Saturday, May 18, 2013

Anatomy of a 48 Hour Film Project Triumph [sic]

After a six-year absence from the 48 Hour Film Project competition, the aging warriors of Travesty Films decided to once again set foot on the cinematic battlefield. The group was part of the inaugural 48 Hour event in 2001 and participated eight times over the years. While the group won awards and was part of many best-of screenings, too often the event left the men wallowing in pools of tears, unanswered questions denying them restful sleep.

This time, it would be different.*

For starters, the group decided that there was no need for audiences to look upon their physical selves. Instead, Travesty would offer up an animated cartoon. As Mr. Pat Carroll would be doing the drawings, the results would still be disturbing, but at least no one would have to confront these AARP-eligible performer's sagging flesh projected onto the huge AFI screen.

You're welcome.

The following photographs and video tell the story.


Producer Dave Nuttycombe, graphic designer Brad Dismukes, and composer Andy Charneco met at the kickoff in the parking lot of the Warehouse Theater.

This year, each team received a bag of delicious Route 11 potato chips, with an entire case raffled off to one lucky team. We didn't win, but we already felt like winners, as Andy's company had actually designed the bags and logos for Route 11. Tres coincidence!

Dave stepped up to the front and drew the genre from the official hat -- HORROR. This was good. We had done a crowd-pleasing horror film before, Shakespeare vs. the Monsters. And horror was a genre that Travesty Films had turned to often in the '70s and '80s, when film was actually shot on film.

Dave and Andy repaired to the local Hooters, where Pat and Tom Welsh were waiting. If you're involved in a project with Pat Carroll and there is a Hooters nearby, you will find yourself in that Hooters. And that is where the script took shape.

The story of a 12-year-old ghost-hunter presented itself and the script took shape, as it often does, on tiny scraps of paper, a form suitable to the scope of the vision.

 From Hooters, it was a straight shot up 7th Street NW, which becomes Georgia Avenue, which leads directly to the Patcave.


Before any substantive works gets underway: Lunch! (It's after noon already.)

The Command Center, where director Rich West will make the magic happen.

Graphics whiz Brad sets up a satellite workstation.
Storyboards are hastily scribbled to give the team a clearer understanding of where this story is headed and to keep us all on track. Not sure anybody paid much attention to them.

The magic begins. Mr. Carroll stays on course deep into the night, drawing his sad little creatures (or stars), scanning, Photoshopping (in a format that will require extra work later, but still). Behind him, international thespian Jim Phalen checks his fan mail while awaiting his closeup.
Writer/actor Tom polishes the script. Or checks his mail.
Director Rich loses himself in the process.

Brad creates an entire world through the miracle of pixels. These are the type of fascinating behind-the-scenes shots you won't see on E! or Entertainment Tonight.

Actual filming takes place! A bit late in the afternoon, but, hey. Our star, Ms. Shari Elliker, lost in her character. What a pro!

TRAGEDY! Brad's graphic computer goes down. The clock is ticking. This is standard 48 Hour Film Project procedure. Still sucks, though.


VICTORY! Film finished on time and with a reasonable amount of quality.

Because our film will not screen until the following Friday, there's time to create fancy promotional postcards for the event. Which we do. (Thanks, Vistaprint!)  And, as if we had any foresight, organizers announce a new award: The Spirit Award, for the team which exhibits the most, er, whatever, at their screening.

So, at some expense (I mistakenly double-order), postcards are created. In my haste, I leave Tom's name off as the main actor.

Sneaking into the theater before the show, I place postcards on every chair. Feels like overkill and maybe a bit creepy. But it's marketing! Promotion! This is how it's done -- street-teaming myself!

We don't win the Spirit Award. A team that made an utterly earnest film about saving the ocean, using drawings of fish attached to sticks, takes the prize. Sigh.

We also don't win the Audience Award, either, which is always what we shoot for. A team that made an "operetta" about milk wins. And deservedly so. After all, it featured live humans and we only offered crude drawings. Still, defeat never tastes good.

Ah, well. We did make it into the Best-of screening, which takes place Thursday, May 23, at the AFI Silver Theatre, Silver Spring, Md. Get your tickets now.

*It wasn't much different.

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