Film: Filming in 48

A behind-the-scenes look at the 48 Hour Film Project

Editor’s Note: The following is an account from a group who entered this year’s 48 Hour Film Project, a contest in which a team must write, shoot, edit and score a film in just 48 hours. The screenings will take place July 25 and 26 at Village 8 Theatres and are open to the public. For more information, go to

Waiting is the worst part.

It’s 6:30 p.m. and four of us are huddled around a back corner table at The Bard’s Town, clutching beers and waiting. After registration, they invited one team member to the drawing. We elect Erin McMahon, who has been integral in organizing our team, with the parting encouragement of: “Don’t draw fantasy!”

Erin disappears up the stairs.

You can tell which teams have competed before. They’re louder, more at ease than us. Some teams greet each other and joke around while they wait. It’s our first year, our team made up of co-workers at Vest Advertising, where it had been talked about for years. This year, things finally came together. Through office emails, we slowly prepared, picking meeting places, discussing possible locations, printing waivers, and collating binders. As ready as we were, nothing prepares you for the thrill of waiting for the draw.

Erin texts us periodic updates, and we tick the genres off as we wait to see what we get. Fantasy. The only one we didn’t want. We hole up, munching grilled cheese and trying to figure out a storyline that works. We settle on a retelling of the story of Achilles while Andrea Keifer and Bethany Billick, our photographers, insist on a sunrise shoot.

We meet at 5:30 a.m. Saturday to caravan to Taylorsville, where our graphic designer/actress Jessica Amburgey’s parents have allowed us to film on their property. By 7:44 a.m., we are still shooting our first scene, contending with minor emergencies like cars driving into the shot, continuity issues, and someone hurling squash in the background. The first scene, taking place in the backyard of the Amburgey residence, was the most difficult to shoot. It felt like the trial run as we figured out how to film something quickly and make it beautiful.

By 9 a.m., we had settled into a groove with three scenes completed. It was a satisfying feeling to check off items from our shot list. However, a new challenge was presented. We decided to include 8-month-old Jake to play our Achilles. No one was sure if shooting around his schedule was going to slow us down. Thankfully, he slept through most of the filming.

We move to our second location, a creek serving as the River Styx. It’s a muddy back road, followed by a slight hike and a lot of wading. If you ever want to test the dedication of your film crew, ask them to spend a few hours standing in a creek. After the second location, we break for lunch, provided by Jessica’s parents, Kenny and Rhonda. I don’t think we can overstate the debt we owe them. Not only did they open their home and let us rearrange their furniture, they fed us.

After lunch is the final scene. We are so close to being finished filming, but because it’s an indoor scene, it has the longest setup with lights rigged and adjusted. The entire process takes hours. As the shot is set up, Caitlin Elloitt, our art director, grabs actor Zach Driscoll for a quick photo for a promotional poster under the guidance of director Cody Vest and PA/pack mule Stevie Starosciak.

Once set up, the final shoot goes quickly. It’s 5 p.m., and all that’s left is to pack up, head out and leave Bethany and Andrea to the monumental task of editing. All told, they were awake for 40 straight hours creating the storyline, fleshing it out and making it beautiful. Another graphic designer, Damon Westenhofer, designed the way our title — “Through The Water” — looked on film. In the end, more than half of the 48-hour time limit was spent in post-production. Once the film was put together, it went to Joe Brown for sound editing. He and Erin also wrote and recorded a haunting song for the film.

Finally, deemed as complete as it can be, our 5-minute, 28-second film is pressed to DVD and, as 6:45 p.m. approaches — 45 minutes to deadline — it is rushed to the turn-in point.

We still don’t know how this story ends. The screenings take place Wednesday at 7 p.m. and Thursday at 9:15 p.m., and that will be the true test of our film. But in testing ourselves, it feels like success.