The 14 finalists' films will be shown Sunday at the Byrd Theatre. (photo courtesy the 48 Hour Film Project)
In a world where motion picture entertainment is often formulaic and lacking in vision, the offerings of he Richmond 48 Hour Film Projectl are anything but predictable. Yes, they are each less than eight minutes long. And to be honest, there is an actual formula – but when you have just two days to make a movie, you need some prompting about what you're attempting to accomplish.
As it’s been since 2001, when Washington filmmakers Mark Ruppert and Liz Langston inaugurated this competition that now has branches in 130 cities throughout the world, each participating locality receives required elements for the film.
Well, here, let past participants explain the experience.
You might not ever make a movie if you didn’t get up off your canisters, and the 48 Hour Film Project pushes aspirants to do that with a two-day deadline, a required line of dialogue, a prop and a character.
This outing involves a character named Nat or Natalie Uplifter, a therapist; the phrase “I have (or I've) been trying to tell you;" and the prop is a letter.
These were passed down by Ruppert to Richmond event producer Ellie St. John moments before groups gathered at the Camel on July 18 to pick their genres from a hat. Filmmakers then raced off to figure out how to put those elements into a romantic comedy or a dark comedy, a buddy picture, a family film, a science-fiction opus and the like.
Actor and producer St. John helmed the project for five years, then took three years off until returning this year. Her job requires multi-tasking. She’s an event planner in charge of securing venues and arranging the meet-and-greets, an emcee and front office paper-router. And she finds selectors who deliberate over the films and decide which ones will end up on the Byrd’s big screen beginning at 1:30 p.m. Sunday for both judges and people’s choice awards.
The 2015 Richmond 48 Hour Project drew appropriately 48 teams, though 42 made it in by the deadline and a few of them by seconds. “Some teams fall apart,” St. John says. Just like in the indie world, where films get started but never finished due to funding or any number of woes. Ever see Living In Oblivion? (Peter Dinklage alert)
St. John wants the general public to attend the Sunday screenings. The judges have narrowed the field to 14. They are:
Ready or Not by Team Team Team
T/I by Iridescent Films
Fool Me Twice by Pixel Drop
Eat by Shields Shoes
Beyond Help by Housecat
N.A.T. 3000 by STOP! everything
Run by Unboxed
Nat Uplifter and the Downtrodden by One by One
Shelter by The Casual Gentlemen
Justice Fists of Fury by Cracker Funk
I Prefer Abby by The Kitchen
Wrecktify by WECP
Does Steve Buscemi Dream of Electric Sheep? by Cinema Garbage
The Loud Imaginings of Noah the Mute by The Heights
Tickets for the screening are $10 cash at the window, but can be purchased online ahead of time here.
For the filmmakers, stakes are advancement into festivals, including entry into the Fifth Annual Richmond International Film Festival coming in February.
Then comes in another part of St. John's responsibilities: Compassionate Letter Downer and Encourager For the Future. "One of the worst parts of my job is disappointing people when they're told they didn't get in to the finals," St. John says.
But that's the business of show. And as several repeat directors and participants in the mix who've been through the process a few years can attest, there's always next year.