Annual Insomnia Festival challenges students’ creativity, time management

As college students, many of us have been forced to pull an “all-nighter” for one reason or another––to write a 10-page research paper, or perhaps to read an entire textbook in one sitting. A group of creative Geneseo students signed themselves up for the ultimate “all-nighter”: the Geneseo Insomnia Film Festival, which took place on Friday March 24. 

Modeled after the Apple Inc. Insomnia Film Festival, the Geneseo students were challenged to write, shoot and edit a three-minute video in just 24 hours. In addition to the time crunch, participants are required to include at least three unique “elements—” which are special themes, topics or features—which are only revealed to the students at the start of the 24-hour period. After all the videos are submitted, they are judged and scored; then, a winner is revealed at an awards ceremony on Geneseo Recognizing Excellence, Achievement & Talent Day.

The competition started on Friday March 24 when the clock struck 5 p.m. The groups were crowded in a South Hall computer lab, where this year’s surprise elements were displayed on a large screen. 

The list of 20 different elements included some technical suggestions, such as using “Dutch Angles” or split screens—but most of them were humorous scenarios to give the students some ideas to work with, like “a frisbee used as a dining plate” or “an average sized person with very small hands.” 

As soon as the elements went up, the room was filled with excited chatter. Students stopped at a refreshment table—stocked with coffee and cases upon cases of energy drinks—before rushing off to start planning. 

Computer & Information Technology’s Instructional Support Specialist, Joe Dolce, is the man behind it all, holding the first GIFF in 2012. In the past, Dolce had helped students to submit a video to Apple’s Insomnia Film Festival, where they competed with dozens of other schools—but when Apple discontinued their festival, Dolce decided to start an insomnia fest of our own here at Geneseo. Since GIFF’s first year, there has been a huge turnout of students ready to learn about videography and to have some fun. 

“There are roughly 70-something maniacs starting to make their videos in the next few hours,” Dolce said, shortly after the countdown began. “My goal is to have 100 students participate.”

Dolce emphasizes that the GIFF is more than just a friendly competition. It also teaches the participants—or “insomniacs,” as Dolce likes to call them—valuable life skills. Most kids, he said, don’t even realize how much they’re learning in terms of small group work and interpersonal communication skills.

“It gives students a chance to step out of their normal comfort zone,” he said. 

In addition to communication skills, students get an opportunity to familiarize themselves with video editing, as they use software provided by CIT. An increasingly dominant medium, video is everywhere; knowing how to manipulate video is a valuable skill that can strengthen any resume.

The final video submissions are due at 5 p.m. sharp the next day, and the judges have already selected this year’s winner. The participants have to wait until the awards ceremony on G.R.E.A.T. Day to find out who won, however, it’s certainly worth the wait. 

The three highest scoring videos are shown at Wadsworth Auditorium; with refreshments and hot finger food provided. The insomniacs also get one “Golden Ticket,” which can be given to any faculty member. If that faculty member presents the ticket at the door, the faculty member and the student that gave it to them are entered in a prize raffle. Prizes come from local Geneseo vendors, like the Geneseo Family Restaurant, the Geneseo movie theater and Aunt Cookie’s Sub Shop. 

So while you’re out enjoying the G.R.E.A.T. Day festivities, stop by Wads and see some of the hard work your peers have completed—and laugh a little, too. 

Oh, and don’t forget to start brainstorming for next year.