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Watch: Two Dontas(es?), One Proctor, and a gorilla suit win 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown

The Filmmaker Showdown returned to WSSF for its first in-person event since 2019, with a few changes and a ton of familiar faces
From left, Ryan Proctor, Kevin Dontas and Kris Dontas celebrate with host Feet Banks after winning Tuesday night's 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown with their submission Would You Rather.

“Would you rather get stung by a bee every time you leave your house or have to battle a gorilla once a year for 50 years?”

That age-old question earned Two Dontas One Proctor Productions (also known as Whistler friends Ryan Proctor, Kris Dontas and Kevin Dontas) the $5,000 grand prize at the World Ski and Snowboard Festival’s (WSSF) 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown on Tuesday night, for their submission Would You Rather. Well, that and some impressive cinematography.

In the short film, Kevin Dontas’ character discovers the theoretical dilemma isn’t quite so theoretical when, after declaring he “would love to battle a gorilla,"  his birthday is rudely interrupted by a surprise assault from—you guessed it—a giant gorilla. It’s not as fun as he imagined.

The traumatic annual attacks drag on for years, with the gorilla turning up to ruin birthday after birthday until the victim finally decides enough is enough. He’s waging a counter-offensive. Spoiler alert: Dontas learns the gorilla’s definition of “battle” isn’t black-and-white, and a heartwarming interspecies friendship ensues. The catch? It has an expiration date.

The winning entry comes following Two Dontas One Proctor’s 72-Hour debut, the People’s Choice Award-winning Benched, in 2019.

Fitting Would You Rather into the five-minute limit was the group’s biggest challenge, Proctor told the crowd, but filming the project “was actually pretty fun … We just hope you guys laugh.”

The gorilla jump-scares clearly resonated with the approximately 669 ticketholders (that’s according to host Feet Banks) who packed into the Westin ballroom on April 11 for the contest's first in-person iteration since 2019. The 72-Hour Filmmaker Showdown has been a hallmark of each spring’s WSSF since the early 2000s. This year, the event was presented and produced by the Whistler Film Festival for the first time, and moved to the hotel from its usual home at the Whistler Conference Centre. The crowd was smaller, but it wasn’t any less rowdy.

Aside from the four-figure prize for the first-place film, all other finalists walked away with $500 in cash. The People’s Choice winner took home an extra $250 in the form of a Gibbons gift card.

In case you need a refresher about how it works: teams are given three days to shoot, edit, and produce a three- to five-minute film. Filming must take place within 100 kilometres of Whistler Village, and each submission must incorporate a mandatory phrase (in past years, this was a prop instead). This year, half the teams found a way to work "They built a halfpipe” into their film, while the others got “You can’t park there, mate.” IYKYK.

Whistler comedian Kyle Killeen and co. win People's Choice award for The Buttler

Despite the four whole years that have elapsed since the last Showdown, there were more than a few familiar faces on-screen, behind the camera and on the judging panel.

In addition to Proctor and the Dontas brothers, 72-Hour finalists included defending champion and stop-motion specialist Kyle James with The Stuff We’re Made Of; previous People’s Choice winner Kyle Killeen, plus first-time finalists John Burke, Godwyn Walker, Jamie Parker and Mark Torlay.

All the films were well received—in particular Burke’s Hopelessly Lovin’, a Grease parody set in Whistler’s bar scene that Banks described as "a documentary,"; and Walker’s Marcus, You’re a Genius,  the entirely solo effort Walker wrote, shot, acted and edited himself—but it was stand-up comedian Killeen who managed to secure his second-ever WSSF People’s Choice win with The Buttler, alongside Mike Dandurand and Chris Dane German

The film follows Killeen as he loses his job and his housing, before finding his way to an exotic dance service, Butlers in the Rough—“half the price, twice as nice,” if its tagline is to be believed—that turns his life around. One scene that earned some of the loudest laughs was the perfectly parodied “real estate” clip advertising 2117 Lake Placid Road, otherwise known as a 1997 Dodge Grand Caravan. It had upgraded interiors, though. A rare opportunity!

The vast majority of judges knew firsthand what it feels like to be in competitors’ time-strapped shoes: the panel included two-time Showdown winner Ben Giesbrecht; five-time finalist and three-time Best in Show winner Charles Nasby; plus Jonny Fleet, a seven-time finalist with two Best in Show wins, and four People’s Choice awards; and three-time winner Jordan Ettinger. Former Toronto International Film Festival staffer Vanessa Tam—“our actual judge,” as Banks referred to her—rounded out the judging team.

When it comes to the criteria judges were looking for? “It’s pretty loose— it’s either your movie won or it didn’t,” Banks informed the crowd. “That’s the criteria. No cinematography, no acting awards, no script. It just goes on general vibe. Which is how it should be, because the judges are drinking.”

WSSF runs until Sunday, April 16. Keep scrolling to catch up on a few of the 2023 finalists' 72-Hour submissions.