From first screenplay pitch to the world premiere, most films can take years to produce. In Louisville’s 48 Hour Film Project, which kicks off July 19, teams have just two days to write, film and edit a short movie.
Here’s how it works: all of the teams are assigned common elements that have to appear in every film – a line of dialogue, a character and a specific prop. Each team draws a different genre, so filmmakers who are horror buffs might end up assigned to make a romantic comedy. In two days.
Tim Miller’s a videographer who specializes in corporate, training and commercial video. But for two days every year, his team, OfficeRocker Productions, a group of church friends who specialize in comedy, become a well-oiled on-the-fly filmmaking machine. They’ve participated every year the project has been in Louisville, and over the last eight years, they’ve refined their process.
After they receive their assignment on Friday, they spend the evening kicking around ideas until they decide on a concept and a (very) loose outline. That’s when things can get most tense among the team.
“When you’re dealing with creative people, you have very strong personalities. Those strong personalities usually feel like they’re right, and they’re the funniest and they’re the best. We have all these people together in a room, and sometimes it can be tough,” says Miller.
Saturday morning, they shop for props and shoot all day. On Sunday, Miller edits until it’s time to drop the film off at headquarters for judging.
“We fly by the seat of our pants a lot,” says Miller with a laugh. “A lot of times we don’t even have a full script, we just know what we’re going to do and ad-lib some things.”
Miller says his team is lucky – they have an even distribution of talents.
“We have a lot of the bases covered in our group. I’m pretty good with the camera, and we have guys who are good at being in front of the camera. Guys who can write, are funny, can sing and play instruments,” he says.
OfficeRocker’s never won a best of show award, but the team has won several audience awards, and awards for writing and cinematography. But Miller says they’re not in it for the glory.
“We pretty much just do what we want to do and don’t go into it trying to win,” Miller says. “We just go make a movie we like and think is funny.”
They’re good at being funny, Miller says, and they always hope to draw the “comedy” genre. But the luck of the draw isn’t always with them. One year they had to shoot a silent film; they weren’t really happy with the finished product. When it happened again, they went for the nuclear option – the wild card. These are tougher genres than the standard comedies and dramas, and OfficeRocker found themselves shooting a foreign film. In Louisville.
“Sounds hard but we had a great time,” says Miller. “We did an over-the-top French film, black and white, with two guys smoking. It turned out to be one of our best films yet. It won several awards.”
The films are shorts, between four and seven minutes long. It sounds like a good thing – how ambitious can you get in 48 hours? – but Miller says the format is its own challenge.
“There are so many things you have to do in a short time,” says Miller. “It’s hard to tell a story, introduce your characters, get people to understand who these people are in your film and why they should care about them, in such a short amount of time.”
The films will be screened July 31-August 1 at Village 8 Theaters, and the winners will advance to a national competition. Registration information is available on the 48 Hour Film Project website.