In 2003, with my uni life behind me, I watched more movies than any other person in history. This is the true tale of my triumph.
To Boldly Sit: How I became a World Record Holder
[Originally published in Semper Floreat, the Student magazine at the University of Queensland.]
In December 2002, after a failed tilt at the UQ Student Union Presidency, I decided a Road Trip was in order. My friend Rob Byrne and I decided to drive to Melbourne – and the first stop on our 4,500km odyssey was, of course, a Book Store.
Rob was hunting a new translation of Sun Tzu’s Art of War, but I picked up the Guinness Book of World Records. As Rob looked over my shoulder, I opened the tome to a random page…
…and there, catching our eyes simultaneously, was a record we had never seen before: World’s Longest Movie Marathon.
Remarkably, the record in 2002 stood at a pithy 41 hours. We could watch movies for 41 hours. Heck, we could probably go longer. We could be world record holders!!
Clearly, destiny awaited. But how exactly does one go about breaking a Guinness World Record? I jumped online, submitted my details, and waited for a response. I was informed this could take 6-8 weeks.
Exactly 6-8 weeks later, an e-mail arrived. Attached were the strict rules of the Movie Marathon, as well as news that the record had been broken: it now stood at 59 hours and 27 minutes.
The rules are tough. For instance, it has to be in a public cinema; you need two witnesses and a medical supervisor to be present at all times; and you can only go to the toilet during a 15 minute break after every third film.
Realising we could veil this as a charity event to mask our egos, we decided to use the event to raise money for the State Emergency Service (SES). They loved the idea, and better still most of them have medical training. Throw in a few med student friends, and the witness condition was met!
We then went looking for sponsorship. Sure, the rules were strict, but they were open to interpretation. A ‘cinema’ basically meant a projection screen – Panasonic jumped on board to lend us two projectors.
We talked to Damo at the now defunct V’s Caffé Indooroopilly about giving us free coffee – he offered us half a café, and agreed to remain open for the entire event.
Suddenly, we had a cinema, a public place, and free coffee.
We quickly isolated the Toilet Rule as the toughest. Sure, you don’t need a whizz every 6 hours – but what if you’re not ready to go at the right time? What if you’re busting, and you’re only halfway through The Godfather Part 1? There had to be a way around it…
…and there was. The rules say “every third movie” and later that all movies had to be “feature length” (70 minutes for all you trivia fans). If we kept the films short, that meant we could keep the piss-stops close together. It would also maximise our 15 minutes breaks.
Rob and I started by putting together a list of movies, and their running time (which, with the rules, included all the credits). Video Ezy Kenmore came on board, so we spent an hour there and an hour with our collections compiling the list. That was when we discovered that Rob has no taste in films. (His version of events says I have no taste in films, but I don’t see him writing an article for Semper, so my version sticks. History is written by the good looking.)
We compromised, with the power to veto, and in the end agreed it would be best to have mostly films we know and love – an untested and deathly boring film at 3am could sink us. We grouped our selection into lots of three movies, pairing longer films with shorter films so our toilet breaks were never more than 6 hours apart.
Finally, we had to select a team to break the record. Other attempts involved huge numbers of random individuals – the 59 hours was set at a cinema in South Africa by more than 100 people – but we knew a small group was the key. In the end, only two others felt they had it in them: good friends Brett Cruice and Joel Dawson.
The Day Arrives
We began our attempt on Saturday June 21st, 2003. V’s Caffé had been remodelled into a “cinema”. The videos were stacked up. The projectors were readied. The witnesses arrived. The lights went down. And Breakfast at Tiffany’s (my favourite film) began. If we were to break the record, we would need to live here and watch this screen from 9am Saturday to 8.28pm Monday night.
The first hours progressed as anticipated, and nervousness was replaced by the simmering thrill that only comes when you make history. As the sun set – June 21st was the shortest day of the year – we settled in for the night.
Saturday passed without incident, but not even daylight could save Joel, who had started the attempt under a cloud of illness. Despite me donning a frock and make-up to dance along to the choreographed cheerleading numbers, he fell asleep during Bring It On and was evicted.
As the movies blended into each other, it became an exercise in following rules and staying awake. A routine developed; the first movie of any set was easy; in the second film, a light snack to boost energy might be in order; only during the third film would one consider a beverage – usually water. We all made it past 36 hours without a single coffee.
Can you spell diuretic?
Then, tragedy struck. In the wee small hours of Monday morning, as we passed the 41 hour mark we had once aspired to, Rob’s poor taste in movies almost cost me the record. Freddy Got Fingered, which I had been assured was riotously funny, was not. Struggling to find meaning in a film devoid of humour, I went perilously close to snoozing. Despite it being the first film in a set, I asked Damo to make me a coffee.
The caffeine was instantaneous. So too was the movement of all bodily fluids to my bladder.
I needed to pee. Badly. And there were still more than five hours, and at least one Adam Sandler film, before I could use the bathroom.
Five hours. 300 minutes. 18,000 seconds. At least three lifetimes. In that time I invented, refined, and mastered the art of Tantric bladder control. Dawn crept through the window. It appeared that I was going to be survive. And in walked an ABC Radio journalist with only one question on her mind.
You will be pleased to learn, dear reader, that in addition to holding a world record, I have been interviewed live on ABC Radio about my incredible need to pee. How badly did I need to go? How many minutes until I could? They even called a doctor to discuss the damage I was doing to my kidneys – he advised my bladder was bearing the brunt of any lasting injury. Thanks Doc!
The journalist left, but I still had fifteen minutes. I pride myself on never giving up. I had come so far. Interestingly, if you’re into this sort of thing, peeing in a bottle is not against Guinness Rules. Workplace Health and Safety on the other hand…
Cometh the Hour
With this treacherous incident behind me, I knew the record would be mine. Not even a technical glitch that threatened to end the attempt with the record in sight could dampen my enthusiasm.
8pm Monday passed. V’s Caffé was packed. Phone calls were rolling in. I got a text message from Scotland. And the crowd began the countdown.
Nothing – and here I include Graduation, Childbirth, and walking on the moon – can compare with the moment the room erupted. We had done it. We had watched more films, under tighter conditions, than any person in history. Any person. Ever.
Jacob’s Philosophical Crap
We eventually lasted four more hours, moving into Tuesday. We could have carried on, but knew no matter what record we set it would eventually be broken. At that point we were atop a pinnacle of endurance. We were the best in the world.
Our record – 63 hours and 27 minutes – was approved and acknowledged by Guinness World Records. We never made the book, and our effort has been surpassed at least three times. I understand the current record sits at 72 hours. Others are preparing to break that.
Such is life. I have no desire to re-set the record – I’ve already achieved that. But the memory of those days, and that moment, is something nobody can ever take away.
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