2018 36 Hour Challenge Winners

Congratulations to all 25 teams that were able to complete the 36-Hour Challenge. GRFF is so proud and grateful for each of the over 150 participants. 

Here's a recap of the winning teams:

Best of Show: "Never Too Late" by #StayRaw, Compass College of Cinematic Arts Alumni

Best Professional Film: "Total Apocalypse of the Heart" by Started Out Friends, Cornerstone University Alumni

Best University Film: "T.T.I.B" by Golden Shooters From Calvin College

Best High School Film: "The PAIN-TING" by KV Productions from Kelloggsville High School

Best Editing: "Closeted Hemispheres" by Taco Bell Sponsored Team from Grand Valley TV

Best Sound Bob Ross: "Extreme Addiction" by Flixters with Hats from Grand Valley State University)

  • Best Acting: Mimi Mutesa from "T.T.I.B." of the Golden Shooters from Calvin College
  • Best Directing: "Steve" by Steven Spielberg from Kendall College of Art and Design
  • Best Script: "Harmony" by Biggr
  • Best Cinematography: "The Allegory of the Cave" by DareDevil Studios from Northview High School



Aggressive Bombardment

Our last post in this series investigating how film impacts behavior looked at the top 20 television programs of 2017, finding that most of them shared the common bond of violence. For this, our third post, the Grand Rapids Film Festival (GRFF) team wonders how violence in media is shaping our societies. Is it possible to view an increasing amount of violence, while remaining calm and peaceful?

Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars was the third most watch TV show of 2017 and is a great example of indirect violence in the form of relational agression

Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars was the third most watch TV show of 2017 and is a great example of indirect violence in the form of relational agression

In 2002, Anderson and Bushman concepted the General Aggression Model (GAM), which suggests that exposure to media aggression may influence attitudes and behavior, in both the short and the long terms.[i] Most individuals who view a violent and bloody gunfight do not commit murder. However, according to the GAM, these individuals are still “primed” to act aggressively, as they are now thinking about aggression, are physiologically aroused, and may be in a hostile and angry mood.[ii]

In 2000, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and five other prominent medical groups issued this statement concerning the connection between media and violent and aggressive behavior in children.

Television, movies, music, and interactive games are powerful learning tools, and highly influential media. The average American child spends as much as 28 hours [in 2000] a week watching television, and typically at least an hour a day playing video games or surfing the Internet. Several more hours each week are spent watching movies and videos and listening to music. These media can, and often are, used to instruct, encourage, and even inspire. But when these entertainment media showcase violence - and particularly in a context which glamorizes or trivializes it - the lessons learned can be destructive. [iii]

At this point, it’s clear that film/media teaches. Every time you consume a program, film, song, game or clip, your mind opens to it, the content bounces around, and some of the ideas stick. GRFF is primarily concerned with how these ideas impact behavior. In 1986, University of Michigan professor L. Rowell Huesmann developed the Information Processing Theory. This theory explains how these ideas, or “scripts” as he labeled them, are learned by observing and then stored in memory to be used as a guide for future behavior.[iv]


Sarah M. Coyne looks more deeply at the impact viewing direct and indirect aggression in media. Indirect aggression includes: intrigue, rumors, and manipulating others. She references the film Cruel Intentions, where the lead characters manipulate their friend’s relationship to destroy trust, as an example in her 2004 article “Cruel intentions on television and in real life.”[v]

Coyne’s research discovered that television portrayals of indirect aggression can have an immediate effect on subsequent indirect aggression. Meaning, if you view direct or indirect aggression, these actions become “scripts” that you draw from in your own experiences. The more aggression you view, the more often you’ll draw on these examples to solve your own life dilemmas.

Relational aggression is a type of indirect violence Coyne researched. Relational aggression is the type of enmity that does not show physical scars but is the force behind school bullying and social mockery. [vi] The expected result is damaging relationships or the communal status. This causes a great deal of lasting, usually unseen harm like: depression, anxiety, loneliness, social withdrawal, low-self-esteem and even suicide.

Mean Girls

Mean Girls

High levels of relationship aggression are found in numerous television shows and films, even in children’s programming. In these programs, relational aggression is often portrayed as humorous, justified, customary, rewarded and sociologically abundant by attractive girls. Also know as the “mean girls” phenomenon, this type of violence is typically aimed towards elementary to high school level females but also affects males on a smaller scale. When children are viewing comical, laugh-track abundant programs where the joke is on the weirdo or the awkward character, be aware that these “scripts” are being added to their adolescent brains.

It simply wasn’t possible to find evidence that stated violence in media has no effect on the viewer. None of the research recommended directly or indirectly aggressive programs to be watched by children, adolescents or adults. It was quite clear to every researcher that media teaches; it offers behavioral options to viewers. When the options presented are aggressive, the viewer learns them. Even if viewers can control their impulses to solve problems with direct violence, the aggressive scripts influence their moods and their communication.

