48 Hour Film Project demands you to ‘just do it’

Local filmmakers hit the streets this weekend to shoot a film in two days

Meg, John and Don: Photo by Tinsley Carter  Megan Dillinger and John Carter rehearse with director Donald Mahoney for the final scene in last year’s 48 Hour Film Project entry “The Cold Burn.”

Meg, John and Don: Photo by Tinsley Carter Megan Dillinger and John Carter rehearse with director Donald Mahoney for the final scene in last year’s 48 Hour Film Project entry “The Cold Burn.”

It was Woody Allen who first said, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up.” That could be seen as the guiding philosophy of the 48 Hour Film Project, the global film competition that is returning to Louisville for a second year July 20-22. The local organizer, Sheila Berman, explains that it’s a way to find potential filmmakers, meet people and, because it’s not a big time commitment, “force procrastinators to just do it.”

The 48 Hour Film Project is the brainchild of Mark Ruppert, a D.C.-area filmmaker who in 2001 decided to create a competition that gives people two days to write, shoot and edit a film that will eventually be shown as part of a festival. He called up a bunch of other D.C.-area filmmakers to see if they might be interested.
The result of those calls? Thousands of films and the participation of dozens of cities, from Louisville to New York, from Tel Aviv to Rome.

Berman is the film festival in microcosm. A lawyer by day, she describes the event as a great way to be creative, especially if you usually consider yourself too busy to start making movies.
“Because it’s a compressed time, it will bring out creativity in people who aren’t going to do it all the time,” she explains. “It’s a creative outlet once a year.”

It was while living in Washington, D.C., and working at the Department of Justice, that Berman came across Ruppert. When she decided to move back to Louisville, he asked her to start up a chapter of his film festival. She had experience in the arts; she’s always had a passion for theater and even managed a company in Philadelphia. Why not?

“I’m not an acting talent,” Berman explains. “I’m good at organizing. I can take my skill sets and create a forum for other people.”

[img_assist|nid=5095|title=Sheila|desc=Photo by Meghan Wiggs General practice attorney and 48 Hour Film Project organizer Sheila Berman is on call 24/7 this weekend while the filmmakers shoot their films around town.|link=|align=right|width=200|height=133]She hopes that other people have a similar approach, finding and using their skills as part of a creative team. Although some teams are filled with professionals, most are made up of students and film enthusiasts of all ages.

“You get to find out where people’s strengths lie,” she says. “The goal is to have enough people with enough skills .”

Now in its seventh year, the 48 Hour Film Project requires people to join or register a team online. Each team has to pay a nominal fee (about $100, no matter what size) and will then meet at a central location (in Louisville, it’s Molly Malone’s), be divided into screening groups and be told the guidelines for their film.
Berman will have three sealed envelopes that will contain a prop, a character and a line of dialogue that each team will have to incorporate into their film. They’re then sent out into Louisville to make their short movie. Run times are usually only a few minutes.

Sleep, unsurprisingly, is thrown out the window for these two days (even Berman is on call 24/7) as these groups struggle to put together something exciting and watchable. In the complex and frequently tedious world of filmmaking, this is as close as one gets to total improvisation.

The results will be screened July 25-26 at the Village 8 Theaters, where awards will presented for Best Film, as well as categories like Best Writing and Best Acting. The “Best of Louisville” will then be sent on for the worldwide competition. Some of last year’s global winners were packaged together and shown at the ultra-prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

Berman also hopes people use this as a networking tool, especially so more ambitious filmmakers can find people with whom they can collaborate in the future. Ideally, this should spawn a new wave of indie movies in Louisville.

The judges this year will be Louisville filmmaker Stu Pollard, prolific independent producer Gill Holland, and Kimberley Levin, a filmmaker and playwright. There’s a lot of pressure on them: The movie they choose will go on to represent us in the global competition.

Does Berman like Louisville’s chances of winning an award?
She doesn’t answer directly, but does explain that Des Moines, Iowa, won the global competition a few years ago.

“If Iowa can win, we can win,” she says.
To join a team or buy tickets for a screening, go to www.48hourfilm.com/louisville.

Contact the writer at [email protected]