Lights. Camera. $10,000.

Courtesy: Flickr Commons

Courtesy: Flickr Commons

The Canadian Film Centre has rolled out The REEL Challenge contest for the fifth annual year with submissions open until Jan. 26 and prize money of $10,000.

“It’s a contest where people are asked to make their own film. Short, 60 seconds or less and they will be entering to win $10,000. The first runner up prize is $5,000,” said director of partnerships and events for the Canadian Film Centre (CFC), Eileen Aradinga.

The winnings for the contest last year included two prizes of $7,500 each for comedic and animated shorts.

“Every year we mix things up a little bit. So we changed the format slightly. So last year, there were equal prizes for comedy and an animation. But this year (without a genre) we’ve decided to leave it completely up to the people,” said Aradinga.

The total prize money given out is a total of $15,000 for both last year and this year.

Courtesy: Flickr Commons

Courtesy: Flickr Commons

Aradinga said every year the CFC receives about 100 entries and contestants are already gearing up.

“I am in the process of confirming my team. At this point there will be about eight of us, ranging from writers, director, editor, DOP and actors,” said contestant Natalie Kulesza, who recently produced and starred in a film for the 48 Hour Film Project in Toronto.

Kulesza said her team hopes to come up with a short that will connect with anyone and enhance their life even if they’re not necessarily movie buffs. “Pretty broad. I know. But it is still in the very early stages for us,” she said.

Aradinga said the jury usually has three members who go through every entry and discuss what they like best.

“They look for films that highlight the theme because we always have a theme that we ask people to work with. So this year it’s Movies Matter: The Big Picture. So people doing that in a fun and innovative way (that) grabs the jury’s attention and stays within the time limit,” she said.

Aradinga believes the contest helps filmmakers and creative thinkers get their name out there.

“I think that anything giving a filmmaker visibility is not a bad thing at all. We always have press around it so people get their name out there. It’s not all the money in the world but to be winning a prize is not insignificant.”

Maja Zonjic, winner of this year’s REEL Challenge for best animation for the animated short, Preserve, said the prize money helped fund her current project in Honduras but winning The REEL Challenge didn’t prove as her big break.

“I don’t think things have changed much for me due to winning The REEL challenge. I continue working on commercial film sets and on various documentary photography projects, but I haven’t yet been hired by someone because they’ve seen my REEL entry,” said Zonjic, from Honduras.

But she still encourages filmmakers to enter the contest.

“It has definitely been a boost to my resume, but I’m still just like the vast majority of emerging Canadian artists: scrapping for funding regardless of the success on previous projects,” she said.

Zonjic and her colleague for Preserve, Dominik Engel, wanted to create a film that would showcase the importance of the Canadian film industry for film professionals, but also make it easily understood to viewers without a film background.

“As a director myself, and also having worked on commercial film sets of varying budgets, I have both experienced, and seen firsthand, the negative impacts of arts grants cutbacks and difficulties in obtaining government funding. However, I have also seen the passion of Canadian filmmakers and the creativity that goes into the creation of artistic work on minimal budgets,” she said.

Preserve‘s concept remained unchanged, but the duo decided to scrap the original idea simply because they didn’t have the budget to rent all the equipment needed.

“We both also had limited knowledge of sound (foley) and editing, so it was quite a learning curve for both of us. We failed a lot in the beginning, and we live-tweeted about it, which added to the hilarity of some of the things we attempted to do.” she said.

“The CFC seemed amused with our process. They would tweet back at us with comments like, “We’ll keep our eyes peeled for your entry,” said Zonjic.