Two days, one movie: Guerrilla filmmaking contest debuts in Prague

Czech Position

The 48 Hour Film Project project puts moviemakers to the test, giving them just two days to conceive, script, rehearse, shoot and edit

Quick on your feet, creative and like stress? Want to do something totally different at the weekend? Why not make a film? The 48 Hour Film Project, which began ten years ago in Washington DC, is coming to Prague October 21-23.

The brainchild of Mark Rupert and Liz Langston, the project’s mission is to advance filming and promote filmmakers — on whom it puts the focus squarely on, testing their creativity and teamwork skills under a strict deadline. Its Czech debut this month is organized by husband and wife team Petra and Paul Ratner.

“We participated in the project several times in LA and had so much fun, and it was such a great experience that we thought we should bring it to Prague,” Petra told Czech Position. Paul adds: “You are making a movie, but it’s like a sport, so little time and you have to make a lot of creative decisions in a short time. We wanted to bring this type of excitement to Prague.”

Petra describes the process, saying the teams meet up on Friday night to get their marching orders. Basically, all teams are given the same prop, a line of dialogue and a character. Genres are drawn from a hat. Then everyone panics. “We announce the elements and they go do their thing,” said Paul. “Teams need to make decisions quickly – come up with a concept, script, rehearse, shoot and edit. Teams who are successful do some pre-planning.”

There are 14 regular genres (comedy, horror, fantasy, etc) and eight wild card ones, like time travel or heist. Paul says one of the most dreaded genres is the musical, but he has seen some pretty fun ones produced. The required elements are of course top secret, but past characters have included Bitsy Ballou, Advice Columnist; ‘When you say it like that, it’s almost poetry’ as a required line of dialogue, and props could be anything from a fan to a snow globe.

“Giving everyone the same elements ties it together, audiences can watch for them and how they are used differently from film to film,” said Paul. “The audience can judge in a way they’ve never been able to with a movie before. See who did better; they’ll know the elements, it is very unique.”

Just do it

Paul and Petra own their own production company, New Spirit Cinema, so they know a thing or two about putting a movie together. While the time crunch seems like it would be the most disastrous part of the weekend, in their minds, it’s one of the project’s best characteristics.

“It takes a long time to get the elements (of a film) in place, lots of waiting,” said Petra. “Here you can’t wait, you just go out and do it, no excuses.” Overall project producer and original co-founder Liz Langston agrees.

“The project forces people to let go of procrastination and perfectionism and finish their films,” she told Czech Position. “In the real world many films are started that are never completed. In the 48 Hour Film Project, teams walk away with a completed film.”

Langston shared some stats about the overall project: In 2011, 100 cities on six continents will participate with teams making more than 3,400 films. The 100 winning films, one from each city will be screened at the Annual Filmapalooza event. The top films will then go on to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival at the Cannes Short Film corner in May 2012.

Over the project’s past decade, more than 13,000 films have been made and Langston said the technological improvement is what she has seen change the most. “Because of great strides in camera quality and computer processing, each year the films look more beautiful – higher quality visuals, sound and special effects,” she said. “Of course, the story is the king — so when we get a really great story, that’s the winning element.”

Career and creativity booster

“It’s a chance for filmmakers to jumpstart their career, but also have fun,” said Paul, adding that the Prague winner will get tickets to this year’s Filmapalooza event which will be held in Taos, New Mexico. First, though the movies will have to impress the judges who, among other professionals, include Ludmila Claussová from the Czech Film Commission, Miloš Zahradník, director of domestic acquisitions for TV Nova and Lukáš Mursek, a video artist and representative of the Prague project’s main sponsor, Dreamcatcher.

All the films will be screened at Lucerna Cinema on Saturday, October 29. So far, they have about a dozen teams, but Paul and Petra say you can register right up until October 21. Petra says they have teams from three-12 people and often most people wear more than one hat, but it is good to have a director, camera guy, editor and a couple of actors. If not, you could be like Bill Dyzel, who has competed 26 times in ten cities. His team, CinemaSolo, has one member.

Langston has a little advice for teams. “As soon as you start shooting video, have someone take the video to the editor to start processing it,” she said. “That way you will be ready for the final edit on Sunday and you will notice any sound or light issues before it’s too late to re-shoot.”

But even if you don’t have you heart set on movie stardom, you can still spend a weekend doing something no one else in your office did. “We are filmmakers and it’s fun for us, but exercising your creativity should appeal to anyone who has a creative bone in their body,” said Paul. “Prague in particular is perfectly tailored to this project, there are lots of creative people here – film schools, filmmakers, writers, actors, and it’s very international. We have seen so much interest and excitement that we know now is the right time.”