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Jump Cut

The Monthly Column on Film and Media Arts
for the
New England Entertainment Digest

By George T. Marshall, RIIFF Executive Director/CEO

 

(June 2006) Not only is the weather heating up, film production and film festivals are cropping up everywhere. Downtown Providence has been abuzz with sightings of Jim Belushi and the ongoing production of Disney’s “Underdog.” Of interest to me was the recent wrap in Boston of the 48 Hour Film Project that showcased local filmmakers and producers, in a novel and definitely challenging affiliation.


I first heard of the project, through the following press promotion:


“Not much can be accomplished in 24 hours, unless you are Jack Bauer of 24. However, all across the country, local filmmakers will fight time and sacrifice 48 hours of their lives to complete a short film.”


I’m not sure if sacrifice is the right word here; but I was definitely intrigued and set about learning what the Project was about and to discover firsthand from participants what experiences they had. I learned a great deal.


THE PROJECT’S MISSION


The 48 Hour Film Project's mission is to advance filmmaking and promote filmmakers. Through its festival/competition, the Project encourages filmmakers and would-be filmmakers to get out there and make movies. The tight deadline of 48 hours puts the focus squarely on the filmmakers emphasizing creativity and teamwork skills. While the time limit places an unusual restriction on the filmmakers, it is also liberating, according to the organizers, by putting an emphasis on "doing" instead of "talking."


THE PROJECT’S HISTORY


Back in May 2001, DC filmmaker Mark Ruppert came up with a crazy idea to try to make a film in 48 hours. He quickly enlisted his filmmaking partner, Liz Langston, and several other DC filmmakers to form their own teams and join him in this experiment. The big question back then was: "Would films made in only 48 hours even be watchable? (Which was also my question.)


The answer was a resounding yes, and now 5 years later and with more than 66 competitions having taken place around the world, it is amazing to consider the success of the Project. This year marks the 5th time the Project visited Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York and Austin, and the 7th time for DC.


The smallest team has consisted of one person who sets up the camera then runs around to be "on-camera". Their largest team to date was an Atlanta-based team with 70 people. They’ve had about 2000 teams in the Project over the years, and at 15 people per team; that translates to roughly 30,000 people who have answered the call to come on out and make a movie.


THE FILMMAKERS/PARTICIPANTS INTERVIEWED


Ben Guaraldi, Boston Producer, 48 Hour Film Project
www.48hourfilm.com


According to Ben: “I was always an avid fan of film. Growing up, it was Star Wars, Northern Exposure, and Twin Peaks. During high school, I was a devoted fan of Orson Welles and Quentin Tarantino. I thought I wanted to grow up to be a film director. So, during college, I chose the major of Film Studies, participated in the Film Society, edited the film journal, and made a few movies and a weekly television show. It was all a lot of fun.


"When I graduated, I went out to Silicon Valley to be part of the dot-com boom. For four years I didn't have anything to do with filmmaking, except for catching the occasional Steven Soderberg or Charlie Kaufman movie. And then, at Burning Man (an arts festival/temporary city in the Nevada desert), I met Liz Langston, one of the two Executive Producers of the 48 Hour Film Project. We became friends. So when they needed someone to run the Project in Boston, she offered me the job.”


Chad Carlberg, Creative Director/Founder, Bait & Tackle Ad Co., www. Baitandtackle.biz


Footnote: Chad Carlberg of Bait & Tackle was invited into the competition only five hours before the kickoff! Their film won several awards, including the Audience Award for its night.


A college art major (Cum Laude, Gordon College, 1995), Chad left his Massachusetts home to pursue a career in film production as a digital effects artist. During his five-year tenure in Los Angeles and San Francisco he worked for renowned companies like Visionart (Academy-Award Winner for Best Visual Effects, Independence Day) and MVFX (Academy-Award Winner for Best Visual Effects, The Matrix) as a compositor and compositing supervisor on many theatrical features. It was in the realm of feature film that Chad began studying the craft of editing.

In 2000, Chad left New Zealand where he had relocated to begin work on the VFX team of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy in order to follow a longtime dream of producing and directing a documentary on Dominican baseball players. Chad became fascinated with the Dominican baseball story while living on the Haitian border of the tiny country some 12 years ago. Los Duros chronicles the lives of Major League Baseball stars Miguel Tejada, Bartolo Colon, and Vladimir Guerrero, and features dozens of others like Pedro Martinez, Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz, Alfonso Soriano and Albert Pujols. The film, now in its 5th year of production, will be featured in select IMAX theaters throughout the country. The film gained early notoriety as it was one of the first documentaries to be shot entirely in the High-Definition video format.

Three years ago, Chad Carlberg started making local television commercials after recognizing the need for improvement in cable television advertising. The result was Bait & Tackle Ad Company, a fusion of the traditional advertising agency and a production company whose sole aim is to help small businesses grow through high-concept, high-value TV commercials. As Creative Director of Bait & Tackle, Chad and his team have won over 45 awards for advertising including 5 Telly Awards, a Silver Radio Mercury Award (Mark Stevick), and two Davey Awards.