So, viewer, if you are struggling with anger, anxiety, a lack of calm, manipulative behavior, negative thoughts, or aggressive behavior… you may want to examine the media content you’re consuming.

But even more relevant, filmmaker—if you want to influence the world for good, if you want to contribute to peaceful societies that live in harmony—start by creating narratives that emulate this reality. Teach us how to do it. Give us the scripts we need to overcome the violence and aggression that’s been bombarding us.

We’ll be wrapping up this series in our forth and final post next month. Stay tuned.  


[i] Anderson, C. A., & Bushman, B. J. (2002). Human aggression. Annual Review of Psychology, 53, 27–51. http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev.psych.53.100901.135231

[ii] Coyne, Sarah M. "Effects of Viewing Relational Aggression on Television on Aggressive Behavior in Adolescents: A Three-Year Longitudinal Study." Developmental Psychology, vol. 52, no. 2, 2016, pp. 284-95. Accessed 28 Jan. 2018. (pg. 286)

[iii] Joint statement on the impact of entertainment violence on children: Congressional Public Healthy Summit. (2000, July 26). Retrieved January 30, 2018 from http://public.psych.iastate.edu/caa/VGVpolicyDocs/00AAP%20-%20Joint%20Statement.pdf


[iv] Huesman, L.R. (1986). Psychological processes promoting the relation between exposure to media violence and aggressive behavior by the viewer. Journal of Social Issues, 42, 125-139

[v] Coyne, Sarah M., John Archer, and Mike Eslea. "Cruel intentions on television and in real life: Can viewing indirect aggression increase viewers’ subsequent indirect aggression?" J. Experimental Child Psychology 88, 2004, pp. 234-53. Accessed 28 Jan. 2018.


[vi] Coyne, Sarah M. "Effects of Viewing Relational Aggression on Television on Aggressive Behavior in Adolescents: A Three-Year Longitudinal Study." Developmental Psychology, vol. 52, no. 2, 2016, pp. 284-95. Accessed 28 Jan. 2018.


Meet the 2018 Challenge Teams

This year, 26 teams consisting of high school students, college students, and professionals  come together to take on the exciting challenge of making a short in 36 hours. Learn more about the contestants below. 

Here's who's film made the cut:

High School
1. VinVlogs, LukEvan Productions, Godfrey Lee High School
2. Allegory of the Cave, DareDevil Studios, Northview High School
3. the PAIN-TING, KV Productions, Kelloggsville High School

4. Confined, Popcorn Puppies, Grand Valley State University
5. Steve, Steven Spielberg, Kendall College of Art and Design
6. Paint That, Reel Knights, Calvin College
7. Bob Ross, Flixters with Hats, Grand Valley State University
8. Apperception, Ferris Gold, Ferris State University
9. Watcher, Gremlins, Compass College of Cinematic Arts
10. Smoke, Misfit Media, Cornerstone University
11. Closeted Hemispheres, The Taco Bell Sponsored Team, Grand Valley State Television
12. T.T.I.B, Golden Shooters, Calvin College

13. V., Power Station Productions
14. ISO, DeafEye Productions
15. That Which Burns from Embers, G-Raggidy in the House
16. Writing on the Wall, Midtown Misfits
17. Never too Late, #StayRaw
18. Total Apocalypse of the Heart, Started Out Friends
19. Harmony, Biggr
20. Collision, Bangers and Mash
Not screening: Waiting for a train; Sorry I have been busy; Indifference; Guilt; Ecstasis.

 Tanner Hamilton.

 Tanner Hamilton.

1 Team DareDevil Studios: Tanner Hamilton
I’ve grown up around creative people. My dad’s a photojournalist, my mom is a writer, and my older brother is a screenwriter in LA. I’ve always liked making things and showing them to people, and that eventually evolved into short films. I chose to be a filmmaker because I like telling stories through the lens of a camera, and I love the impact a good film can make. My favorite part of filmmaking is working with my friends, and this was a really fun experience for us.

Frank Wiltse

Frank Wiltse

2 Team Biggr: Frank Wiltse
We are a group of industry professionals that want to give our kids an opportunity to be on set for a real production, to see what goes into making a film. We range from a SAG/AFTRA/AEA member of 30 years, to a newly minted Production Assistant, to teens in High School. All are excited for the challenge. The oldest team member is excited to try and stay awake past his bedtime.

Caleb Joyce

Caleb Joyce

3 Team Misfit Media: Caleb Joyce
My name is Caleb R. Joyce, and I’m a senior studying film production at Cornerstone University. I believe our culture is shaped by the movies that come out of Hollywood and videos on YouTube, and the content that is displayed via these mediums has the power to change people. I want to change our culture for the better, and I believe filmmaking is the way to do that. 

