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From concept to print in 48 hours

Cory Kelley (above left) with Sean Roach. Kelley directed “The Stray,” this year’s Seattle 48 Hour Film Project competition winner, which Roach co-edited. - Brad Camp/Staff Photo
Cory Kelley (above left) with Sean Roach. Kelley directed “The Stray,” this year’s Seattle 48 Hour Film Project competition winner, which Roach co-edited.
— image credit: Brad Camp/Staff Photo

The whirlwind short film ‘The Stray’ earns top honors in the ‘48HFP’ contest.

Cory Kelley won the special effects prize at last year’s Seattle 48 Hour Film Project, and decided that with the right team, he’d be ready to direct this year.

So he put together Team JuiceBox, 16 crew members and actors including “editor and all-around monkey” Sean Roach, a Bainbridge High grad and Bainbridge Island Television cohort.

They laid the groundwork for their film, though they still had no idea what it would actually be about.

The one predictable rule in the annual filmmaking competition: the entire film would have to be written, shot, edited to completion and delivered to the judges in a scant 48 hours.

Team JuiceBox covered every conceivable base, lining up equipment, figuring out how to feed everyone, arranging to borrow costumes at a neighborhood Value Village, and scouting more potential sets around Seattle than they knew they could possibly use – even a yacht.

“We could have made any movie,” Kelley said.

At 7 p.m. Friday, July 13, Kelley got his marching orders. In addition to containing one required line of dialogue – “Everything is going to change starting now” – the film would have to be a drama; include a helmet as a prop; and feature a character named either “Lenny” or “Lenora Chavez,” a veterinarian.

The script was finalized by 1 a.m., and the 12-hour shoot that ensued at the crack of dawn Saturday “was really a logistical thing as much as a creative thing,” Kelley said.

As he filmed on one set, other team members busily prepped the next.

“We were flying around Seattle,” said Roach, a contributing writer to the Bainbridge Island Review. “I was running red lights.”

In an efficient, breathy seven minutes, the finished film “The Stray” follows Opal, a gamine naïf – think Audrey Tatou in “Amélie” – on a surreal city adventure accompanied by Bernice, a toy monkey she finds in a dump.

With a pitch that arcs from whimsical to frantic back to an uneasy calm, the film hints its way toward a revelation of the true origins of Opal’s fey walkabout.

Drama wasn’t Kelley and crew’s first choice, but as Roach points out, at least they didn’t have to make a musical.

“Once we figured out we could have fun with it, we went there,” Kelley said.

A whirlwind video and sound editing session completed the project, and Kelley deposited the film a luxurious 20 minutes before the 7:30 p.m. Sunday deadline.

Then he and his crew sat down to watch the “heartbreaking and exciting” spectacle of entrants screeching to the door to deliver their films, some hucking tapes out their car windows into the waiting hands of friends, one having the door slammed in his face as he arrived moments past deadline.

“It was pretty dramatic, the last 45 seconds of drop-off,” Kelley said.

Team JuiceBox earned the contest’s top prize, and honors for best directing, actress, editing and musical score.

It garnered Kelley a trophy, and the means to make another film by way of thousands of dollars worth of credit for post-production, sound mixing and equipment usage at Seattle studios.

“The Stray” will be screened with all the other 48HFP city winners at Filmapalooza, the competition’s awards weekend next spring.

That required line of dialogue – “Everything is going to change starting now” – may well apply to filmmaker Kelley himself.

His college career began with the pursuit of an economics degree in Arkansas and ended, by way of a bite from the movie bug, with a filmmaking degree from Montana State University – where, in his estimation, the light is beautiful to film by.

Kelley’s fiancée is pursing graduate studies at IslandWood, which brought Kelley to Bainbridge and to Bainbridge Island Television last year, where he worked as a production manager.

The core of Team JuiceBox included director of photography Tim Boyd, assistant director, composer and business partner Jonathan Wright, writer Scot Augustson, production manager Erika Sunmark as well as Roach.

Kelley hopes to gather as much of the existing cast and crew as he can to make a second film, with the luxury of at least a few weeks to do it.

“To shoot something that well acted and with good coverage takes a lot more than 48 hours,” he said.

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