By George T. Marshall, RIIFF Executive
Not only is the weather heating up, film production
and film festivals are cropping up everywhere. Downtown
Providence has been abuzz with sightings of Jim Belushi
and the ongoing production of Disney’s “Underdog.”
Of interest to me was the recent wrap in Boston of the
48 Hour Film Project that showcased local filmmakers
and producers, in a novel and definitely challenging
I first heard of the project, through the following
“Not much can be accomplished in 24 hours,
unless you are Jack Bauer of 24. However, all across
the country, local filmmakers will fight time and sacrifice
48 hours of their lives to complete a short film.”
not sure if sacrifice is the right word here; but I
was definitely intrigued and set about learning what
the Project was about and to discover firsthand from
participants what experiences they had. I learned a
THE PROJECT’S MISSION
The 48 Hour Film Project's mission is to advance filmmaking
and promote filmmakers. Through its festival/competition,
the Project encourages filmmakers and would-be filmmakers
to get out there and make movies. The tight deadline
of 48 hours puts the focus squarely on the filmmakers
emphasizing creativity and teamwork skills. While the
time limit places an unusual restriction on the filmmakers,
it is also liberating, according to the organizers,
by putting an emphasis on "doing" instead
THE PROJECT’S HISTORY
Back in May 2001, DC filmmaker Mark Ruppert came up
with a crazy idea to try to make a film in 48 hours.
He quickly enlisted his filmmaking partner, Liz Langston,
and several other DC filmmakers to form their own teams
and join him in this experiment. The big question back
then was: "Would films made in only 48 hours even
be watchable? (Which was also my question.)
The answer was a resounding yes, and now 5 years later
and with more than 66 competitions having taken place
around the world, it is amazing to consider the success
of the Project. This year marks the 5th time the Project
visited Atlanta, Los Angeles, New York and Austin, and
the 7th time for DC.
The smallest team has consisted of one person who sets
up the camera then runs around to be "on-camera".
Their largest team to date was an Atlanta-based team
with 70 people. They’ve had about 2000 teams in
the Project over the years, and at 15 people per team;
that translates to roughly 30,000 people who have answered
the call to come on out and make a movie.
THE FILMMAKERS/PARTICIPANTS INTERVIEWED
• Ben Guaraldi, Boston Producer,
48 Hour Film Project
According to Ben: “I was always an avid fan of
film. Growing up, it was Star Wars, Northern Exposure,
and Twin Peaks. During high school, I was a devoted
fan of Orson Welles and Quentin Tarantino. I thought
I wanted to grow up to be a film director. So, during
college, I chose the major of Film Studies, participated
in the Film Society, edited the film journal, and made
a few movies and a weekly television show. It was all
a lot of fun.
"When I graduated, I went out to Silicon Valley
to be part of the dot-com boom. For four years I didn't
have anything to do with filmmaking, except for catching
the occasional Steven Soderberg or Charlie Kaufman movie.
And then, at Burning Man (an arts festival/temporary
city in the Nevada desert), I met Liz Langston, one
of the two Executive Producers of the 48 Hour Film Project.
We became friends. So when they needed someone to run
the Project in Boston, she offered me the job.”
• Chad Carlberg, Creative Director/Founder,
Bait & Tackle Ad Co., www.
Footnote: Chad Carlberg of Bait & Tackle was
invited into the competition only five hours before
the kickoff! Their film won several awards, including
the Audience Award for its night.
A college art major (Cum Laude, Gordon College, 1995),
Chad left his Massachusetts home to pursue a career
in film production as a digital effects artist. During
his five-year tenure in Los Angeles and San Francisco
he worked for renowned companies like Visionart (Academy-Award
Winner for Best Visual Effects, Independence Day) and
MVFX (Academy-Award Winner for Best Visual Effects,
The Matrix) as a compositor and compositing supervisor
on many theatrical features. It was in the realm of
feature film that Chad began studying the craft of editing.
In 2000, Chad left New Zealand where he had relocated
to begin work on the VFX team of the Lord of the Rings
Trilogy in order to follow a longtime dream of producing
and directing a documentary on Dominican baseball players.
Chad became fascinated with the Dominican baseball story
while living on the Haitian border of the tiny country
some 12 years ago. Los Duros chronicles the lives of
Major League Baseball stars Miguel Tejada, Bartolo Colon,
and Vladimir Guerrero, and features dozens of others
like Pedro Martinez, Sammy Sosa, David Ortiz, Alfonso
Soriano and Albert Pujols. The film, now in its 5th
year of production, will be featured in select IMAX
theaters throughout the country. The film gained early
notoriety as it was one of the first documentaries to
be shot entirely in the High-Definition video format.
Three years ago, Chad Carlberg started making local
television commercials after recognizing the need for
improvement in cable television advertising. The result
was Bait & Tackle Ad Company, a fusion of the traditional
advertising agency and a production company whose sole
aim is to help small businesses grow through high-concept,
high-value TV commercials. As Creative Director of Bait
& Tackle, Chad and his team have won over 45 awards
for advertising including 5 Telly Awards, a Silver Radio
Mercury Award (Mark Stevick), and two Davey Awards.
and The Clown’s Here earned top honors for the
Show Us Your River TV Commercial Contest for WXRV 92.5
The River Radio. His commercial The Clown’s Here
was selected as the contest winner, airing on Comcast
cable throughout Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire.