Ben Stevens

Ben Stevens

 4 Team Popcorn Puppies: Ben Stevens
My name is Ben Stevens. I am a student at Grand Valley State University, majoring in Film and Video. My interest in film spans many areas of production but I am mainly focused on writing and producing. I grew up on the east side in the small town of Davisburg. I moved to the area my sophomore year of college when I transferred to GVSU. I am pursuing filmmaking because of my love for story, and cinema's unique ability to reflect and convey emotion.  I participated in this challenge last year.  I love doing this challenge because it forces crew members to work together as a team and build off each other’s ideas. The time constraint allows us to push ourselves creatively farther than we think we're capable of. And yet, there are still opportunists to have fun. While I want to make the best film possible, the steaks are still relatively low. We are able to stay true to our vision for the film. I am excited to see what my team and others produce, but most of all I'm excited to for the process.

MJ Harrell

MJ Harrell

5 Team Deafeye Productions: MJ Harrell
My name is MJ Harrell, and I am a filmmaker with a unique vision. Growing up in Gates North Carolina, I’ve always enjoyed photography and had a true appreciation for nature. Growing up, my vision has been limited in my right eye, and as a child, this has allowed me to pay attention to details a lot more than those with perfect vision. I started out as a solo hip hop artist, and eventually became a lead vocalist of a prominent band in the Hampton roads area. We did a lot of hip-hop and rock music, and we even had performances when we brought the two genres together. I’ve been on MTV, BET, and I’ve done numerous shows as a music artist. Deep down, I didn’t share the same passion for music as I did for filmmaking watching my vision come to life as a movie or short film. Upon my arrival to Michigan, I worked numerous jobs that were simply in place to make a living to support myself and my family, but now I’ve taken the step to where I’m focusing on watching my dream come to life and I have been grinding ever since. If you’re looking for a unique performance, a driven director who has a great passion for the art of film then I am your guy! 

Team Steven Spielberg

Team Steven Spielberg

6 Team Steven Spielberg
Kendall College of Art and Design brings to you a unique blend of Digital Media artists including: Ashley Kalin, Kelsey Kamrowski, Owen Loughrin, Matthew McDaniel, Sean McManaman, Caleb Sumney, and Tys Yoder. Skill sets range from sound design, video, motion graphics, and 3D animation. Collectively, we decided to enter ourselves into the 36 Hour Challenge because we would like to demonstrate our passion for storytelling and challenge ourselves to become better artists. 

7 Team Power Station Productions
We like making movies because we like movies. (No pictures from team Power Station Productions)

Connor Durow

Connor Durow

Xian Castillo.

Xian Castillo.

 8 Team Golden Shooters: Connor Durow
My Name is Connor Durow. Growing up, I loved writing skits and stories to go film with my friends. In my free time, I love to watercolor paint, sketch, and animate my own cartoons. I never saw myself as a filmmaker until recently. It was only during my Freshman year at Calvin College when I finally realized that this hobby could turn into a career. Now I am a double major in Film Production and Business Marketing. My Goal as a filmmaker is to one day write and direct my own feature films. This is my first time doing this challenge and I plan to learn lots and have fun in doing it!   

Luke McGee

Luke McGee

9 Team Something Studios: Xian Castillo
I am Xian T. Castillo, captain of the Something Studios team and ever since I was little, I was fascinated by anything behind-the-scenes on any movie I could get my hands on. Movies were everything for me, but I never really considered filmmaking as a career path until about 3 years ago, when I was sitting in class, talking to my now co-creator of Something Studios, William Baker. We were discussing a video game we both enjoy playing, and one of us said: "What if there was a movie based on this?". Thus forth, Will and I have been completely obsessed with filmmaking. At this point, we couldn't imagine anything else we would want to do with our lives but tell these stories, in the only way we know how. We are very very excited to participate in this challenge and gain new experiences from it.

 10 Team LukEvan Productions: Luke McGee
I am Luke McGee, a 16 year old junior in high school.  I have been raised in a family of artists; people who have cultivated my love for creativity and imagination. As I grew up, I found that film was one of my favorite ways to express myself in a personal and widely reaching manner. I enjoy writing, filming, editing, and being a part of such a wonderful team of kind and brave people. LukEvan Productions is excited to begin their next challenge!

Katie Fox-Webb

Katie Fox-Webb

11 Started Out Friends: Katie Fox-Webb
An Ohio native, I made my home in Grand Rapids, Michigan after receiving a Bachelor of Arts in Film Production and Intercultural Studies from Cornerstone University.  I am a freelance producer, photographer, and coordinator of chaos. I decided to go into the film industry because I believe in the power of storytelling and how it can unify, educate, and make change. Working primarily in corporate video production, our team is excited to flex our creative muscles and tackle this 36-hour challenge! 

