Video contests frequently spark the creativity of Talent filmmaker Ross Williams, whose inventive take on a complicated love story won first place in the Mail Tribune's third-annual Two-Minute Film Festival.

Video contests frequently spark the creativity of Talent filmmaker Ross Williams, whose inventive take on a complicated love story won first place in the Mail Tribune's third-annual Two-Minute Film Festival.

"Robot Love" features actress Danielle Kelly, stop-motion animation and a quirky reversed timeline. It was the top pick among three industry professionals who judged the contest.

It was a favorite "primarily for unique stylization and technique, but a solid story as well," said Anne Ashbey, one of this year's judges and executive director of the Ashland Independent Film Festival.

"I love the mix of live action and stop motion and use of color to enhance the story," she added.

Williams first conceived "Robot Love" as an entry in a contest for a music video for recording artist Moby.

"It started with the idea of the robot chasing (Kelly), but what if he was in love with her? And why would he be in love with her? I sort of wrote the story in reverse, so I showed the audience it in reverse," Williams said.

The original four-minute version debuted as a local entry in the Ashland Independent Film Festival in 2012. For this contest, Williams shortened it to the two-minute restraint and used different music.

A filmmaker for 10 years now, Williams said he fell in love with filmmaking when he was in college, even though he wasn't studying film.

"My day job is being a dad," said Williams, a 36-year-old father of two. "I run a video production company called XRATS, and we do all kinds of productions, freelance editing and local commercials."

As winner of the Two-Minute Film Festival, he will get a one-year membership to Southern Oregon Film and Television, an organization that promotes the development of film, video and multimedia production in Southern Oregon. SOFAT provides a network of film-industry experts and connects members with services and resources for local film production.

Williams also recently won a national Totino's pizza video contest, earning a $10,000 prize. Although he hasn't received the money yet, he plans to put it back into film production.

Taking second place in the contest was 20-year-old Laurel Sager for her submission "Masks," a visual interpretation of a poem by Shel Silverstein. A sophomore at Lewis and Clark, Sager is studying rhetoric and media studies in Portland but lives in Ashland when she's not in school.

"Not just a playful cinematic pas de deux, this film exhibits a refined sense of editing and timing that distinguishes it from the competition. It features the best acting among all the entries," said contest judge Erik Palmer, assistant professor of convergent media in the Southern Oregon University Department of Communication.

"Masks" also was featured in the student launch competition at the Ashland Independent Film Festival and was runner-up this year in the college and high school student category.

"It had a great message. If we spent less time hiding who we are, we might find what we are looking for sooner than expected," said judge Andres Tavarez, winner of last year's Two-Minute Film Festival.

Sager won a $20 gift card to Cinemark movie theaters.

Third place went to 68-year-old Juan Quesada of Talent, with his out-of-the box composition "Aqua Vitae," a piece composed from a series of video "movements" that were processed frame by frame to create data sets based on color, pattern and other characteristics of the image. The data sets were then turned into music.

Judges were intrigued by the filmmaker's data-driven approach to scoring the piece.

Quesada won a $15 Cinemark gift certificate.

The people's choice winner was "The Reading of Hammer Ridge" by Ray Nomoto Robison.

Inspired by play readings at a local theater, Robison decided to try filming a fantasy epic "well beyond the scope of a micro-budget independent filmmaker such as myself." It featured actors in costumes and makeup reading a script. He plans to release the resulting film as a webisode series on YouTube but entered a trailer in this contest, then actively promoted it on Facebook to garner votes.

Robison won a $20 gift card to the Human Bean to keep him caffeinated through long editing sessions.

See all the entries in this year's contest at