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48 Hour Film Project Greensboro Needs Some Changes

22 07 2011

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.

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48-Hour Film Project Greensboro 2011

27 06 2011

Quick snap off iPhone while setting up for a dolly shot. Co-Director/Writer Dan A. R. Kelly is explaining the scene to the actors.

I was asked this morning to do a little write-up for our company newsletter, The Cube, and I was planning on documenting my 48 experience on this blog as well.  In addition, there is a blog on the 48 Hour Film Project Greensboro’s Web site that they like filmmakers to recount their experiences.  So, to kill three birds with one stone, I am going to write up the complete experience, post here, post on 48’s Web site and submit to the company newsletter.  How’s that for efficiency?

I was part of Frowned Upon Media’s team this year.  It was my fourth year working on a 48 team, some of our members first year, and we even had someone who was participating for their sixth year.  The kick-off ceremony began on Friday night at 7 p.m.  Our team leader, Patrick Griffin, and our Editor/Co-Producer, Bryan R. Higgins, were at the ceremony to draw our genre and find out what the other required components of the film would be.  Our genre ended up being Comedy and the required elements for all teams were: Character: Don or Donna Hastert, plumber; Line of Dialogue: “Where Did You Go?”; and Prop: crayons.

Following the drawing, Patrick alerted everyone via text or phone call what the essential elements and genre were, and we began brainstorming for ideas.  Most everyone met up at our sound designer, Jon Fredette’s, house (I was in via Skype) and we brainstormed for about two hours.  By 9:30 p.m., we had our idea good to run with.  Also, by this time, we knew how many characters we needed, which ended up being 10 overall.  Patrick and Dan began locking down actors from both our standby list and some cold calling.  Our Writer/Co-Director/Co-Producer, Dan A. R. Kelly, went home to hole himself away in his office with his laptop and begin writing the script.  At midnight, we had a first draft, and by 2 a.m., a final draft.  Also, by this time, we had 8 of our 10 actors locked; two female roles were all that remained to be filled.

For the story, we needed an elegant house to play as a mansion.  My uncle Mike has always had nice houses; one of his favorite past times is buying and re-decorating elegant homes and then moving on to the next “project”.  I called him at about 10 p.m. to see if we could take over his home in Bermuda Run West until Sunday morning at the latest.  Luckily, he agreed!  With our sole location locked, we planned out what time everyone needed to be there.  I, who served as our Director of Photography, Co-Director and a Co-Producer, arrived at 3 a.m. with my brother Patrick, who served as a bit actor and G&E, to tech scout.  Patrick Griffin, Production Coordinator, Co-Director and Co-Producer, arrived with most of the rest of the team at 4:30 a.m.  The final lot arrived at 5:30 a.m. and we immediately began shooting what we could.  Unable to fill one female role, we nixed the part and went with 9 overall actors.  Most of the actors arrived between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., with the last ones arriving by noon.

Our film was in the can completely by 10 p.m. Saturday night.  Several runs to our editor were made once certain sequences were shot, so that he could stay busy and move forward on the cut.  Higgins continued editing through the night Saturday, while the rest of the production crew got some much needed, but small amount, of rest.  Our Sound Designer, who also composed music, arrived back on the scene around 8 a.m. Sunday morning for duty.  I arrived at 11 a.m. and worked with Higgins to tighten the cut from a directorial stand-point; the other two heads of our directing team arrived soon after me and added their notes.  We had picture lock at 3 p.m. Sunday and I began color correcting while Jon layered in score and did post-production sound design.  Shane D. Smith, who was a G&E member on set, took our title sequence shots and finished the title sequence Sunday afternoon.

I finished Color Correction by 5 p.m., tweaks on the cut were done at 6 p.m., Shane arrived just after 6 p.m. with the title sequence and Jon worked diligently until 6:30 p.m.  At this point, we rendered what we had, minus score and sound design, and Dan A. R. Kelly went to the drop-off location with paperwork and an Oh S#%t copy, as we like to call it.  We continued layering everything in and began a burn for a final copy at 6:50 p.m.  Because of a codec difference in the timeline, the export started going REALLY slow at 89%.  I went ahead and got my car, turned it on and got Jon to ride with me as a navigator.  When the export and burn finished at 7:15 p.m., Patrick flew out of the door, handed the DVD off to me and I sped out of the driveway.  We made it to the drop off point with the better copy at 7:21, 9 minutes before cut-off.  Our film was in on time and the best version we could do in the 48 hours was received.

You’re probably asking yourself why I haven’t given any of the storyline away?  Well, I don’t want to spoil any of the film or the fun!  Screenings for the 48 Hour Film Project are on June 29 and June 30, divided into three groups.  Our group is in the Group C Screenings, which will be on 9:30 p.m. Thursday night.  Tickets are $10 each and there are about 15 films per group screening, all ranging 4-7 minutes in length.  If you can make it out, we’d love to see you there!  Otherwise, if you know one of us personally, I’m sure you’ll catch the film in due time.  Screening limitations are definitely in place currently, but as leniencies open up – I’m sure you can catch it.

From the beginning, we decided this wasn’t one person’s film.  Like any filmmaking endeavor, it’s a group process and, because of this, we decided no one would get a producer or director credit.  Instead, we simply gave that credit to the team, Frowned Upon Media.  This was our team: a super talented cast including: William Davis, Rachel Brittain, Dan A. R. Kelly, Edwin Wilson, Lee Armstrong, Karen Price-Crowder, Annabell Simpson, Robbie Pitchersky and, Patrick Mandarano; crew including: A Story by Patrick T. Griffin, Dan A. R. Kelly, Matthew Mandarano, Jon Fredette, Bryan Higgins, Shane Smith, Robbie Pitchersky, William Davis and Brook Corwin; Writer, Dan A. R. Kelly; Production Coordinator, Patrick T. Griffin; Director of Photography, Matthew Mandarano; Sound Designer and Composer, Jon Fredette; Editor, Bryan R. Higgins; Title Designer, Shane D. Smith; Grips and Electricians, Shane D. Smith, Robbie Pitchersky and Patrick Mandarano; and a VERY Special Thanks to D. Michael Hendrix, my uncle, who let us take over his beautiful home (which is for sale by the way!) for a day and a half.  Frowned Upon Media is Patrick T. Griffin, Matthew Mandarano, Bryan R. Higgins, Jon Fredette and our Honorary Member Dan A. R. Kelly.

We had a great team, I think a great film and a great bunch of actors to bring it all to life.  I can’t thank every member of this wonderful cast and crew enough and am looking forward to the wonderful films our fellow 48 filmmakers have produced.  As always, it was a wonderful, yet tiring, experience and one I hope to be a part of in years to come.  Until next year, that’s a wrap!








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