the love story genre this time. But Shea and Paul do not seem to be bothered by this (they are also remarkably unbothered by having a reporter with them nearly at all times and a photographer much of the time, too). Jeff and Beau give all the teams the same line of dialogue and prop they must use in their movies, whatever the genre. The line: “I want to believe it.” The prop: a jar of Miracle Whip.

Alderman Library. Wednesday, October 26. 7:30pm.

72 hours to go.

Shea’s team has until 10pm to come up with a story, which they then must pitch to Jeff and Beau. Settled into the library’s coffee shop, the team seems calm and relaxed. There is no evidence of adrenaline.

They talk, brainstorm, tell random stories. They wonder should they do a straight love story, or a love story with a twist, like a zombie love story. They decide on a twist. Their ace in the hole is a Radford-area actor named Adam Frazier who, Shea jokes, is a “short, pudgy guy who looks like George Lucas and believes Star Wars is real.” So much for ringing endorsements.

Shea asks if they want to use the horses. Horses? Apparently they have a friend in Charlottesville who uses Clydesdales in some kind of logging operation, and he said they could use them. I am impressed. These guys are definitely prepared.

Ideas are getting thrown around. Love, fantasy. A guy, Adam, loves a girl, fantasizes about winning her. “I got it,” Tim says, “reverse it.” The guy would have no confidence. Even in his dreams, he’s a loser. He sees this girl, falls in love with her, and blows it even in his fantasies.

The story needs a setting. Coffee shop? Alleyway? It’s calling for rain over the next couple of days when the team will be shooting. Will all the fantasies be in the same location? Shea wants him to get out of the setting and move, with the fantasies occurring as he walks home. Each fantasy will mimic a different genre: Kung Fu, film noir, logging (Logging? Gotta use those Clydesdales, apparently.) O.K., so. The guy, Adam, is in the coffee shop. Sees the girl, the love of his life. First fantasy: She’s attacked and he defends her. Rips his shirt off. Leaves coffee shop, sees loggers. Second fantasy: He’s a logger, riding Clydesdales, impressing the girl. Next fantasy: film noir, complete with cigarettes and trenchcoats. Back to reality, and he’s still in the coffee shop. Fantasy within fantasy. “Let’s pitch it,” Shea says. Pitch it? What about the Miracle Whip?

Tim concludes that a coffee shop will be too hard to manage. “We’ve got 20 Clydesdales and a chainsaw, and we can’t even nail down a coffee shop?” Shea asks. O.K., grocery store in that case. Late night. The girl is the cashier. The three of them love it. High fives. I can’t believe they’re confident enough to pitch it.

Meeting Room, 1st floor, Newcomb Hall. 8:45pm.

70 hours, 45 minutes to go.

Time to pitch. Shea, Tim, and Paul meet with Jeff and Beau. Jeff: “What do you guys got?” Shea gives the pitch, the story suddenly cohering out of the confusion of the brainstorming session. Jeff loves it. He’s excited, making suggestions and pointing out problems. It takes him two minutes to clarify their vision (“Yeah! Yeah! But what about…?”) with infectious enthusiasm. Turns out that’s a good way to describe Jeff overall, with his perfectly floppy hair and his Dudley Dooright hero’s jaw; he’s a kind of enthusiasm disease. There’s just one sour note: Jeff and Beau say the grocery store locale is difficult to get and a little clichéd. But no matter, the story is a go. Time to write the script.

Room 223, Cavalier Inn. 11:15pm.

68 hours, 15 minutes to go.