Ben McCarthy

Ben McCarthy

12 G-Raggidy in the House: Ben McCarthy
I'm just someone following my dreams. I am a proud father of three boys and a husband going on 11 years. They are the reason that I continue to dream. Stories have always been my passion, and growing up movies were my escape. I want to help others escape. Film making is something that I would love to make a career out of. My team is amazing and we are excited to see what we can come up with. I want to thank GRTV for their support. Remember, every moment is a chance for an adventure.

Erion Adams

Erion Adams

13 Team Trust Films: Erion Adams
Currently I am a junior in high school but I've had the love for filmmaking, well.. mostly cinematography, since my freshman year. Between my freshman and junior year, I like to say I've been pretty productive. I signed up for an after school video class at WMCAT which opened many doors for me. I've been able to work with companies like Gorilla and Carbon Stories, I helped make a documentary that has been seen by a few hundred people in Grand Rapids, I've helped friends on personal short films, and I even got to begin 2018 with the release of the first music video I've worked on with close friends that share the same interests. I've never participated in one of these challenges before, but I'm excited to see what my team and I can do in 36 hours.

Virginia Hargrove and Angela DeGarmo

Virginia Hargrove and Angela DeGarmo

14 Team Midtown Misfits
Angela DeGarmo
, the producer from Owosso, and Virginia Hargrove, the director from Perry, pulled together a very diverse group of filmmakers for this challenge. The Midtown Misfits consists of team members based throughout the Greater Lansing Area. We support a group that ranges from twenty year old college students to forty year old independent filmmakers. Each of us have unique skill sets that will benefit the overall project and as a team we are ecstatic to take on this project to see what we can accomplish together. 

#stayraw  Val, Kriss, and Kyle

#stayraw  Val, Kriss, and Kyle

 15 Team #stayraw
We are a group of filmmakers from Grand Rapids, MI who are passionate about telling unique stories. We didn't choose filmmaking, filmmaking chose us!

Team Austin's Powers

Team Austin's Powers

16 Team Austin's Powers: Olivia St. Arnold
We are students from Compass College of Cinematic Arts + one inspiring high school student (not pictured). Somehow, someway, we made decisions that led us all to the same place at the same time, not knowing filmmaking would be our calling. We love to show stories, not just tell them. We love to act, direct, write and everything above and below the line. We want to make an impact on the world. We want to make films.

Benyamin Aki

Benyamin Aki

17 Team The Crimson Knights: Benyamin Aki
My name is Benyamin Aki. I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia and as far back as I can remember I have always been fascinated with filmmaking, the first film that I can remember peaking my interest was “Star Wars”. It wasn’t until high school where I became more serious on being a filmmaker. Over the years I have continued to evolve my craft in hopes to give the audience the same feeling that I had felt when watching “Star Wars” for the first time.

Other 36-Hour Challenge teams include:

POS Productions, 9 Seth Trowbridge, Amanda Learman, James Sturtridge, Austin Stuk, Emma Hankey, Elizabeth Herrud, Dale Jackson, Spencer Russell

Flixters with Hats, 3 Jacob Farah, Coleson Anderson, Sydney Martin

KV Productions, 5 Tiler DeWitt, Josh Zeigler, Majesta Baker,

Bangers and Mash, 3 Jackson Swan, Harley Dean, Devon Mathews

Reel Knights, 4 Ha Jin Kim, Samuel Bushi, Moises Kabandana, Joe Bae

Ferris Gold, 18 Nick Kuiper, Jonathon Eaton, Jessica Fidler

The Taco Bell Sponsored Team, 9 Graham Hall, Brandon Allen, Kyle Maccoimei,

YUS Entertainment, 3 Trevor Heasley, Michael Sanker, Matthew Sanker

Gremlins, 7 Lamon Shyne, Max Burchart, Lucas Kapla,


Challenge expands networks

By Yenna Hu, GRFF Intern and GVSU Film student

 I remember one of my first experiences working on a “real” film set, talking with others in the crew, wondering how they got to be involved with the project. Most of the crew had already worked with the director in the past, some others (including myself) were film majors that learned about the project through an email forwarded by our professor . The rest knew about the project because they were friends with or knew someone who’s friends with director or producer. This type of hodgepodge crew is pretty common for a local film production. After all, everyone has to start somewhere, and the people who are going to be there for you when you first start are almost always your friends. The same goes for big time directors as well. Like Steven Spielberg said: “When I was a kid, there was no collaboration; it’s you with a camera bossing your friends around.”


     Making films with friends is definitely fun and enjoyable. Even so, eventually, you'll realize that your best friend since elementary school is not good at holding up a boom mic for an excessive period of time and they know nothing about sound; your chemistry lab partner can’t operate a camera; your sister can’t act; and your finished film, though fun making it, is not as presentable as you wish it to be.

