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The 48-Hour Film Festival

Will Coviello on this year's moviemaking marathon


Dawn Spatz's 2010 film "Pygmy Park" was a mockumentary about a country club in crisis.
  • Dawn Spatz's 2010 film "Pygmy Park" was a mockumentary about a country club in crisis.

Teams competing in the 48 Hour Film Project can't do any creative work before the event begins. They can scout locations, collect licensed music and organize their process. Some teams have prepared by making a short practice film, but the crucial element is picked out of a hat just before the clock starts running: genre.

  "We wanted to do horror," says Dawn Spatz, whose film Pygmy Park won three awards in New Orleans' 2010 competition. "We pulled mockumentary. That had never been on our minds."

  The 2011 festival began Friday Aug. 12, when nearly 40 teams drew genres from options like sci-fi, superhero, dark comedy, romance and detective/cop film. Competition organizers also provide a character, a line of dialogue and a prop that all teams must incorporate, regardless of genre. Teams then have 48 hours to write a script, shoot and edit a seven-minute film. All completed films will be screened Saturday at NOCCA's Lupin Hall. Award-winners will be announced the following week.

  Now 10 years old, the festival has more than 90 participating cities worldwide. Winners from each American city are screened at Filmapalooza, which will be at Taos, N.M., in March 2012 for 2011 films. The top finalists from around the world are then screened at the Cannes International Film Festival. The competition is open to everyone from amateurs to professionals. Last year's global winner, "The Girl is Mime" was shot in London and starred Martin Freeman from the British version of The Office. There are very few constraints beyond the time limit, and last year one team shot its video with an iPhone.

  New Orleans participants have included student teams from UNO's graduate and undergraduate film studies programs, film professionals on location in Louisiana, amateurs and teams that travel to compete in 48-Hour festivals in different cities.

  Most teams try to write a five- to six-page script on Friday night, use Saturday to shoot and then edit the film on Sunday, all on little or no sleep once the competition begins.

  Spatz's 2010 team of a dozen UNO students secured permission to shoot at Belle Terre Country Club and improvised some shoots as they sped around on golf carts looking in sandtraps for footprints of pygmies that supposedly inhabited the course.

  Jason Waggenspack and his team, Trophy Whores, shot some of their award-winning Trust Bob on a studio green screen. A fan of the Red Dress Run, which was happening the weekend of the competition, he incorporated it into a film in which some bumbling criminals take a hostile CEO hostage and put up with her abuse. Waggenspack is a professional and his Neutral Ground Films produces commercials, TV spots and documentaries.

  Reed Daigle is another film industry professional who competed last year. His team drew horror as a genre, and the repeated effects of a frantic run up spiral stairs in Crazy Stairs showed the polished camerawork that helped it win best film honors. He's not competing this year, because he's working on the set of G.I. Joe 2. But he has some advice for participants.

  "Be prepared," he says. "Get to know your team and the actors. And edit as you shoot."

Aug. 20 48 Hour Film Project 4 p.m., 6:30 p.m. & 9 p.m. Saturday (different films in each showcase) NOCCA, Lupin Hall, 2800 Chartres St.; Tickets $10

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