CAA Filmmakers Win Big in Texas

June 17, 2016 | Jeremy New

“I’ve been sayin’ for months that we were gonna win,” a confident Nicholas Anspach, a senior at Columbia Adventist Academy (CAA) in Battle Ground, Wash., proclaimed with a Cheshire-cat grin. His confidence came easily after he and his fellow film crew — CAA seniors Brooke Thompson, Lindsay Franke and Marlene Renteria — won Best Film and Best Use of an Armadillo awards for their contribution to Southwestern Adventist University’s 2016 48-Hour Film Challenge in April.

The 48-hour film challenge prescribed strict rules that each of the 14 competing teams had to follow. Each team was randomly assigned a genre (Columbia’s team was assigned “fish out of water”) and had to craft the script to follow the overarching theme of redemption. Dialogue was forbidden, and they even had to incorporate an armadillo into the story line in a creative way. All filming had to be completed on smartphones, and the entire project had to be filmed and edited within the allotted 48 hours. 

The film the CAA team created centers around the main character, played by Anspach, who apparently is facing a serious identity crisis as he decides to try being an armadillo after reading about the curious animals in a children's book. He cleverly uses his iPhone to look up different ways to assimilate into the armadillo lifestyle.

He comes to his breaking point when his rumbling stomach prompts him to search “what do armadillos eat.” The answer? Worms.

As the film concludes, the plot resolves in a comical but touching discovery of redemption.

When asked why the judges unanimously chose "Identity Crisis" as Best Film, Emmy-award winning composer Michael Price quickly responded that the plot was tightly focused and the end delivered the “classic payoff that every short film should have.”

The team began writing the laser-focused script in January, three months before the challenge. Franke served as chief editor, Thompson as photography director and Renteria as sound technician. “There was this one day where we got about 80 percent of the script written,” Thompson recalled.

“We pretty much just procrastinated and had fun together until we had to go," adds Franke. "Then we buckled down and put on the finishing touches right before we left for Texas."

Renteria was quick to praise her team, saying, “I was proud of how quickly we got it done.” 

During the 48 hours of the challenge, the team worked like a well-oiled machine, each member executing their responsibilities and lending a hand to the others when needed. Thompson recalled a particular shot in the final scene that had to be filmed at the golden hour when the sun was at a perfect height in the evening sky. Though the shot turned out beautifully, the next day during editing, they noticed that Anspach’s fingers were covering a crucial part of the book he was reading. “But it was cloudy the next day, so the lighting was different,” Thompson lamented. “Then Nicholas came up with this brilliant idea to do a shot in the library, and it made the film 10 times better.”

Following the red carpet premiere and awards program that lasted until 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night, the sleepy filmographers climbed into the rental car at 4:30 a.m. to catch their 7:30 flight back to Portland. Though they were half asleep, eyes mostly shut, the corners of each mouth curved into a slight smile because each of them knew that Columbia left Texas a little taste of how we do things in the Pacific Northwest.