GVSU freshman competes in Grand Rapids Film Festival’s ’36-Hour Challenge’

GVL / Courtesy - grfilmfestival.com

GVL / Courtesy – grfilmfestival.com

Jenny Adkins

The clock is always ticking. Competitors are given their prompt. Scripts are written. Scenes are filmed. Content is edited. Everyone is in a mad dash to achieve a final product in under two days for the Grand Rapids Film Festival’s “36-Hour Challenge,” including Grand Valley State University freshman Trevor Heasley.

Heasley, alongside hometown friend Michael Sanker, competed in the challenge this past weekend
(Friday, Jan. 26, through Saturday, Jan. 27) where he represented GVSU. Each year, the prompts are first announced on Friday night, signaling the commencement of the 36-hour timer.

“You can’t really prepare,” Heasley said. “All you have is your past experience in writing, producing and editing video.”

Teams are provided a prompt containing necessary themes, props, audio or settings, Heasley said. By the end of the timer, competing teams turned in their six-minute-long final products to judges who will then select films to be screened at Celebration Cinema North on Friday, Feb. 2, ending with the presentation of the winning films. 

For the GVSU team, Heasley said the members had done similar competitions in the past, but the real hurdle for this challenge was the shortened competition time. 

“The hardest part for me personally is probably the fact that I haven’t done a 36-hour film competition; I’ve only done 48-hour (competitions),” Heasley said. “The problem with that is before, it would take about roughly 14 to 18 hours of editing, so I wouldn’t get any sleep the last night. I would mainly edit by myself, but I did have some assistance with my friends back home.”

Heasley and Stanker spearheaded scriptwriting and filming, Heasley said. For Sanker, a Clarkston native, the ability to be in and around Grand Rapids to film was inspiring. Although other commitments kept him from being able to spend all 36 hours with Heasley, competitions like this are more of a passion project, Sanker said. 

“It’s all passion—not about the competition, per se, but filming,” Sanker said. “Just making videos and music and expressing yourself is what we love.”

Between competing in competitions and working toward his major in film, Heasley has a personal goal of always creating a finished product that tells a strong enough story to transport people to a new place, whether it be serious or through comedy.

“I have a passion for filming,” Heasley said. “I have a passion for the process before, during and after. I just love making people feel emotion through my medium of (film).”

With his hopes of making an entertainment business rooted in music and film, Heasley said competitions like the 36-Hour Challenge are a great way not only to produce a product as a team, but to network with other talented filmmakers. 

“Obviously winning would be pretty nice, but (we’re) just trying to get (our) name out there,” Heasley said. “It’s just the idea of getting our name out there (by) meeting some of the fellow competitors to try and maybe hook up some connections for future reference.”

The team is competing for a $400 “Best University” award or “Best of Show,” which is $200 paired with additional professional screenings and an entry into the Eclipse Awards. Regardless of the outcome after the five-day judging period, the team always aims to make something they’re proud of. 

“(I’m always happy) if we produce something better than we ever have before, something that’s well-thought-out, well-planned, something that’s executed properly,” Sanker said. “I honestly will be satisfied whether or not we win as long as I’m happy with how the video turns out.”