December 19, 2013 | Vol. 39, No. 51

Local film producers compete in international 100-hour film race

Heather Thomas, owner of the local video store and director of Sea Monster Films, stands shivering underneath the porch as rain beats down.

Kyle Clayton / Petersburg Pilot
Petersburg Medical Center CEO Liz Woodyard gave the Seamonster crew permission to film in an unused hospital room. The crew shot the hospital scenes in just more than an hour.

"I just need a few seconds to think," Thomas says to her crew.

But Thomas and her crew don't have the luxury of seconds. Starting Thursday evening, Sea Monster Films had 360,000 seconds to come up with an idea, write a script, shoot scenes, edit and produce a short film.

It's now Saturday. With roughly 180,000 seconds left, they have an idea, a script, now in its fourth draft, and most of the scenes shot. But now, with only a couple scenes left to shoot, Thomas realizes she made a mistake.

Parker, Thomas's dog, trots onto the porch with a rubber Frisbee in her mouth.

"You're so good," Thomas says to the dog. "You don't have to think about ice axes or continuity."

The mistake was that they filmed a couple of scenes of their actor, Lee Coyle, not carrying an ice ax in between cut scenes where he already had it. Now they might have to reshoot every scene, hours of work.

Parker wags her tail, waiting for the filmmaker to toss the toy. Thomas lets the Frisbee fly.

"Alright, I've got an idea," Thomas says.


Thomas, her husband Brandon and the rest of the crew have been cranking out and changing ideas since Thursday evening when the competition began and prompts were given out to the more than 120 teams of filmmakers around the world who are also racing the clock.

Each team was given the same constraints. Every short film needs to have ice as a prop, an action of checking the time, the theme of renewal and cannot be longer than five minutes.

Everything from iceberg sundials to pirates was on the table.

"Pirates on kayaks going to steal an iceberg come back to bring too..." said Rick Mozolic, friend and volunteer crewmember.

"Tell me where renewal ties into this and I'm all in," Thomas laughed.

"It's a magical iceberg and when you touch it you become young again," Rick joked. "Hey I'm just brainstorming here."

They eventually came up with a loose story involving a man experiencing a surreal comatose dream while his wife sits by his side. He dies, the nurse checks the time. Back in dreamland, he finds a frozen watch in an iceberg, it melts, the watch begins to tick and he wakes up-renewed.

It was time to make the idea a reality.

Between visiting grandparents, attending birthday and Christmas parties, getting permission from Petersburg Medical Center CEO Liz Woodyard to film in the hospital, having an actor cancel, not finding an ice berg and changing the script-all eating up precious seconds-the crew adapted, improvised and made it happen.

They used a frozen key instead of a watch. They key allowed Coyle to enter his home in the dream, which also unlocked him from the coma.

"We were so deadset on having that watch frozen," Thomas said. "Finally we were like, 'we don't need this watch.' As cool as it was, it didn't make any sense."


Now, on a cold and rainy Saturday with a soggy and shivering crew, Thomas needs to make sense of one last detail-the ice ax.

"Our only options were either reshoot all of the first half of the film or we'd have to make a new scene that we can justify him getting an ax somehow," Thomas says.

In Coyle's dream he's dazed, wandering around the muskeg. He eventually comes upon his house where he sees his wife packing his clothes. She continues packing, oblivious to his shouts behind a locked door. They shoot a new scene of a distraught Coyle as he stumbles away from his home and wife, picking up the ice ax that is leaning against the garage next to the porch.

"Perfect," Thomas says. "Now let's do it one more time."

The cold and wet crew laughs. It's Thomas's most repeated phrase during every film shoot.


The Sea Monster crew wrapped up shooting Saturday afternoon, an hour before Coyle celebrated his four-year old son's birthday.

Thomas stayed awake editing until 3 a.m. Sunday morning.

Sunday evening the Thomas' hosted a post-production dinner and viewing party where the crew, Coyle's son Gilbert included, watched a rough version of the film.

It was towards the end of the movie when Gilbert asked the question.

"Dad, why did you pick up that ax?"

The full and warm crew laughed.

Thomas continued editing that night and into the morning as well as all day Monday before submitting it by the 8 p.m. deadline.

Sea Monster Films stands to win thousands of dollars worth of audio and video production software, cash prizes and the prestige that would come with a win.

Their film, 'Short', will soon be available to view on

Kyla Compton played Coyle's wife and AJ Erickson assisted with on-set production.

You can read about Sea Monster Films and its past projects at its blog page,

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