Every second counts

Earlier this month, filmmakers all around the Twin Cities attempted to make short films in 48 hours.

Librarian Chad Gilman and mail carrier Chris Allen produced the mockumentary film “Mothermen” for the 48 Hour Film Project. Neither had ever made a film of his own before.

Marisa Wojcik

Librarian Chad Gilman and mail carrier Chris Allen produced the mockumentary film “Mothermen” for the 48 Hour Film Project. Neither had ever made a film of his own before.

Tony

 

What: Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project “Best of” Screening

Where: Riverview Theater, 3800 S. 42nd Ave., Minneapolis

When: 7 p.m., June 21

Cost: $15

 

These days, it’s easy to make a short film. Most of us have all the equipment on our phones, or pre-installed on our laptops. So why isn’t everyone an iPad auteur? Unfortunately, initiative isn’t as pocket-sized or convenient.

The 48 Hour Film Project aims to change that. The project challenges filmmakers of any caliber to create a four- to seven-minute film over a single weekend. The contest attracts tens of thousands of filmmakers in more than 100 cities around the world. The best films from each city go on to the project’s Filmapalooza in Hollywood and a screening at the Cannes Film Festival.

“It provides that last missing element: that kick in the ass to just do it, because anyone can,” said Towle Neu, co-producer of the 48 Hour Film Project in Minneapolis.

Co-producer Ryan Strandjord said that the project is attractive to all types of filmmakers not just because of the challenge but also the promise of condensing a long, arduous process into a single weekend.

 “It’s an opportunity to create a film and exhibit it, and that’s a very difficult thing to do,” he said. “By participating in these types of competitions you have a guaranteed audience.”

A week and a half ago, 68 teams converged on the Crooked Pint in Minneapolis to draw their randomly assigned genres before racing away to begin filming. Some genres were straightforward, like drama and comedy, while others were more difficult, like silent film, musical or western.

Two days later, all but one of the sleep-deprived teams turned in their finished films, some of them at the last second. Local filmmaker Jason P. Schumacher raced to submit his horror film, “Restraint,” when the otherwise smooth production was thrown off by last minute computer problems.

Last year, Schumacher was his own one-man team, writing, directing and editing his period piece, “Man of the Hour” by himself. He even played all of the parts simultaneously using camera trickery.

“It was a cool challenge, and I got a lot of street cred for it, but I was just so tired,” he said. “This year we just had a blast doing it.”

Schumacher used the project as an opportunity to collaborate with his childhood friend Jesse Frankson. The pair used to make horror films together in high school, and Frankson said he was excited for the opportunity to write and act in “Restraint.”

Not all groups were so lucky with their assigned genres. The team Job Application said they were dismayed when they drew “silent film.” For their film, “Deposit Box,” the filmmakers opted to modernize the genre’s music-heavy, title card aesthetic with bright colors and rap music. The style made their silly Midwest-mom-bank-heist film a standout.

All of the films in the project were also required to include a ring, an athlete character named R. Thomas and the line “have you been here before?”

Some teams folded these elements into their films seamlessly, while others were forced to shoehorn them in. One of the most creative integrations came from Circa Productions.

Their sci-fi film, “A.T.H.L.E.T.E.” featured the titular computer — an “Autonomous Terrestrial Human Life Experiment Testing Environment” — that was known to the characters as Robin Thomas.

Like most of the teams in the 48 Hour Film Project, Circa Productions wasn’t able to plan much of their film ahead of time. The plot of “A.T.H.L.E.T.E.” was hatched in the car on the way to the shoot.

“We know what equipment we can use well, we knew the actors,” said Circa producer McCallion Stark. “That’s the best pre-production I think you can do.”

They shot the whole film in a garage with a green screen, and the last overhead shot required their director of photography Ben Efron to climb up into the garage’s dusty rafters, where he promptly fell asleep while waiting for the actors to get into costume.

The 48 Hour Film Project attracts advanced filmmakers like Schumacher and the team at Circa Productions but also plenty of novice filmmakers.

Chad Gilman, a librarian, and his friend Chris Allen, a mailman, created “Mothermen,” a charming mockumentary about a support group for men who breastfeed.

On a lark, the pair gathered their friends, a low-grade camcorder and a 30-day trial of Final Cut Pro. Lacking time to write a full screenplay, they improvised most of the film.

 “I think that makes for the strongest entries in this type of thing. It’s hard to write it all out,” said Gilman. “So we were able to take a good concept and just play with it.”

They aren’t the only amateurs. Strandjord said that this year’s 48 Hour Film project has also included multiple entries from high school filmmakers and even one film directed by a 10-year-old.

“To be honest, most independent films never get finished,” Strandjord said. “But with these competitions you make a film, and it shows here. That immediate reward gets people going.”