Back to the hotel to make calls to prospective actors and start writing. The team arrange themselves on the two twin beds, Shea sitting at the head of one bed, typing the script on the computer on his lap, with Paul on his side across the foot of the bed. Tim lies on his stomach on the other bed writing the shot list into a black notebook. Tedium and typing are punctuated by jokes, the quoting of favorite films (Aliens, Anchorman) and ideas for dialogue. Even through the room’s washed-out tackiness, their tightness as a creative unit is coming through. Shea leads by way of being energetic. With his baseball cap cocked slightly sideways, he is quietly charismatic, speaking half in words and half in sound effects. Paul, with a surfer dude aspect, is a kind of co-jokster/voice of reason, although, I use “reason” somewhat hesitantly. Where Shea is sarcastic and mischievous, Paul possesses an open affability. Friends since middle school, at times they seem as familiar as brothers. Tim, the newcomer is tall and thin, with a neatly trimmed beard. He tells me that he was home schooled, which might explain his quiet studiousness.

Working title: Adam’s Day Out. It goes like this: Adam, lonely and large, stands in line at the grocery store and falls in love with the cashier. In front of him are three people, a thug, a Bogie wannabe and a “British guy.” As each man advances, he triggers a fantasy in which Adam tries and fails to win the girl. Adam, rejected even in his dreams, exits the store, but leaves behind one item, which the cashier/dream girl runs out to him. Adam, not at all chagrined by this small exchange, is buoyed, and takes it as a sign of her love.

This is how Shea describes the first fantasy, a Kung Fu fight scene in which the thug tries to rob the cashier but instead is beaten senseless by Adam: “…some sort of martial arts display…” he punches the air wildly, “…Tcha! Tcha! Tcha! Pssshhhtttt!…we can do some like popping wrists…Criiiicckk!…Craaack! Aaahhhh! Puuuchkk! Kuuusch!…” All three punch the air, breaking and twisting fake limbs “…Hwuung! Waaaahhh! Aaahhh!…” Paul stands, starts kicking. “…breaks the thug’s arm…the chest buster…Adam leans back and screams at the heavens…his shirt tears itself off from behind!”
Cut! Brilliant! Now this is filmmaking!

Room 223, Cavalier Inn. Thursday, 1:51am.

65 hours, 39 minutes to go.

It all hinges on Adam who is on the phone with Shea and begins to balk when he hears about the shirt-ripping scene. Tim takes over. “He says he’s doing it for you,” Tim reports. Adam is in, though the shirt-ripping scene hangs in the balance. “We’ll see what happens,” Shea says. “Just don’t laugh or poke at him.” Back to one of the laptops. Tim and Shea will work on the British fantasy scene. The team has come prepared with a lot of costly equipment, about $18,000 worth of digital cameras, laptops, a boom mike, a homemade dolly and a tripod. Accordingly, the modest hotel room is packed full and hard to maneuver around.

The night passes slowly with long stretches of silence as Shea types, Tim writes and Paul thinks. More jokes, movie quotes and ideas break it up along with a fair amount of flatulence and discussion thereof, owing to the burritos eaten for dinner. This, however, proves productive, as a fart becomes a key element in the film. In the British fantasy, Adam’s gas will keep him from winning the girl.

Room 223, Cavalier Inn. 2:52am.

64 hours, 38 minutes to go.

“Hey, where are we going to put that line of dialogue?” Paul asks. Nobody answers.

Room 223, Cavalier Inn. 3:30am.

64 hours to go.

Paul is dozing. Shea is typing (always typing). Tim and I talk. When Shea finishes he reads the script again. The tentative title is now Passing in the Night, a reference to Adam and the dream girl, as well as the all-important fart. They fret about transitions and discuss how long each bit will be. Within a half hour the first draft of the script is done. Total writing time: four hours, 45 minutes. “They’re going to rip us a new one,” Shea says, anticipating the meeting with Jeff and Beau. What about the grocery store, I ask them, will it be hard to get one in which to film? Shea: “No.” Paul: “I hope not.” Tim, thinking first for a minute: “Yes.”
The Clydesdales, much to my disappointment, are out. So far no one has mentioned Miracle Whip. 

Satellite Ballroom. 10am.

57 hours, 30 minutes to go.

