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Training Season

Nobody’s perfect, including award-winning young filmmakers.


"It resurfaced OK, but it was an unwieldy device," Owen says as he gazes nostalgically upon a precursor to the Zamboni in No Sleep Till Madison. He's explaining the contraption to Dave, a teenager who's videotaping his mentor's annual trip to watch high school hockey playoffs with former teammates.

This great throwaway line arguably describes the film itself. On the surface, it gets the job done, but it's unwieldy. The problem is twofold. First, the movie chronicles a journey that is being videotaped. The layers of recording give the piece a distant, clumsy feel, like a Blair Witch Project for winter-sports enthusiasts. Not that we're complaining -- after all, every demographic needs its own cautionary pseudodocumentary.

The other thing is, you can tell how the trip is going to go down from the moment Owen meets his pals at the airport. Greg will be distracted by his ball and chain, Tommy will have to respond to crises at work and Verne will find himself beset by health problems -- leaving Owen to relive high school alone. And not growing up just about gets his ass frozen somewhere in the middle of Wisconsin. This has all been set up in the first five minutes of the movie.

Maybe you can discover, during the prescreening filmmaker dialogue with Peter Rudy, what the guy who wrote the screenplay was thinking.

Indy Film Showcase coordinator Jeph Scanlon understands our issues with No Sleep Till Madison, but what we see as shortcomings could be useful topics for discussion. "That shows some of the beginning filmmaker, both in writing and directing," he says. Because the showcase is meant to serve fledgling locals, it makes sense to get someone who's good but still working out a few kinks.

That's the risk that comes with bringing in relative unknowns to show their first films -- a gamble that sometimes pays off. Last year's Spellbound earned Academy Award nominations; Indy Film Showcase coordinators had booked it months before the hoopla.

"Most of the films we get aren't perfect," Scanlon admits. "But out of fifty of them, we have one like Spellbound. Well, that's awesome."

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