But you love film, and you want to be good at making them, so what do you do? You go to film school. You learn about all the technicality and artistic features of film art. And the best thing is, you meet fellow film students that are just as enthusiastic as you are, and you make friends with them. Now you’re still making films with friends, except for this time, they all know what they’re doing, and even if they’re not good at what they do, you know that they care enough to actually learn and do better next time.

     After you come to know most of the film students in your school, things may start to get a little bit predictable. If you’ve learned anything about creativity, it's that new ideas make the most exciting and unique projects. How do you get new ideas? Meeting new people is always a good way to go. What’s better for you as a filmmaker? Meet other filmmakers that share your compassion and enthusiasm about film art!

Grand Rapids Film Festival's 36-Hour Challenge is a great opportunity for you to meet and network with other talented local filmmakers. This year, after the screening of challenge films, there will be a chance for all the participants to get to know each other during a reception in the Wave Room. After some time for networking, the award winners will be announced. It's the Festival's hope that participants will share thoughts on each other’s work and expand your networks. 

With teams from Grand Valley State University, Compass College of Cinematic Arts, Calvin University, and Cornerstone University... along with several high school and professional teams, the opportunity is here. Learn more about the Challenge in the promo video below. 

Purchase tickets for friends and family to attend the screening here. 

Prepared for the Challenge


We've been getting a lot of questions from filmmakers about what they are allowed to work on before the clock starts ticking for the 36-Hour Challenge. So, here are a few helpful tips our team put together to get all the contestants off to a good start. 

It's extremely important that teams wait until the launch on January 26 to write their scripts. Do not work on any dialogue ahead of time. NONE. GRFF wants each team to thoughtfully design a script around our elements and instructions. 

Still, there are a few things you can work on before the launch. 

  1. Gather crew. Teams need to be made up of three or more people. Whether it's the director, or DP, lighting or sound, you'll need to pull together a group that works well together and assign roles. 
  2. Audition actors. Find a diverse group of talented actors, so that your script can go in many different directions. You never know what we're going to throw at you, but no matter what it is, you'll need versatile acting talent. Start looking for them now.  
  3. Location scout. It's late January in Michigan... burrr! You are going to need a couple of warm locations to work from. The city of Grand Rapids wanted us to pass on this application for a film permit. If you are going to film outside in downtown Grand Rapids, you should start working on this permit now. We don't recommend that you plan your entire script around an interesting location. In 2017, a team used a dry cleaner, which is a super interesting location. But, their script fell flat, and the judges wondered if they would've focused more on the dialogue had they had a less interesting location. 
  4. Concepts. Creative minds have no shortage of concepts rattling around in them. Get together with your team and share these concepts. Make a list; organize several directions that your short film could go. Then, when you receive the criteria at the launch, you'll be able to look at your list and pick the concept that works best with what we're requiring. 
  5. Gather props and costumes. Have your actors pull some items from their wardrobe that would work in different settings.  Don't forget the shoes and accessories. Think through each of your concepts and determine what props you may need. 
  6. Equipment. Clearly, you'll need a camera and various memory cards to capture your footage. Lighting and sound equipment are equally as important. Be thoughtful about all the items you'll need and make sure you have it all before the launch. WKTV and GRTV are good resources, but you should reserve your items early. 
  7. Music. Select a music that fits different moods and make sure you have the proper permissions to use it. Maybe contact your favorite local band to borrow one of their songs. Music is the perfect bridge in cinematic story. You know you'll need some, so gather several options now, so you don't waste time during the challenge. 
  8. Create a Film Freeway account. We ask you to up load your films to GRFF's 36-Hour Challenge Film Freeway account. In order to do this, you'll need to have your own account. Maybe practice uploading a 6 minute film, so you know how long the upload will take. 

If your team starts working on these items now, they'll be ready for a full sprint when the Challenge clock starts ticking. 


Addicted: 10 Hours and 39 Minutes a Day

amusing cover.jpg

The second post in our series on the power of television programs and films to shape beliefs, culture and behavior takes us to the mid-1980’s. Here, we’ll gain an understanding of how television, the medium itself, changed the world. Neil Postman’s book Amusing Ourselves to Death [1] may have been written in back in 1985, but his realizations couldn’t be more relevant to our lives today.

 Postman forecasts that the world imagined by Aldous Huxley in novel Brave New World [2] has been brought to life through the medium of television. For those who aren’t familiar with the book, we offer you the opening of Amusing Ourselves to Death, which begins with a comparison of Huxley’s predictions of a futuristic society versus those George Orwell discussed in his book 1984.

“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny "failed to take into account man's almost infinite appetite for distractions." In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that our fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.” [3]

When Amusing Ourselves to Death was written, television—meaning programming provided by networks and public broadcasting—had become the main medium for transmitting information into American homes. As we look at how technology has progressed, it’s clear that the internet has given viewers greater access to programming and greater control over what content they choose to consume. Choosing to watch the programs viewers enjoy the most, is exactly what Postman identified as television’s greatest flaw.