The teams meet with Jeff and Beau to pitch them the script, a necessary step before moving on to shooting. Shea’s team commandeers some leather banquettes and round faux wood tables in a corner. Bagels and coffee are procured, and the team waits their turn. Thoughts turn to shooting. Adam, the chubby actor, has written on his blog about being in the movie. He seems willing now to go topless. Paul arranges for Adam to ride up with Meredith Garrison, the 20-year-old Radford actress who will portray the cashier/dream girl. Paul also calls a musician friend and tells him what they need in the way of soundtrack music.
Last night Jeff and Beau had voiced serious reservations about the grocery store location. Two previous AFP films have been set in grocery stores. Getting permission to film in one is difficult. Jeff and Beau instructed the team to think of something else. What will Jeff and Beau think when they read a grocery store script this morning? Shea is unconcerned: “We’re not doing what anyone has ever done in grocery store. We’re taking it to the next level.”

Satellite Ballroom. 11:09am.

56 hours, 21 minutes to go.

Jeff sits down. He was e-mailed the script last night. His first comment: “Grocery store? I thought we weren’t going to do it?” The guys look at each other. They look at Jeff. They want the grocery store. “All right. You’ve been warned. It’s hard to get. Epically hard.”
Jeff likes the script, but he wants to see clear lines between what is real and what isn’t. He also cautions them on the length of the Kung Fu scene. He suggests a few changes, and leaves with a metaphysical question about the British fantasy. If Adam farts in the fantasy, does he also fart in real life? Time to rewrite. “You’re a cocky, bearded, British guy living in America with a house in Casanova,” Shea says to Tim, “What would you say?”

Shea continues work on the script, which is really coming together. “I’m missing classes right now,” he says. “Are you going to graduate?” Paul asks.

Satellite Ballroom. 12:05pm.

54 hours, 25 minutes to go.

Beau joins them. His first question: “You got the supermarket?” Shea assures him that they’re going to get one as soon as they’re done here. Beau, less excited than Jeff, finds similar problems in the same places: the transitions between fantasy scenes. After 20 minutes of discussion and advice, Beau seems satisfied. “You’ll be in great shape,” he says, “assuming you get the supermarket.”

Satellite Ballroom. 12:22 pm.

54 hours, 8 minutes to go.

The grocery store now looms as a huge obstacle. Paul scouts two convenience stores on the Corner. The words “fight scene” earn him an immediate and harsh “no” at one. A second, seemingly more accommodating store, doesn’t suit Shea, who still really wants a big grocery store.

Harris Teeter, Barracks Road Shopping Center. 1:11pm.

53 hours, 19 minutes to go.

Paul and Shea approach a store manager for permission to film there. He gives an instant “no”: “You’d have to get permission from the corporate office.” They return to Satellite. Paul calls other grocery stores. It’s a “no” every time.

Satellite Ballroom. 2pm.

52 hours, 30 minutes to go.

Beau returns and re-reads the script. Four teams remain in the room. The others have already left to start shooting. Beau still has some problems with the transitions. Jeff joins them. “You guys are still here?” Paul asks which grocery stores the previous AFP films used. Jeff says Foods Of All Nations and Integral Yoga, but Foods will definitely say “no.” Paul calls IY. He gets a “maybe.”

Integral Yoga. 2:18pm

52 hours, 12 minutes to go.

“It’s good, it’s really good,” Beau had advised. “I would just get out of here.” Green light! GO! They drive to IY. The store closes at 8. Can they film after it closes? At first the manager says “no.” Paul offers to pay an employee to stay late. The manager says she’ll ask around and takes Paul’s number.

Room 223. Cavalier Inn. 3:10pm.

51 hours, 20 minutes to go.

Time to regroup. Everyone is tired, almost comatose. They stretch out on the two beds. The exhausted silence lasts for about 30 seconds. Then Shea is on his computer listening to the music, Tim is making a list of shots and supplies, and Paul is on the phone to Adam to make sure he arrives by 8pm.

