Wild days and sleepless nights: The 48 Hour Film Project

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The 48 Hour Film Project (48HFP) is a wild and sleepless weekend in which you and a team make a movie—write, shoot, edit and score it—in just 48 hours. On Friday night, you get a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre. By Sunday night, the movie must be complete. “While the time limit places an unusual restriction on the filmmakers,” reads the 48HFP mission statement, “it is also liberating by putting an emphasis on ‘doing’ instead of ‘talking.'”

The Minneapolis/St. Paul 48 Hour Film Project competition will be held the weekend of June 13-15. The completed films will be shown at the Riverview Theater the following week. For more information, see 48hourfilm.com.


David Sjoberg, team captain of “The Donner Party Dinner Theater,” led a team of his high school peers from Hudson, Wisconsin in the 2007 48HFP. He plans to attend film school after graduating from high school. “It’s just a blast of a weekend,” says Sjoberg. “The short time allowed makes you focus on completing the film.”

The 48HFP was created by Washington, D.C. natives Mark Rupert and Liz Langston, filmmakers who have collaborated on Lottie’s Quest, Seeing Red, and other films. Back in May 2001, Mark came up with the basic idea: what if a team only had 48 hours to make a film? He enlisted Langston and several other Washington filmmakers to form their own teams and join him in the experiment. The first year saw a handful of teams competing in Washington. In 2007, some 30,000 filmmakers competed in 55 cities around the world. That year, the smallest team consisted of one person who set up a camera and then ran around in front of it. The largest team to date—108 people—hails from Richmond, Virginia.


In the first year, there were 26 local teams competing. In 2007, that number rose to 85 teams. This year organizers hope to have at least 104 teams. If that number can be reached, then the Minneapolis/St. Paul area will have more teams than any other area.


The 48HFP came to Minnesota in 2004. Local producer Ira Livingston was responsible for bringing it here, and he has been producing the event every year since. “One day in 2004 after a particular hellish day at work, I contacted the 48 Hour people and asked what it would take to get them to come to Minneapolis,” remembers Livingston. “I basically made the conscious decision that, if I need to be the one to bring this here to Minnesota, then what do I need to do?” A month and a half later, Livingston was signing producer agreements and writing a check for the franchise fee. In the first year, there were 26 teams competing. In 2007, that number rose to 85 teams. This year organizers hope to have at least 104 teams. If that number can be reached, then the Minneapolis/St. Paul area will have more teams than any other area.

The team “Snarling and Vicious Productions” has participated in the competition every year since the beginning. Rusty Detty, a creative writer for video games from Minneapolis, heads this team of and has learned a thing or two over the past five years of competing in the 48HFP. “The first year we started collaborating and shooting right away on Friday night,” he says. “Without a well thought-out script, the shoot lasted well into Saturday and we were all exhausted. Now, on Friday night most of the cast and crew rest, while a team of three of us spend the evening writing the script. Then we start fresh on Saturday morning with the actual shoot.”


Naked Abe, the Free Range Film Festival Players’ 2007 entry in the 48HFP.

Mike Scholtz, team captain of “The Free Range Film Festival Players”, works as an associate creative director at an ad agency and lives in Wrenshall, Minnesota. He is one of the producers of the annual Free Range Film Festival, which occurs in late July inside a barn in Wrenshall. “It’s harder to get a group of people together than back when I was in film school,” observes Scholtz, “and the 48HFP is a good excuse to do so.” Scholtz has upwards of 25 people participate on his team.


“On Friday night most of the cast and crew rest, while a team of three of us spend the evening writing the script. Then we start fresh on Saturday morning with the actual shoot.”


Livingston, who trained as a filmmaker at the Minneapolis Community and Technical College in the 1990s, insists that networking is crucial if you want to work in film in the Twin Cities. “You can actually log on to the 48 Hour Website and sign up, even if you don’t have a team. Teams that need help can contact you. One of the professional teams that has competed multiple years, Central Services, [brought] in a volunteer off the website, a young teenage boy, who turned out to be a fabulous production assistant.”

The winners from each city advance to the global competition, where the grand prize is $5,000. Minneapolis/St. Paul has fared well in the overall competition, including a 3rd runner-up finish in 2004 with a film titled “Stalemate” by the team Fight 12 Collective. Last year’s overall winner was a film from Tel Aviv about a guy who could look at you and tell how much time you had left to live. “It’s harder to pull off a drama like that, rather than a comedy,” says Livingston. “But in just under 7 minutes this film was very emotionally charged, and had a great twist at the end.”

Chars Bonin, a videographer from Andover, is one of the team leaders for the “Hi-Def Chefs.” This will be their third year in the 48HFP, and Bonin is excited to be returning. “The competition with colleagues from the local film industry is great fun. I love the challenge given the set of specific elements that must be in the film and the short time allowed to come up with a creative film solution.” The first year that the team competed they had 8 different locations, which necessitated a lengthy shooting schedule that lasted from 5:00 a.m. Saturday to 4:30 a.m. Sunday. “This left very little time for the editing process, ” remembers Bonin. “The editor finished so close to the cutoff that we had to have a team member deliver the completed DVD on his speeding Harley motorcycle with only minutes to spare.”

Myron Berdahl is an independent filmmaker. He produces the cable access show Butter City, featuring interviews with local filmmakers and clips from their films.

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