“Television is not well-suited to offering people what they need. It is user-friendly. It is too easy to turn off. It’s at its most alluring when it speaks the language of dynamic visual imagery. It does not accommodate complex language or stringent demands.” [4]

postman meme.PNG

 Because the consumer can choose not to watch, those who design programming are forced to package information as entertainment, striving to make it as appealing as possible. The problem here is that entertaining content generally lacks depth and thoughtfulness. As Postman explains, what we watch is a medium which presents information in a form that renders it simplistic, non-substantive, non-historical, and non-factual.

 As you read that paragraph, you may feel a bit defensive and try to think of counter-examples of deeply thoughtful and somewhat historical films like, for example, Schindler's List. Still, as you consider the programming consumed on a daily basis, it’s safe to say that those examples are exceptions to the sea of fantasy entertainment. Consider this list created by The Insider of the 20 most popular television shows of 2017:

 1. HBO’s Game of Thrones
2. AMC's The Walking Dead
3. Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars
4. FOX’s Prison Break
5. History’s Vikings
6. CBS’s The Big Bang Theory
7. CW’s The Flash
8. Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why
9. CW’s The Vampire Diaries
10. PBS’s Sherlock
11. HBO’s Westworld
12. USA’s Suits
13. ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy
14. CW’s Arrow
15. CW’s Supernatural
16. ABC’s Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D
17. FOX’s Gotham
18. FOX’s Lucifer
19. CW’s The 100
20. Amazon’s The Grand Tour [5]

It’s not that the  Grand Rapid Film Festival (GRFF) team is trying to pick on your ‘show’, make you feel guilty for enjoying it, or even aims to inspire a change in consumption. It’s just that we can’t help but agree with Postman, entertainment is king.

 If we were only consuming this non-substantive media a few hours a week, the impact on society wouldn’t be alarming. But, according to the New York Times, in 2016, the average amount of time Americans spend consuming media—watching TV, surfing the web, using a phone app, listening to the radio—is up to 10 hours and 39 minutes a day. [6]

 As Postman put it, in America, we are never denied the opportunity to amuse ourselves. Those who run television do everything possible to encourage us to watch continuously. Postman argues that we live in a world where the mass majority will not turn off the television. Because of this, we have no way of protecting ourselves from information disseminated by corporate America.

 As the GRFF team read through Postman’s work, we analyzed our own viewing habits. Whether we’re streaming a television series, film, or news clip at home on our  wall-mounted flatscreen television, on our laptop, or even our smartphone, we had to admit it’s difficult to turn it off and take a break. Even simple tasks, like cooking dinner, seem easier if we’re being entertained while doing it.

 The fact that media consumption is addictive is not a new revelation. The New York Times published an article about it back in 1990. [7] They state that for the most frequent viewers, watching television has many of the marks of a dependency like alcoholism or other addictions. When that article was written, the addicts referred to in the study watched on average 56 to 71 hours of television a week. What seemed excessive in 1990, has now become the norm for an average American. Clearly, we are addicted to media consumption.

When was the last time you witnessed someone get their eyes gouged out in real life?

When was the last time you witnessed someone get their eyes gouged out in real life?

 Furthermore, we are addicted to non-substantive fantasies that transport us to places like Gotham, Braavos from Game of Thrones or Starling City from Arrow.  Places with vampires, dragons, zombies, superheroes, and vikings. They are violent, well beyond reality, with a fight scene and generally death in every episode. So, this is our Brave New World. The sea of irrelevance that Huxley feared would drown out truth is one swimming with vampires, dragons, and zombies. Oh my.


As Oscar Wilde put it in his 1889 essay, The Decay of Lying, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life." [8]


It’s this statement that brings us back to the filmmakers’ responsibility.

As you craft your stories, your fantasy worlds ripe for the consumption of the average media addict, consider the end—the impact if you will—that the myths you are making will have on the viewer and society as a whole. Your art will be imitated.
Is it just another irrelevant, non-substantive contribution to distract the viewer from the truth or the greater work of their lives? Or is it the exception?

Stay tuned.


[1] Postman, Neil (1985). Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. USA: Penguin
[2] Huxley, Aldous. Brave New World. New York: Harper Brothers, 1932. Print.
[3] Postman, Neil (1985). Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. USA: Penguin Pg. 121
[4] Postman, Neil (1985). Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. USA: Penguin Pg.
[5] Nededog, Jethro. (2017) 20 Most Popular TV Shows of 2017 So Far. Insider. http://www.thisisinsider.com/most-watched-tv-shows-world-parrot-analytics-2017-7
[6] Koblin, John. (2016) How Much Do We Love TV? Let Us Count the Ways. New York Times. 
[7] Goleman, Daniel. (1990) How Viewers Grow Addicted to Television. New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/1990/10/16/science/how-viewers-grow-addicted-to-television.html?pagewanted=all
[8] "The Decay of Lying - The Victorian Web." 21 Apr. 2008, http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/wilde/decay.html. Accessed 30 Oct. 2017.

