Can you make a short movie in 48 Hours?

Michael J. Epstein and the members of the local band the Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library participated in this years 48 Hour Film Project. Even with all the hard work, the bottom line was that people work together and have fun.
Michael J. Epstein and the members of the local band the Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library participated in this years 48 Hour Film Project. Even with all the hard work, the bottom line was that people work together and have fun. © Julia Swanson, 2013

Storytelling can be complicated perhaps even very difficult at times.  But as any member of the 80 plus teams that participated in the 2013, 48 Hour Film Project Boston will tell you, it’s not impossible.

It all “kicked off” Friday May 3rd when team members descended on the Lir Irish Pub and Restaurant on Bolyston Street in Boston to select a genre, prop, character and the line of dialogue they had to included in their short movie.

From there teams like the Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library, a local band, and participant in this years 48 Hour Film Project set off to parts unknown, or in this case Somerville, to script, shoot and edit their short movie in a mere 2 days.

Developing an idea was just the first part of the challenge.  Once the team members had their idea laid out they set out to write the script, start making costumes and build the set for the retro-science-fiction-fantasy-end-of-the-world-spy-movie they had planned.

It was all very DIY in very best Original Star Trek, Buck Rogers kind of way which is exactly what they said they were going for.  Stopping by their set on Saturday May 4th around 3pm the atmosphere was light and the team of seven were keeping a steady pace as they continued to transform the first floor of the Somerville home they were shooting in, into a space aged dive bar.

This is their second year participating in the 48 Hour Film Project, and they decided to try a few new things. “We made it harder than last year,”” said Michael J. Epstein, “we wrote more and this year we’re building our set and we also wrote a bunch of music and recorded it the night before.”

Heading into Saturday afternoon the set was still being completed and there were still a few unknowns.  Shooting, which was expected to last at least a few hours, still had to take place.  Lighting and sound had to be checked and corrected.  Although their goal was to be economical with shots to save editing time, there were still concerns about having enough time for editing once shooting had wrapped.  The addition of sound and visual effects added a new layer into their post production. While confident about the implementation of the effects they were unsure of the amount of time it would require to complete them. “In a lot of ways sound is the hardest part.” said Epstein, “We are using a slightly different approach to sound this year, we’re using live sound… and hoping not to have to do any overdubs afterwards.”

Down by the waterfront, things seemed to be right on schedule for the team FFAM as they sat in the editing bays finishing their short movie on Sunday May 5th.

“The biggest problem we had was creating a story.” said Philip Cadet one of the team members. “because everyone had their own ideas.”

Made up of alumni from the teen program Fast Forward this was their first year participating in the 48 Hour Film Project.  Fast Foward is a year long program in which area teens go to the Institute of Contemporary Art once a week and learn about video production and editing.

From the look of it, their experience has served them well.  Although writing and developing the story took longer than expected, once they got started everything fell back into place.   With each of their team members having previous experience in film production they had a wealth of talent to choose from and each of the 14 team members were also able to use their different areas of expertise.

Their film, set in an alternate universe, with a minimal cast was shot over a 4-5 hour period in Forest Hills on Saturday afternoon.  Shooting outside, in a city presented, a different set of obstacles such as finding a location and dealing with background noise like cars and kids playing.   Everything seemed to work out and they were able to shoot to almost exactly what they needed for editing and were able to record audio both separately and in camera which facilitated their film making process. “We have a rough edit schedule to be done around 4 and are hoping to be completely finished around six,” said Cadet.

Whatever difficulties they might have had in production nothing stopped them and they seemed to handle everything in stride, “It was kind of stressful,” said Rene Dongo laughing slightly, “and with everything else we forgot to charge the batteries overnight.”

As the teams made their drop off and the production phase came to a close the 48 Hour film project organizers had the additional task of screening and prepping all the short movies which were shown in batches over three days, from May 7th to May 9th, at the Kendall Square Cinema in Cambridge.

As to be expected the movies were received with enthusiasm and ranged in skill level and production quality, which is part of their charm.  While things like good audio, an interesting story and decent visuals are key elements in any type of film making, also crucial is the ability to work together as a team to achieve a common goal.  Telling a good story using just words is not easy, telling a good story by combining multiple elements is quite hard.  It is admirable that so many teams completed their films this year even if the end result doesn’t work out quite as planned.

Although this years 48 Hour Film Project Boston has come to a close, don’t worry if you missed it.  There are many more happening all year long around the world if you feel like you want to give a try.

One response to “Can you make a short movie in 48 Hours?”

%d bloggers like this: