48 Hour Film Project’s original speed film contest challenges local filmmakers to compete July 8-10

The original speed filmmaking contest, the 48 Hour Film Project in July offers Chicago filmmakers the chance to compete for slots in two national competitions: the 48 Hour Film Project finals, and the new HD Filmmaking Showdown.

“We’re excited to be coming to Chicago for the first time?it’s something we’ve been eager to do,” 48HFP co-founder Mark Ruppert said.

“We look forward to seeing how Chicago filmmakers stack up against filmmakers from other cities.”

At 7 p.m. on Friday, July 8, each competing team will be assigned a genre, a character name, a line and a prop for their four-to-seven-minute film. Each team must deliver their film by 7 p.m. that Sunday, 48 hours later.

The completed films will screen July 12 and 13 at Landmark’s Century Centre. Audiences at the screening will vote for an audience award winner, and a panel of three judges will choose the Chicago winner to advance to the national finals. (Full disclosure: this writer has been invited to be a judge for the Chicago contest.)

48 Hour Film Project co-founder Mark Ruppert

Teams can register via the 48HFP web site through July 3, for a cost of $125. A week before the deadline, half the 26 slots for competing teams had been filled. “The last week before the deadline is usually when we see the biggest interest,” said Darren Tibbits, producer of the Chicago 48HFP.

In the event that more than 26 teams register, participating teams will be selected at random, and teams that are not chosen will have $100 of their entry fee refunded and will receive of a “Best Of” DVD.

Tibbits, a copywriter for Marshall Field in Minneapolis and an independent filmmaker, was a copywriter for J. Walter Thompson here from 1995 to 2003. He helped produce the Minneapolis 48HFP the past two years.

“There’s something about the organization and fun of the 48 Hour Film Project that keeps teams coming back year after year to compete and drain all their mental energy into a short film over a 48 hour period,” Tibbits said

“There’s something about the time crunch that forces the best creativity to rise to the top,” he continued. “Either you fail?some teams don’t make the submission deadline?or some teams rise to the challenge and put together a premiere short film.”

Winners from each of 28 cities in the U.S. and about six international cities will be compiled into a “Best Of 48 Hour Film Project” DVD and will screen together at a high profile event early next year.

Winners were shown at the South by Southwest Film Festival in 2004, and at Cinequest in San Jose, New Mexico this year. “We’re expecting to be at Cinequest again,” Ruppert said.

Judges will select the top three international films, and the top winner will receive an Avid Xpress Pro and Mojo Nonlinear Accelerator.

Five domestic teams will be chosen to compete in the HD Filmmaking Showdown. They’ll be given Avid HD Express Software and Mojo Accelerator, and will be loaned a Panasonic HD camera package.

Each team will produce another 48 hour film in their hometown, and the winning team gets to keep the camera package. Ruppert said the HD Showdown entries may screen with the “Best Of” finalists, or they may screen in a separate event.

Ruppert and his filmmaking partner Liz Langston started the 48HFP in Washington, D.C. in 2001.

“We got all our filmmaking friends together and challenged them to join us in trying to make a film in 48 hours,” he said. “We had no idea if films could even be made in 48 hours. But from the get-go the filmmakers loved it.”

They expanded to six cities and 150 filmmaking teams in 2002. Last year 400 teams in 16 cities participated. Ruppert expects 800 teams to compete this year.

Some entries have gone on to win recognition in festivals where they compete against films made without time limits. Atlanta’s Boondogglers team won best short at the Atlanta Film Festival for their 2003 48HFP entry, “White Bitch Down,” and took home a $100,000 production package.

“Although we’re imposing a strict time limit, it’s actually very freeing,” Ruppert said. “The filmmaker doesn’t have time to agonize over decisions?they’re forced to make a choice. It’s amazing the creativity that people have when they’re under the gun of the clock to get things done.”

The 48 Hour Film Project will screen Tuesday-Wednesday, July 12-13, 7 and 9:15 p.m. at Landmark, 2828 N. Clark St.

See www.48hourfilm.com.