Today, the company produces TV commercials for many
clients of Comcast, Adelphia, Viamedia (RCN), Boston’s
broadcast networks including Spanish-language Univision,
and a handful of large advertising agencies.
Joe LaRocca; Top Feeg, www.topfeeg.com
Footnote: Joe LaRocca of Top Feeg was almost finished
its first film, but then gave up on it and wrote, shot,
and edited the second film (which was the one shown)
in 7 hours.
According to Joe, “I am a graduate of Boston College's
film program which is very personal and very little
and very great for those reasons. The production side
is lead by Professor Michael Civille, an excellent man
and director. BC gave me a deep film history background,
which I considered and great advantage over most local
film programs. I have worked for the New York Film Academy
the past two summers at their Harvard location. I have
also made several short films in the semi-professional
range since graduating. Now I write for a Podcast called
"The Beams", write my own stuff, work on my
own projects, and update my website
"I have always
loved movies. I got involved in filmmaking because I
am a slow reader and I don't have the discipline for
science. I don't know if have those faults are BECAUSE
I fell for filmmaking so early on or if those are WHY
I fell for filmmaking so early on.”
THE QUESTIONS & SOME INTERESTING ANSWERS
GTM: What drew you to the 48 Hour Film Project?
Ben Guaraldi: I was excited to run
such a large project. I was drawn by the opportunity
to meet so many creative folks and support their endeavors
and make a venue for them to meet each other. And I
was interested in the shift in fields from computer
programming to film festival production.
Joe LaRocca: My professor in college,
Michael Civille, told our whole class about the 48 Hour
Film Project. I thought it sounded like a good way to
be productive. So I just mailed in the application.
I really had no idea what I was getting into.
Chad Carlberg: The spirit of the 48
Hour Film Festival is very much in line with the mission
of Bait & Tackle Ad Agency. But, I was inspired
by my friend (Director of Photography on Los Duros,
Michael Caporale) when he arrived in Boston to lecture
on the HVX200 on a Panasonic and Apple Computers training
tour. (visit Mike’s site at: http://24pdigitalcinema.com/).
To demonstrate the capabilities of the camera, Mike
showed one of the winning 48Hour films from a previous
year, and I thought, “Geez. We can do better than
GTM: What were the dynamics of working with
different people you just met in undertaking this project?
Chad Carlberg: Once I had a list of
participants, I sent them all a letter stating that
‘this is not a democracy. What I say goes. You’ll
be assigned a role based on your abilities and our needs,”
And then, over the next 48 hours, I learned how well
Not only did everyone make a contribution, each person
brought very useful and quite particular skills and
resources. We were like the Superfriends, only with
more wool than lycra.
Joe LaRocca: I only work with good
friends because I don't feel like it is a weekend to
be polite. I just like knowing the people before hand.
For the same reason that I shoot, direct, and edit.
It isn't that I am a control freak it just helps me
keep everything organized which is very important when
you only have 48 hours.
Ben Guaraldi: Mostly, I know my coworkers
quite well, actually. My volunteers are my family and
friends, and even many of the filmmakers I've gotten
to know over the years.
I think for the filmmakers, it's challenging to work
with anyone under such intense deadlines. It's really
hard to make a film in 48 hours, and all of the folks
working on it need to work as a team.
It's difficult to
do that with even your friends, and with strangers it's
very hard. Some of the best films that have come out
of the 48HFP have been because strangers worked together,
though, so it can be very rewarding, too.
GTM: How was experience different from other productions
you’ve been involved with professionally?
Joe LaRocca: It is much less organized,
despite all my attempts to keep it simple. It always
gets loud. There are always last minute changes to major
plot points and stuff like that.
Ben Guaraldi: This is my first professional
experience in this field.
Chad Carlberg: With most productions,
I know that I am involved before the day the project
begins. We were on the waitlist for the film festival
and did not find out that we could participate until
the Friday that it began. Though we work efficiently
at Bait & Tackle, we had to take our efficiency
to new level without compromising the product.
GTM: What hat did you wear during your involvement
with the Project?
Ben Guaraldi: I was the Boston Producer
of the 48 Hour Film Project, which means that I ran
all aspects of the festival, from booking the theater
to mastering the screening tapes to emceeing the shows.
Joe LaRocca: Director, Writer, Editor,
DP. But we all write as a team.
Chad Carlberg: Concept. Co-Writer &
Director with Mark Stevick. Cheerleader. A hole.
GTM: What were he pros and cons pf working on
Chad Carlberg: Fabulous film, worked
with outstanding cast & crew including broadway
talent, 17th century history scholars, (we chose historical
drama after passing on “Silent Film”) a
highly acclaimed DP, and even a psychiatrist on staff
(“Yes, you can act. Look at you. Look in the mirror.
You have more than
potential friend; you’re already realized. Now
get out there and ACT!”)
