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"In Reel Time: POWER UP & the 48 Hour Film Project"

Team POWER UP Made a Movie for the 2023 Richmond 48 Hour Film Project

I’ve always had a love of storytelling and film. Ever since we got our first VHS Camcorder in the early 90’s, I’ve been working behind a camera. Eventually I moved into the Mini DV world and continued until mobile device technology caught up and surpassed it in quality. Fast forward to today where I use even higher end digital cameras to film client content.

A dozen or so years ago, a neighbor of mine who knew I loved to write and tell stories, invited me to join her team to participate in something called the 48 Hour Film Project. Not having any idea what it was, I dove in head first ready for some fun and adventure. Little did I know it would spark a passion for me that has led to (to date) participating in seven of these competitions with this most recent being my first as Team Leader and Director.

Let me take a step back for a moment. What’s the 48 Hour Film Project you ask? It is a worldwide filmmaking competition that takes place each year in over 100 countries around the globe. It is open to all levels of filmmaker from those who have never done anything like this before, to experienced filmmaking professionals that create this sort of content for a living.

Simply put, your team will have 48 Hours to write, film, edit, score and deliver a 5-7 minute short film. The competition begins at 7:00pm Friday and ends at 7:00pm Sunday. Those films are then compiled and shown at a local theater the following weekend for a paying crowd. Following the premiere screenings, a team of judges then will announce the top 12 films from the area and nominations for film awards. Those top 12 films are then shown again the following weekend to a paying audience where awards are handed out and the winner of the competition is announced. That winner’s film then goes on to compete with other teams from around the world.

So what’s the catch? The only prep work that can be done prior to the start of the competition is creating your team and scoping out potential shooting locations. Included in the film are several key elements that the teams will not know until the competition begins Friday night.

These elements include each team randomly drawing a different Genre (which can be anything from Action to Buddy Film, Romance to SciFi. Even Musical) and then all teams must incorporate the same Character & Profession, Prop and Line of Dialog into their film as given out by the 48 Hour Film Project.

Adherence to the rules is key. The line of dialog must be delivered exactly as given. For instance, if the line is “It’s a party” then “It is a party” would be incorrect. The character and their profession need not be the main character but must be clearly featured in some manner so as to make it obvious to the judges. The prop needs only to be seen but creative use goes a long way. Filmmakers must keep these elements in mind as they are writing and filming.

Depending on the genre you get can increase or decrease a team’s difficulty. In 2022, our team drew “Musical”. We took the challenge on but it added a level of complexity to our project that we didn’t anticipate.

This year I set about creating a strong team of creatives that wanted to have some fun and showcase their talents, giving those the same opportunity I was given in my first 48 Hour Film Project. Our Cast and Crew consisted of fourteen talented individuals. From writers to camera operators, boom mic operators, clapboard and file managers, shot supervisor, actors, extras, runners, caterers and even a musician.

When the time came for our team to learn our genre, I picked a card from the table and flipped it over: “Dark Comedy”. Everyone was relieved to not have Musical again.

By the time we were back at the studio we had the opening shot for what would become our short film: a suitcase full of money. As Friday night got later and later, each of the three acts were mapped out on the whiteboard. When we were satisfied with our three act structure we worked on writing a script and generating a shot list which we finished around 2:30am Saturday morning.

We were back in the studio again with the cast and crew by 9:00am to do our table read and final script changes before heading out to our filming location to set up for the day. Thanks to an efficient script, shot list management and amazing actors we finished principal photography around 6:00pm Saturday evening.

I worked through the night Saturday night to put all the pieces together. I had a timeline created by Sunday morning.

By then, our musician had sent us the music she had created and I put it all together. I met one more time with my producer and co-writer to review, make any final tweaks, render and deliver which we did just minutes before the 7:00pm deadline.

That next Saturday, "Death & Taxes" was screened at Movieland/Bowtie Cinemas. Our film got all the right laughs in the right places just like we hoped and that next Tuesday night we were selected as one of the Best of Richmond and was nominated for “Best Use of Character"!

Back at the theater for the second weekend, we got to see our film on the big screen once again and to my surprise we did win the “Best Use of Character” award. During the ceremony, the judges announced a few more nominations and we were up for “Best Sound” and “Best Original Song”. Though we didn’t win in those categories I was still so proud of the team for all their hard work.

Participating in the Richmond, Virginia 2023 48 Hour Film Project was an enriching, intense, but ultimately rewarding experience. From the moment we selected "Dark Comedy" as our genre, the announcement as one of the "Best of Richmond”, three nominations and an award for “Best Use of Character”, every aspect of this journey solidified my belief in the power of teamwork, dedication and the magic of bringing stories to life on the big screen. I am immensely proud of what we accomplished in 48 hours and cannot wait to see where our collective talents lead us next.

In all likelihood, it will be in October for the 48 Hour Film Project: Horror Edition.


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