Lights, camera, action! Filmmakers given 48 hours to write, produce, edit a short film

48 Hour Film Project returns to city for 12th year

CINCINNATI -- Imagine assembling a production team to make a movie. You're given a film genre, prop, character and a line of dialogue to incorporate in your project. Now you have to finish it all in 48 hours.

That's exactly what hundreds of filmmakers in the Tri-State will do this weekend as part of the 48 Hour Film Project. The short film competition allows participants 48 hours to write, produce and edit a final product. Each teams pays $175 to participate.

Even for seasoned professionals, the time time crunch for finishing a movie in two days can be stressful.

"If it’s one minute late, it’s disqualified from the competition," said filmmaker Natalie Henry of Norwood.

Henry, owner of ProudCherokee Productions and founder of Women Filmmakers Across America , has experienced this frustration first-hand. While she's made more than eight films during her career, her films were disqualified for each time she participated in the 48 Hour Film Project for turning in work late.

"It’s a wild ride. It really is. When I talk to filmmakers who have never done it before they’re really excited, which is great, but I stress to them this is something they have to prepare for you can’t just jump in and do it," said Henry, who is now serving as a co-producer of the Cincinnati chapter's event.

Why 48 Hours?

In production, every minute counts whether you're working on a major motion picture or a short film. So why limit the time frame to just two days?

Filmmaker Mark Ruppert simply wanted to know if it could be done. Ruppert, who is based in Washington, D.C., reportedly asked himself "would films made in only 48 hours even be watchable," according to the 48 Hour Project's website .

In 2001, he enlisted the help of fellow filmmaker Liz Langston to organize production teams for a weekend. They were surprised by the results. Now 15 years later, more than 800 films have been made, and more than 125 countries participate in the competition every year.

This weekend marks the 12th year for the competition in the Queen City.

A winner is selected from each state to compete in the national competition. Those films are then showcased at the Grauman's Chinese Theatre in Los Angeles for the chance to be selected to appear in the Cannes Film Festival's Short Film Corner .

It may seem far-fetched to believe a short film created in one weekend in Cincinnati would premier at the Cannes Film Festival, but it's already happened twice over the years.

Local filmmaker Kate Steele was part of the team Pizza Infinity whose short "Robot Love From Another World" was invited to the Cannes in 2009.

For Steele, who serves on the board of the Southern Ohio Filmmakers Association , the competition is an opportunity for filmmakers to get their voice heard.

"We’ve got so many creative, talented people here. It's such an untapped resource for creativity. That's what's great about the '48.' I just want to give filmmakers the chance to create a project and get it out there. It’s hard to keep on yourself, to have that self discipline to complete a film."

Steele has competed in the event three times, and now is the producer of the Cincinnati chapter of the 48 Hour Film Project.

"Every time I did it, I was always learning something. You learn how to work with people creatively on a timeline. Make sure that you’re all working on a team and working on a common goal...and have fun. It’s a fun competition and then we get to sit back and enjoy other people’s projects."

Photo: Teams pick up materials for 48 Hour Film Project. Provided by producer Kat Steele.

Come One, Come All

While the stress levels are high and competition fierce, the 48 Hour Film Project is open to participants of all skill levels and ages. Teams can range from a group of 30-40 professionals to a team of just one.

Daniel Perrea is still on record as one of the youngest people to compete. In 2011, at the age of 10, he wrote, directed, edited -- even acted -- in the short "Birthday Tremor." Perrea enlisted the help of his friends and family to fill in when needed.

"My genre was birthday party. We didn’t write a script, just made up the lines on set and it all kind of worked out. We knew what the story line was so we didn’t make a script because for us that would be a lot slower," said the now 13-year-old, who is a seventh grade student at Mercy Montessori.

His mother, Bev Perrea, discovered the 48 Hour Film Project on a whim. She knew her son was interested in filmmaking and thought the competition would be a good fit.

"We didn’t know what we were taking on at the time but he said, 'Yes, let’s do this.' The family was here to support him, but he did all the work himself. It’s definitely beyond on our skill," she said.

Unfortunately, his film was disqualified for being late, but the experience

didn't deter Perrea from filmmaking or competing. He estimates he's made more than 10 films, including a recent documentary about the rights and responsibilities of movie ratings that is currently part of a state-wide academic competition.

"I know a lot more about film than I used to. I expect not to get as much sleep...The first time around I was younger and my parents were like, 'You gotta go to bed. It's 10 o'clock.' This time I think I need to stay up," said Perrea.

Photo: Daniel Perrea, 13, is competing in his second 48 Hour Film Project this weekend. Photo provided.

Let The Games Begin

More than 23 teams are expected to take to the streets of Cincinnati this weekend to compete in the 48 Hour Film Project. Teams will be working around the clock -- on very little sleep -- to finish in time.

In addition to being eligible to become the state winner, the local winner of the Cincinnati 48 Hour Film Project will receive free screenwriting software and rental packages for camera, gear and lighting for future projects.

Steele says the prize package for the local winner was designed to help filmmakers get connected.

"We’re still growing our film community in Cincy. People do things independently, but don’t realize there is a community of like-minded filmmakers out there," she said.

The Cincinnati 48 Hour Film Project kicks off Friday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m. and ends Sunday, May 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Mainstay Rock Bar where participants are required to drop off their final edits.

A screening of each film, even those disqualified from the competition, will take place at the Thompson House in Newport, Ky. on May 25. The event is open to the public and the cost is $10 per screening.

"The great thing is once they are done with this weekend...they can submit their film to any of the thousands of film festivals in the world. There’s a lot of opportunity for filmmaking artisans to get seen on the big screen," said Steele.

For more information on the 48 Hour Film Project or the Cincinnati chapter of the 48 Hour Film Project, visit . Groups have until Friday before 7:30 p.m. to register.


Follow Emily Maxwell on Twitter, @EmilyWCPO



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