48 Hour Film Project in Portland
a line down the block from Portland's Hollywood Theater last month
provides any indication, the 48 Hour Film Project is becoming
an international hit.
The annual contest, begun in 2001 in Washington,
D.C., has spread to 21 cities around the globe. A winning film
from each city moves into worldwide competition. The clock started
ticking for the first time in Portland on Aug. 20.
first year: Click
to visit the project's Web site.
The premise is simple: Pick a genre out of a hat
on Friday at 7 p.m. Submit a four-to-eight-minute film
made totally from scratch by the same time on Sunday. Don't
be a minute late.
Less than a week later there was a surreal quality
to the Thursday-night line at the Hollywood.
After all, the creative work of 12 teams was about
to appear, larger than life, up there on the silver screen. Two
dozen films had already been shown either earlier that
night or the night before.
Sure, many of those in line were members of the
36 teams. In that way, the founders have ingeniously created a
built-in audience. But there were plenty of curiosity seekers,
too. And there was an undeniable buzz.
camera, action: Total strangers worked as if they'd been making
films together for years.
Indeed, the results differed wildly by any measure.
But every production had merits. And the real charge
came from the fact that the overall entertainment value was surprisingly
high. Judging by the buzz that continued as moviegoers spilled
back out into the street after the screenings, everyone found
something to like.
I'd first heard of the project a week prior. A filmmaking
friend reasoned that, since I'd been in bands for half a lifetime,
I'd qualify as a soundman. I was somewhat skeptical at first,
but the idea clearly seemed intriguing. Besides, good or bad,
the project would be over in the space of 48 little hours.
At 6:30 Friday evening, I showed up at the team's
warehouse-space headquarters. A half-hour later, our team leader
phoned from the site of the drawing.
works: A climactic rooftop scene calls for some creative headgear.
Our genre: action/adventure. Every Portland team
was assigned the same prop (a hooded sweatshirt) and a line of
dialogue ("maybe I did and maybe I didn't"). Each film
had to include a retired race-car-driving character named W. Winston
and an iconic image of Portland.
The brainstorming began.
Several rounds of ideas later, the team settled
on using the warehouse as a setting for a hospital where five
patients of dubious mental stability were planning a breakout.
The meeting was over a few hours later. A core group
of writers was left to create the storyboard and script.
a wrap: cast and crew after 13 hours of fliming.
By 8 a.m. on Saturday, 16 volunteers returned to
the warehouse to begin filming. A small troupe of Portland sketch
3rd Floor, came armed with a mountain of costumes, props and
The production team, working under the name of Flux
Films, included two directors, a pair of lighting designers, a
camerawoman and a creative variety of others willing to do anything
and everything on either side of the camera.
Things came together in fits and starts.
One of the project's many virtues is how everyone
total strangers in many cases worked as if we'd
been making films together for years. A lot of ideas that seemed
great on Friday were scrapped as better ideas replaced them. Innovative
energy was a constant.
What plan?: A team member's oversized posters showed up in
time for the Hollywood Theater premiere.
I held a mic boom for most of the day and appeared
in three scenes as an extra. Suddenly it was 9 p.m.
That's when the knob-twisting members of the crew
took over and, roughly 22 hours later, they'd finish a tight little
film complete with sharp edits, flashbacks, an original soundtrack,
scrolling credits and laugh-out-loud humor.
We reconvened at a bar that following Thursday evening
for a pre-screening party.
A strong sense of camaraderie remained. Most of
us had not yet seen the film. One team member had created movie
posters in time for the premiere.
The finished product is far better than I'd have
Now, here I sit at my keyboard exactly one week
later, already missing it, still telling the story to anyone who'll
listen and anxious for my own copy coming soon to a living
room near me in the form of a DVD.
I'm also thinking that the 48 Hour Film Project
should probably happen several times a year.
"The Best of the Portland 48 Hour Film Project"
and an awards presentation is scheduled for Sept. 14 at the Hollywood
Theater, 4122 N.E. Sandy Boulevard (note change of date).