Integral Yoga, 4pm.

50 hours, 30 minutes to go.

While Tim and Shea buy props, Paul returns to IY. An employee named Joyce tells us that another employee named Lauren, who remains mysteriously off in another room, is willing to stay after hours with us, but she wants $200. Paul offers $150, Joyce leaves with the counter offer. Lauren refuses. Paul is standing there uncertain of what to do. I am exhausted. I’ve slept three hours in the last 34, and we’re still on Day Two. Until now I have stayed on the sidelines, but I am starting to feel like a part of this thing. “Paul,” I say, “there’s four of us counting me. That’s only $50 each.” Paul agrees to $200.

Room 223, Cavalier Inn. 5:20pm.

49 hours, 10 minutes to go.

I break down. I am stretched thin. Caffeine is singing in my nerves. I feel on the verge of tears. I have told Paul to drop me off at the hotel room. He goes to join the others getting props, and I walk to a nearby gas station. I buy a six-pack of beer. It helps, but the beer may not be enough.

Room 223, Cavalier Inn. 6:35 pm.

47 hours, 55 minutes to go.

Everyone returns, props in hand. Twenty minutes later, the actors, Adam and Meredith, arrive. Time to head to the set. Departure is delayed by Shea’s dad calling to remind Shea that it’s his sister’s birthday and he should call her. Having done this, and with actors that have just driven two-and-a-half hours and haven’t seen the script, they are ready to start shooting. Got a script? Got the cameras? Got Miracle Whip? Go.

Integral Yoga, 9:04 pm.

45 hours, 26 minutes to go.

All of the IY employees were gone by 8:45, but set-up drags on, and so do the early shots. The plan: Get all of the grocery store filming done by midnight, and then film the noir scene. It’s getting easier to have faith in these guys, because on the set, their talent really starts to manifest itself. Especially where Tim is concerned. Behind the camera he is all confidence, making quick decisions as to camera position, actor movement and how the scene should look. Although Tim is primary cameraman, they all take turns at everything, switching between acting, filming and directing with Swiss precision. Occasionally they huddle together to discuss a scene, and almost always, as Tim films, either Paul, Shea, or both, look over his shoulder. They constantly turn to each other for approval and second opinions, although the answer is usually complete agreement. Throughout the entire 72 hours that I will spend with them, I will see exactly zero fights or arguments, and no sign whatsoever of tension. I find this hard to comprehend.

Integral Yoga. 11:30 pm.

43 hours to go.

Shea, playing the thug, pulls out his father’s Ruger .45 Blackhawk, along the barrel of which is inscribed, “Made in the 200th year of American Liberty.” Many takes into the robbery scene, and he is improvising, screaming wildly and walking on the backs of other actors. He points the gun at me as I scribble away in a corner. He points the gun at Adam’s head and ad libs: “One, two, your head’s a canoe; three, four, hit the floor!” It’s a great, silly line, and though we all rap it the rest of the night, it will end up on the cutting room floor.
Paul is pushing a shirtless Adam down the aisle in a shopping cart as he leans on Shea for balance, simulating a flying kick. He glides majestically, like a float in the Kung Fu nerd parade.

Finally, the shot we’ve all been waiting for. A black t-shirt is carefully cut down the middle and scotch taped back together. Adam screams at the heavens and throws his arms back as his shirt is ripped away from behind. It is beautiful to behold. Adam is rather robust, and his pale, hairy stomach gets a lot of screen time. It is an understatement to say that he is a real sport.

Integral Yoga. Friday, 1:10am.

41 hours, 20 minutes to go.

The interior grocery store scenes are done. Though they make up only about a third of the film, they were by far the most ambitious and technically demanding. Finishing them is a huge relief. It’s amazing how in making a film, so many diverse elements—the cast and crew, the script and the set, the director and the cameraman—cohere, sometimes in the face of incredible odds. Filmmaking is often about strange accidents and beautiful coincidences. Talent getting it on with Luck.

