Two Days, Half a Crew, One Superhero Blockbuster
The 48-Hour Film Project is back. We followed two crews through the ups and downs as they raced to the finish line.
Countless memory-card tradeoffs. The sudden disappearance of a main character who's in the next scene. Using fans to dry the superhero emblems painted on the actors' costumes.
These obstacles wouldn't be an issue for a major Hollywood production. However, crews participating in Pittsburgh’s 48-Hour Film Project have to hustle. Every second counts. The moment the competition starts, it's lights, camera, action.
When co-producers Edwin Huang and Nathan Fullerton started competing in the 48-Hour Film Project six years ago, they just wanted to create a film.
“I liked the fact that there was a definite deadline, a time limit,” says Huang. “You either submitted a video or not.”
Both producers had a background in film production and were eager to test out the boundaries that originally attracted them to the 48HFP, which is held in 120 cities worldwide. A couple 48HFP awards later, the duo has combined two different teams, ending up with a supergroup of roughly 30 people.
With the two groups — Everything But the Name and S.G. Movie Magic — working together for the first time, many crew members were curious to see how the team’s dynamics would play out. The competition kicked off July 12, when all participating teams were assigned a specific genre, character, prop and line. Huang says that he likes the idea of an assignment because it makes it easier to narrow the focus.
In past years, Everything But the Name has been given genres such as sci-fi and time travel, but the group was asked to work on something related to superheroes this year.
“We’re all kind of geeks, so we were very excited about it,” says Fullerton.
From there, the crew members brainstormed late into the night. Different members collaborated on the script, tossing around several ideas before they settled on the best one, titled Captain Insensitive. The remainder of the evening was spent writing and perfecting the script as others prepped for filming in the morning.
“You start off really excited about your assignment,” says Fullerton. “And then you try to actually implement it into 48 hours and your grand vision funnels down to what’s doable.”
On the morning of July 13, the crew split up and got down to business. Half of the members did a table reading with the actors while the cinematographers finalized a list of shots that could be done within the timeframe. The team got together for filming at 11 a.m. at the Schell Games offices in South Side. From there, they filmed in fitting yet convenient areas; the SG offices, South Side streets and the Hot Metal Bridge served as backdrops for this four- to seven-minute flick.
At 10:15 p.m. on Saturday, the crew was working at the last stop: a vacant garage on 26th Street. Sleepless crew members camped outside. Half of the group was back at SG working on edits while the other half served as actors or producers (or both).
With the clock ticking, it was clear that this team still had a ways to go.
“About 12 people have canceled on us in the past 48 hours prior to the competition. But together we were able to fill in all the cracks,” says crew member Michael Cornell.
Needless to say, it was going to be a long night — or long 21 remaining hours, rather.
Despite dropouts, the team was able to pull together, even if it meant using the third cameraman as an actor. It wasn’t all about making a successful film; instead, it was about the dynamics of friends, colleagues, actors discovered on craigslist and even the local bartender all working together to create a cinematic production.
“The 48-Hour Film Project allows you to stay in touch with people you might not see otherwise,” says Cornell. “It’s an opportunity where, at least one weekend a year, you’re able to come back together and work on a project and keep those bonds intact.”
All submitted films were screened July 20 at The Hollywood Theater in Dormont. The “Best Of” screening will take place this Sunday at The Hollywood.
“It would be lovely to win it one year, but it’s really just about making a film,” says Fullerton. “The one thing that all successful filmmakers have in common is that they’ve made a film, and that’s what the 48-Hour Film Project forces you to do.”
[The Hollywood Theater, 1449 Potomac Ave., Dormont; screening July 28; 412/563-0368, thehollywooddormont.org]