Rachel Floyd raises the funds

We're so impressed with Rachel Floyd's fund raising efforts for new production Black Girls Be Like that we had to ask her a few questions.

She raised nearly 7k on her indiegogo,  and she's looking to raise several thousand more on December 12 with a holiday concert at Fountain Street Church. And, frankly, we want to help her. 

Here's why:

Filmmaker Rachel Floyd Holiday Concert Fundraiser for the upcoming feature film Black Girls Be Like Tuesday, December 12th, 2017 at 7 pm   Fountain Street Church Tickets $10      Purchase here

Filmmaker Rachel Floyd

Holiday Concert Fundraiser for the upcoming feature film Black Girls Be Like
Tuesday, December 12th, 2017 at 7 pm  
Fountain Street Church

Tickets $10      Purchase here

Have you participated in the Grand Rapids Film Festival (GRFF) in the past - what production/year?
Yes I have, I participated in 2015 for my short film "Bloom"

BGBL _ConcertPoster.png

Why is GRFF important to local filmmakers?
The festival gives us a platform to show our work. The year I entered GRFF, I had created a short film for a magazine contest. I missed the deadline and was devastated that I wouldn't have a place to show. One of my friends told me about GRFF, and I and was accepted, I was overjoyed that the work we completed would not go in vain. The experience was easily one of the highlights of my career as a filmmaker.: 

What's your current project, and why is it important?
My current project is called Black Girls Be Like, it's a coming of age movie about a young girl living in Grand Rapids struggling to forge her own path and discover her own identity despite her environment. This project is important because it aims to give young women living in poverty a voice. I feel like this demographic is often left out of the conversation, and what’s more, when they are included it does not offer an accurate depiction of what life is like for them. This film offers the first real glimpse into that world from a female perspective.

Where are you at in the production process?
Right now we are in pre-production. Being an independent filmmaker is hard! Especially when you have no money. We've been in the funding phase for a little over a year now. We haven't given up though because we truly believe in the story. Also, the extra time has given me more space to conceptualize the look and feel of the film. It gave me the space needed to go back to the drawing board and to attack the project from fresh eyes.

Why are we hearing so much hype about this project before filming has begun?
I'm smiling really big as I type this; I don't know why there is so much hype but I am happy that people are excited about the film. I think the excitement stems from a Grand Rapids woman born and raised coming home to bring something exciting to the city. Also, the subject matter is exciting. Let's face it Grand Rapids is not doing much to promote African Americans and film, the fact that here I am doing just that is big, and I hope that it inspires more black filmmakers in the area to get active in the GR film scene.

What do you aim to accomplish with this film?
I want to give young women a character that they can relate with, I want to give them someone that they can point to and say "that's me" That sense of belonging, and feeling that you are not alone is huge, especially for young girls. I hope that through this film people feel inspired to go after their dreams and that they feel at the end of the day anything they desire is attainable with hard work. I also want people to see what life is like for people that live differently than them. There are very clear class lines in this country, and often times we don't realize it until we're faced with that reality. For some I want this to feel like they're stepping into a different world, and for others I want this to feel like they're stepping into a memory or going back home. 

Spotlight Event in Review

Written by: Nicole Lardner and Kyle Kaczor

On October 13, GRFF held our annual “Spotlight” event on the riverfront of Compass Insurance featuring the award winning short, Supermom (Jason Honeycutt) and feature film, Something Fun (Chad Rhiness).


Recap: The event kicked off with the Blue Spoon food truck bringing amazing Tex-Mex options for the event-goers (vegetarian and meat-lovers alike). Adding to the relaxed environment was Grand Rapids’ native Brewery Vivant. Serving their beer on wheels, including their special brand of IPA called Hopfield and Farm Hand, one of the most popular Farmhouse Ales in the state.


The pre-screening party offered modified versions of the hit game jenga and beer pong, but enhanced to giant size, along with cornhole and horseshoes. DJ Kevin Kowalski set the mood with a variety of music to entertain all attendees. The fire pit cut through the fall air and offered ambiance as well as warmth.


When it came closer to the viewing, the directors, Jason Honeycutt and Chad Rhiness gave a short interview and answered questions. This was a nice touch, seeing as to how both directors are Michigan born and raised, and now making it in Los Angeles.  

Because a good amount of film students aspire to land themselves in LA for their professional careers, GRFF toured the filmmakers to four regional universities to offer some advice to students. The most meaningful advice was to, “stay humble and prove yourself.” In fact, Honeycutt said that the advantage that Michigan students have is their humility and lack of entitlement.


