Natalie Shooter

Accelerating the filmmaking process

The ultimate challenge – creating a film in 48 hours

The 48 Hour Film Project

The growth in popularity of short films over the last five years seems very much a symptom of our modern digital culture. In a world overwhelmed with information, they provide a bite-sized story that's fast-paced, creative and perfect for short attention spans, while also making the screening process adaptable beyond the cinema screen. It makes sense then, that the process of making a film should follow suit. Why spend 29 years producing a film – like director Richard Williams did with animation, The Thief and the Cobbler – when you can make one in 48 hours?

This weekend in Beirut, filmmakers and amateurs alike will be doing exactly that. As part of The 48 Hour Film Project – founded in the US in 2001, and now taking place across 120 countries – they'll be creating a film from script to final edit in a hectic two days, before their final films are unveiled at a premiere the following weekend.

“It gives filmmakers a chance to challenge themselves and compete against one another,” says Mo Rida, the producer who brought The 48 Hour Film Project to Beirut three years ago. “I think the time pressure forces creativity sometimes. The fact that you have to use your intuition and just act and do rather than overthink things means it comes from a very organic place.”

To ensure honesty and make things more interesting, just before the 48 hour filmmaking frenzy begins, there will be a random draw to select the genre, along with a character, prop and  line of dialogue that filmmakers must work into their script. Though in past editions, Rida notes that some like to “go all out and spend money,” on their films, all that's needed is an iPhone or a point and shoot camera, along with a simple editing program available on most laptops. “The winning film last year, Special Revenge directed by Mohammad Habbal had great production value,” Rida says. “They had their own equipment, found a great location in a themed bar and shot a Western. Everybody thought they'd spent a lot of money on the film, it turns out their budget was only $100, just food for the crew.”

The 48 Hour Film Project has been steadily growing in the Middle East - Rida has launched in Dubai, Cairo and Amman, and there are more cities in the pipeline. He puts the success of the project in the region, and the enthusiasm for such projects, down to the ease of making films today. “Film is the most powerful medium of getting your message across,” he says. “Many people see that and use it to their advantage, so we've had an influx of cameras on anything. You name it there's a camera on it and you can use that to shoot a video.” But can a film made in 48 hours really be of quality? “Yes,” says Rida, who points to numerous creative films produced within the project, that rival short films that took months to make.

The film industry is no longer limited to big budget pictures directed by star directors, or only accessible to those who have spent years as on-set runners; it's opening up to everyone. “Now anyone out there with enough motivation and some kind of vision has a chance to actually do something and say something,” Rida says. He points to a recent lecture by Steven Spielberg that suggests the industry is imploding. One future predicament as the industry opens up to all: if more films are being made, beyond YouTube, where is the space for them to be screened, and who is the audience? The 48 Hour Film Project gives filmmakers that space. The final films will be screened at Metro Al Madina and the winning film will go on to Hollywood, the location for the international competition, Filmapalooza. The winning films then go on to screen at Cannes Film Festival's Short Film Corner.

If channeling your creativity isn't enough of a sway in itself, there are various prizes up for grabs too: $500 for the winning Lebanese film, donated from The 48Eco Film Challenge, a sister project in Australia; a round trip to Paris to attend the French version of The 48 Hour Film Project's screenings and $1000 gift certificate from Platform Studios. For latecomers wanting to take part, last minute registrations are accepted until Friday's kick off. Rida's advice to those involved: “have fun and treat it like a game. Sometimes overcomplicating things and taking it too seriously can get you in trouble. Have fun, be creative, trust your instinct and make a great film.”



For late registrations, you can also call 71679870.

Kickoff at AltCity. Fri 21, 6pm-7pm
Dropoff at Altcity. Sun 23, 7pm
Premiere Screenings at Metro Al Madina. Sat 29 - Sun 30, 7.30pm
Best Of Screening at Metro Al Madina. July 6, 8pm
Wrap Party at Metro Al Madina. July 6, 10pm

A slate being used during the Dubai edition (image courtesy of Mo Rida)

The film industry is no longer limited to big budget pictures directed by star directors, or only accessible to those who have spent years as on-set runners; it's opening up to everyone.