April 26, 2015, felt like winter, but the calendar assured me it was spring. Two colleagues and I had entered a competition called the Adrenaline Film Project, in which you produce a short film over the course of a weekend and have it screened and judged the following Monday. It was 2:30 a.m. when we finished shooting for the night, about three hours behind schedule, and at that point I think we were all grateful to finally be leaving that seedy Eugene back alley. My arms felt like they were going to fall off from holding the boom microphone over my head for so long, and my fingers were numb from grasping the cold metal rod to which it was attached. The only thing on my mind was sleep. Unfortunately, we were to be back on location at 7:00 a.m. that same day. Once I finally made it to bed, mere hours from when I would have to wake up, I began to ask myself, “Do I even want to be a filmmaker?”
The film was to be only five minutes, but it quickly felt like it was consuming our lives. We finished shooting at about 2:00 p.m., which was a relief, but there wasn’t much time to celebrate; we were to be editing in the Cinema Studies computer lab by 4:00 pm. There we would spend the next 24 hours. I am not exaggerating.
There’s a certain madness that comes with editing a movie: Some shots just don’t work, sometimes you have to rearrange scenes beyond recognition, and something usually goes catastrophically wrong and you’re forced to redo hours of work. It’s just the nature of the beast. At about 10:00 p.m., two of us had to return to the previous night’s location with our lead actor to reshoot a couple of very specific shots, only one of which we ended up using. Throughout the night, the three of us took turns editing while one would sleep. I couldn’t sleep, though, not with this looming over my head.
Once our completed film was submitted, I was physically and emotionally depleted, had only gotten about five hours of sleep in the last 33 hours, and barely had any appetite even though I’d eaten very little. The question lingered—was this really what I wanted to do? At 5:00 p.m., I finally went to sleep, with the screening coming up in just a few hours. I left the door to my dorm room open so my good friend could come wake me up in case I slept through my alarm. Apparently, he had to shake me awake. I do not remember this.
As I made my way to Straub Hall for the screening, I found myself feeling relieved that Adrenaline was coming to an end. I wondered if it was all worth it. I entered Straub and found that it felt nothing like a lecture hall, but more like an upscale theater. The modern, refurbished look, coupled with the two-story seating, made me feel like I was about to present my film before the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Suddenly, I felt like it was all really happening.
The screening of the film went quickly for me, as I was so familiar with it at this point, but at the exact moment the film ended, I felt an intense sense of euphoria creep up my spine. The applause that filled the room was wonderful to hear, and, truthfully, I got a little teary-eyed. To me, this was a surreal moment: a film that I helped create had just been screened in front of a hundred people, and it actually felt like the film resonated with the audience. It was the happiest I’ve ever been. Right then, I knew I was a filmmaker.
Straub Hall will forever live in my heart as the place where I met my resolve. I suffered that weekend and veered dangerously close to the brink of giving up, yet today I remember it fondly. And it’s all thanks to a little lecture hall called Straub.
—By Ross Karapondo
Ross Karapondo is a sophomore cinema studies major from Tualatin, Oregon.