Tomorrow, Friday July 12, teams of local Seattle filmmakers will begin the 48 Hour Film Project (48HFP); a frenetic sprint to write, shoot, and edit a film in only 48 hours. To better understand what makes the 48 Hour Film Project the state’s largest film competition, Washington Filmworks spoke to Krk Nordenstrom, a Seattle filmmaker and teacher, and the producer of the Seattle leg of this international competition.
Describe the 48 Hour Film Project and how you came to be involved?
The 48 Hour Film Project is the world’s largest filmmaking competition. It’s run in over 120 cities in the world and over 60,000 people participate each year. In short, it’s a timed filmmaking competition where teams have 48 hours to make a short film utilizing a required line of dialogue, a prop, a specific character and one of 14 genres, which the team picks at random.
I got involved in 2005 after a film I produced for the National Film Challenge, a sister competition to the 48HFP. My film won Best Cop/Detective Film. I was asked if I wanted to run the 48 HFP in Seattle and here we are, 8 years later, and this is now the state’s largest filmmaking competition.
Filmmakers must complete their films in such a small window of time. How much prep time are they allowed?
Teams can gather cast, crew, locations, props, costumes, etc. as far in advance as they want. They are not allowed to do any writing or story development in advance of the kick off. The required elements are in place to thwart any such advance creative planning.
How has the project grown since you took over the Seattle leg in 2005?
In 2005, I managed to scrape together 24 teams for one 4 hour screening at the old Neptune Theater. Then it grew to 36 teams and then 42 and then, peaked around 50 teams for several years. This year, we have broken a record. We stand at 60 teams as I write this. Not sure what I’ve done differently this year, but the numbers are staggering! Each team averages 15 members, so that means we will mobilize somewhere near 1000 filmmakers in the state!
The rules and mechanics haven’t changed a bit. What has changed is the technology. Cameras are cheaper. Computers are cheaper and faster. Software is more sophisticated… and cheaper. The entry barrier has been lowered and it’s really democratized the event. That really excites me. High school kids with a smart phone can enter along with professionals shooting on a RED Epic. Ultimately it’s the story that wins over production value, so everyone has a shot at the big prize if they have a compelling enough story.
Your film Vice 11 won Best in Genre in 2004. Talk about your experience as a participant.
Making Vice 11 was an interesting experience. I was two years out of film school and was looking for any opportunity to make a film, work with my friends and make new creative associates. I put out a call that I wanted to do the National Film Challenge and upwards of 40 responded. So, I made and produced two teams. Other than wrangling logistics and paperwork, I had very little to do with Vice 11 creatively. The team wrote a great script and executed on it.
Vice 11, working largely on their own under the wise guardianship of Dom Zook made an amazing cop/detective, very film noir piece about a series of murders and a stuffed monkey that may or may not have existed at all. I learned a lot in organizing this as it was really my first time producing and I think it laid the groundwork for me to run the 48HFP.
What makes Seattle unique among the other contestant cities?
Seattle is a mid-size city and we think we’re a big city like San Francisco or Los Angeles or Chicago. Seattle is fiercely independent and we have a lot of auteurs, which is both a blessing and a curse. When people try to do things independently, there is a tendency for people to try and re-create the wheel. I think this competition, along with fine organizations like Washington Filmworks, Northwest Film Forum and the Seattle Office of Film + Music, do a lot to bring these fiercely independent people together and create a sense of community and a desire to work together. We register more teams than Toronto, a much bigger city with more filmmaking activity and infrastructure.
How big do you see the 48 Hour Film Project getting?
As of 2012, there were over 120 cities around the world competing. I can see this easily doubling in size in coming years, particularly in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. There are some seriously aggressive city producers in those regions. Next year is Seattle’s 10th anniversary and I plan on celebrating by setting up the Spokane 48 Hour Film Project in early May! I’m also interested in figuring out the legalities of setting up the Vancouver BC 48HFP.
This year, sponsors have signed up to make a great series of perks and prizes for the winners. Adobe, Pond5, Cinemek, Red Giant, Dick’s Drive In, Cinetics, Solo Bar, Rampant Design Tools, May Restaurant, Bad Animals and HiBall energy drink have all pitched in to make a stellar prize package and some goodies for everyone involved in this year’s competition. I hope to make an even grander set of goodies available in coming years.
Washington Filmworks congratulates the 48HFP:Seattle on the tremendous growth of the event. If you’d like to see any of the films once they are complete you can find the screening schedule here. And to all the participating teams – break a leg this weekend!
Krk Nordenstrom is a freelance video editor and producer in Seattle. In 2004 he produced a couple of teams for the National Film Challenge, a sister competition to the 48. One of the films won best cop/detective film and screened at Filmapalooza in 2005. It was there that Liz Langston, co-founder of the 48 Hour Film Project, asked him if he would like to organize the Seattle leg of the event. Krk agreed and launched the event in July 2005 with 24 teams competing. Since then, he has grown the event steadily each year. 2013 is the 9th year for the event in Seattle and it’s broken their record for most teams registered.