Orlando-area filmmakers take on 48-hour movie-making challenge

From writing a script to makeup to post-production, it all happens in a wild competition to see who can put together the best short film in only a weekend.

From writing a script to makeup to post-production, it all happens in a wild competition to see who can put together the best short film in only a weekend.

Brittni Larson

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It’s like a future reality TV show: If you’re playing the competition right, there’s an evening spent writing the entire — yes, the entire — script, a day to shoot the whole film and nearly a day to edit. Friday night you’re finding out what genre your movie will be, and Sunday at 7:30 p.m. you’re submitting a complete film, ready to be judged by local filmmaking pros.

“It really tests everything that a filmmaker does; you have to form your team, you have to get the talent, you have to write it, you have to shoot it, you have to edit it, you have to finish it, drop it off,” said Rob Ward, Orlando producer for The 48 Hour Film Project. “It’s almost like a filmmaking boot camp.”

Since 2008, Orlando filmmakers have participated in The 48 Hour Film Project. The task: make a 4 to 7 minute film in only 48 hours. Once the teams are done, they get to watch their films on the big screen at a local theater. Each city’s winner then competes internationally, with the 10 best films being shown at the Cannes Film Festival.

The 48 Hour Film Project comes to Orlando on Aug. 22 through 24. The task: make a short film in only 48 hours, with the winner headed to compete with films from all over the world. Registration is now $175 on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information and to register, visit 48hourfilm.com/en/orlando. Watch last year’s Orlando winner here: creativeinletfilms.com/techsquad

The competition started in 2001 with a few friends passionate about making movies in Washington, D.C., and they wanted to share that with others.

“We found it intoxicating,” said Liz Langston, co-founder of the competition.

Filmmakers agreed — it has since grown to include more than 120 cities and 60,000 participants from all over the world in its 2014 competition.

Each filmmaking team is required to use a prop, line of dialogue and character selected for all competitors in their city. Orlando’s for 2013 were a tablet, “Terrific, that is just terrific,” and “tightwad” character Don Bleshing. Next they draw a random movie genre: comedy, romance or horror, for example. Then, it’s time to get to work.

“For people who are just learning it’s like a film school in itself, you have to take everything from start to finish, so there’s no more valuable experience than actually making a film,” Langston said.

The competition really makes those people flex their creative muscles. TL Westgate has participated in every Orlando 48 Hour Film Project but one since it started, and last year he won. He might sound like a pro, but e said each year there’s the fear the team won’t finish. And statistically, throughout the competition, about 20 percent don’t.

“Every year sometime around Sunday morning 10 a.m., that’s when I think, ‘Oh crap, I’m not going to finish this,’” Westgate said.

But he always has. Last year he hit the genre jackpot for his comedic writing skills — the buddy film. He used a little kernel of an idea, an old joke that’s almost always funny when it happens in movies. Then he built the script around it.

“We had this idea and ran with it,” Westgate said. “What if some guy is tied up and he needs his pants to come off for some reason, and his cop partner behind him comes up behind him to undo his belt and the front guy says, ‘I hope that’s your gun.’”

Westgate and his “buddy,” both cops, pull the scene off perfectly. But it isn’t easy for the actors, especially since his partner in the scene had never done comedic acting before.

“Our actors show up and they don’t even know what they’re going to do and say,” Westgate said.

The competition also creates a sense of urgency, and forces people to act on their creative impulses and dreams. For newbies to the filmmaking world, the competition takes them from talking about making a movie to actually doing the movie making, which is part of the Project’s mission. For veterans, it links them to other passionate, talented people in the industry who have skills they might not. It connects the creative community, helping teams of directors, editors, actors and other behind-the-scenes experts find each other, and find out if they can mesh while working together.

“I see my role is encouraging other people to make films,” Langston said. “No other medium is as visceral as filmmaking, it combines music and sound and images and it affects some of us in the strongest way of any of the arts.”