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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Zumbies,’ ‘The Old Pueblo,’ among others that survived the gong at The Loft’s October First Friday Shorts

    Mai Naji

    A filmmaker receives his $200 prize for his short film. The Loft Cinema’s First Friday Shorts provide an opportunity for aspiring filmmakers, or anyone, to show their work on the big screen – unless they get the gong. 

    On the first Friday of each month at 9 p.m., The Loft Cinema holds a short film contest called First Friday Shorts — the most recent of which took place Friday, Oct. 7. You don’t need to have any film experience to compete in the event.

    Anyone can submit a film, ensuring incredible diversity with what gets played on screen. While all the films are special in their own right, it’s the gong that really makes the festival unique.

    RELATED: Documentary ‘Star Men’ holds US premiere at The Loft Cinema, featuring a talk by UA astronomy professor 

    That’s right — the gong.

    Each film submission plays for three minutes, after which the audience can yell out “gong” as loudly as possible, which decides the fate of whether or not the film will continue to play. If the audience’s collective yell is loud enough, the gong will sound and the film will stop, forever crushing the hopes and dreams of the filmmakers involved.

    The audience becomes heavily involved in the contest as its love for cinema shines through.

    “I absolutely love it,”said Jack Shafer, a contest attendee and enthusiast. “It’s only $6, and you get to yell in a movie theater and make fun of other people’s films. They get everything here, from completely amateur films to animated ones to very well-produced ones. You even get people who make horrible things just so people will gong them.”

    This particular night certainly boasted a diverse selection of films. It opened with a comedy shot in 1992 about a hopeful presidential candidate who has schizophrenia. It entertained the audience at first, but quickly changed from a clever comedy into something else entirely, resulting in the dreaded gong sound.

    The night went on as a variety of other films played, some better than others. “Zumbies,” a comedy promoting zumba, told the story of a Zumba instructor who finds that his entire class has turned into zombies, hence the name. This was one of the stronger entries.

    RELATED: The Loft holds first-ever Art House Theatre Day

    Another strong submission, “The Old Pueblo,” unfolded as a montage of time lapse sequences shot in the Tucson area. Logan Tritt, a film and television junior, shot and submitted the film.

    “It played really well tonight and it didn’t get gonged, so that’s fantastic,” Tritt said. “The real reward was finally getting to see it play on the big screen instead of my laptop.”

    As with any contest, a winner must emerge. A gong basically eliminates the film from contention, and the audience votes by cheering loudly for the film they think deserves to win the $200 cash prize.

    Ricardo Salcido, a film and television senior, won this month’s contest. His film was about a robbery in a carniceria, or meat market. It drew heavy influences from Quentin Tarantino, relationships of Salcido’s past and the fact that he simply loves meat.

    “This actually got made through the B.F.A. film program at UA,” Salcido said. “I’m in the 2017 class, so this is my last year and this was actually my junior film that I made last semester. My movie had already played here last year at a UA screening, but this was a lot more nerve wracking. If the crowd here doesn’t like it, they’ll let you know.”

    Salcido said you have to capture the audience within about 30 seconds at a film contest like this, and then somehow keep them interested until the end.

    As the night’s winner, Salcido will go on to compete at the annual Golden Gong Year-End Showdown, where the winner of every monthly contest throughout the year competes for a $1,000 cash prize.

    Max Cannon is the host of the contest, as well as the gong operator. Cannon is known for his independent comic strip, “Red Meat,” which originally got its start here at the Daily Wildcat. He has hosted First Friday Shorts for 12 years and originally helped to put it together.

    “This event is unscripted pandemonium — it just has to be put together in the heat of the comedic moment,” Cannon said. “When we first put this together years ago, we knew we would have films and we would have a gong, but that was it. Everything else was made up on the fly.”

    First Friday Shorts is a local experience you really can’t find anywhere else. The next event will take place Friday, Nov. 4. Don’t miss it.

    Follow Alec Kuehnle on Twitter

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