The guys are planning on filming the noir scene next, but I’ve hit the wall. I’m beat, miracle whipped. I head home and sleep, but they go on and film until 5:30am, getting the noir scene shot in an alley on the Corner while drunken UVA students in Halloween costumes look on.

The Rotunda, UVA Grounds. 4pm.

38 hours, 30 minutes to go.

After sleeping most of the morning and then discussing the day’s shooting in the lobby for two hours, Shea, Paul and Tim finally get going. We are standing in a light but steady rain to shoot the British fantasy. Although the scene had to be re-written to deal with the rain, the team, characteristically, is unfazed. A big part of the AFP is dealing with the logistical nightmares that inevitably crop up when creating a movie from scratch in 72 hours. In the previous two years, teams have had to cope with cars getting towed and team members quitting and taking all of the footage away with them. When I talked to him before the competition began, Jeff Wadlow told me, “If everything is going right, then something is wrong.” Shea’s team is moving through the making of what is turning out to be a highly ambitious film—even without the Clydesdales—and nothing is going wrong. It’s not that everything is going right for Shea’s team, it’s just that they know that they are going to make this movie. They are making this movie, I realize, less because they want to win awards, and more because they themselves really want to watch it.

Jeff arrives to watch us shoot. I say “us” because I have been roped into taking a small role. AFP is about using what you have, and they need extras. Jeff watches as Tim’s lanky frame bends over the camera, water dripping from his beard. Paul stands above him holding a crappy little umbrella. A white fog of breath halos all of our heads in the cold air. Jeff watches four or five takes, pronounces it “solid work” and leaves. Shea is amazed that he said so little, but there’s no time to dwell on it. The scene takes two and a half hours to complete. It is getting dark. Everyone is soaked. Meredith’s hands are red from the cold and heading to white. Shea has his arms zipped into his jacket, which has failed to adequately keep the rain out. As we walk back to the cars Tim, face wet, camera cradled under the tiny umbrella, turns to me and says, “It’s all starting to come together now.” He pauses. “I hope.”

Barracks Road Shopping Center. 11:49pm.

30 hours, 41 minutes to go.

Shooting begins on the final scene. We had watched the first bits of footage as we ate dinner back in the hotel room, and everyone is feeling good about the high quality of the camera work and the acting. From where I’m sitting, Adam and Meredith are nailing their scenes. Meredith is studying drama in college, but Adam is a real find. He had never acted before until he hooked up with Shea for his last film. Both of them are subtle and natural, hitting everything with no rehearsal and needing little direction.

This is the last scene between Adam and his dream girl, and it takes place outside the door of the grocery store. Since no one wanted to pony up another $200, an allnight copy joint is subbing for IY. For complicated reasons apparently involving Dave Chappelle, the team is not allowed to reveal the name of the place, and so the camera angles are dictated in part by the need to obscure the numerous logos.

Further complicating matters, an extremely loud street sweeper is driving aimlessly around the parking lot, despite the fact that it is still raining. Shooting in between the sweeper’s rounds is proving to be frustrating, and so Tim flags the guy down and asks him if there’s anyway he can stop for a while. The guy says he is about to stop, and thankfully, he does.
The Miracle Whip is ready for its close-up. It is left out of the bag of groceries. The cashier runs after our hero to return it, bringing them together at last.

Room 223, Cavalier Inn.

Saturday, 1:21am. 29 hours, 9 minutes to go.

Shooting has wrapped, but there is no real celebration. Editing is about to commence. Meredith has failed to inform her mother of her whereabouts, and there are several panicked messages on her phone. At 2am, she calls home to put Mom’s mind at ease.
Before editing can begin, all of the footage must be loaded into the computer and logged. While this long, slow process proceeds, everybody lies down on the beds. Tired silence hangs like low fog.

Room 223, Cavalier Inn. 5:18am.

