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SOA Student Heads to Cannes for the 'Chrysler Extreme Filmmaking Competition'

By Kristin Sterling

Catherine Tingey (C) directs Paz de la Huerta (rt.)Photo by Serko Artinian

Before her film, "A Girl's Guide to the Galaxy," screened at the Columbia University Film Festival last month, Hypnotic, an entertainment production company, pre-sold Catherine Tingey's (SOA '03) submission to the Sundance Channel. The short film has proven a winning vehicle so far as Tingey now prepares for the next step of competition in the Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival.

Hypnotic, which helps emerging filmmakers distribute their work, owns the exclusive distribution rights to the film as a result of Tingey's participation and semi-final berth in the Chrysler festival, a multi-step competition in which hundreds of emerging filmmakers compete for a $1,000,000 feature film production and distribution deal, courtesy of Chrysler, Hypnotic and Universal Pictures. Having been selected as a semi-finalist in the competition, Tingey is one of 10 who will travel to Cannes, France, in May for 10 days of "extreme" filmmaking.

This phase of the festival is called the "Extreme Filmmaking Competition" because filmmakers will write, direct, shoot and edit their films in a very compressed timeframe. The purpose of the competition is to have filmmakers prove their skill in each of these filmmaking disciplines.

Upon notification, semi-finalists had approximately 10 days to create and finalize a script. They will have about the same amount of time in May to cast, film, produce and edit their one-to-five minute film in Cannes, under the backdrop of the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

"Being part of the Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival has been a thrilling ride -- much like the experience I hope audiences get from my film," says Tingey.

The film that got Tingey to the semi-finals, "A Girl's Guide to the Galaxy," is a 13.5-minute comedy about a 16-year-old girl obsessed with astrology.

"The film was conceived as a wild ride through a day in the life of a love-struck teenage girl," says Tingey. "I wanted to capture that sense of total abandon that characterizes teen love -- the way you've just got to 'go for it,' regardless of how hard you could fall -- but also how fickle and unstable it can be."

The inspiration for the film stemmed from a pair of "love cube" dice, with words predicting the user's love life, which Tingey received as a gift. The dice are also symbolic of the love-struck protagonist, played by Paz de la Huerta ("Cider House Rules," "Riding in Cars with Boys" and most recently, "A Walk to Remember").

As part of the quarter-finals, the public had the opportunity to view and vote on the films online, while a panel of five judges also reviewed the films and made the final determinations for the 10 filmmakers who would progress to the semi-finals in Cannes.

Paz de la Huerta stars in "A Girl's Guide to the Galaxy."Photo by Catherine Tingey

For any filmmaker to cast, film, produce and edit in such a compressed time frame would be challenging enough. But this competition has the added components of being held in a foreign country and requiring filmmakers to seamlessly incorporate either the Chrysler PT Cruiser or Crossfire, a 2002 sport touring coupe concept car, into the film.

"I was a little disappointed to learn that you can't do any really crazy stunts with the car," confesses Tingey, who was envisioning an action scene with one of the Chrysler cars.

In dealing with the challenges of working in Cannes, Tingey may have a slight advantage over her competition who are all Americans. She spent a year in Paris as a photographer before beginning the film program at Columbia and she speaks French. Additionally, Tingey led a group of teenagers on a 50-day bike trip through France, Switzerland and Italy during the summer of 1998, and has a sense of the landscape of Cannes.

Between the Chrysler competition and the Columbia Film Festival, "A Girl's Guide to the Galaxy" has generated positive industry response and audience reaction, which Tingey hopes will help her land an agent.

As she heads for Cannes on May 12, Tingey's thoughts are firmly focused on creating the film. She looks with excited anticipation to May 22, when the extreme films premiere in Cannes and the five finalists are selected.

Should Tingey be one of the lucky five, she would spend Memorial Day through Labor Day in Los Angeles, living in the Chrysler Mansion with the other finalists and creating a feature film production package, which includes a treatment, working script and storyboards, as well as proposed cast lists, shooting schedule and budget and a trailer.

The winner of the Chrysler Million Dollar Film Festival will be determined by a panel of industry professionals based on quality of the production package, ability to direct a feature length motion picture and the feasibility of producing the picture on a $1 million budget. The winner will be announced during the Toronto Film Festival in September.

Published: May 03, 2002
Last modified:Sep 18, 2002

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