Judges’ Q&A for Film Challenge

Welcome to Chidtarod 2021: Pandemic Edition. As we all know, we can’t quite have the race we are used to this year, but we sure as hell can still have a great time while staying safe and solving food insecurity in Chicago. As Master Judges, we hate the idea of not recognizing all of your accomplishments and creativity and so, for The Chidtarod Film Challenge, we are gathering together as The Academy of Motion Picture Carts and Sciences. We look forward to seeing your work.

Since some of you have never made a film before, or are overloaded with ideas, or can’t find a good place to start, here is a Q&A with some of our Master Judges and film buffs that we hope will inspire…

Interviewer: Really? You’re going to start with a pun? The Academy of Motion Picture Carts and Sciences?

Master Judges: Yep. You have your fun, we have ours.

IV: Let’s talk prizes – Chiditaroders are a competitive bunch, and they love to have a goal in mind. Will there be categories again this year? Can you share them?

MJ: Absolutely! This year we are blending Chiditarod and the film business. Categories include:

  • Best Drama
  • Best Comedy
  • Best Costume
  • Best Choreography
  • Best Documentary
  • Best Use of Cart
  • Best Short Film
  • Best in Show

Additionally, we will be continuing the practice of “Checkpoint Awards”. For those unfamiliar, these are awards that are chosen by the Judges at our post-race meeting, and are based on what we saw that day. These Wild Card awards could be anything from “Best Use of Animals Not Harmed in the Making of This Film” to “Best Mask” or even “Best Spice Girls Reference”. Hard to say what those prizes will be, but much like porn, we know it when we see it.

IV: Wait, is porn a viable category for film entry…?

MJ: Absolutely not! This is a family show. Don’t even think about it.

IV: Good to know. To summarize the prize structure: the categories will be the eight you enumerated, plus the five Wild Card/Checkpoint Awards?

MJ: Approximately. Could be more; could be less. It honestly depends on the number of films we get. And, of course, if there are films that meet the expectations of the categories we have named.

IV: That brings up a great point – some of those categories are really specific. Can you tell us a little more about Best Use of Cart, Best Documentary, and Best Short Film?

MJ: Sure.

  • Best Use of Cart. One of the requirements is that a shopping cart must be seen at some point in each film. It can be a photo, a character, a quick cameo… no holds barred, but we must see a cart in the film at some point. This prize is for the best execution of this requirement
  • Best Documentary. Documentaries are non-fiction films, and so examples of what might fit this category include a team who creates a montage of past races, who documents part of their process, or even talks about their history with the event. We know lots of experienced racers have photos and films from past years – it’s perfectly allowable to use those in your film submission for this year
  • Best Short Film. Not everyone is good at telling long tales, and with the advent of Tik Tok, we wanted a prize for movies that are literally one minute or less. And yes, we will check to make sure that you’re in the proper time frame – 61 seconds will disqualify you from this category!

IV: That’s very helpful to know. Now what about people looking for a place to start? Can you provide some inspiration for teams that are worried that their moving-making skills aren’t as sharp as their cart building, costume creating, or bribe-making talents?

MJ: Happy to provide some examples to get the creative juices flowing…

  • Film Genres: Action, Children’s Film, Crime, Documentary, Fantasy, Horror, Musical, Romance, Science Fiction, Slice of Life, Sports, Thriller, War, Western… and lots of combinations thereof, such as Romantic Comedy, Action Thriller, Period Piece, etc.
  • Film Types: Live-action, Stop-Motion, Animation, Time-Lapse, Black and White, Silent Film, Foreign Language with subtitles… you can pair any of these with one of the genres for something unique. The possibilities are pretty endless…

IV: Sure seems like it, although earlier you mentioned that porn was unacceptable; anything else that the filmmakers can’t do, or other parameters to keep in mind?

MJ: Those are all listed in the rules, but some are probably worth reiterating here:

  • Film must be submitted on time
  • Cannot be longer than 7 minutes
  • Must include a shopping cart – as a character, as a prop, in the background of a scene…
  • Must follow the formatting rules (because we want to be able to stream/share it properly)
  • Should avoid copyrighted music (or else we may be limited in where we can show it)
  • Must follow the same rules as the race: No MOOP, no food waste, no racial insensitivity or other actions that break The Chiditarod Code of Conduct
  • While there is no limit to the number of people who work on your film, everyone is expected to collaborate in a COVID-safe manner

IV: Well, this sounds like an interesting and unique solution for Chiditarod in our pandemic world. Thanks for giving the participants some food for thought in how to create a great film.

MJ: You’re welcome! Happy to help, as the last thing we want is for anyone to feel intimidated, overwhelmed, or like they just can’t make movie magic. The goal here is to provide an opportunity to channel creative energy usually reserved for Race Day, just in a new and safe way. As long as you put your heart into it, and have fun doing it, anyone can make a movie, and everyone can help the Chiditarod Foundation solve food insecurity in Chicago.

Still concerned? Have more questions? Contact us at c.rod.filmfest@gmail.com