Monday, August 11, 2003

Exhausted filmmakers wind up 48-hour shoot

By Margaret A. McGurk
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Chase Anderson, director of photography with the film group KAN, talks over a scene in their short film titled Forever Dawn with actors Gwen Gordon and Fred Anderson.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
| ZOOM |
By mid-morning Sunday, Britt Warner was filthy. He had spent part of the previous 30 hours dropping onto a grimy Over-the-Rhine warehouse floor, mimicking the sound of a falling body for a moviemaking team called If It Moves, Shoot It.

Most of the crew - still on their feet around him and his co-producer, Mia Caporale - were just as dirty, just as tired and just as elated.

"This," Warner said, "is the filmmaking Olympics."

Over two sleepless nights and two frantic days, some 400 hometown moviemakers turned Cincinnati into one giant back lot in a contest of speed, skill and artistry.

It was the 48 Hour Film Project, a mad dash from zero to a finished short movie on digital video - never mind storms, crowds or fire trucks. Even a mugging didn't derail the quest for short-deadline glory.

Organized by a pair of Washington, D.C., independent film and event producers, the project began last year with contests in six cities. This year, the total is 12; Cincinnati was added at the urging of local artists who spread word through the Southern Ohio Filmmakers Association (which just launched its own Web site at

"This couldn't have happened without e-mail, and it couldn't have happened without the technology that allows people to shoot and edit at home," said Liz Langston, who runs the 48 Hour Film Project with partner Mark Ruppert.

Even though the contest offers no cash prizes or promise of commercial exposure, Langston said the strict conditions inspire inventive work. "A lot of people comment to me that the (movies made for) the 48 Hour project are better than an entire semester of film school."

Tonight, fans can vote for the best film at a showing of all the shorts at the Madison Theater in Covington.

Because all 23 teams had to include at least one local landmark in their work, camera crews were much in evidence. Crews shot footage at Fountain Square, the Cincinnati Museum Center, Eden Park and Longworth Hall.

Writer/director Dale Kelly, of the KAN team, spent 12 hours at the museum center shooting amid strolling families and crying babies.

"Some of that we built into the story," Kelly said.

Obstacle: Shut out

The Collective, a team led by director Ericka C. Smith, spent Saturday speeding from Wyoming to Eden Park to Mount Adams to Fountain Square. At midday, they learned they had been shut out of a Springdale restaurant where they had planned to shoot key scenes.

A flurry of phone calls later, Smith had permission to use the First Watch restaurant in Norwood for a few hours.

That wasn't quite enough. That night, Smith said, "We realized we had quite a few holes (in the movie) that we could not fill."

So, more than 24 hours into the contest, they threw out everything they had done and started over. New script in hand, the team shot new footage at the homes of editor Lee Harden in Colerain Township and crew member Ron Hawkins in Forest Park.

"Oh, we're going to make it," said Smith a few hours before the deadline. "We are absolutely going to be there."

Obstacle: Mugging

Friday, the Pentangular Pictures team thought their biggest problem was finding a gas station owner who would allow them to shoot a quick scene at a pump. That was before the mugging.

Sound technician Brad Little was in his car outside the team's production office in Over-the-Rhine when a man walked up, punched him in the face and demanded his money. Little handed over his wallet, but balked when the attacker reached for his car keys; the mugger fled.

After a police report, a once-over by paramedics and an ice pack to the face, Little was back on the set.

The team had another brief scare when a car they had borrowed was reported stolen by the owner; he apparently had a few drinks and forgot the arrangement, said location manager Stephen Freas. "We bought him a few beers and everything was fine."

Obstacle: Fire alarm

The Young Professionals crew knew to check for smoke detectors in a basement-level passage at Northern Kentucky University before setting off a fog machine.

And yet, one detector went undetected. Voila: firetrucks.

"I went racing out to call 911 to tell them it was a false alarm, but by the time I got up there, I could hear the sirens already," said team leader Chris Strobel, an assistant professor of radio and television at NKU.

Team members cheered as competitors bolted into Jefferson Hall with the finished tapes at deadline Sunday night. Notwithstanding the small material payoff, they said, it was all worth the effort.

"It's fun," said Duffy Hudson, a member of the IDEA team. "It's what we do, right? We make films."

Watch the films, cast your vote

Vote for the best of the 48 Hour Film Project shorts tonight, when the completed works will be shown at the Madison Theater, 728 Madison Ave., Covington. Entries will be divided into two programs of approximately two hours, at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Admission is $6 for each show. Information: (859) 655-4800.

Rules of the game

Conditions for the 48 Hour Film Project:

•  Write, shoot and edit a short movie (5 to 10 minutes long) between 7 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Sunday.

•  No advance creative work, such as writing or set design.

•  No stock footage.

•  No more than two cameras.

•  Everyone works for free.

•  Follow a randomly assigned genre (comedy, horror, etc.)

•  Include a local landmark or other identifying characteristic.

•  Use these elements:

Character - Dawn Sperling, efficiency expert.

Prop - A tennis racket.

Line of dialogue - "Well, I didn't see that coming."



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