By Zarchary Landau | The Duquesne Duke
Nothing can be more stressful than completing a huge project under a strict deadline. Despite this, artists choose to impose strict guidelines on themselves for the express purpose of challenging their ingenuity. The 48 Hour Film Project endeavors to tap into that creative energy, and some spectacular results have come out of Pittsburgh this year.
The 48 Hour Film Project is a competition that pits aspiring filmmakers against each other for one weekend. The goal is there in the title: write, shoot and edit a short film in 48 hours. No easy feat, but hundreds of teams from around the world compete in the challenge every year.
Participants are given a set of guidelines before the weekend begins. These guidelines range from the superfulous, like including a prop somewhere in the movie, to the game-changing, such as the genre (which each team selects from a hat) the film has to follow. Pittsburgh film makers found themselves challenged to include an animal psychologist named Zack or Zara Gordon, a doughnut and the line “This will be my downfall.” With the rules and style set, the challenge officially begins, and teams race to complete their films before their Sunday deadline.
This year, Pittsburgh’s run of films came out especially fantastic. Films ranged from a cop drama to a comedy to a time-traveling romance, and they are all quality work.
“Change,” for example, was chosen as Best Film from Pittsburgh and it is easy to see why. Staring Ryan Ott, it features a fledgling cop whose new ticketing job takes a toll on his psyche. “Change” truly showcased how such a tight window can create some interesting effects as the main character’s sudden depression is made weirdly funny by how quickly it comes and goes.
The true highlight from the winners, however, was “restart,” an absolutely ruinous but motivational tale of absurd levels of tragedy. It starts sweetly, establishing a lovely looking couple living a mundane life of the husband waking up every morning by himself to make coffee. As the film progresses, however, you gain bits and pieces of their backstory until you reach not one, but two emotional sucker punches that were beautifully executed.
The submissions are later reviewed by a panel of judges that include critics, producers, actors and other filmmakers. Among the awards films can receive are Best Actor and Actress, Best Use of Prop and Best Editing among others. The films are also shown off to all of the teams who can then vote on which film earns the Audience Award. Winners move on to an international-level competition.
While the loose-ends of these films are rather obvious, the teams should still be commended for achieving such a high quality product in such a short period of time. The films also serve as a helpful tool for other filmmakers to learn from, and it’s fascinating to ask why a scene is shot one way or what could have been added if given more time.