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Inspiring, young filmmakers prepare for local competition

‘Twisting Fiction’ an apt entry for Gig Harbor Film Festival contest

Sisters Emma and Annie Stafki and Diana Smolko enter their film “Twisting Fiction With Reality” in the 72 Hour Film Competition of the Gig Harbor Film Festival.
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Sisters Emma and Annie Stafki and Diana Smolko enter their film “Twisting Fiction With Reality” in the 72 Hour Film Competition of the Gig Harbor Film Festival.

Sisters Emma and Annie Stafki, and their friends, Diana Smolko and Kadence Stoddard, love making movies in the Stafki’s yard on the Key Peninsula.

Most of the time their homemade movies, filmed on their parent’s phone and then edited on the family computer, is about the story of Princess Anabela and her best friend, Esmeralda.

But their recent endeavor is not a part of their usual series.

“We are thinking of calling it ‘Twisting Reality with Fiction,’” Emma Stafki, 13, said. “But we haven’t decided yet.”

The Stafki sisters, Smolko, 13, and Stoddard, 13, are competing in the annual Gig Harbor Film Festival’s 72-hour Film Competition.

Melanie Kerr, the spokesperson for the Gig Harbor Film Festival, said the competition is a way for the film festival to stay relevant in Gig Harbor between festivals, while also giving residents a chance to have their own film and art shown on the big screen in front of a real audience.

“The festival itself is an annual event we hold every fall,” she said. “This year it starts on Sept. 13. It’s a four-day event. It’s a chalked-full schedule of independent films running at the Galaxy Theater.”

This year’s festival is in its 11th year. The Gig Harbor Film Festival organization has been hosting the 72-hour Film Competition for ... years. This year, 24 teams ranging in age and skill level competed with 72 hours to film, produce and edit their films. Each film is about five minutes and included three different clues to prove they were filmed within the set 72 hours. The clues included;

  • One character or object needed to be named or referred to as Max.
  • At some point a piece of pizza had to be dropped.
  • Someone has to say “the sky is the limit” during the film.

Competition started March 15 and ended by 6 p.m. March 18.

“We usually make our films within a couple of days,” Annie Stafki, 9, said. “But we usually get more time to edit.”

0322 FILM FEST 4
Annie Stafki, 9, shows off her new clapboard her parents gave her. The clapboard is one of many professional tools Annie, her sister Emma and friends are using to film their movie for the Gig Harbor Film Festival’s 72-hour Film Competition. Hugh McMillan Courtesy



The teams are in three categories, ages 14 years and younger, 14 through 17 years of age and 18 and older. Each team will have its film shown at the Galaxy Theater in Gig Harbor in front of a large audience. The winner of the competition gets $500.

“Middle-school and high-school age kids are always really excited about this,” Kerr said. “We’ve had a lot of interest from young people. So we partnered with the Peninsula School District to get more interest from families and kids.”

For the younger teams, parents are told to be hands off to make the competition fair.

“It’s hard to not make suggestions or give advice,” Jeff Stafki, father of Emma and Annie, said. “So mostly we leave them alone. We bought them a boomstick microphone to help. But it’s wonderful to see them doing this all on their own.”

The young team’s film takes place in modern day. The first character, played by Emma Stafki, goes online to play an avatar game. But when she commands her online character to do different activities, it makes her sister do them in real life. One minute she is petting goats in their pen, then next she is pretending to be a Sasquatch in the nearby woods.

“I wanted to join this because it seemed like fun,” Smolko said.

Jeff and Laura Stafki, both teachers at Minter Elementary School, received an email about the competition and thought it would be a fun idea for their daughters. Jeff Stafki said the sisters started filming after a family vacation to Universal Studios last summer.

“Annie told me she wanted to be an animal trainer for movies,” he said. “I told her if she did that we’d visit her in Los Angeles every other weekend.”

Annie is usually the actress and enjoys creating new scenes with her sister.

“She’s my sister but she’s also my best friend,” Annie Stafki said. “So it’s fun to spend time together.”

Kerr said the competition is a way to engage younger residents and give them something to do during the wet, late-winter months.

“It really gives them something to do,” she said. “It also really enhances the local culture and vitality.”

The films in the 72-hour Film Competition will be shown 2-4 p.m. April 8 at the Galaxy Theater at 4649 Point Fosdick Drive NW in Gig Harbor. Awards and snacks will follow the film screenings at 4:30 - 6 p.m. at The Inn at Gig Harbor, 3211 56th St. NW. Tickets to the screening are $5 for children ages 12 years old and younger, $10 for adults. Separate tickets are required for the award ceremony — $10 for children and $15 for adults.

Whether or not the young team of girls from the Key Peninsula win the $500, they are excited to see their first movie on the big screen.

“I can’t wait to see it,” Emma Stafski said.

“I am sure we will have grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins filling the seats,” Laura Stafki said.

Danielle Chastaine: 253-358-4155, @gateway_danie

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