 

Chad’s Sark and The Clown’s Here earned top honors for the Show Us Your River TV Commercial Contest for WXRV 92.5 The River Radio. His commercial The Clown’s Here was selected as the contest winner, airing on Comcast cable throughout Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire. Today, the company produces TV commercials for many clients of Comcast, Adelphia, Viamedia (RCN), Boston’s broadcast networks including Spanish-language Univision, and a handful of large advertising agencies.


Joe LaRocca; Top Feeg, www.topfeeg.com


Footnote: Joe LaRocca of Top Feeg was almost finished its first film, but then gave up on it and wrote, shot, and edited the second film (which was the one shown) in 7 hours.


According to Joe, “I am a graduate of Boston College's film program which is very personal and very little and very great for those reasons. The production side is lead by Professor Michael Civille, an excellent man and director. BC gave me a deep film history background, which I considered and great advantage over most local film programs. I have worked for the New York Film Academy the past two summers at their Harvard location. I have also made several short films in the semi-professional range since graduating. Now I write for a Podcast called "The Beams", write my own stuff, work on my own projects, and update my website www.topfeeg.com.

 

"I have always loved movies. I got involved in filmmaking because I am a slow reader and I don't have the discipline for science. I don't know if have those faults are BECAUSE I fell for filmmaking so early on or if those are WHY I fell for filmmaking so early on.”


THE QUESTIONS & SOME INTERESTING ANSWERS


GTM: What drew you to the 48 Hour Film Project?


Ben Guaraldi: I was excited to run such a large project. I was drawn by the opportunity to meet so many creative folks and support their endeavors and make a venue for them to meet each other. And I was interested in the shift in fields from computer programming to film festival production.


Joe LaRocca: My professor in college, Michael Civille, told our whole class about the 48 Hour Film Project. I thought it sounded like a good way to be productive. So I just mailed in the application. I really had no idea what I was getting into.


Chad Carlberg: The spirit of the 48 Hour Film Festival is very much in line with the mission of Bait & Tackle Ad Agency. But, I was inspired by my friend (Director of Photography on Los Duros, Michael Caporale) when he arrived in Boston to lecture on the HVX200 on a Panasonic and Apple Computers training tour. (visit Mike’s site at: http://24pdigitalcinema.com/). To demonstrate the capabilities of the camera, Mike showed one of the winning 48Hour films from a previous year, and I thought, “Geez. We can do better than this.”


GTM: What were the dynamics of working with different people you just met in undertaking this project?


Chad Carlberg: Once I had a list of participants, I sent them all a letter stating that ‘this is not a democracy. What I say goes. You’ll be assigned a role based on your abilities and our needs,” etc.


And then, over the next 48 hours, I learned how well democracy works.


Not only did everyone make a contribution, each person brought very useful and quite particular skills and resources. We were like the Superfriends, only with more wool than lycra.


Joe LaRocca: I only work with good friends because I don't feel like it is a weekend to be polite. I just like knowing the people before hand. For the same reason that I shoot, direct, and edit. It isn't that I am a control freak it just helps me keep everything organized which is very important when you only have 48 hours.


Ben Guaraldi: Mostly, I know my coworkers quite well, actually. My volunteers are my family and friends, and even many of the filmmakers I've gotten to know over the years.


I think for the filmmakers, it's challenging to work with anyone under such intense deadlines. It's really hard to make a film in 48 hours, and all of the folks working on it need to work as a team.

It's difficult to do that with even your friends, and with strangers it's very hard. Some of the best films that have come out of the 48HFP have been because strangers worked together, though, so it can be very rewarding, too.


GTM: How was experience different from other productions you’ve been involved with professionally?


Joe LaRocca: It is much less organized, despite all my attempts to keep it simple. It always gets loud. There are always last minute changes to major plot points and stuff like that.


Ben Guaraldi: This is my first professional experience in this field.


Chad Carlberg: With most productions, I know that I am involved before the day the project begins. We were on the waitlist for the film festival and did not find out that we could participate until the Friday that it began. Though we work efficiently at Bait & Tackle, we had to take our efficiency to new level without compromising the product.


GTM: What hat did you wear during your involvement with the Project?


Ben Guaraldi: I was the Boston Producer of the 48 Hour Film Project, which means that I ran all aspects of the festival, from booking the theater to mastering the screening tapes to emceeing the shows.


Joe LaRocca: Director, Writer, Editor, DP. But we all write as a team.


Chad Carlberg: Concept. Co-Writer & Director with Mark Stevick. Cheerleader. A hole.


GTM: What were he pros and cons pf working on this project?


Chad Carlberg: Fabulous film, worked with outstanding cast & crew including broadway talent, 17th century history scholars, (we chose historical drama after passing on “Silent Film”) a highly acclaimed DP, and even a psychiatrist on staff (“Yes, you can act. Look at you. Look in the mirror.

