Chicago filmmakers prepare for 48 Hour Film Project

Phranque Wright (right) at Lincoln Tap room

Phranque Wright (right) at Lincoln Tap room

Winners of the
international contest
will receive $1,000
and a chance
to have their work
screened at Cannes

Dr. Phranque Wright is sitting across a table at a dark dive bar looking to hookup — with actors, producers, and writers trickling into the Lincoln Tap Room on a Sunday night. Like most of the people here, he intends to participate in this year’s 48-Hour Film Project.

The event is part of the preparation for the real deal, which takes place in Chicago from July 13 to 15. It allows attendees to join or form teams before the two-day onslaught of creative madness.

Wright, who moonlights as a film producer, explains how the project works to the attendees gathered at the table.

The project begins with a Friday Night Kickoff, where the teams take part in a lottery-style draw to determine the exact genre of the film they will create over the weekend. When all the styles are set, the organizers provide specific elements that must be contained in each film — character name, occupation, prop, line of dialogue, etc. Then the teams launch into 48 hours of script-writing, technical set-up, acting, and editing. Every minute counts.

Reel Chicago writer Julia Sarata and actor Jorge Hernández
Reel Chicago writer Julia Sarata and actor Jorge Hernández

As Wright assembles his team with an exchange of ideas and contact information, filmmaker and editor Jerry Vasilatos of Nitestar Productions calls the room to attention. He introduces himself as the city producer for the 48-Hour Film Project, operating its 14th year in Chicago.

After delivering the logistics of the process to the participants, he’s asked how he got to be the organizer for this competition. Vasilatos answers with what appeals to independent filmmakers:

“As a filmmaker, one of the things that struck me was that I didn’t feel that we were all served the way we should be as filmmakers,” he says. “I want your films to be seen because that’s what you deserve.”

Vasilatos also mentions the $1,000 prize and — perhaps more incentivizing — the possibility of the winning film’s exposure at the Cannes Shorts Program.

Last year’s winning team produced an action / adventure mockumentary called Hammersmith: Hurdle of Dreams that screened during the ultra-prestigious celebration on the French Riviera.



Compass Casting’s Sarah Clarke, who will be the project’s casting director this year, followed Jerry’s announcements with the particulars on the casting process for the participants.

The 48-Hour Film Project, created by Mark Ruppert and Liz Langston in 2001, was inspired by the 24-Hour Plays organization.

Ruppert recalled in an interview that the challenge wouldn’t have been possible before 2001, as the filming technology was not yet accessible to such an extent as it is now. Illinois joined on a national level in 2005.



The room is filled with the buzz of filmmakers eager to create art under unconventional conditions. Camaraderie and exposure aside, creativity and ambition are the binding forces and motivational components to this challenge.

Matthias Blake, a young actor and University of Iowa graduate, appreciates his move to the Windy City for this reason. “The thing I love about Chicago is I can keep up my artistic flow,” Blake says.

By the end of the event, Dr. Phranque Wright had cemented a team with a writer, an editor, and actor Anna Gold, whom he met at the Midwest Indie Film Fest a few weeks before.

The Lincoln Tap Room brewed a lively and enthusiastic air, a growing anticipation for the coming days.

Signup now, for the contest ends soon. To get involved, click here.

To view photos from the mixer, click here.