I think we’re all familiar with 48 Hour Film challenges, whether we’ve participated in one or not.  Several fellow filmmakers have participated in the past, but we had never stopped long enough to think about trying it ourselves.  But this past summer we realized that if nothing else, it would be a great way to test ourselves as filmmakers and to improve our efficiency and ability to react quickly to changes and challenges.

There are a few different ones out there.  But for the most part they function in similar ways.

First step is to sign up your team.  It can be just a couple of people or several.  In my opinion, less is better.  When you’re working under such a strict time line, it’s easier to manage that time with less people involved. In our case the Watergun Outlaw Production team of Lance R. Marshall and James E. Oxford joined up with BeeNest Films team Shannon Beeby and Ryan Jonze.

The next step can happen in a couple of ways.  Some competitions have a specific day and time that the competition starts.  Others leave it up to you to decide when you want to start the clock.  Because our schedules are usually pretty crazy, we chose a competition that allowed the latter, which is known as the the 48 Film Project.

We were headed to the screening of a film we co-produced, “R.S.V.P.”, at the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival in Cambridge, MA.  We decided to head up to the Massachusetts area a couple of days early and rent a house on Homeaway.com to use as our location.

Our competition had a few requirements.  First, we had to select a genre.  Then, once we were ready to start the clock, we would click Start. The website would then gives us a character name, their occupation, a line of dialogue and a prop to be featured in the film.  The film, including credits, cannot be more than 7 minutes.  Once the clock is ticking, we would only have 48 hours to get our prop, write our script, film it, edit it and upload it to the website.

Because we were not sure what prop we might need, we decided to find a Wal-Mart near our filming location and then hit Start in the parking lot as to not waste any time.

For our genre we chose Horror, though we figured whatever we created would probably be more of the Thriller type.

We then hit ‘Start’.

We were given the following:

Character:  Dennis Talbot a Mechanic

Prop: Black and White photo

Line of Dialogue: “I need evidence”

Now that we had all of the requirements, we needed to come up with story ideas and then get a script written.  Once our shopping at Wal-Mart was complete, we began the 45 minute drive to our location.  During that drive we tossed around story ideas, each one more bizarre than the other.

As soon as we arrived at the location, we were greeted by the home owner.  Though I’m normally appreciative of a thorough walk-through, it was cutting into our time as the clock was already ticking.  Once they had left, we immediately began finalizing our story based on the location and the rooms we had to work with.  The location was amazing with its old creaky floorboards and dark and dimly lit basement all surrounded by gorgeous trees and a feeling of solitude.

What made this the most challenging was that the four of us were experienced actors, producers, writers and directors.  What we were not experienced at was DP’ing, sound, lighting or editing.  But, thats the point of the competition, tackling tasks you’ve never tried before. What followed was 40 plus hours of writing, filming, and editing on zero sleep.

Full disclosure, all of us involved are perfectionists.  We had already discussed that whatever we create could possibly end up being a mess that should never see the light of day.  And if that was the case, we would not submit it.  We’ve done a great deal of work that we’re very proud of with crews of people who are all experts in their field.  But in this case, we were definitely out of our element in a few of these positions.

Once the filming and editing was complete, we sat there exhausted as we watched our weird little film about how a woman’s unexpected evening unfolded.  We turned to each other after it ended and asked “Was that actually not too bad or are we just exhausted?”  We agreed we were actually proud of what we had created and surprisingly excited to be uploading our film with an hour to spare.

What followed was a couple of days at the Massachusetts Independent Film Festival where we spent a great deal of time reflecting on this experience we just had.  It was a truly educational and eye-opening adventure.  We all learned so much and walked away so eager to do this again.

And I would have expected that to be the end of the story.  The competition we entered is a world-wide competition with films being submitted all year long from all over the world.

But to our surprise we were notified this past December that our film was one of the top 30 films submitted in 2016.  In January we were notified that our film had advanced to the Top 15 films and would be screened at the Directors Guild Theater in Hollywood in March.  And that our lead actress Shannon Beeby had been nominated for Best Lead Actress, which she WON!

What a wild and unexpected conclusion to what we originally expected to be a learning experience, but not something we would want to submit, to be one of the Top 15 and our lead actress winning Best Lead Actress.

Just goes to show that you should always try new things.  Regardless of the result, the experience you gain as a filmmaker is invaluable.  And as an independent filmmaker, it’s important to step into roles you haven’t taken on before.  The more you know, the more successful you’ll be.

Now you’re thinking; “I want to see this movie”.  No problem, here it is.  Enjoy!