Bellevue student, 14, wins 3-minute film contest
Ben Kadie is the grand-prize winner of The Seattle Times/Seattle International Film Festival's Three-Minute Masterpiece contest.
Seattle Times arts writer
Video: "Sparks in the Night"
Fourteen-year-old Bellevue student Ben Kadie — a Three-Minute Masterpiece contest finalist for the third year in a row — won top honors yesterday in The Seattle Times/Seattle International Film Festival's annual digital-filmmaking contest.
Kadie's "Sparks in the Night" is a spoof of film-noir menace that pits an earnest private eye (Kadie) against Rain City criminal types (a litterbug, a jaywalker, etc., as played by Kadie's eighth-grade friends).
The film's shadowy textures and daffy deadpan dialogue ("The truth hit me like something hard and massive hitting a smaller, softer thing") add up to a funny and beguiling package. In an e-mail exchange earlier this month, Kadie talked about his filmmaking process:
Q: It seems like you must have been watching a lot of film noir lately. Got any favorites?
A: I watched "Citizen Kane" recently, and it was a large inspiration for many of my shots. I've also seen the film noir classics "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Third Man."
Q: Is your dad a filmmaker, too? Does he help you? Are there times when you have to tell him to butt out?
A: I do the writing, directing, art and editing. My dad is my assistant on the set and keeps the family computer running smoothly. He also helps me learn new computer programs. My mom gives me costume and carpentry advice and takes care of food and transportation. They both take direction well.
Q: That's pretty impressive facial hair on the Speeder Brothers (siblings infamous for going 26 mph in a 25-mph zone). How long did it take to get it right?
A: In my previous movies all the facial hair was done with a cheesy Archie McPhee mustache-collection kit. In "Sparks in the Night," to get the slick, thin 1940s look, I used a cheesy makeup pencil.
Q: Where did you go for your archival footage and your musical score?
A: I used clips from the Web site www.Archive.org. The archive footage is clips from old newsreels and public-safety films from the 1950s, including "When You Are a Pedestrian" and "Your Friend the Policeman." Some music is royalty-free from Kevin MacLeod on www.incompetech.com. Other music I scored with Sony Cinescore software.
Q: I like the mix of color (especially the neon reds) with black-and-white. How much were you thinking about that before you actually started working on the computer?
A: I planned the black/white/red palette before I started. Originally, I planned on having some red on the characters as well as in the background, but editing that was taking too long for my deadline, so I kept the red off the action for the most part.
Q: How competitive were auditions for the role?
A: All the actors are my friends from school. Dylan [Forbes] and I have been in drama together at school, and he was also in two of my other movies: "Murder at the Pharaoh's Grave" and "A Friendly Game."
Q: What was the biggest challenge you faced in putting this film together?
A: It was a challenge to settle on a script. I wrote two others and threw them away. But as I was writing this one, I knew I would end up producing it; I fell in love with the mood. Then my problem was getting it down to three minutes. I eventually had to get rid of two scenes, but that made the final product better, I think. They weren't necessary. We shot for two days and produced over 250 clips and takes. Editing all this down was a challenge. I worked intensely over spring break and then after school for a week.
Michael Upchurch: firstname.lastname@example.org
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