LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KTHV) -- A seven-minute Christmas film made in Little Rock in 48 hours and dedicated to the Little Rock Fire Department has won an international contest and is headed to Hollywood. Fire Engine Red was created from start to finish by co-directors Michael Armstrong of Little Rock and Jim Patterson of El Dorado, both first-time directors, in less than two days for last August's 2012 Little Rock 48-Hour Film Project. The short originally won three awards at the local level: an Audience Choice award, Best Story, and first Runner Up, losing the top prize to "La Petite Mort," a film by BrickHut Productions.
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Then in early December Patterson and Armstrong received an invitation from the producers of the international 48-Hour Film Project, inviting Fire Engine Red to compete against 114 other runner-up films from local 48-Hour Film Projects around the world in an online Second Chance competition.
The contest, which ran 48 days from Dec. 2 to Jan. 19, was an open, popular vote contest among all the 2nd place finalists in 2012. The winning film is screened at the 48-Hour Film Project's main event, Filmapalooza, in Hollywood, Calif. March 7-10.
Tuesday the 48-Hour Film Project officially announced that Little Rock's Fire Engine Red had won the worldwide Second Chance Contest.
Whiffle Powder Productions has several other film projects planned for 2013. Another short film they made this fall recently won an award in a different juried international competition, and they have scripts in development for several more, including a companion film to Fire Engine Red.
The most immediate project, however, is securing funding to send the directors and other key crew to Hollywood to champion Fire Engine Red at Filmapalooza, attend workshops and network with filmmakers from around the world.
"We are so excited and grateful for all the support we've received from friends and strangers alike during this competition," Armstrong said. "We were competing against great films from major cities like Paris, New York, Los Angeles, Dubai, and Shanghai, so we very much thought of ourselves as the underdog."
Armstrong said the crew quickly realized that to be competitive, they would need to rally their Arkansas connections and get a local grassroots campaign underway. Their production company, Whiffle Powder Productions, started a social media campaign through a Fire Engine Red Facebook page. They also held screenings of the film in churches, schools and fire houses and gave interviews about the contest to many local media outlets, garnering support for the feel-good film and locking in online votes in the competition everywhere they went.
The Fire Engine Red team worked hard for 5-star votes the entire 48-day contest, with the competition racing to the finish the last day, ultimately breaking a three-way tie for first place to take a decisive lead in the final hours.
"There is no way we could have won without the incredible support we received across the state, from El Dorado to Fayetteville, and many places beyond," Patterson said.
Fire Engine Red is dedicated to "the brave men and women of the Little Rock Fire Department." The film's themes are about growing up, the power of the imagination and second chances.
"It feels especially rewarding to win a Second Chance competition for a film that's essentially about second chances," Patterson said.
Fire Engine Red tells the story of a toy fire engine at Christmas and through the years after, in a rhyming poem told from the toy's perspective. The Whiffle Powder team conceived, wrote, cast, shot, edited, scored, and rendered the film in less than two days. Per the contest's rules, at 7 p.m. on the Friday night they began the project they drew the genre, "holiday film" and three required elements (a singer character named Tommy Shuttles, a melon as a prop, and the line, 'What do we have here?') they had to incorporate into their movie, to be finished by the following Sunday.
"We never thought this film would lead us to Hollywood when we made it this summer," Armstrong said, adding, "That was a weekend well-spent."
Fire Engine Red is available on YouTube, and on the Fire Engine Red Facebook page. To contact Whiffle Powder Productions about filmmaking opportunities, donations or sponsorship, please reach out to them via the Fire Engine Red Facebook page.