MANCHESTER — New Hampshire was besieged by zombies and motorcycle maniacs on Saturday. While that happened, there was an escape from the state prison in Concord, and in Nashua, an aging rock star was reminiscing about his career. Some puppets gathered to try to provide children with some of life's answers and a water-testing femme fatale was on the run, trying to escape the shadows of her past.
All of it was part of the fourth annual 48-hour Film Project, a competition in which filmmakers are given a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a randomly selected genre that they must include in a movie produced in just two days. After that, it's up to their imagination. Team leaders must put together their own cast and crew and get equipment and anything else they need to make a film. The project is sponsored by the New Hampshire Union Leader.
“We're having a great time. The chaos that's happening is the best kind of chaos,” said Christopher Dubey, a competitor from Berlin filming a comedy about zombies, mutants and an eclectic collection of firearms. “You really find out who your friends are when they're willing to work for free and stare down the barrel of a sawed-off shotgun all in the name of art.”
That bit about the shotgun was meant literally, not figuratively, he said. He's tentatively titled the movie “Centaurkarn.”
“Well, you don't know” what that made-up mythological creature is, he said. “It's just the thing that, so far, has gotten the biggest laughs.”
The teams basically have to go from scratch to completed film in those 48 hours. In Hollywood, that process takes months or even years.
Cait Gillett had to squeeze in making the film around her graduation Saturday from The Derryfield School. An added incentive was that her brother, Brendan, was leading a competing team.
“I'm a little stressed out at the moment and trying to figure out when this will all fit in,” she said just after her graduation ceremony. “But I'm confident we'll be able to produce a film. I don't know if it will be the best quality, but it will get produced in some shape or form.”
Her genre is film de femme, meaning it had to feature a female lead. She said that, in addition to directing the movie and leading her team, she's co-starring as the sidekick to the lead, a water tester who is on the run from her past authority group and trying to find her way to safety.
Her brother was assigned to do a family film. He said he decided not to go fluffy or light. And his explanation sounded like that of a serious film student, though Brendan Gillett is studying English literature at Pomona College in California.
“We wanted to do something sort of substantial and that looks at a particular issue or a particular aspect of life through a lens. We're doing this sort of meta-thing on top of it that explains it in a way that kids can understand but also would appeal to older people. It's about families and acceptance and things like that,” he said.
It's a family film that will be easy for kids to understand?
“There are puppets,” he said.
Despite the time crunch, though, Cait Gillett said she still managed to catch about six hours of sleep Friday night. Dan Young of Nashua wasn't so lucky.
“It's going to be rough,” said Young, who on Saturday said he was operating on about 90 minutes of sleep and some coffee. “We're going to get it done.”
Filmmakers can choose how much to incorporate the character, prop and line of dialogue they're given. It can be a quick mention, such as the character uttering the line while being killed by the prop in the first scene of the movie, or, as in the case of Young's mockumentary comedy about the 80s-era musician talking about his life, it can become central to the film.
“We really tried to go that extra mile to incorporate those elements,” he said. “That has been one of the more fun parts of it.”
Cait Gillett also decided to centrally incorporate the material — her heroine's name, Donna, is the one she was given by the project coordinators. Her brother chose to use the character and line as background material.
She said there will be no sibling jealousy if one wins an award and the other doesn't. Her brother agreed. Sort of.
“So if we get an award and you don't, it'll be fine. But if you guys get an award and we don't, I'll be mad, but it'll still be fine,” he said.
The 30 teams in the New Hampshire competition have to submit their completed films to Double Midnight Comics and Collectibles in Manchester by 7:30 tonight. The films will be screened Wednesday at the Cinemagic Theater in Hooksett. Several awards will be given in various categories, and the film selected as the best will be forwarded to an international 48-hour film project.
“We get to take one weekend and be movie stars,” Dubey said. “There's something good and pure about that.”
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Tim Buckland may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.