Three minutes of fame

Starnuto tells the story of Johnny Zero and his sudden ability to time travel by sneezing. (Submitted by Ty Giffin)

Note: The crew had only submitted the film in an application to the Great Canadian Sketch Comedy Film Festival at the time of print. Their application has since been rejected. The correction was made Oct. 9, 2019.

A three-minute film, made by University of New Brunswick students, is getting noticed.

Starnuto, a short film about a man who time travels by sneezing, recently became the highest voted Canadian film in the My Rode Reel Short Film Competition, the world’s largest short film competition that takes place online.

Mathew Gracie, who produces and plays a German-speaking farmer in the film said he was happily surprised when he heard the news.

“I really believed in the movie when I saw the finished product. I think its one of the things I’m most proud to have worked on.”

Curtis Brewster directs and stars as the main character in the film. He is a media arts and cultures graduate from UNB that led the production alongside Gracie and Ty Giffin, his long-time colleagues.

“What I’m concerned with is trying to make it genuinely entertaining … some of the trouble I see with short films especially is that they have an idea, but don’t really harvest it to its fullest potential,” said Brewster.

Gracie said the group connected over their love of film in one of their classes and have been collaborating ever since.

“We met each other in our second year of university in a film production class called Digital Film Production ll, and we became friends with each other and a few other people,” said Gracie.

Starnuto was the highest voted Canadian film in the competition. (Submitted by Ty Giffin)

The trio have worked with one another during their time as students and graduates, whether it’s been documentaries for classes or on teams at the 48-Hour Film Competition held on UNB’s Fredericton campus every October.

The group bonded over their love of films from New York production company A-24, who created notable films like Hereditary, and their most constant influence Blade Runner 2049.

The group was drawn to the film’s colour pallets and sound design. There is a scene in Starnuto with a hazy orange beach set to bass heavy, wailing music similar to that in the film.

“Somehow [Blade Runner 2049] always gets a reference,” said Giffin, the film’s cinematographer.

The film focuses around Johnny Zero, played by Brewster, who repairs futuristic machines and gains the power to time travel after sneezing while repairing a machine that malfunctions and catapults him through time.

The idea came from a conversation Brewster had with his brother five years ago.

Curtis Brewster (left), Ty Giffin (middle) and Mathew Gracie (right) have developed their skills together on various projects during their time at UNB. (Submitted by Ty Giffin)

“I was just like, it would be funny if there’s a movie about a guy who sneezed and every time he sneezed, he went through time,” said Brewster.

Filming for Starnuto took place over two days, one day in Hopewell Cape, New Brunswick and the other on campus and in downtown Fredericton this past August.

The crew found out about the competition less than a month before the Aug. 28 deadline. They wrote the script in a week and a half and managed a quick turnaround thanks to their experience from the 48-Hour Film Festival.

“It makes you really know how to race around and roll with the punches,” said Giffin.

The first cut of the film was 12 minutes, nine minutes over the competition’s limit, which made editing the film while keeping the storyline intact difficult.

“It’s a game of milliseconds,” said Giffin.

Starnuto was filmed over two days this past August in Hopewell Cape and Fredericton. (Submitted by Ty Giffin)

Giffin said the condensed time helped them be creative.

“It’s something that you can plan quicker, and you can have those improvisational moments a little easier.”

Starnuto will be screened at the Great Canadian Sketch Comedy Film Festival on Nov. 9 in Toronto.

Giffin said they will continue to collaborate on film projects. They will participate once again in 48-Hour Film Competition on Oct. 9 and has submissions pending for the upcoming Silver Wave Film Festival on Nov. 7.