Take 21

A South Philly film composer is one of three people behind the movie contest and festival Project Twenty1.
Beginning midnight Oct. 15, aspiring moviemakers across the United States and Canada can begin signing up online for a shot at competing in a Philadelphia-based film contest and festival.

Aptly dubbed Project Twenty1, the first 21 teams — and participants must be in teams — to sign up will have 21 days to make the best short or animated film.

Showtime is Dec. 4 and 5, with each team’s flick screened twice at International House at University of Pennsylvania, 3701 Chestnut St.

One of the three people behind the creation of Project Twenty1 is musician and soundtrack composer Quang Ly, 29, from 13th and Federal streets.

Graduating from Drexel University with a degree in information systems, Ly has made music for commercials, including a national spot for Shell Oil, and movies, as well as the album “Delta Dreams,” which was written, arranged and produced by Ly with help from fellow singers and collaborators. Tunes on the atmospheric pop record have been licensed for film use, including a song for “Searching for Paradise,” which starred Chris Noth of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Sex and the City.” It was screened at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival and can be viewed on HBO.

“This is one of the reasons why I am so passionate about Project Twenty1 — because it allows local musicians and composers to be part of the filmmaking process,” Ly said. “The very first time I watched a film with my score at a theater with loud surround-sound speakers, it gave me goose bumps. It was just an amazing experience that I will never forget.”

Two other film professionals round out Project Twenty1’s organizers. Formerly of 12th and South streets, Stephanie Yuhas, 24, has a degree in animation from University of the Arts and is an art director for a Trevose-based architecture company, as well as a freelance animator for a local firm. A Temple University film graduate living in Manayunk, 26-year-old Matt Conant is a partner in Cinevore Studios, a short- and feature-length film company. He also owns Crystalline Studios, a corporate video production house.

Hoping to inspire others and spark interest in Philadelphia, the organizers came up with Project Twenty1 in ’05 and implemented it this year. While most competitions are about speed, this project emphasizes quality, Conant said.

Other contests “give you 12 hours or a day to make a film,” he said. “We would much rather people make films they actually want to make so we’re giving them 21 days rather than a day or two to make a film.”

Ly agreed: “Our requirements are less limiting than other film festivals. It’s very arbitrary with some requirements, like you have to have some weird clown in your movie.”

Because competitions tend to focus on speed, the time-consuming skills of animation and special-effects animation are often left behind.

“I feel like there’s no niche for the animators to participate in any film contests at all,” Yuhas said. “There is really nothing out there, so we figured 21 days would be fair to everyone.”

She hopes some live-action filmmakers will take advantage of the timeframe to incorporate animation into their work. “Perhaps Project Twenty1 can give some credit to some of these magicians behind the curtain,” Yuhas said.

To encourage networking, Project Twenty1 has forums on www.projecttwenty1.com and www.myspace.com/ProjectTwenty1.

“I’ve always liked the idea of being a part of a marketplace and I think a film festival does that. It’s a place where people can exchange ideas and services. That’s what we’re trying to do is create a community,” Ly said.

After the December screenings, a panel of judges will review the 21 submissions and select winners in a host of categories, including acting, cinematography and directing. They will be honored in January at a Screening/Awards Ceremony and Wrap Party at a yet-to-be-determined site.

The judges’ identities will remain under wraps until further into the contest, Conant said. But at least one Philadelphia filmmaker is lined up, along with someone from a “major TV network,” Ly added.

Win or lose, all entries in their entirety will be featured on a compilation DVD to be promoted on Project Twenty1’s Web site and shopped to domestic and international film festivals.

By basing the festival in Philadelphia, organizers hope to showcase what this city can offer to aspiring moviemakers. At least one representative from each team must attend the respective Launch and Drop events. The former, on Nov. 11, is when filmmakers are briefed and told what common element they must use; at the latter, Dec. 2, they turn over their finished flicks to the organizers.

“All you really need is a representative in Philadelphia to get here and find out what the secret element is. We want to make it national to the filmmakers, but keep it centered in Philadelphia so we can promote all the beautiful sites,” Yuhas said.

“We’re not doing this to become rich and famous. We want to do a service to the community. We want to get filmmakers to make films in Philadelphia — and that’s all.”

Project Twenty1 is still looking for sponsors and a place to hold its Launch and Drop events. For more information on either or on the festival, visit www.projecttwenty1.com.

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