 

You have more than potential friend; you’re already realized. Now get out there and ACT!”)


Honestly, the greatest pro to this project was proving everything that we stand for and believe about ourselves as a company. We took what we do every day and amped it up tenfold, showing that great production and ideas can still be executed within a limited budget.


Cons-
We finally woke up the day before yesterday and our costumes smelled very, well, period drama.
Joe LaRocca: The pros are that you get to be productive and it forces you to get something done.

 

This sounds very simple but it really is the best part for us. Otherwise it is tough to get many people together and pumped about doing something. I mean our team shot a whole film on Saturday, I decided it wasn't any good and didn't edit together well on Sunday morning. So we shot a completely new movie not using a single frame from the film the day before. That is amazingly productive, and no one on my team had a problem with it. Normally if a film project didn't work out well we would put it to the side and probably never revisit it. 48 Hours forces to get something done because people are going to see it and hey you got $125 bucks on the line. The cons are that everyone has such good ideas in our group that it is very hard to filter them into a story. I get excited by ideas a lot and use them but then realize later that it doesn't fit into the story, or it is to hard to shot effectively in a 48 hour period, or it just isn't funny. If an abundance of good ideas is a con then I would say that is the one down side for us. We know the rules of the game going in so it isn't like we get mad or stressed by genre and elements and time.


Ben Guaraldi: The best part has been meeting all of the local folks who take on this challenge and seeing the often incredible films they create.


The worst part is probably that the two weeks after the screening I am working almost twenty-four hours a day.


GTM: If you were to do this again, what would you do differently?


Joe LaRocca: I guess we will see next year.


Ben Guaraldi: I might get a co-producer.


Chad Carlberg: Nothing. Not a thing.


GTM: Did you learn anything about yourself from participation in this project?


Joe LaRocca: I learned that when I don't work to filter ideas and I let everything go into the story that it derails the movie very quickly. On Saturday I was a very bad director and let everything go with no decision making (which is the main job of the director). But on Sunday after learning from my mistakes (mistakes we didn't have the past 2 years) I become a good director, made decisions, and we banged out a decent film.


Ben Guaraldi: Oh, so much. I learned that I'm a natural leader, that I have a great stage presence, that I'm good at organizing and running big things with lots of little details. I've often been surprised at how much many of the filmmakers like me. After all, I'm just doing my job by presenting their films in the best possible fashion.


Chad Carlberg: Yes.


GTM: Tell is about the process that went into creating the film you were involved with from concept to execution.


Chad Carlberg: http://48hourfilm.com/boston/blog.php


Joe LaRocca: We brainstorm all Friday, where everyone in the group has a say in controlling the story. Then we get up early on Saturday and start shooting. Then Sunday morning I edit. This year during that Sunday editing portion I realized that not only did our film not make any sense it was also not cutting together properly. I freaked out of course. Were we really going to submit this piece of crap? Where we not going to submit at all?! The past 2 years we had done Mock-u-mentary style films that don't rely heavily on organization. It is more just joke, joke, joke, insert picture of someone with a fake moustache, joke, end. This was supposed to be a much more linear story. We failed in that. So I rallied the troops and we shot "The Tell-Tale Stomach" (which was the first idea we had but didn't develop at all) in about 6 hours and got it in with 10 min. to spare hence the strange off kilter credits and the horrible horrible title.


GTM: What advice would you give to other filmmakers about undertaking such a time-sensitive commitment?


Joe LaRocca: Just make sure you keep it simple. Aim for a 5 min movie, if it doesn't absolutely need to be in the film then cut it. Don't be serious, it almost never seems to work. Remember to have fun too. Because if you do have fun it shows up on film and the audience loves it, not that I pander to the audience but it makes the whole event more enjoyable when your film is well received. I was not having fun this year until Sunday when we started the new idea, despite the fact that it was looking like we weren't going to get it in on time. It was all because I realized that if you aren't having fun then your done. That goes with most things as well.


Chad Carlberg: It’s totally worth the effort, but clear your schedule for the next week. You’ll need some recovery time.


Ben Guaraldi: Oh, so much: Plan ahead. Check your equipment. Meet your crew before hand--have a drink; socialize. Have fun while making your movie (the audience will be able to tell). Write a good script, and don't start shooting until you have one. Be nice to your teammates. Be bold: Make interesting and daring decisions. Be humble: This movie belongs to your entire team.

 

Remember the audience: Your movie is first and foremost for them.

 

For more information about participating in the next 48 Hour Film Project, go to the Project’s website at www.48hourfilm.com

 



About the Author:
George T. Marshall is the Producing Director of the Rhode Island-based Flickers Arts Collaborative, the creators of the annual Rhode Island International Film Festival for which he also serves as Executive Director. He teaches film and communications at Rhode Island College and speech communications and documentary film at Roger Williams University. He is a director, writer, producer of commercials and industrials for numerous business clients in the region and will be presenting his current research paper “Teaching and the Blogosphere” at the Annual Conference of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) in August. He can be reached at flicksart@aol.com