Exhibiting films outside in October is a risk, but the weather held and with blankets and lawn chairs in front of an impressive blow-up screen, the evening was magical, a “perfect fall night.” There was no cozier of a setting, with blankets, friends, and two great films playing below the star and tiki-torch lights. A special thanks to Compass Insurance for hosting and sponsoring the event.

Why you missed out: Even as an intern working the event, I had a blast. It was clear to see that event attracted a wide variety of  viewers, around 75 people to be specific, and there was so much for them to do before the film showing. The location was truly beautiful, which definitely added to the experience. The films were shown directly on the riverfront in Grand Rapids, and we lined the space with tiki torches, which only added to the overall aesthetic. It was also a nice touch to have Food Trucks because they are honestly just so fun, as well as easy. But by far, my favorite part of the evening was the feeling in the air. It was the perfect mix of fun, and relaxing all throughout the evening. Seeing everybody enjoying the films, fire, food, and their friends made the work well worth it.

Words of Advice From Last Year's 36-Hour Challenge Participants

Participants Justin Razmus and Talon Rudel speak on what it was like to be a part of last year’s
36-Hour Challenge. The two give advice and insight based on their experience.


Justin Razmus - 2017 winner -film Burnout

616 Media

What was the hardest part about making a film in 36-hours?
I'm stating the obvious here, but the time constraint really makes this a huge challenge. You have very little time to write a script before you need start filming. Once you start editing chances are you will be so low on time you won't be able to re-shoot any scenes. You just need to work with what you have already. If you're a perfectionist you have no choice but to get over that and concentrate on getting the full edit out as fast as possible

How did you use the opportunity to deepen your experience or network?
This was one of the few times I've had the opportunity to work on a creative project in this capacity. I typically film corporate videos and live events so it was fun to take some time to be completely creative. Working on the script and the story from the beginning was a good experience, as well as working with my crew and the actors.

Did the Challenge increase your knowledge of the overall GR filmmaking community? How?
Yes it did. This was my first chance to meet a lot of people in the local film community. I have to say that there are a lot of amazing people in this city! I've been able to network with some of the best and it's helped me a lot. From getting advice on how to proceed with certain projects to finding people that can collaborate with me on my film projects. I'm really happy that the Grand Rapids Film Festival has allowed me to connect with such a talented group of people.

What advice do you have for those competing for the first time?
Don't waste any time. 36 hours goes by fast. Try to write most of your script and shot list the first night, and even start filming if you can. Remember that editing takes a lot of time, so get the footage into your editing suite as fast as possible. I think the most important part is to have fun and realize it's a 36 hour project. Yes there will be things you would do differently or better if you had more time, but you will learn a lot about working under pressure and how to complete a lot in a short amount of time.

Talon Rudel - Audience Choice winner - film Doorways

Grand Valley State University Student

What was the hardest part about making a film in 36-hours?
The hardest part of making a film in 36-hours was the creation of the concept and sticking to it. With a short film, the concept/idea is the center of how the audience engages with the film. So working with the crew to come up with an idea that we all loved, and then not cutting corners was what literally kept us awake. With such a short time to make a film, it is very easy to get discouraged by obstacles and going the easiest route. However, while sticking with it and deciding to keep on struggling to make the film the best it could be was very difficult it was very worth the struggle. 

How did you use the opportunity to deepen your experience or network?
I used the opportunity of participating in the 36-hour challenge to expand my experience by doing whatever it took to make a project that I was proud of. I used this as a chance to get together with good people and make a film, because you learn filmmaking by making films. Specifically, I had the chance to work with VFX for the first time, directed the largest ensemble cast I had to that point, and was able to have ample opportunities for creative problem solving. As for my network, I took the chance to meet other great filmmakers in the area and was proud to show my film among such talented peers. 

Did the Challenge increase your knowledge of the overall GR filmmaking community? How?
The challenge as a whole increased my knowledge of the GR filmmaking community by demonstrating the vast talent in the area. By showing a film among other filmmakers, I was able to better see the great talent and diversity there is in this community. As well, the challenge facilitated opportunities for me to meet other like minded filmmakers in both the opening ceremony and the screening.  

What advice do you have for those competing for the first time?
My advise for those people competing for the first time is threefold. Firstly, make sure that you are well rested when the event starts, and be sure to be safe while working. Feel free to stay up the whole time, I did, but don't let that cloud your judgment where it comes to on-set safety. No film is worth someone getting seriously hurt. Second, make sure to have a dedicated group of peers to work with. Even if its only you and three others, the more great filmmakers in a team, the better the creativity and the better the product. And lastly, HAVE FUN! It sounds hunky dory, or cliche or whatever, but if you go in knowing that you want to have fun, then the whole experience will just be so much more memorable and it will show in the product. We make films because we love making them!