Why even attempt to create a film in 48 hours? Well every filmmaker across the country that signs up for the 48 Hour Film Project does it for a different reason. Some sign up for the pure adrenaline of it while others look at it as a test of chops. I do it as a test of chops, and as an opportunity to work with a group of people that I often don’t get the opportunity to work with throughout the year. This year was my third year signing up for the event and many of the folks that joined my team on year one came back to do it a third time with me. They’re a super talented bunch of people that I feel privileged to work with.
In case you don’t know the scoop the 48 Hour Film Project is an event held in cities across the country where filmmakers gather to attempt to craft a short film from the ground up. In hour one the filmmakers all draw a genre of film to create, get a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue that must be included in their film, and they set off to writing. In the hours that follow the filmmaker and the team that he/she has assembled must write, produce, and submit a finished film back to the leader of the project before the 48th hour of the project has ended. The films are viewed by a jury and then screened at a local theater. After the screenings an awards ceremony is held. There are several prizes given out but the one to get is the best overall film. That film then competes with the best of the other cities on a national level.
Being our third year participating in the event our team has a solid working formula to get the project done. We meet a few weeks prior to the event and begin to search for additional actors or other elements that we “might need” for the potential film. We also begin getting clearances filled out for potential shoot locations whether it be houses or businesses. Since we don’t know the story we are going to yet tell we just clear as much as we can because often it can be difficult to get clearances over a weekend and during the film’s shooting. We also take a look at the genres we will be drawing from and discuss potential stories that we might tell. There are too many genres to literally write stories for each one just in case we draw that one and besides that would go against the reason for doing the event in the first place. It is kind of great to at least have some sort of idea of what we might do for a given genre if we draw it.
So I went to the assigned location and drew the genre I was least excited for this year. The first two years we participated I actually drew genres I was very comfortable shooting. I’ve kind of been hoping to stretch my wings and really test myself with one of these projects and in a way I did with the genre I drew. It’s not that the story was so difficult to produce but it just falls out of my realm of experience, but not far enough out of it to get me excited. The film we eventually produced titled Drag does end up being something I’m quite proud of though. I co-wrote the screenplay with two other team members and that was a fantastic experience and as stressful as the rain soaked shoot often was. The shooting and editing of the film was a lot of fun too. My normal shooter wasn’t available this weekend so I had a great friend who is experienced with still photography give it a go. Overall, he did a great job and I know we’ll shoot more projects together.
The final hours of editing and mixing were both the most stressful and the most entertaining. I was hunkered down behind the laptop cutting the film in one office of a complex donated to us by a team member while the sound designer was in the other writing music and the rest of the team was in a conference room working on paperwork, graphics, and other last minute details. We hit some rough patches in the assembly of the film and found ourselves with a finished film and only 20 minutes left to the submission deadline! Fortunately it wasn’t far to the drop off location and we had our film and required paperwork submitted 11 minutes before the deadline. We hung around for a bit to watch the last minute teams literally run into the studio to drop their films as the final seconds ticked away. Some teams were too late. Those films will be screened but will not be eligible for competition. At least their films will be shown to sold out audiences in a great theater.
It’s a challenge every year and I have to thank the team that trusts me every year to lead them into this event. I’m sure there aren’t many teams across the country with a legally blind director/writer/editor running the show. None of these guys think twice about jumping in every year. So on a personal note, thank you Nathan, Danica, Mike, Alan, and Art for jumping in every year and thanks to Ada, Zach, Dustin, Laurie, Alan, Colleen, and all of the rest that came to the team new this year. Yes there were two Alan’s. Had my regular shooter been on the team this year there would have been two Zack’s this year too!
If you’re interested in filmmaking this is an excellent event to volunteer for. You may find yourself behind a camera for the first time! The limited amount of filmmaking time makes for some pretty radical decision making that’s for sure. If the event has passed in your area, as it has here in Nashville, go see the films and meet the filmmakers. You’re guaranteed an interesting night of films and it’s a great opportunity to meet the film community in your area. IN Nashville the screenings are July 25th and 26th. There are four blocks of two hours each. Our block begins at 6:45 central time on Thursday the 26th. The films are showing at the Malco Smyrna theater and each two hour block is only $5! To get tickets head on over to http://filmnashville.org/48hourtickets/
To learn more about a 48 Hour Film Project near you check out http://48hourfilm.org