14 hours, 12 minutes to go.

One-hundred and eighty minutes of tape must now be reduced to five. Shea, Paul and Tim sit in front of the brand new, 24" iMac that Apple has donated for editing. Joking ceases. “Close first, then mid, then pan.” “This is a good tease here, right before the lips.” “I say put more on the front of it.” They sit close together, heads even closer, faces illuminated by the light of the screen. Behind them on the beds, Adam and Meredith have fallen sleep. “Oh man,” Tim says moving into profile as he turns toward the other two, “I’m seeing it big time.”

Room 223, Cavalier Inn. 7:45am.

11 hours, 45 minutes to go.

I have been dozing on and off for a while now. Adam will later describe how whenever one of the guys got excited about something, my hand would shoot up from the floor, reaching zombie-like for my glasses, and, notebook in hand, I would stumble over to the computer to see the progress. So tired. Nightmare Exhaustion Film Project! Maybe the makers of Aderol can sponsor next year.

Shea, Paul and Tim have been rotating out of the main chair, tag-teaming the editing duties. “I’m energized,” Tim says. “Yeah,” agrees Paul, “I’m wide awake.” The sun begins to seep into the darkened room. “I’m not tired,” Shea says, “but things are getting blurry.”

Room 223, Cavalier Inn. 12:23pm.

7 hours, 7 minutes to go.

Jeff arrives for his editing room visit and brings a special guest, Tom Shadyac. Tom directed Ace Ventura, Patch Adams and Bruce Almighty, among other huge Hollywood movies, and he recently finished Evan Almighty, the blockbuster comedy filmed in Albemarle County. He’s a special guest of the Virginia Film Festival, and apparently a buddy of Jeff’s. Tom’s wiry frame and long hair are silhouetted in the doorway. He looks at the room. There is almost no floor space amid the jumble of pizza boxes, coffee cups, soda bottles, camera cases, computers and clothes. What little room that exists is taken up by two large chairs and a blow up mattress. “Wow,” Tom says, clearly impressed, “I went to film school and I never saw anything like this.”

Jeff and Tom watch the rough edit. Eight of us crowd around the computer screen. The movie plays. Jeff and Tom are laughing. “Nice guys, good job,” Jeff says when it’s done. “Oh, fucking great,” says Tom, “good stuff, good stuff. That schlub cat, is he here?” He turns to Adam and gives him a fist pound. Adam is nearly blushing. These guys were raised on Jim Carrey, and to have a modern comedy master like Tom Shadyac in their hotel room laughing at their movie—well, it is almost too much for them to handle.

Jeff and Tom go through it shot by shot. “There’s gold moments all over here,” Tom says, “cut to the gold.” Jeff agrees, urging them to tighten it up and cut anything that isn’t perfect or absolutely necessary. “You rewrite in the editing room,” Tom tells them. “Nobody believes me until I bring a billion-dollar director,” Jeff laments. “And that’s with a B, motherfucker!” says Tom.

Jeff grabs the mouse and begins to make cuts, quick and easy, as if he were ripping pages out of a notebook. “Capra used to say, ‘One second of dead time on the screen is an eternity,’” Tom tells them, “always cut dead time.” From Frank Capra to Tom Shadyac, to Shea, Paul and Tim: Film is a collaboration.

The lesson over, Tom and Jeff prepare to leave. Tom turns his grizzled face to look at Shea. Hair pulled back in a partial ponytail, and showing signs of gray, he puts his hand on Shea’s shoulder. “Thirty-six hours straight you’ve been up, man. Thirty-six hours straight. I can feel it.”

A stunned silence follows their departure. “We just gained a lifetime worth of knowledge,” Paul breathes.

Room 223, Cavalier Inn. 1:14pm.

6 hours, 16 minutes to go.

