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Cover 09/04/2013

48 Hour Film Project returns to Orlando

Local filmmakers race the clock for a chance to win money and exposure at Cannes Film Fest

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Hans Christianson and TL Westgate

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TL Westgate, Jay De Los Santos and Corey Steib


Time was not on his side. In just 48 hours, TL Westgate, along with his team of 12 crew members and actors, had to write, shoot, edit and score a short film. It was an exercise in drive, discipline and insanity, all for the self-satisfaction it brought – along with the opportunity to see the finished work screen this week at Premiere Cinemas at Fashion Square Mall and the remote chance it might advance to the 2014 New Orleans Filmapalooza, where it could win $5,000 and eventually be shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

But Westgate was not alone. Thirty-five other local filmmaking teams subjected themselves to the same challenge – to participate in the 48 Hour Film Project, a contest in which filmmakers are given just two days to create a film that includes a character, prop, genre and a single line of dialogue assigned to them on the day they start filming. Between 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 23, and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25, the filmmakers must complete and submit the film. This year, filmmakers in more than 120 cities took part in the nationwide challenge, making the 48 Hour Film Project the world’s largest timed moviemaking competition.

How it works

Teams can come together, select shooting locations and secure equipment in advance, but no writing or production can begin before the kick-off event. Cheating is possible and has occurred in the past without repercussions, but the project makes that difficult by having teams draw one of 14 genres (slightly different each year), ranging from general ones such as comedy or drama, to specific ones like crime/gangster or mistaken identity, just before shooting begins. Films must also incorporate elements that are revealed at kick-off: a prop (a tablet this year), a character name and trait (Don or Donna Bleshing, a tightwad) and a line of dialogue (“Terrific. That is just terrific”).

Movies must run four to seven minutes, not counting end credits, and adhere to certain technical requirements, such as resolution, aspect ratio and frames per second (surprisingly, 30 frames per second instead of the more common 24). No stock footage may be used, and no one may receive compensation – not even SAG-AFTRA actors. In addition, the 48 Hour Film Project shares copyright, regardless of whether the films go on to screen in other festivals.

All movies are shot digitally, rendered as digital files and submitted on DVD or flash drive. (Since the project began in Washington, D.C., in 2001, only three groups – none in Orlando – have been ambitious enough to shoot on film.)

“I got wind of it through fellow filmmakers back in 2008, when the 48 Hour Film Project first came to Orlando, so I was there for the inaugural Orlando one, and I was part of another team,” says Westgate. “I had always toyed around with short films, and I got my degree in media production … so this official team environment for a contest sort of got my juices flowing, and from then on I’ve not stopped making films.”

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