Firstly, congratulations to all the winners and fellow filmmakers that produced wonderful films under such an extremely tight deadline. I am always amazed at the level of talent located in this small Southeastern area known as the Piedmont of North Carolina. Hopefully, one day, more producers and projects with budgets to speak of will realize the amazing potential of our local crews and locations.
Our team walked away with a couple of accolades last night, including Best Writing, but that’s not really what this blog post is about. I don’t participate in the 48 Hour Film Project for the awards anymore; we faired well in 2007 and won for our city and went to the international competition in 2008 with a film entitled Cadence. I participate in the project for the joy of making a film with my contemporaries and the exercise in craft.
However, this year, I am saddened with certain aspects of how the competition was run. I will address two major concerns; one of a personal nature and one of a general nature. For those of you not familiar with how the 48 Hour Film Project runs, I will explain. Teams from different cities sign up and pay an entry fee to compete. On Friday night of the weekend the project is being held, teams draw their genre, which can be a number of different things including: comedy, drama, dark comedy, thriller, suspense, musical, western, etc. Then, all teams are given a prop, line of dialogue and a character that they must incorporate into their films verbatim. The teams then have 48 hours to write, cast, film, edit, add visual effects, score, compress and burn a copy that must be received at the drop-off point by 7:30 p.m. Sunday night. Films that are late are disqualified, as well as films that are missing or do not properly incorporate the given items of prop, line of dialogue and character. Screenings are held about a week later and then a “Best of…” screening a few weeks after that, with judging done in the interim. Awards are given at the end of the “Best of…” screening.
My personal complaint regarding our film Eat Me! is as follows: we turned in two copies of our film by 7:30 p.m. to the 48 Hour Project drop-off point. One copy was brought about one hour before the other and included the words “Oh S%&t Copy” on the cover, meaning that this was the copy to use only if the other copy didn’t arrive on time. This copy was most definitely a rough cut and did not include our score, proper ending credit video clip or several other sound design fixes. Our proper copy did make it on time and was clearly labeled on the front of the copy “Preferred Copy”. We even mentioned to our City Producer that this was the case and she said she would make sure the proper one made it at the screening.
Well, guess what? When the screening arrived for Group C the following week, our “Oh S%&t Copy” was the one played without score, proper visuals and sound fixes. No worries, mistakes happen. So, we alerted our City Producer to the problem and then followed up with a series of emails from several members of our team. She assured us that the judges would see the preferred copy and that if we made it to the “Best of…” screening, the preferred copy would also then be shown. At last night’s “Best of…” screening, yet again, our rough copy was shown. We alerted her to the this after the screening; she replied, “Oh, so sorry, I forgot.”
As a City Producer, it was her right to make sure that this concern was fixed. Our composer, Jon Fredette, put a lot of time and effort into a score that no one got to hear. Furthermore, his score at the beginning was timed to the picture to help drive the edit and create the tone for the rest of the story. Without the score, you loose out on the fact that this is indeed a dark comedy until halfway through the film. If you are that disorganized and aloof, then I recommend not taking on a position that requires an extreme amount of organization and stress.
Now, on to the general complaint. For the last couple of years, there have been judges that have had conflicts of interest. Seemingly, several people need a definition of the etymology of this concept. A Conflict of Interest is, as defined: occurs when an individual or organization is involved in multiple interests, one of which could possibly corrupt the motivation for an act in the other.
The past two years have seen judges that have been former participants in the project and have either lost or won to present competitors. Furthermore, there are several judges who are friends, co-workers and even co-owners of production companies with current participants. I would not judge the character of these people, as I am sure they made the best of decisions and used their best judgement. However, the fact alone that these judges have ties to participants that could be drawn into question is very disconcerting. If they choose their friend or colleagues film as the best film and it is not, this is a problem; likewise, if they don’t choose their colleague’s film because they are worried that a backlash might ensue, this too is a problem. The only way to have a properly judged competition is to put up a panel of judges where none of this is an issue to begin with.
Maybe everything was judged properly, and I’m sure, more than likely, it was. However, why instill a situation that presents questions like this and leaves discomfort and bad tastes in other competitors mouths? Don’t even let the questioning of such motives itself be raised. Also, I think it is of the general opinion that two films this year were the best bet for representing our city’s interests in the international competition. Neither of those films were my own and I only know the heads of those teams by name and acquaintance , so I have no reason to stand up for them on personal merit. They were the best films, and they didn’t win. Could poor organization and conflict of interest be a part of this? Maybe, maybe not, but why even let the questions arise?
Out of my four years being involved in this wonderful filmmaking experience, I doubt I will return next year unless major changes are made. Conflicts of interest, poor organization and poor management have no place in any judged competition that people pay good money to participate in. So, until some things change for the Greensboro division, I hate to say I will not be a part of it.