Portland's 2nd annual 48 Hour Film Project
the big picture
That's how many awards my team won last month in Portland's
second annual staging of the international 48 Hour Film Project.
the bug: "The Economist," a runner-up for audience
favorite, the 48 Hour Film Project, Portland, Ore., 2005.
Well, it wasn't exactly "my" team. They
let me hold the microphone boom again this year.
And, actually, our film did win something. We advanced
to the final round of 12 and took the consolation prize of consolation
prizes: a runner-up for audience favorite.
But none of that matters.
The real point of the 48 Hour Film Project is seeing
the big picture, then catching the filmmaking bug by getting a glimpse
of how easy it all is. And how hard.
The contest goes like this: At 7 p.m. on a Friday
you draw your genre from a hat, then take the next 48 hours to make
a four- to seven-minute film.
The following Saturday you stand in line with scores
of like-minded members from all the other teams and pay $7 to watch
your film, along with more than a dozen other entries, up there
on the silver screen.
It's a rollicking full house and a guaranteed thrill.
Portland screened more than two dozen films, half
at 7 p.m., the rest at 9 and all in the historic, well-worn
Hollywood Theater. Then, on the Thursday just short of two weeks
from the start of the contest, the top 12 films were determined
by a panel of judges and shown again at the Hollywood, where winners
in several categories were announced, including top film.
The idea began in Washington, D.C., in 2001. Last
year 21 cities took part. This year there are 30 on three continents
and every city's contest has its own particulars.
counts, but so does good acting: Chris Bolton (far left) and
Lara Kobrin handled the starring roles with flair. [photo: Erin
Each Portland film contained a specific line of dialog
("What's that in your pocket?"), one certain character
(B. Lawrence, economist) and a mandatory prop (DVD player).
There are many possible genres (horror, western, sci-fi,
superhero, mockumentary, musical, romance, etc.), but if you hate
the one you draw, you can trade it for a surprise genre (rumored
to be most difficult).
Films must be submitted on miniDV, DVD or VHS
and on time.
Each city's winning team moves on to the international
contest and makes a new film in an attempt to claim the worldwide
crown. Portland's overall winner was "Fantasy Unlimited,"
by The Jeff Bridges.
I don't wanna give away my team's best secrets or
they might not invite me back. However, the second year went far
more smoothly than the first.
Roughly half of our group's 20-some volunteers were
the same as last year and we worked again under the umbrella of
Flux Films. But several newcomers added welcome dimensions in acting,
music, makeup, location and editing.
On that first Friday night we met for several hours
to brainstorm as the clock started ticking. A small circle of writers
pounded out a script from those ideas by morning. Bright and early
Saturday we started out with two working actors, then drafted three
crew members for supporting roles. All displayed unusual flair.
Lighting, props, makeup, snacks and teamwork were all first rate.
The editing crew finished a rough cut Saturday night,
while music and final edits were added over six hours on Sunday.
We ended up with a smart, funny, well-crafted film,
called "The Economist."
Our genre was comedy and our script made B. Lawrence
the main character: an economist in search of spontaneity. Four
personalities visit his home in succession, displaying distinct
brands of potentially spontaneous options. Lawrence heads off to
work the following morning after apparently rejecting every idea
before the punchline reveals one slight but notable exception.
I think everyone in our group believed in our finished product,
yet remains convinced we could do better if given another shot.
And I thought we really had a chance. But, believe me, many fine
films were submitted in Portland for 2005. And while the prevailing
motif seemed to be dark, our effort clearly came down on the lighter
But what do I know? I'm just some guy holding the microphone boom.
Only now I've seen the big picture twice. Last
year I wrote that I wouldn't mind doing the project more than
once a year. This year I heard others saying the same thing.
Oh, who am I kidding? It would have been great to win.