Scene from “The Key Party” by MediaTech Institute, one of the entries in the 24-Hour Video Race
24-Hour Arty People:
- Audio version of this story:
- Scott McCloud’s 24-Hour Comics Page with the origin of the Dare
- Christian Hill’s Comics Prof site
- International Documentary Challenge (St. Louis short documentaries made in five days)
- National Twenty-four Hour Filmmaking Association
- The Shootout – Boulder Colorado film festival
- South Florida 24-Hour Theater Project
- One-Day Sculpture Project in New Zealand
- The 48-Hour Film Project
Magnolia announcer/crowd noise background: “Captains, move to the theater if you’re not registered, please do it quickly. ….”
It’s 15 minutes to midnight at the Magnolia Lounge at Fair Park, and some 96 teams – more than 200 people — have shown up for the starting line of The Dallas Video Association’s 24-Hour Video Race. Two months ago in Plano, it was Rover Dramawerk’s One Day Only – the theater company’s festival of short plays, seven plays written, directed and performed entirely in a single day. In St. Louis, the International Documentary Challenge gives filmmakers five days to make a short documentary. And each November, it’s National Novel Writing Month (November).
All of these races, festivals and marathons deal in what might be called “art on a deadline.” They give participants a frustratingly brief span of time in which to create something. Yet — they’re widely popular. Just about every art form – solo or collaborative – has organized at least one of these challenges. Art Conspiracy in Dallas has held fundraisers with artists painting canvases one day and auctioning them the next. There’s a 24-Hour Comics Day with cartoonists worldwide trying to draw a complete comic book in a single day.
The events get attention because they resemble art as a sport – with their finish lines and heightened adrenaline. The resemblance goes beyond just teams winning or losing. Jason Rice, founder of Rover Dramawerks, explains some of the logistics behind One Day Only:
Jason Rice: “We have to treat it like a sporting event. We have to make sure we have plenty of liquids on hand. We actually feed them all the meals so they won’t get distracted.”
Christian Hill, assistant professor of illustration at Cal State Fullerton, has participated in the 24-Hour Comics Day.
Christian Hill: “If we were to compare it as a sport, the main two traits we tend to develop are endurance and improvisation. An exercise like a 24-Hour Comics is wonderful because you don’t have any choice but to accept whatever flies through your mind as you’re drawing.”
The formats vary in the way contestants interact. With the Video Race, teams, like The Smoking Crayolas, tend to stick with friends or co-workers. The Crayolas have known each other since they were in Highland Park High School and have participated in all seven Video Races. In contrast, One Day Only is set up so that strangers are generally thrown together to work on a brand-new play. Meeting new people is actually one of its attractions, like a dating service: “Female, mid-30s, willing to look foolish on stage, seeks fast-working playwright.”
Both Jason Rice of One Day Only and Bart Weiss, director of the Dallas Video Association, cite participants who have gone on to professional careers or won other festivals. But seeing as several hundred people participate in these two events each year, such successes are in the minority.
So: people endure sleep deprivation, run around like madmen and in the end generally do not win much beyond a little attention. Cash prizes are rare.
So why do it?
Kirk McPike (of the Smoking Crayolas): “Why? It’s a lotta fun.”
Nicole Herron (of the Smoking Crayolas): : “Cuz it’s fun.”
Carol Rice (of Rover Dramawerks): “It’s a rush. It’s a total rush.”
Mitch Youngblood (of the Smoking Crayolas): “It’s like mainlining creativity.”
“People do this for a lot of reasons” — Dallas Video Association director Bart Weiss. “Some of it is craziness. Some of it is a personal challenge. But the reason I really think, it touches a nerve – everybody wants to be doing more than they’re doing. And every artist has an incredible fear of failure. This has a built-in excuse. I only have 24 hours. What do you expect? Once you’ve given yourself permission to totally fail, people do the most amazing things.”
We’ve posted the names of the top 3 winning teams in each category of this year’s 24-Hour Video Race and some of their videos.