A project to challenge filmmakers
The 48 Hour Film Project, a grueling test for local filmmakers, screens its contest entries tonight at the Oriental Theater.
Milwaukee’s 48 Hour Film Project will screen this year’s entries tonight (Thursday) at the Oriental Theater. There are 29 entries, separated into two groups. Group A will begin its screening at 7 p.m., Group B at 8:30 p.m.. The audience will be able to vote for their favorites out of each group. Tickets are $10 per screening, and can be purchased online.
A total of 29 teams registered for this year’s Milwaukee 48HFP – just one of the hundreds occurring across the globe this year, in over 130 countries. The first 48 Film Project began in Washington D.C. in 2001, an experiment by filmmakers Mark Ruppert and Liz Langston to answer the question, “Would films made in only 48 hours even be watchable?” Twelve years and over 25,000 teams later, the answer is still, simply, yes.
Although awards are given out in dozens of different categories, the name “48 Hour Film Project” itself epitomizes the experimental spirit in which it was created. Teams do not technically compete, but more importantly demonstrate, in their best abilities, their passion for filmmaking.
Milwaukee filmmaker Jared Stepp is coordinating this year’s Milwaukee Project. Stepp returned to his hometown after graduating from Vancouver Film School in 2007. He has competed in Milwaukee’s 48HFP three times, from 2008 to 2010, and won seven awards, including Best Film, for his 2010 entry “Cleaning House.”
Stepp worked in film and improv in Austin, TX for years, and all the while, hoped to someday make films in Milwaukee. He came back with added experience and perspective to build a strong local filmmaking environment. Stepp explains that there is a lack of support and resources for filmmaking in Milwaukee, and cited the Austin Film Society as a good model to look towards. AFS provides filmmakers a saloon/congregation space to hang out and have meetings. It also provides education programs, a mentorship network and business resources. Still, Stepp is hopeful about Milwaukee’s filmmaking future.
“The 48 Hour Film Project is a good sounding board for Milwaukee and a good platform for local filmmakers,” said Stepp. “What we can do in 48 hours, imagine what we can do with more time and resources.”
Each year, the best film from each city goes on to compete at Filmapalooza, where the top films will be selected for screening at the Cannes Film Festival. Last year, Milwaukee’s winning entry, Flip Eleven Creative’s “Until Death,” won Best Special Effects at Filmapalooza; 2007 Best Film, “Weeds” by AURUM, was in the top 7 at Filmapalooza and was screened at Canne in 2008.
This year’s Milwaukee 48HFP kicked off on Friday, June 14. Each team had to draw a random genre out of 14 to make their film in. The genres include comedy, drama, romance, sci-fi, mistaken identity, and “musical or western” (a draw so unpopular, it gives you the option of one of two evils). The full list of genres and rules can be seen here.
Each film also had to include three mandatory components. This year’s required elements: a carpenter named Michael or Michelle McDugan, a clipboard as a prop and the line “Your guess is as good as mine.”
At 7 p.m. sharp, the competition began, and for the next 48 hours, teams used every ounce of their filmmaking talent, took their organizational skills to task, endured failure, called in favors, implemented previously seeded plot ideas, laughed, cried and most likely didn’t sleep much.
Entries were dropped off between 6-7:30 pm on Sunday, June 16, at Studio Lounge. All teams made it to the finish line. However, two teams were late – so their films will be screened, but not eligible for awards.
A good mix of young and old, professionals and amateurs/enthusiasts competed this year. One notably young team captain was Emily Green of “Green Bean Productions.” The 7th grader and first time contestant drew the dreaded “musical or western” genre. Although her entry was one of the late ones, it will still be interesting to see what this young filmmaker did with her 48 hours.
For Micah Russell of “Hawks with Videocameras,” filmmaking is a hobby. Russell, who is pursuing a master’s degree in counseling at Marquette, exercises his filmmaking passion, combined with his love of comic books and video games, by making videos for his YouTube page. This is his second time competing in the 48HFP. This year, he was joined by friends, Ellie Jerow (head writer), Kent Heberling (music supervisor), and fiancée Alison McKenzie (producer). The team said that other than some difficulties with a slow computer and despite McKenzie getting stitches for a cut on her hand hours before kick-off, things went pretty smoothly. The friends were supportive of Russell’s filmmaking hobby and contribute their talent. Heberling, an active local musician, wrote all original scores for the short film. Russell’s team also drew “musical or western” and went with western.
Other than hobbyists and aspired filmmakers, the 48HFP also attracts marketing/PR and design companies to participate. It’s not only a good platform to express their creativity, but also a good way to increase name recognition – 2007 winner AURUM is a well established design studio, and last year’s winner, Flip Eleven is a local marketing company that got a boost after winning. You can see their 2012 entry below.