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Following a 48-Hour Film

by Spencer Moon

ATLANTA, GA (May 21, 2006)—The 5th Atlanta 48 Hour Film Project Competition took place May 20-21, 2006 all around the greater Atlanta area. For those few who didn't participate in one of the 40 individual groups frantically filming around the city, here's what it's all about.

You get 48 hours to write, shoot, and edit a film. You won't know what the film is about until you pick your genre out of a hat at the start of the 48 hours. You also have to include a specific prop and line of dialog in your film, which you don't know about until you pick your genre.

If you don't like the genre you pick, you can put it back and pick a "wild card" genre. But beware! Those wildcard genres are weird (as our 48-hour film subjects, Illustrated Films, found out this year).

FRIDAY - 5 p.m. - My assignment was to follow the Illustrated Films team as they made their 48-hour film. I arrived at the location Friday evening as the handful of crew was finishing the load in of equipment for the two days of production. I met the production manager, script supervisor, the second assistant director, and the director of photography. They were all in a positive frame of mind and clearly excited about the contest. This is the second year that Illustrated Films has participated in the 48 Hour Film Project. Last year they produced Judgment, which has screened locally.

This year, Illustrated Films chose to shoot in a church in Grant Park. It is being used by a small congregation as a temporary home. The church sanctuary was big and spacious with stained glass windows on two sides-with a few cracks in a huge stained glass rendering of Christ on his knees in prayer looking to the heavens on the rear wall.

The owner of the building was there to oversee and assist. After some small talk with the crew, he commented about hearing noises in certain areas of the building when he was alone. We all agreed that the building had a very creepy feeling about it.

The Saturday crew call was for 5 o'clock. On Friday evening, the crew needled me about what fun it would be for me to be there with them at that hour for the sake of the story. I laughed, but as I left I thought "Why do I need to be there at 5 a.m?"

SATURDAY - 3 a.m. - I awoke Saturday morning without my alarm like I was going to work. I was wide awake so I got up, put coffee on, and got in the shower. I made some breakfast, had a big cup of coffee, and arrived on set at 5 a.m., much to the amazement of the crew.

SATURDAY, 5 a.m. - The set was a beehive of activity with people already bustling about. I met the producer, Tracy Martin, and she was surprised to see me there at that hour as well. She began to talk to various crew members about a scene and its setup. She learned that the scene had been changed and responded, "Boy, things sure change after 1:30 in the morning."

I walked around in a daze trying not to get in the way and watching the flurry of activity. Eventually, Martin said to me, "Hey, do you want to watch the director (Bret Wood) and assistant director break down the script and prep today's shooting?" I hesitantly followed her into an office where they were hard at work, setting the day's shooting schedule. I sat there like a fly on the wall.

SATURDAY, 5:50 a.m. - They took the five-page script and broke it into scenes using hand drawn storyboards to diagram the shots and setups. Some dialogue was cut. Wood's comment about the dialogue was, "You can go serious and add comedy, but you can't do comedy and then go back to being serious." The crew began setting up the scene, moving lights into place and re-arranging furniture. I wandered around to find more activity to observe. I learned that shooting would start outside in the parking lot of the church first.

Later, I got some time to chat with Martin about the process. "This is the second year that Bret and I have done this together. Both times we put back the genre we picked originally, and so we're doing the wild card."

I asked, "Is that what you're doing now, the wild card genre?" "Yes," Martin answered, "We're doing a martial arts genre here in the church. My comment on the competition and the genres is they've become too hyper-specific in the two years I've been involved. The wild card genres this year got to be hyper-specific. After we got martial arts, I told Bret that I don't think there's anybody in our cast who can do a cartwheel. Last year we had a whole stunt team. It's a tough one to pull off with our location, but we're still working with the script."

SATURDAY - 9 a.m. - First scene of the day begins shooting in the parking lot of the church. I see the boom operator flat on his back in the parking lot with his legs crossed and hands behind his head, looking up at the sky. His mike is in the car out of camera range and he is just listening with headphones in this very relaxed position.

NOON - Lunch, burgers cooked on a grill with potato and pasta salad.

SATURDAY - 2 p.m. - The outdoor and interior scenes in an office have been shot. Martin tells me that "it's running smoother this year."

SATURDAY - 2:30 p.m. - I spot the child actor asleep in an arm chair in the basement. He's been here since 5 a.m. like everybody else.

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