Could you make a short film in 48 hours?
From frenzied shooting schedules to inevitable technical problems, it is an undertaking that is as stressful as it sounds. Yet for the past four years, teams of filmmakers have participated in the Green Mountain Film Festival’s 48 Hour Film Slam.
Most recently, nine teams of filmmakers from Vermont and across New England descended upon the capital city March 21 to participate in this year’s competition. Assigned a particular location, prop and phrase of dialogue on that Friday’s kickoff event, the teams randomly chose a genre from a list that included the ones you might expect— film noir, conspiracy, thriller and silent film— plus a few surprises such as feminist perspective “mockumentary.”
“We kind of try to clear our heads of ideas beforehand and just try to be really open when we get there,” said filmmaker Matt Mazur from Team Malone. “There’s usually a genre we prefer and a genre that we try to avoid.”
By the next day, a cold and cloudy Saturday, the teams had been working for 20 hours and were rushing to finish outdoor shots on Montpelier’s Main Street before the predicted snow squalls arrived. Eben Brown from Team E&E Productions said that sleep deprivation is an expected part of the slam, especially for those charged with editing the final footage like his teammate Ian Burnette.
“I’ll get a little more sleep than Ian. Ian will probably be up all night and maybe catch an hour here or there to finish editing in time,” Brown said.
By Sunday evening’s deadline, the shooting had wrapped up and the films— with two having been delayed by exporting issues— were submitted to be screened to a packed audience and a panel of judges at the Pavillion Auditorium downtown.
It was here that the event’s MC Ben Matchstick explained what was at stake for the films chosen as the three best: “The first prize wins $1,000 cold hard dollars in cash. The second prize is $500 and the third prize is $250,” Matchstick said. “So are you ready to have some fun tonight?”
Judge Donald Rae said that while it was a “major achievement” for any team to complete a film on a 48 hour deadline, the prize winning film should demonstrate the ability to tell a coherent story for the viewer. “The challenge is to make a story that works for the audience,” he said.
The night’s big winner was Team Fondue Pneumonia Party, who in a self-reflexive twist chose to make their conspiracy-themed film about the film slam contest itself titled “Fade to Truth.” But win or lose, said filmmaker Chico Edward Eastridge from Team Malone, the appeal of the slam goes beyond just the prizes.
“It’s completely exhausting, you generally don’t get any sleep and a lot of the time you are disappointed and heartbroken by various events that happen over the weekend,” Eastridge said. “But in the end it somehow turns out to be worth it because you come out with a little movie.”