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Thursday, July 17, 2008 - Page updated at 02:26 PM

2008 Three-Minute Masterpiece Winners

Got three minutes? Then we have some fun for you.

Today, The Seattle Times and Seattle International Film Festival present the winners of our annual Three-Minute Masterpiece digital filmmaking contest.

We received more than 100 entries from readers this year — an eye-boggling mix of comedy, drama, live action and animation.

Three of these 11 will be singled out for special prizes at a free public screening 11 a.m. Monday, at the SIFF Cinema at McCaw Hall in Seattle Center.

Thank you again to everyone who entered. You showed us how entertaining three minutes can be.

Lynn Jacobson, Seattle Times NW Arts&Life editor

"Annie's First Dates"

"The idea came," says "Annie's First Dates" co-director Michael Gaston, from "Annie's vast experience in the dating world." Annie Hayward plays an attractive single on one side of a table in a bar, while a succession of losers on the other side seem to be doing their best to make her swear off guys forever. Shot in the wee hours at West Seattle's West 5, the film's bar atmosphere is certainly authentic. And the missteps of Annie's would-be boyfriends are rapidly jumbled for maximum comic effect. Gaston, doing postgraduate work in philosophy at Seattle University, and co-director Brooke Montgomery, who worked in New York City's film industry until moving here last year, continue to work on new projects.

"Blood, Sweat & Wool"

What happens when a painfully shy guy gives a gift to a girl but can't admit he made it himself? In Benjamin Hasko's atmospheric, black-and-white comedy, shot on Bainbridge Island, a closet knitter (Ben Huff) thoroughly enjoys making a scarf from scratch for someone special. Hasko, a barista in Pioneer Square, merged his relationship history with his sister's passion for handicrafts. The result is a classic, screwball premise that instantly reveals the eccentric goodness of the central character.

"Customs at PQ Int'l"

Travel security becomes a Kafka-esque nightmare in Ken Perrine's first try at hand-drawn animation. A satire in the form of an informational film designed to "help" travelers navigate customs, immigration and safety procedures, "Customs" has it all: absurdly long lines, random checks, lost luggage, missed flights — and worse. Perrine, a postgraduate student at the University of Washington, says inspiration came from his days as a researcher for the Department of Energy. Due to "job-related regulations," Perrine was forced to fly much more often than logic would dictate. "It was during this time, waiting in line at some customs checkpoint, that I came up with the idea."

"Die, Demon, Die!"

"Let's split up, it will be safer that way." Devin Cochran's hilarious sendup of horror films nails the usual clichés whenever teens get stuck in the woods with a monster on the loose. The film's controlled chaos includes several sightings of a rubber-masked "creature" whose slayings draw Kool-Aid-like blood and prompt the other kids to shout, "Whoa!" "I really hate horror films," says the 18-year-old Shorecrest High senior, "because they almost always get it wrong." Cochran says production was hard because half the cast — school chums — "would have to leave after a couple of hours." Cochran says he deliberately killed off his friend Jesse early, so Jesse could make food for everybody.


Microsoft software engineer Emek Erarslan's playfully sweet "(Ex)roommate?" was assembled so hastily that it was publicly screened before the director had a chance to see it finished. Erarslan himself plays a happy-go-lucky guy who finds his housemate permanently gone. "My good friend and roommate decided to move to New York," says Erarslan. As a parting gift, the director took a day off and shot "(Ex)roommate?" at home. With few hours to spare, he frantically cut the film, hit the "publish" button on his laptop, and took the unviewed results to show at his friend's goodbye party. "I was crossing my fingers," he says. "It worked. My friend was touched by it."

"A Friendly Game"

The laws of physics are nothing compared with the imagination of Bellevue filmmaker Ben Kadie, a seventh-grade student at Seattle Country Day School. Young Kadie's dazzling "A Friendly Game" is the ironic title of a tale about a tennis match that defies gravity and concludes with a ball banking furiously off trees and a few foreheads. Production stills reveal Kadie's homemade dolly (using a re-purposed skateboard) and a giant sheet of green fabric (hanging from his family's deck), against which special effects were shot. The resourceful Kadie (a winner of last year's Three-Minute Masterpiece contest as well) says he used real tennis balls during the shoot as well as an "animated, spinning tennis ball I added during editing."

"The Laboratory"

Rabbit just can't win in Andrew Inaba's cheeky throwback to the 1930s — specifically, the early days of Disney cartoons and Warner's sister series Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes. Inaba, a recent Green River Community College graduate who lives in Covington, also enjoys Japanese manga and anime. Those diverse influences show in his story about Rabbit's disasters with punctuality, caring for his boss's pop-eyed pet, and safety in the street. Inaba says production took 25 days. He drew about 1,000 pictures, voiced all the characters, and wrote and recorded the original score. "I enjoy animation and every aspect of filmmaking," he says. "But my main passion is composing and scoring music."

"Mit der Kraft"

If you've ever suspected those sentinel-like nutcrackers — ubiquitous during winter holidays — are up to something nefarious, check out Seattle Film Institute student Nikki Mull's spooky "Mit der Kraft." "I find them frightening," Mull says of the German-made dolls, all the scarier because the Emerald Fox Gallery in which she works sells them. "I imagine them screaming randomly and plotting shady deeds." That's precisely what happens in "Mit," a nightmarish scene in which the nutcrackers attempt an after-hours heist. (The film was shot at Emerald Fox.) Mull, who holds an MFA in painting and assemblage, uses double-exposures, stop-motion animation and orders barked in German to add to the film's unsettling experience.

"PB&J, a Love Story"

Behind a closed refrigerator door, a jar of Skippy peanut butter does not want to get with the flirtatious bottle of honey, the exotic Frappuccino or the bouncy apple. What it wants, in Katie Raynolds' delightful "PB&J, a Love Story," is love with a jar of Smucker's Red Raspberry jam. All goes well — until a pair of hands in sandwich-making mode separates them. A 17-year-old junior at Seattle Academy, Raynolds says "the idea of bringing life to inanimate objects appealed to my inner storyteller." Indeed, Raynolds has a knack for injecting personalities and moods into her lunch-food lovers, with well-considered close-ups and a unique talent for making stop-motion animation seem soulful.

"Walk It Off"

"I walk to work," says Terese Cuff, an art teacher at Gault Middle School in Tacoma. "One day I saw a crow dragging a box of French fries across the ground." Cuff, whose short film "What's the Scenario?" was one of the winners of last year's Three-Minute Masterpiece contest, was disturbed by this small evidence of mankind's greasy footprint in the natural world. But she was also inspired to make "Walk It Off" — a painterly, almost meditative story in which a crow becomes earthbound after encountering fast-food refuse in a busy street. Cuff is a little dismissive of her first completed piece of Flash Animation, a computer program. "It's a little streaky. I tried to figure it out as I did it."

"You Think This Is Just a Game?"

If a player piece and a die from a game of "Clue" had a testy conversation, it would probably sound like the quirky, internecine put-downs of Nik Perleros and Ben Shelton's clever comedy. The two "Clue" objects (with the co-directors' faces superimposed on one or the other) incorporate the names of other games ("Balderdash!") in their outbursts — an initially lame-sounding idea that becomes funny very quickly. Seattle actor Perleros and Los Angeles resident Shelton (his "My Name Is Lisa" won YouTube's Best Short Film award for 2007) originally conceived of "Game" as a date-from-hell story. Technical problems resulted in actor Ryan Higgins overdubbing Shelton's lines.