Bombing down I25, my eyes barely open, gripping my coffee, I ask myself, “Why are you out of bed before 7am on a Saturday – willingly?” The answer to that? I wanted to see how to make a movie. Not a feature film, mind you, but a 48 Hour film festival film. New Mexico’s own Friends of Film has invited me on set to see what goes into the making of a film. This will be all new to me. I have never been on a film set before and I can’t wait to see what happens.
A little background on The 48 Hour Film Festival. This festival began in 2001 in Washington DC. The brain child of Mark Ruppert and his filmmaking partner Liz Langston, who now reside in Albuquerque, the goal was to push creativity to the extreme. The participants are given a genre, a prop, a line and a character that they have to work into a script. They don’t just have to write a screenplay in that time-frame, they have to write, shoot, and edit the footage over one weekend. The drawing happens about 7:00pm on Friday night and the writers jump into action, putting together a script, and have it sent out hopefully by 5:00am the next morning. Then the crew will spend 12 hours or so shooting, another 12 hours or so editing, handing in the completed work by Sunday at 7. Each group can choose how they want to work and can secure the cast’s shooting location and equipment in advance of the contest.
Back to the morning, I’m late, of course, for call time, but I get here in time to hear the pep talk. This group will wrap shooting in 12 hours, no matter what. Safety first, followed by fun, and hopefully it will translate into a great short film, between 4½ and 7 minutes long. Like a full-length feature, they have actors and actress in costuming and make-up and a full crew. Everyone breaks from the huddle to get their area up and running. This gives me a chance to talk with the writers and find out what it’s like to write a movie overnight. Jaqueline Loring and Cliff Gravel are on hand since they wear multiple hats in the production. Kathleen Gonzales, the third writer, has gone home to get some sleep, but will be back later. Jacqueline and Cliff walk me through the night. First the phone call about what genre was drawn and then a brain-storming session with the cast and crew about how the movie should progress. By 9:00pm, it’s left to the writers to brainstorm and write together. By 1:00am, they are laughing so hard that they know they’re on to something. Somewhere between 2:00am and 3:00am, the script is written, edited, and then sent out around 3:30am to the cast and crew to begin prep work for the 7:00am call. “It’s unusual to have time to edit when working like this.” says Loring.
Friends of Film, Video and Arts Albuquerque is a cooperative that is run by its members since 2004. The group not only sponsors a 48 hour film crew, but participates and helps in many film endeavors in New Mexico. Anyone of any background can join, as long as you have a strong love for making a film. Throughout the year, FoFVA holds monthly meetings, workshops, and helps members get in touch with one another. Look them up on Facebook and try out one of their meetings.
In the 48 Hour group, sponsored by FoFVA, anyone can volunteer to be on the crew. No one is paid, but it’s a great opportunity to try something different. On this film, the Director, Michael Miller, has worked in many areas of filming before. He and his Assistant Director (AD), Carmen Tsabetsaye, who keeps things on track, have done worked together before. Many of the other members of the crew are also experienced, but are trying out new areas. Director of Photography and camera operator, Elizabeth Waites, has worked on set before, but this will be her first time behind the lens for a film. Local actors hone their skills working on these demanding projects. “It’s not about winning,” shares Miller. “It’s about being safe, learning, and having fun.”
The editors of the film go to work, as soon as the first scene is shot and sound splicing begins. There is no time for being ideal on a shoot like this. Shooting wraps about 7:00pm Saturday and full-on editing takes place. “It takes about twice as long to edit a film, then the shoot time,” says Sheryl Brown.
Lacking in time, the movie is edited quickly, with the hopes of winning, but also knowing they can go back and clean it up – enter it into other film festivals around the world. Sunday night, the movies are handed in at Tractor Brewing Company. The following Thursday and Friday, the Kimo will show all the competitors, even the ones that don’t qualify, for the official contest. From the groups shown, the best will go on to the final showing Friday night at the Kimo. There is a lot of competition out there with great crews filming and working all over New Mexico trying to win. Over 120 cities across the country hold a 48 Hours competition and there are nations competing all over the world. This project, Sir Acheron’s Party by FoFVA, won for sexiest use of prop in the end. If you want to know how check out the 48 Hours Film Festival and find out more.
The speed, creativity, and technical know-how that go into producing a film of any kind is mind-boggling to say the least. For every minute you see on your large or small scene, there was approximately an hour of filming to bring it to you. So, the next time your watching your favorite movie, remember to give thanks for all the knowledgeable hard-working people that put it together for your viewing pleasure.