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Portland's 2nd annual 48 Hour Film Project
Seeing the big picture
by Mark Anderson

ero. Zip. Zilch.

That's how many awards my team won last month in Portland's second annual staging of the international 48 Hour Film Project.

Catching 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.

Location counts, but so does good acting: Chris Bolton (far left) and Lara Kobrin handled the starring roles with flair. [photo: Erin Brimmer]

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.

Portland's Hollywood Theater: so nice they named the neighborhood after it.

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.

Forty-eight hours to deadline, a week to the silver screen. (Visit the project's Web site.)

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 side.

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.

E-mail Mark at andersonenterprises@hotmail.com, and see more tripewriter.

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