The Assignments

Every edition is shaped by an over-arching concept, with unique assigments for each participating team.

Sparrow Film Project

A Christmas Carol: Holiday Revue 2016

Winter 2016

We joined forces with The Queensborough Theatre Project for a noncompetitive holiday edition. We divided the entirety of Charles Dickens' classic A Christmas Carol into sections. We invited seven teams of filmmakers and the ensemble of QTP's production to tell each piece of the story in their own voice.

SFP13 Assignment

SFP 13: The Occult

Spring 2016

For this, the thirteenth edition of the Sparrow Film Project, could we really have gone in any other direction? The number 13 is evocative of luck - almost universally interpreted as bad, but good according to the Italians. It is a omen of future outcomes, and a fear (Triskaidekaphobia) unto itself.
The assignment begins with our medium choosing a tarot card, which describes a feature of either your film or main character. Next, crack open a fortune cookie to reveal a phobia or superstition. Last, spin the Wheel of Misfortune: you'll have to limit or exceed your intentions by a power of 13.

SFP13 Assignment

SFP 12: Mythic Pitches

Spring 2015

We’re sure you, like us, have noticed that Hollywood has run out of ideas lately. It feels like every blockbuster movie is something we’ve seen already. This repetition of stories isn’t a new phenomenon – it’s something we humans have done throughout our existence. Every culture, at every point in history, has created narratives to explain the world around them, comment on the way we interact with each other, and share experiences of the the universe. We are speaking, of course, of mythology.

Myths can range from the completely fantastic to the absolutely banal, often at the same time. How did the universe get here? Why do we argue with our siblings? No matter what kind of magical events happen, myths, at their core, resonate with what it means to be human. While the places and characters tell us much about the culture they come from, their essence remains timeless.

We are giving each team their own mythic story, drawing from cultures from around the world. We want you to take these old tales, and think like a Hollywood exec. Imagine you’re pitching the idea for a not-so-new new movie. “Well, it’s the story of …, but wait!” The two twists take your story off in an unexpected direction.

First, is a time. We’ve randomly assigned you a year or time period to set your movie in. Your story will take place somewhere between prehistoric times and the far future. Second, we’re asking you to interpret your myth in one of three ways: as a prequel, sequel, or reboot. Because there’s no better way to cash in on a good story than telling what happened before, what came after, or just telling it over again.

SFP12 Signup Poster

SFP Lightning: Historic Locales

Fall 2014

In the past, we have given you ample time to complete your assignments. This time, we are going to need your team to assemble quickly, work cohesively, and finalize your film in record time. You may need to strip down your process to the bare essentials. You will probably need to consume a lot of coffee.

You have seventy two hours. How you use them, is up to you.

The Sparrow Film Project has brought together a community in the pursuit of creativity. We have grown from humble origins, from small gatherings at bars to large museum galas. This time, we want bring things back home. We want you to get out there in our beloved neighborhood of Astoria.

In your dossier, the primary component of your assignment is a location. We have done preliminary reconnaissance in the form of a map and reference photo. It is not necessary to shoot your entire film at your location, however it must be prominently featured (for example, as an location establishing shot) for a minimum of five seconds. We know what it’s like when weather conditions are against you. We realize that we may have given you a location you aren’t able to enter. However – we need to see that you were there. Also included is a short description or fact about your location. Work any element – from the mundane to the majestic – of this into your film.

SFP Lightning Assignment

SFP 11: Antiquated Laws

Spring 2014

The Sparrow Film Project has become an institution in our neighborhood, one which has started to extend across the country, and even internationally. As institutions grow and change, there are often strange moments in their history that we later look back at and wonder – what were they thinking?

No institution is a better example of this than the legal system of the United States. For more than two centuries, there have been many strange laws that have been on the books or laws that have been rumored to be real. Legal oddities have become part of the folklore of this nation, and now they become the inspiration for this Project’s films.

Since these absurd, outdated laws are naturally humorous and easily lend themselves towards comedies, there is another twist to the assignment. Teams are receiving their unique, randomly drawn law, and also a genre for their film.

In the tradition of The Sparrow Film Project, creative interpretation of the assignment is an important quality for a film. We encourage filmmakers to use their law as inspiration, and not necessarily re-enact the law to the letter. The city or state where each each law is from is included with the assignment as a point of interest. It is not required to include any reference to the location of origin.

SFP11 Signup Poster

SFP 10: Exquisite Corpse

Fall 2013

The 10th Installment we looked to Soviet folklorist and scholar, Vladimir Propp, for inspiration. In his Paper ‘Morphology of The Folk Tale,’ he denoted 31 functions of dramatic personae. He that most stories share comment themes and was able to map a tale from start to finish with his 31 narratemes.
This year SFP restricted participants to 31 teams. Each team was randomly assigned 1 of Propp’s functions, and instructed to always prominently associate their hero or protagonist of their story with the color red. In so doing, stand-alone pieces were created and combined to exhibit an exquisite corpse that follows the art of storytelling through Prop’s functions.

The Origins

The first nine editions followed simpler formulas, evolving over the years.


Spring 2013

Each team draws a title, genre, and prop from the hats.


Fall 2012

Each team received the same title, drawn at random: Whispers in the Palace and their choice of one of three genres (post-apocalyptic, horror, or comedy).


Spring 2012

Each team filled in the title
"___ Walks into ___".


Fall 2011

The hat was filled with headlines from the Sunday edition of the New York Times for the signup day.


Spring 2011

Each person signing up submitted two titles which would be put into a hat, and selected one as their assigment. They also selected a genre from a second hat.


Fall 2010

Each person signing up submitted two titles which would be put into a hat, and selected one as their assigment. They also selected a genre from a second hat.


Spring 2010

Each person signing up submitted two titles which would be put into a hat, and selected one as their assigment. They also selected a genre from a second hat.


Fall 2009

Each person signing up submitted two titles which would be put into a hat, and selected one as their assigment.


Spring 2009

Each person signing up submitted two titles which would be put into a hat, and selected one as their assigment.