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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


Amazingly, Westgate and Michelle Bretana (his writing partner, assistant director and script supervisor) have the basic idea for their film planted in their brains when the group convenes for dinner at Tijuana Flats at 8 p.m. Between flautas and burritos, the concept becomes clear: A hero cop and his tech-savvy, nerdy, Google Glass-wearing partner thwart the evil plans of a pair of James Bond-like villains. It’ll have action and suspense, but mostly it will showcase outrageous comedy, thanks to – spoiler alert! – a homing-missile device implanted in the nether regions of a kidnapped cop. It’s “

Lethanal Weapon,” if you will, although an admittedly PG-13 version, to conform to the standards of the project, which stipulate no nudity or excessive use of adult language. (Ward admits that a few entries this year push those limits, so parents beware.)

“Let’s fool the audience into thinking it’s all action, and then get goofy,” Westgate says. “Kick ’em in the comedic balls.”

By 8:30 p.m., we have a title: TechSquad. And finally joining us for dinner are the two villain actors, Christina Carmona and Nando Luis Torres, the latter having rushed here from his tech-school graduation ceremony.

At 9 p.m., the conversation turns technical, and cinematographer Corey Steib gets involved, discussing lighting, lenses and set-ups with Westgate. At 10:30 p.m., after more discussion about costumes and plot, the group disbands, slightly giddy and loopy, but the screenplay isn’t finished until 4 a.m. This allows Bretana – who, in her first significant film role, will also play the police captain – just one hour of sleep. Westgate doesn’t do much better, getting just three hours of fitful rest.

Saturday is shooting day. We arrive, eager but sleep-deprived, at the offices of graphics company Edge Factory, which, conveniently, Westgate and a couple of other crew members have access to. It will serve nicely as police office and missile-control room.

The camaraderie is evident, as all actors come early, even those whose scenes won’t be shot until the afternoon. Showing up for the first time this morning are two actresses Westgate has worked with before, Brittany Isham and Amanda Powell, who will play a second pair of buddy cops, and Hans Christianson, who, as Agent Bleshing, will be imprisoned, chained and beaten by the two villains – the day after receiving a vasectomy in real life. Talk about dedication.

At 9:05 a.m., the shoot begins with green-screen work that graphics and animation supervisor Grayson Blackmon will turn into the film’s intro. At 10 a.m., after Westgate confers with cinematographer Steib and camera operator Jay De Los Santos, the true filming begins, and it doesn’t stop until we break for lunch, hungry and a bit weary, at 1:30 p.m. But despite the weariness, Westgate can’t resist a sarcastic barb to his actors: “They say never work with children or animals. I’m working with both.”

An hour’s lunch at Chili’s is our only downtime. And in the proud workaholic tradition of Chaplin, Kubrick and Kazan, Westgate turns to me while eating and exclaims, “I haven’t peed yet today.”

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