“Anniversary Day” 1st Boston 3 Minute Short Film Challenge

Boston video production work comes to Salem, MA for the 1st 3 Minute Short Film Challenge


Nicole Trauffer as Emma Talbot


Matt Stapleton as Dan Talbot

Emma and Dan Talbot are celebrating their wedding anniversary. But sometimes love in the suburbs can get a bit messy.


Directing Matt and Nicole Photo by Paul Antico

Below is one of my shots I borrowed from my favorite film Pulp Fiction. You can hear subtle references to Tarantino’s work in some of the dialogue I wrote for this script.


My ode to Tarantino

So here it is. The first “Under 3 Minute Film Challenge” sponsored by Anticipate Media and Macomber Productions. For this challenge each cinematographer, using a pen as a prop, had to produce a narrative script and shoot it in a few hours on location at The Willows Park in Salem, MA. In addition the phrase “This isn’t going to be easy” also had to be used in the story. It was my first attempt at producing a narrative short. And under tight time constraints. Each of our films were shot within a 3 hour window of time. To be fair we drew names from a hat to see who would shoot first. Not the perfect conditions for filming a short, but the crew bonded and each filmmaker took turns assisting on other shorts. Below Matt Stapleton, Brandon Vincent, Adam Kerchman, Chris Conti and me assist at the park bench.”


Sean Meehan shooting Paul Antico’s “Timing” Photo by Todd Mahoney

Paul Antico had the first crack at it, directing his short film, “Timing,” while Sean Meehan and Matt Stapleton traded off as DP.  The weather was overcast during most of Paul’s shoot so the light was flat. We add some reflector light on the actors. But first, while his actors were practicing their lines and he was blocking shots, I took the C300 and knocked off my driving scene with Matt Stapleton in his Jeep, who in addition to his shooting skills, also turned out to be a pretty good actor.


Setting up in Matt’s Jeep. Photo by Aaron Strader


Filming from the back seat. Photo by Todd Mahoney

In the open Jeep, we had some difficulty with wind noise getting into Matt’s mic during his cellphone call dialogue, so we tried some better sheltered side roads, where we found bad potholes, which created too much shake. But we didn’t give up and after many attempts, finally we nailed it.


Will Madden and Nicole Trauffer.
Photo by Aaron Strader

When I returned from shooting my driving scene Paul was ready to roll. His actors, Nicole Trauffer and Will Madden, had just finished rehearsing their lines under a huge elm tree and were ready.


Paul checks his monitor as Adam, Todd and Matt look on.
Photo by Aaron Strader

After Paul shot his scenes I did my opening scene with Nicole Trauffer playing the role of the young wife Emma Talbot in front of a private home I had scouted out the day before. Below Chris Conti adds negative fill with a black reflector to shade Nicole from the bright sun.


Emma Talbot opens anniversary cards on her steps. Photo by Todd Mahoney

Then our crew rushed back to the huge elm tree which faced Beverly Harbor and the warm late afternoon sun. This was the location of the final scene of my short. I was planning on shooting some extreme wide shots with my Tokina 11-16mm lens, but when got to the tree, Paul informed me that Sean was waiting to begin shooting the third and final short film. So I had to knock off my dialogue scene very quickly with only enough time for two shots with reversals and the final shot where Emma’s husband Dan receives the surprise of his life. Matt’s voice over was done later on an H4n digital recorder. Taylor Macomber did the cellphone voice of Margo appropriately on the cellphone!


Dan gets a surprise.

Finally Sean Meehan took control of the C300 for his short film. Aaron Strader helped shoot the opening scene of Sean’s short, “You’re Not Safe Here,” starring Nicole Trauffer, Timothy J. Cox and Todd MahoneyAdam Kerchman helped shoot the last scene where Nicole is alone in the car.  As I said my time was cut a bit short because the light was fading and Sean needed to have continuity in his edit. But even with the changing light conditions, Sean managed to finish shooting enough footage for his story at around 10:30pm at which time we wrapped.


Sean Meehan having fun with the C300.
Photo by Aaron Strader


Todd Mahoney posing as a stranger on a park bench.

Sean had what I consider to be the best light – the magic hour – for his story, as you will see below. I thought  he dealt with the changes in the afternoon/evening light very well in the time he had to finish. The C300 also performs very well in low light conditions. The only lights we used on Sean’s short were one Litepanels Micro LED and one Switronix Torch LED BOLT.


Nicole’s character at magic hour.


Tim Cox and Nicole Trauffer in the car scene.

The actors did an amazing job performing on such short notice. Thanks to all of the crew and special thanks to The City of Salem and to Florence and George Ahmed of Salem Willows.


Love is forever!

Here’s Paul Antico’s short titled “Timing.”

Here’s yet another one to watch by Sean Meehan titled “You’re Not Safe Here.”  To make it a little easier to understand, this short was made as a continuation of a series of short films from a vimeo contest held a few years ago called “The Story Beyond the Still” which was about a teddy bear, a secret key and a kidnapped girl. Sean came in 2nd place in one of those episodes.

Check out this cool BTS by Aaron Strader right here: 3 Minute Short Film Challenge BTS

Finally Michael Murie did a great blog on the entire day in Filmmaker Magazine

We also had some great assistants who gave up their day to help out on this challenge:

Jesse Sherman, Mykim Dang, Selima-Dell-Smith, Jordan Jennings

Soundtrack Artists

“Sad Trio” by Kevin MacLeod

“Runnin Down a Dream” by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

“Rock Me” by Steppenwolf


Canon C300 at The Willows. Photo by Aaron Strader

All of the shorts in this challenge were filmed on the Canon Cinema EOS C300 with various prime lenses.



  1. Ella says:

    Hey there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading this post reminds me of my previous room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this page to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

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