Honestly, the greatest pro to this project was proving
everything that we stand for and believe about ourselves
as a company. We took what we do every day and amped
it up tenfold, showing that great production and ideas
can still be executed within a limited budget.
We finally woke up the day before yesterday and our
costumes smelled very, well, period drama.
Joe LaRocca: The pros are that you get to be productive
and it forces you to get something done.
This sounds very
simple but it really is the best part for us. Otherwise
it is tough to get many people together and pumped about
doing something. I mean our team shot a whole film on
Saturday, I decided it wasn't any good and didn't edit
together well on Sunday morning. So we shot a completely
new movie not using a single frame from the film the
day before. That is amazingly productive, and no one
on my team had a problem with it. Normally if a film
project didn't work out well we would put it to the
side and probably never revisit it. 48 Hours forces
to get something done because people are going to see
it and hey you got $125 bucks on the line. The cons
are that everyone has such good ideas in our group that
it is very hard to filter them into a story. I get excited
by ideas a lot and use them but then realize later that
it doesn't fit into the story, or it is to hard to shot
effectively in a 48 hour period, or it just isn't funny.
If an abundance of good ideas is a con then I would
say that is the one down side for us. We know the rules
of the game going in so it isn't like we get mad or
stressed by genre and elements and time.
Ben Guaraldi: The best part has been
meeting all of the local folks who take on this challenge
and seeing the often incredible films they create.
The worst part is probably that the two weeks after
the screening I am working almost twenty-four hours
GTM: If you were to do this again, what would
you do differently?
Joe LaRocca: I guess we will see next
Ben Guaraldi: I might get a co-producer.
Chad Carlberg: Nothing. Not a thing.
GTM: Did you learn anything about yourself from
participation in this project?
Joe LaRocca: I learned that when I
don't work to filter ideas and I let everything go into
the story that it derails the movie very quickly. On
Saturday I was a very bad director and let everything
go with no decision making (which is the main job of
the director). But on Sunday after learning from my
mistakes (mistakes we didn't have the past 2 years)
I become a good director, made decisions, and we banged
out a decent film.
Ben Guaraldi: Oh, so much. I learned
that I'm a natural leader, that I have a great stage
presence, that I'm good at organizing and running big
things with lots of little details. I've often been
surprised at how much many of the filmmakers like me.
After all, I'm just doing my job by presenting their
films in the best possible fashion.
Chad Carlberg: Yes.
GTM: Tell is about the process that went into
creating the film you were involved with from concept
Chad Carlberg: http://48hourfilm.com/boston/blog.php
Joe LaRocca: We brainstorm all Friday,
where everyone in the group has a say in controlling
the story. Then we get up early on Saturday and start
shooting. Then Sunday morning I edit. This year during
that Sunday editing portion I realized that not only
did our film not make any sense it was also not cutting
together properly. I freaked out of course. Were we
really going to submit this piece of crap? Where we
not going to submit at all?! The past 2 years we had
done Mock-u-mentary style films that don't rely heavily
on organization. It is more just joke, joke, joke, insert
picture of someone with a fake moustache, joke, end.
This was supposed to be a much more linear story. We
failed in that. So I rallied the troops and we shot
"The Tell-Tale Stomach" (which was the first
idea we had but didn't develop at all) in about 6 hours
and got it in with 10 min. to spare hence the strange
off kilter credits and the horrible horrible title.
GTM: What advice would you give to other filmmakers
about undertaking such a time-sensitive commitment?
Joe LaRocca: Just make sure you keep
it simple. Aim for a 5 min movie, if it doesn't absolutely
need to be in the film then cut it. Don't be serious,
it almost never seems to work. Remember to have fun
too. Because if you do have fun it shows up on film
and the audience loves it, not that I pander to the
audience but it makes the whole event more enjoyable
when your film is well received. I was not having fun
this year until Sunday when we started the new idea,
despite the fact that it was looking like we weren't
going to get it in on time. It was all because I realized
that if you aren't having fun then your done. That goes
with most things as well.
Chad Carlberg: It’s totally worth
the effort, but clear your schedule for the next week.
You’ll need some recovery time.
Ben Guaraldi: Oh, so much: Plan ahead.
Check your equipment. Meet your crew before hand--have
a drink; socialize. Have fun while making your movie
(the audience will be able to tell). Write a good script,
and don't start shooting until you have one. Be nice
to your teammates. Be bold: Make interesting and daring
decisions. Be humble: This movie belongs to your entire
Remember the audience:
Your movie is first and foremost for them.
For more information
about participating in the next 48 Hour Film Project,
go to the Project’s website at www.48hourfilm.com
About the Author:
George T. Marshall is the Producing Director of
the Rhode Island-based Flickers Arts Collaborative,
the creators of the annual Rhode Island International
Film Festival for which he also serves as Executive
Director. He teaches film and communications at Rhode
Island College and speech communications and documentary
film at Roger Williams University. He is a director,
writer, producer of commercials and industrials for
numerous business clients in the region and will be
presenting his current research paper “Teaching
and the Blogosphere” at the Annual Conference
of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass
Communication (AEJMC) in August. He can be reached at