Film students tackle the 10 day challenge

Local high school students compete in a multi-state contest to write, shoot, edit and score a four-minute short film in 10 days.

Four high school film teachers think 10 days is long enough to make a movie.

The 10 Day Film Challenge, started by Gary Joseph, Mick McCleery, Damiso Josey and Mike Nicholson, began as a way to test their students and evaluate the skills kids learned throughout the school year.

Joseph, the executive director of the program, said he and his filmmaking friends would participate in the 48-hour film project – a competition that requires participants to write, shoot, edit and score a short film in just two days.

“We loved being a part of that challenge, and thought that we could convert it into something for our schools,” Joseph said.

In Spring 2010, Joseph, who teaches at Hammonton High School, introduced an adapted version to his film class with some requirements.

The students had 10 days of class time to create a short film of about four minutes that included a particular character, character’s occupation, a prop and a line of dialogue that had to be included in their short film.

Once in groups, the students drew genres out of a hat, and with the requirement and their creativity, produced short films as final projects.

“It just worked out,” Joseph said. “They performed like they should have, and it became clear that this was something that we needed – it gives the students something to look forward to and work toward, and it gives the teachers something to teach for.”

The following year, Joseph extended the idea to some of his friends – other film teachers in the area posed school competitions.

“I started looking up schools in the area that had film programs, and just reaching out, emailing everyone that I could find that might be interested,” Joseph said.

Joseph said that he got at least a 50 percent return email rate from teachers that wanted their schools to participate.

“From there,” Joseph said, “the program has grown like a weed.”

Josey, a 1999 Temple graduate and one of the founders of the 10 Day Film Challenge, said he believes the program will change education on a national scale for film students.

Josey is now an administrator at Hammonton where he was previously taught video production, but spent his early career producing at ESPN and ABC.

Now that the challenge is functioning on a national level, the directors hope to partner with Temple as a sponsor of the program.

“I am always pushing students to look into Temple if they are interested in film and television,” Josey said. “The experience that I gained from the [film] program was invaluable.”

Not only would partnering with Temple assist the program financially, Joseph said he believes that having the backing of a major university would help spread the program nationally and show the kids involved that there is a future for students eager to learn and develop their film skills.

Since 2011, Joseph and the other creators have spread the competition to more than 50 high schools in six states.

Each state school now competes against other schools in their state, with the same requirements, character, character’s occupation, props and line of dialogue.

Germantown Academy in Fort Washington took the prize for best film in Pennsylvania, with their short film, “Sketcher, ” about a high school student who has the power to make his drawings come to life.

Since the programs expansion, the directors have implemented traditions for the winning teams, including showing many of the top films at local and national film festivals.

“Sketcher” visited the Philadelphia Independent Film Fest in June, and the team plans to take the film to the New York City Indie Film Festival in October.

As the 10 Day Challenge community grows, Joseph said he feels that this is the year to start giving back.

Along with the multi-state expansion, Joseph and the other directors noticed that while many school districts wanted to participate in the program, they were lacking the funds for equipment.

10 Day, Inc. was created in 2011 as a non-profit organization in response to this need, with the mission to bring the advancement of high school student film making with digital media and technology.

“We’re seeing younger siblings of kids that have graduated in class, and they’re excited to start the program,” Joseph said. “Their siblings are going on to graduate and participate in the 48 Hour Challenge.”

Joseph said that eventually he and the other directors want their positions at the 10 Day Challenge to become their full-time careers, as they still get to help guide kids towards something the future could hold.

“Because of this experience, kids are continuing to do this as a hobby,” Joseph said. “And for some – their careers.”

Paige Gross can be reached at

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