Working on the 48 Hour Film Project

We at Crimes of the Art and our sister organization, Discordian Films, often compete in the 48 Hour Film Project. Many of our films have been made for the 48. You can read all about the 48 here.

If you are interested in working with us, reach out to me. Here’s some information about how we do things.

We organize our team in a Facebook group. It’s a private group, but if you reach out to any of the Discordians, we’re always willing to invite a new person. We post planning details there. We also post updates over the course of the weekend, and details about screenings, etc. And you may even learn about other filmmaking opportunities on the group – several of us post there when we need folks to help out on projects.

During 48HFP weekend, we get the filmmaking assignment on Friday evening by 7:00 PM. We send an agent to the pickup place to get the assignment. That person texts it to us at our staging location.

That staging location is almost always Mikki Barry’s home, which is near Great Falls National Park in McLean, Virginia. We usually have a dozen or so people Friday evening to brainstorm the story. After an hour or two of brainstorming, our designated screenwriter retreats to a back room to write a script. She will emerge after an hour or two with a completed script. We assign roles, do an initial read-through, tell everyone where to meet the next day, tell the actors what to bring in the way of clothes, props, etc, and then most people go home. A core team consisting of director, screenwriter, cinematographer, and assistant director then meet for an hour or so to plan for the next day.

Call time on Saturday is usually 9:00 AM. We often film at or around Mikki’s, though not always. We’ll let you know as the time of the film nears where we will be filming.

Saturday is a long day. We keep going until we’re done filming. This has been as early as 7:00 PM and as late as midnight. For most people on the team, Saturday is the busy day.

Sunday is post-production. A small editing team meets, usually at my house in Alexandria. We work through the day to make the best movie we can out of what we filmed on Saturday. We occasionally post updates to the Discordian Films Facebook group, though they get loopier and loopier throughout the day – I’m usually getting awfully short on sleep by now, as I probably got around three hours of sleep on Saturday night.

Then it’s time for the mad dash to the dropoff, where we have to be by 7:30. Usually my wife Julie drives me. I usually do last-minute edits on the way, and will occasionally render a last version or two at the drop-off point, which is somewhere in the host city for the particular competition. Hopefully, by 7:15 or so I’ll announce to the Facebook group that we got the film in on time. (We haven’t missed yet, fingers crossed.)

I’m not allowed to put the film online until after the first screening, which is usually about a week after the competition. Shortly after the screening, I’ll put the movie online. Sometimes I’ll do more edits, so the version I put up will be an editor’s cut and not the competition cut.

If you happen to see me in the week between drop-off and screening and I have a computing device with the movie handy, I’m always happy to show you what we made. We’ve occasionally had people show up at the drop-off to say hi – I always show them the movie once I’ve gotten it in.

We also occasionally enter other 48’s than the DC one. There’s a bunch of them in this area. We have at times entered DC, Baltimore, Richmond, and the special political/comedy 48 held in DC in the fall.

One note to newcomers: if you show up on Saturday, I’ll promise you a job on the set. If you let me know that you’re going to show up on Saturday and you want a part in the film, I’ll give you one.

But I can’t always promise a great role or a key crew job. If you want a big part, there’s things you can do to improve your chances. The big one is to show up on Friday night at the brainstorming session. This is important, especially if you haven’t worked with us before. (If you’re a veteran of several of our 48’s, this is not required.) It helps for us to have the team be able to see what you look like, get a good view of your abilities, ask you what you’re willing to do (we don’t ask for anything terrible, but we do occasionally ask you to sing).

We’ve occasionally had people we haven’t worked with drop out on Saturday morning. It’s left us shy about giving major roles to newcomers who were not present Friday. At this point, I’m making it a standing policy that I will not cast as leads people who don’t show up on Friday who I have not worked with. My apologies for this, but Saturday is stressful enough, so I want to reduce the chances that I’ll have to make a last-minute casting change for a major role.

On the other hand, we’ve given lead roles to first-time Discordians who showed up on Friday, and they’ve done a great job for us. Sometimes these are people who didn’t know any of us, sometimes they are people who knew only one of us. It’s always a pleasure when someone new steps up and brings unexpected skills to the table.

Don’t worry if you think you have no filmmaking skills. We always need people to carry stuff, run messages, or clap the clapper slate. Or maybe we’ll ask you to sit at a table at the back of a scene. If you want to come help, we’ll find something for you to do.

Finally, my goals at the 48 are always the same. In order of decreasing priority, they are:

1. Keep everyone safe.
2. Have fun.
3. Make a good movie.