The visit from Tom and Jeff has given them a new sense of energy and urgency. Shea, Paul and Tim cut scenes they had labored hours to shoot. They are seeing the film in a way they couldn’t before. They slice it up with a razor, recklessly and with a feverish glee. “Don’t be precious about anything,” Tom had said. “Everything has to fight to be in the movie.” The scenes fight, but they are no match for the young filmmakers now. They are moving at manic speed, switching places after a few minutes, talking fast, typing faster.

I step outside for the first time in 12 hours. The sunlight, the golden, swaying leaves, the crisp air; it all washes over me as if I were diving into a lake. I jog around the parking lot and stretch. The normal world has continued to function sans adrenaline, sans Kung Fu, sans billion-dollar directors. The Volvo Adrenaline Film Project, when viewed with a high and wide gliding overhead crane shot, is about a lack of time. It’s about 72 hours to write, shoot and edit a film. “That’s impossible,” you’d think, “It’s not enough time.” But when you look at it in a shaky, hand-held, whites-of-their-eyes close up, the AFP is about an epic abundance of time. It’s 72 hours of writing, shooting and editing a film. It’s 72 hours of typing and thinking, of take and retake and discussion of angles. It’s 72 hours of cutting and pasting and trying to cover the hole in the scene where you forgot to get that reaction shot. It’s three days and three nights, sometimes literally, spent poring over the details, the minutes and the seconds. It’s an eternity passing at the speed of light. It is your Hollywood career in three days.

Room 223, Cavalier Inn. 3:45pm.

3 hours, 45 minutes to go.

It took six hours to put together the seven-and-a-half minute rough edit, and one hour to chop it down to five minutes. “Even if we don’t win,” says Tim, “just the fact that the Ace Ventura writer and director laughed at our movie…” “We’re winners already,” finishes Paul.

Room 223, Cavalier Inn. 5:55pm.

1 hour, 5 minutes to go.

Done. We watch the finished movie, now officially titled Checkout. It’s brilliant. It’s funny. It’s a true love story, albeit one with Kung Fu and Miracle Whip. But sadly, no Clydesdales.

Room 223, Cavalier Inn. 7:30 pm.

0 hours to go.

And it’s over. No cheers. No clinking glasses. I go home. They go to sleep.

Newcomb Theater, UVA Grounds.

Sunday October 29, 4pm.

Paul, Tim, Shea and Shea’s parents, Rick and Paula Sizemore, sit near the back of the theater with a full house of the Adrenaline faithful. Shea’s team nabs the runner-up spot for the Audience Award. Same for the Jury Award. There had been numerous technical difficulties with the projector. My heart was pounding and my hands were shaking when Checkout was played. Shea, Paul and Tim love the winning movie, Taste of Evil. “I had no idea the magnitude of this thing coming in,” Tim, the first-timer, tells me. “Going through the mentor process has been a blast. Even though we didn’t win…” he laughs.

For Shea, Paul and Tim the adrenaline has leaked away. The long drive home passes, one hopes, slowly and safely. Back to classes, work and a more careful kind of filmmaking. But my project, the Adrenaline Journalism Project, continues, as I must now write about these frantic three days in roughly 20 hours. I must recall the images and sounds that I have captured with a much poorer camera. Reflections in a darkened hotel room. The soundtrack to our collective 72-hour adventure. Paul joking to Adam, “While you were asleep you became an Academy Award-winning actor!” Tom Shadyac turning to me after I make an editing suggestion and saying, “You’re invested now.” And this line of technical poetry from Tim: “We’ll probably do a little speed envelope on that last one.” The thousands of little gestures that make up a single second of film. Shea, referencing how in the movie Big Fish time is made to stop, asks, “Can we stop time, Tim?” Later, when I wonder how he decided to take part in the Adrenaline Film Project for a second year, Shea tells me, “It wasn’t a matter of a decision, it was a matter of time.” Time. Always time.

Newcomb Theater, 5:16pm.

8,630 hours, and 30 minutes to go until the Fourth Annual Adrenaline Film Project.

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