Why We Do The 48 Hour Film Project

It’s no secret that we are long-standing participants and continued enthusiasts of the 48 Hour Film Project around here.  Apart from the stack of awards we have received over the years (including three for Best Cinematography, two for Best Editing, two for Best Special Effects, two for Audience Favorite and Best Film for Welcome to the Neighborhood, which screened at the Festival de Cannes in 2013), it is a great exercise in active filmmaking participation, by being forced to create in a specific, condensed time frame, with elements shared by all participants (namely a genre, drawn at random, a character, prop and line of dialogue).  

In many ways, such an endeavor can seem too limiting on the creative process; an unnecessary increase to one’s stress level.   So, why do it?

Three primary reasons:
(1) Big Risk, Big Reward
(2) Learning and Earning Experience
(3) It’s Actually A Lot Of Fun

The Risk.
In the filmmaking world, more often than not, completing a movie can be more than half the battle.  Lots of us have grand or even small-scale ideas and while creative vision is vital, it is all too easy to start strong only to get overwhelmed, forced to throw in the towel even before getting out of pre-production. 

The Reward.
48 Hour Film Project, however (or any decent film competition), forces you to finish what you start.  At the end of the process, there is a built-in showcase for your film, through which there is always audience feedback and the opportunity for prizes and awards to the networking before and after the screenings.   When the Baltimore 48 instated a “Best Of The Fest” Screening as part of their award-giving ceremony, Star Wipe’s films have never failed to make the cut and we take considerable pride in that.

Learning & Earning.
While you do subject yourself to a three-day intensive and you don’t have any sort of guarantee that your film will actually turn out to be good, you ALSO learn a great deal about what makes finishing a film possible.  In other words, you learn the value of prioritizing your time and what aspects are most important to telling your story.  The 48 demands resourcefulness and improvisation, as well as the implicitness of planning ahead.  and those are tremendously important things to know for any production; indie, big budget, and everything in-between.  Despite having specific elements that you must fuse into your film, you are still left with a great deal of work to do in order to make the film whole and function coherently around them.  It can often bring out talents you didn’t even know you have and being able to expand your skill set is always valuable, right?

In 2013, Brian announced that we would not be returning to the Baltimore 48 the following year due to the upcoming production of Apocalypse Rock, for which we needed to devote all our time and resources.

That said, after a swift production phase of “ARock,” a successful IndieGogo “Finishing Funds” Campaign and premiere, the film has been making the rounds at multiple festivals and competitions, winning several awards and garnering lots of positive feedback.  In the interim and new phase of waiting for results, however, it happened to be time, once again, for the Baltimore 48 and the team realized that they did miss participating.  There is a draw to produce a project on your own terms, without any forced framework—to just “get out there and do it”—but there is also a uniqueness to the 48 that facilitates content to be generated in such a way that doesn’t happen under any other circumstances.  So, in a last-minute decision, we rallied a team together—though a much smaller team than in previous years—and tossed our hat back into the ring.  Last year, we were given a roll of tape, the character Q. Treller, a secret society member,  and the line, “sometimes the best answer is no answer.”  We drew Thriller/Suspense as our genre and we were off.   This was also the first project we took on with Robin Farrell as part of our team; she has since become DUO Media Productions’ first full-time employee.  And that’s another boon of the 48: networking.

It’s a cliché, but an honest one.  The 48 is a great opportunity to rub elbows with local filmmakers and successful creative teams.  The 48 is a hodgepodge of different types of creative vision, as well as like-minded visionaries as well; here, you can make new connections that can grow beyond that initial forum, just like we did. 

The Fun!
Make no mistake: we have a blast on our 48s.  If it was all work and no play, of course, we’d be run ragged by now and certainly wouldn’t hold such favorable view of the competition.  The collection of films we’ve created would mean nothing if it hadn’t been a fun journey making it happen.  Each film we’ve made is just as enjoyable to watch as it is to recount the “making-of” process; what the elements were, how much the story changed from Friday night to Sunday’s earliest hours, and what we wish we’d done differently or couldn’t believe worked out, better than we could have ever imagined.  Filmmaking is work and it is a business.  It is art and it is a passion.  It is not one or the other; it has to be a balance.  The work is meaningless without soul and the fun is empty if it takes no elbow grease.  Right?

Our film from 2015, simply titled “Q,” earned us two more awards for our collection: Best Sound Design and Best Directing.  As in previous years, the experience was a good one.  As Karen says, whether you can participate each year “depends on…life,” but the desire to make films in this way was definitely reinstated.  So much so that we participated in the Washington, DC 48 at the end of April 2016 and it was just as much fun as the last.  Even more so, as we were able to choose between two categories and we challenged ourselves by going with the less-familiar option of COMEDY.  We learned a lot this year as we do with every 48 and we welcomed the chance to grow and become better filmmakers.

In this case, it only takes one weekend and a few willing volunteers.  What have you got to lose?