You have to be a little crazy to try to write, plan, cast, shoot and edit a short film in just two days. Yet 16 teams of people who are that exact kind of crazy took part in the 48 Hour Film Project Providence in August.
The 48 Hour Film Project is an international competition, and Providence has been participating for 16 years now (full disclosure – the author was the Providence 48 Producer from 2006-2010).
Here’s how it works: Participants sign up with no idea what they’ll be filming. They can prepare equipment and crew, and line up possible cast and locations, but they can’t do anything else in advance. On the Friday night of the weekend there’s a kick-off event where required elements are revealed. A prop, a character and a line of dialog must be included – this year, those were a basket, Christy or Chris Nattingly, Hotel Employee, and “I have a question for you.”
One clever filmmaker featured a basket sitting randomly on its own by the roadside as characters race by. The characters stop suddenly and give the basket the hairy eyeball – a covert nod to the audience – they then both begin chasing each other again. To an audience in the know, it’s hilarious, but in general the idea is to try to come up with a story that relies fundamentally on those required elements. However you use them, you have to quickly come up with your story, produce and edit a film of 4 – 7 minutes. Ideally, but not always, a coherent film. Occasionally, a really great film. And it gets harder: At that kick-off event, each team pulls a genre out of a hat – anything ranging from Rom-Com to Horror, Mockumentary to Sci-Fi. The film needs to match that genre. It all comes together to ensure that teams conceive and make their films over the course of a single weekend.
The 48 HFP recently changed leadership, and the current Providence Producer is Melinda Rainsberger, who also led the project for a stint several years ago. “I love seeing the creativity and energy this experience brings out of people,” she explains. Rainsberger is a video artist, UX designer and motionographer based in PVD (more full disclosure – she also created the logo animations Motif uses on its video channel – check FB or YouTube for examples).
The annual event featured screenings on the Wednesday after the films were turned in. “In the spirit of the 48 and what the teams go through,” says Rainsberger, “I created all of the promo reels, programs and support materials in 48 hours.”
This year’s films were all turned in on time, which might be a city record. A few were disqualified for length or for misusing required elements. One film tragically dropped a line of dialog – the character says it, but the audio goes silent for a single random line, which turned out to be the required line. Better luck next year! At Wednesday’s screening, there were some less successful and some really engaging pieces, all conveying inventiveness and enthusiasm. Plots varied from the vengeance of undead relatives (a strikingly shot film by repeat participant Alyssa Botelho and Chicken Dinner Productions) to gangsters escaping a desert, and from a completely amoral team of burglars pulling a heist to the misadventures of a hotel-based serial killer (Who stays there? I guess all the guests do.)
The award winners are selected by judges and from audience voting – you can see the winning films at an encore screening on Thursday, August 25 at AS220, 115 Empire St, PVD at 6pm. The screening will be followed by a QA with filmmakers whose weekend war stories can be as entertaining as the films themselves. You can also check back here after the event for a link to the winning films.