Annual filmmaking contest encourages students to express creativity under pressure

Teams of students raced against the clock to submit projects for the seventh annual Geneseo Insomnia Film Festival. 

GIFF, which took place on Friday March 23, is an event where teams of up to four students are given 24 hours to write, shoot and edit an original three-minute short film. The teams were given full access to the Computer & Information Technology computer room, where the CIT staff was available to assist students. Additionally, students had access to Final Cut and iMovie editing software and enjoyed free coffee throughout their long night.

In addition to the short 24-hour time limit, students were also tasked with including in their films at least three out of 20 elements thought up by GIFF staff, which were released the day of the competition at 5 p.m. These elements included seemingly random objects or scenes, like piñatas, fidget spinners or a FaceTime call, as well as certain shots, like a long interior or exterior shot. 

These elements did more than add further challenges for competitors—they were the starting point that allowed the teams to brainstorm ideas and take the short films into new and innovative directions. 

In addition to having fun, teams were also competing for prizes. Each submission is judged by a panel based on the film’s impact, cinematography, story, gestalt and how well they incorporated at least three elements. All submissions will be screened on Geneseo Recognizing Excellence, Achievement & Talent Day, followed by an awards ceremony which includes a first-place prize of a $400 Amazon gift card. 

During the competition, students were forced to stretch their imagination and think on their feet. Many teams, each with their own cameras and equipment, raided their dorms for miscellaneous props or went to Walmart and Goodwill for any extra supplies they needed. 

One competitor, political science major sophomore Grace McGinnis, was innovative with the props she and her team used. 

“When we were trying to get a long shot moving backwards, we realized it would be pretty difficult without a stabilizer,” she said. “So, we had to improvise and actually used my friend’s longboard with a tripod attached to get a few moving shots. The clips came out really nice and my team and I were very happy with the results.” 

After quickly writing scripts, teams descended onto campus for the perfect shot. Dorms, soccer fields and sidewalks became the settings for the various dramatic, horrifying or comic scenarios the teams could imagine. 

With all their shots recorded, the teams returned to the CIT computer room to edit their clips into masterpieces. While most people would crack under the pressure, the teams approached their tasks with a sense of humor and excitement. 

Communication major sophomore Bridget Kelley said there were pros and cons of shooting and editing in such a short time span. 

“Usually when I do film projects for class, we get a week to do what we’re doing now in 24 hours,” she said. “It makes us get the work done in a more concentrated way. It’s exhausting, but it’s also really fun.” 

Information Design Technologist for CIT and the head organizer behind GIFF Joe Dolce said the event invokes inventiveness and enthusiasm from students. 

“The creativity students bring to GIFF is remarkable,” he said. “Every year always brings something new and unexpected, and it makes every GIFF a unique experience.” 

With 30 teams registered, this year’s GIFF has been the largest one thus far, according to Dolce. 

Regardless of which teams win awards on G.R.E.A.T. Day, the amount of effort that each team put into their project has made this year’s GIFF a truly rewarding experience for competitors and organizers alike.