DU professor takes on film competition

Courtesy of William Lyon | Lyon — a Duquesne alum and current media professor — is seen here talking to Veronica in the film, "Veronica@Home." The film won "Best Film of 2022" at the 48-Hour Film Science Fiction Horror Project.

Isabella Abbott | Features Editor

March 16, 2023

Forty-eight hours isn’t enough time to create and shoot a short film, right? For some, this may be true, but for anyone participating in the 48-hour film project, this is their average competition.

Duquesne alum and media professor William Lyon recently received “Best Film of 2022” for the 48-Hour Film Science Fiction Horror Project. His team, Gaff Tape and a Prayer, will compete in Los Angeles at Filmapalooza this week, where they’ll represent Pittsburgh against city winners around the world.

During the intense competition, teams write, shoot and edit a movie in 48 hours. They draw their genre on Friday night and are given a prop, character and line that needs to be included in the film.

Their recent winning film, titled “Veronica@Home” had to include the character Plumber Skip or Skipper Carle, a family ring as a prop and the line, “I wish I still loved you like I used to.” These needed to be in the 4-to-7-minute films to qualify for awards.

With the sci-fi-horror aspect in mind, Lyon and his team decided to make the film about an AI system gone rogue.

“The film is basically about a guy who lives at home alone in a smart home, and when the pandemic is lifted, and he’s able to leave the house, the house no longer wants him to leave,” Lyon said. “It was a two-person film where we had the main character, and then an AI voice assistant that acted as the villain of the film.”

“Veronica@Home” wasn’t their only film that did well at the 48-hour competition. Gaff Tape and a Prayer had won three other times in Pittsburgh, including their first win in 2014, when they first entered the competition.

Lyon said they started to compete at that time due to their shared interest in filmmaking.

“I was fresh out of grad school working at the Apple Store in Ross Park (Mall), and I met these coworkers, and somebody brought it up and said, ‘Hey, we should (participate) in the 48-hour film festival,’” Lyon said. “So we all just got together and decided to do the first one in 2014. It ended up working really well for us, so we kept doing it. It was sort of what we wanted to do, and we needed an outlet.”

Even though there’s a trophy on the line, they always go into each competition with a positive mindset.

“We always went into the competition with a mindset of not really caring if we win or not, which is funny enough,” Lyon said. “We’re doing this because we want to have fun, and we want the outlet of making something because, with film, it’s hard to find the time and the money and the resources to make it. This competition is so confined and contained that it’s like we are going to come out of the weekend with something that didn’t exist prior to that weekend.”

Gaff Tape and a Prayer has also won best film in Pittsburgh for three other projects, as well as many other awards like “Best Editing,” “Best Use of Character” and “Audience Choice.” One of these horror-genre winners, “Unfinished,” follows a man who catches his fiancée cheating. He then proceeds to drug her and take away her vocal cords.

Since Lyon plays the role of the villain, he said his wife doesn’t want to watch it, even if it won an award.

“My wife won’t watch it because it makes her uncomfortable,” Lyon said. “I think it’s primarily, particularly, because I’m in that one playing this horrible villainous person, and she doesn’t like seeing me like that.”

Students, like graduate student Travis Barkefelt, are able to see his passion for filmmaking while he teaches.

“I can definitely tell this is something he enjoys doing as a person, and not just as a job,” Barkefelt said. “He’s very patient and always willing to stop and help someone if they’re struggling.”

Lyon said that anyone looking to pursue a career in filmmaking should go for it.

“If you want to make films, make films,” Lyon said. “You don’t have to wait for somebody to allow you to make films, especially nowadays. Your first stuff might be terrible. It’ll get better. That’s part of the learning process, and you never know what kind of stuff it will lead to. It can be worth it. If you have the patience and the time, you know you have the passion for it — keep doing it.”

For any students looking to watch their short films, they can visit gafftapeprayer.com.