In Seattle on July 10-12, filmmakers engaged in two days of busy, busy work – over 80 teams competed with one another to produce a film in only two days!
The 48 Hour Film Project is an anticipated event for the northwest film industry, and a staple for the local film community. It inspires, energizes, and motivates – and no one knows that more than the project’s producer and organizer, Krk Nordenstrom.
Post-festival (and insanity), Washington Filmworks sat down with Nordenstrom to discuss the benefits, style, and specific success of the 48 Hour Film Project.
Washington Filmworks (WF): How does the 48 Hour Film Project (48HFP) advance and promote filmmakers? Has this objective and execution stayed the same or evolved in the past few years?
Krk Nordenstrom (KN): The 48 Hour Film Project advances and promotes filmmakers in several ways.
Beginning filmmakers have an opportunity to step up and actually make a movie with a minimal amount of time commitment and then get to see their film up on a real theater screen. It can be a huge motivational boost to continue honing one’s skills and craft. I recently finished editing a feature by an 18 year-old director who was so inspired by participating in the 48HFP that he spent the next several years developing this nearly-completed feature.
Professional level filmmakers, particularly in metropolitan Seattle, spend most of their time working on commercial and corporate projects which, over time, can drain one’s creative battery. Participating in the 48HFP provides a lot of commercial professionals an opportunity to recharge their creative batteries and remind themselves why they got into this industry in the first place… it’s fun!
At all levels of development, the 48HFP allows participants to work with new people or with people they might never have had the opportunity to work with but really wanted to. The 48HFP film can also be used for an IMDB credit and the Best in City winner goes on to compete against the city winners from all over the world for the coveted title “Best 48 Hour Film of the Year” at Filmapalooza. The top 12 films from this event go on to screen at a short film showcase at the Cannes Film Festival. This year, our 2014 Seattle winners, “Challenge Accepted,” took third place internationally with their film I-Charon and it went on to screen at Cannes. “Challenge Accepted” is led by Kevin and Phillip Harvey and the 48HFP exposure and experience has really helped develop their professional careers.
WF: How would you describe the range of participating filmmakers and their reasons for getting involved?
KN: The participants in the 48HFP span the gamut of experience – from someone who has never made a film ever all the way to professional, full-time filmmakers with lengthy resumes. Since the time commitment is so minimal, the 48HFP is a great way for participants to experiment and push themselves technically and creatively. You can take chances in a 48HFP film that you might be more wary of in any other circumstance. The screenings are also a huge draw. Most people never get a chance to see their film in front of a packed house and we guarantee everyone who turns a film in a screening at the SIFF Cinema Uptown Theater the very next week. The screenings are a truly inspirational part of the whole thing for me – seeing all these still-delirious people all watching the movie they made less than a week ago on a real theater screen!
WF: What is the level of local support, and how does the project advance filmmaking in Seattle?
KN: We get a lot of support from local vendors and organizations. Northwest Film Forum, Bad Animals, The Film School, Seattle Film Institute, Essential Baking and a handful of other organizations pitch in with prizes for winning teams and help spread the word about participating or coming to the screenings. Washington Filmworks and the Office of Film + Music have always been there to help spread the word and offer general support and encouragement. The level of support over the last 10 years has been staggering!
I think the biggest way that the 48HFP advances filmmaking in Seattle is through the community building that results from the event. Numerous teams that formed out of this event have gone on to be long time creative partnerships. I host a series of networking events every year and a lot of people make new professional connections through them. Our Facebook group has become one of the go-to places to post one’s availability, recent successes, job opportunities and educational resources. We have our summer event and our Horror event in October, but I try to make our Facebook presence an ongoing community resource for the greater Washington State film industry.
Tangentially, the Seattle 48HFP has afforded me a bit of a megaphone and a voice for community organizing on behalf of WAFilmPAC and being able to help Washington Filmworks with their grassroots efforts. Without all my years of developing the 48HFP community here in Seattle, I don’t think I’d have the same voice or reach in terms of working to further the cause of keeping film in Washington.
WF: Speaking of advancing filmmaking, some people would consider the contest to be a guerrilla filmmaking opportunity. Do you agree with this assessment? Why or why not?
KN: We don’t really talk about the 48HFP in terms of guerrilla filmmaking. I guess it qualifies for sure, but we don’t really ever use the term in reference to the 48HFP. Participants might, but the family of City Producers worldwide doesn’t. We usually refer to the 48HFP as a time crunch opportunity to put your skills and creativity to the test under extreme conditions. A chance to let restrictive limitations force you to really flex your creative muscles.
WF: Are there any particularly great filmmaker success stories, or have any of these films evolved into longer form projects?
There is a sister competition called the Four Points Film Project which goes on worldwide in one weekend in November. It’s 72 hours long, so a hair less stressful, but still very stressful. A team from Helsinki won Best Film in the Four Points and was included with the other 48HFP winners at the Cannes showcase this last May. They turned that success into a distribution deal for a feature they had in the Cannes (sorry couldn’t resist the pun) and met a whole army of professional contacts through going to the Festival.
In Seattle, to the best of my knowledge, there are no features that have grown out of any of the films, but I do know that the Harvey Brothers credit the 48HFP with a great deal of their professional growth and some opportunities that arose because of the quality of their films. Father Africa, a feature directed by Chase Crittenden at age 17, was inspired by his participating in the 48HFP when he was 15. I had the pleasure of editing that film and it employed a fair number of local cast and crew. There are a fair number of previous competitors that haven’t come back that I see working regularly on loftier and loftier projects. Jonathan Holbrook just sold his series Still to Hulu and Amazon Instant Video. So, yeah, 48HFP veterans do go on to grander projects and many of them stay here.
Washington Filmworks thanks Krk Nordenstrom for his time and valuable insight. Stay tuned for details regarding the Awards Screening, taking place on August 6 at SIFF Uptown, and read more about the project here.
Kirk Nordenstrom is an editor, producer, director and community organizer in Seattle. He got his start in filmmaking in 2001 when he had his midlife crisis early at the age of 30 and went to film school rather than buying a fast car. Since then he has edited 3 feature narrative films, countless short films, commercials, music videos, short films and industrials to make ends meet. Additionally, in 2014 he got very active in the community organizing aspect of the Washington state film industry working with WA Film PAC and Washington Filmworks. A stated goal being to help grow the filmmaking industry in Washington and continue living and working here.
Kirk has been City Producer for the Seattle leg of the 48 Hour Film Project. He got the job by pestering Mark Ruppert and Liz Langston, the founders of the competition, until they asked him if he would like to run the event in Seattle. Thus, the Seattle 48 Hour Film Project was born in 2005. It is currently in its 11th year with a horror themed version of the event in October. It has grown from 24 teams in 2005 to 84 teams in 2015 making it the 2nd largest 48HFP competition on the West Coast. Only LA is larger at this point.
Kirk hopes to bring the 48HFP to Spokane in 2016.