Putting adrenaline on the big screen
More than 50 teams meet the challenge to make their own short film in just 48 hours
Posted: October 9, 2013
Courtesy Photo: 48 Hour Film Project Praha
The clock started counting down from 48 at a packed Belushi's Music Bar Friday, Oct. 4, in the 48 Hour Film Project Praha creative challenge.
Dynamite comes in small packages, and recently you may have seen teams with video cameras frantically running from place to place while following the orders of their peers to create impressive action using very basic means.
Some 70 teams of creatives signed up to show just how big their imagination is when they took part in the 48 Hour Film Project (48HFP) Praha over the Oct. 4-6 weekend. In the end, 53 teams finished their films and handed them in by deadline.
This event formed part of a worldwide initiative to give teams an equal opportunity - or rather, challenge - by having a total production length, including pre- and post-, of approximately 48 hours. That means, from the moment the teams were assigned a prop, a character and a line of dialogue, all of which have to feature in the final film (in the genre selected on the night, different for every team), they had only two days to come up with a screenplay, find locations, shoot the action by cleverly integrating the obligatory elements, and edit the material together into a cohesive short film of between 4 and 7 minutes that would look professional enough to screen at a cinema.
The elements were revealed at the kickoff to be the following: The prop every team had to use was a potato, the character they had to feature in their story in some way should be a futurist called either Jan Oracular or Barbora Oracularová, and the line of dialogue, in a nod to one of the main sponsors of the event, Fénix beer, was "Probuď v sobě Fénixe!" (Wake up the phoenix inside you!).
It is no mean feat coming up with something presentable in 48 hours, much less if the numerous obstacles mentioned above are applied across the board to the creative process, but the project, now in Prague for its third installment, drew interest from a wide variety of people who considered themselves ready for the challenge.
The teams started their creative adventure, "a wild and sleepless weekend," according to producer and co-organizer Paul Ratner, Friday evening, Oct. 4, at around 7 p.m., and needed to hand in their film by Sunday, Oct. 6, at 7:30 p.m. The event was launched in a packed Belushi's Music Bar, where a representative from each team had to make his or her way up to the stage to draw tickets with the required elements for their respective productions.
Prague is one of more than 120 cities across the globe where people from all walks of life are encouraged to take part in this activity that gets the creative juices flowing by asking participants to use their imagination and storytelling abilities while they need to meet some very specific requirements.
The winning film from each city will be entered into and screened at an international competition called the Filmapalooza, to further boost the visibility of the filmmakers and their skeleton crews. Held at the famous TCL (formerly Grauman's) Chinese Theatre in Hollywood this past March, the next Filmapalooza will be in New Orleans, which has become a magnet for film production in recent years.
Ratner is very enthusiastic about the level of participation in the 2013 Prague edition, and this year's teams outnumbered those from last year by 2 to 1. While it is natural to assume some of the teams comprise students from film schools, he says they are by no means the majority, and people from many different sections of the creative industry signed up for the journey.
"Most teams finish on time. About 10 percent are usually late, but they also get to screen at Kino Lucerna with everyone else (Oct. 12)," Ratner said prior to the kickoff.
The Czech television channel TV Nova will screen the winning film, and many of the films will also be accessible online at Voyo.cz.
Of course, many filmmakers will use their work here as a calling card for future investment in their endeavors. "We have heard that many filmmakers get jobs through the media attention and opportunities created for them by participating in our festival," Ratner said.
While the excitement of the weekend is the main focus, it was actually just the starting point for a larger discussion on and exposure to filmmaking that extend into the days after. Technical workshops took place Monday, Oct. 7, at Era svět in Prague 1, where representatives from Canon and TV Nova discussed new camera and screenwriting techniques, with the goal of giving participants an edge in the fast-moving world of the film business. For Wednesday, Oct. 9, another meeting at Era svět, open to anyone who is interested, was scheduled with Rick McCallum, the world-famous producer behind the three Star Wars prequels (episodes one, two and three) who currently lives in Prague and is working with local director Tomáš Mašín to bring the controversial Cold War story of the Mašín brothers to the big screen as soon as next year.
All the films produced during this project's 48 hours will be screened, in several different sections, at Lucerna Oct. 12.
André Crous can be reached at