48 Hour Film Project Takes Over Studio Movie Grill

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Aspiring filmmakers from Houston and beyond traveled to the Studio Movie Grill CityCenter last night to view a showcase of their own work and size up the competition. Last night Art Attack took in some popcorn and soda and kicked back for one of the five screenings of the 48 Hour Film Project.

The 48 Hour Film Project is sort of a nutty idea. It began in 2001 when creator Mark Rupert wanted to challenge himself to make a film in a weekend. The result of his initial experiment is now an international event that boasts 16,000 teams over its decade-long run from over 100 cities. Each year the project has grown in size and stature. Now, the 48HFP goes to Cannes to be screened amongst the best and the brightest in film.

The insanity happens over one weekend where teams of varying sizes are given a character, a prop and a piece of dialogue, all of which need to be incorporated into their film. Other than those three criteria, the skies the limit on what the film can be about, where it can take place and how wild and crazy it can turn out.

Houston has been an active city in the project for eight years now, and this year the city saw some of its highest numbers of participation. Houston Producer Laura Schlecht has been a part of the project for many years and is thrilled at how much the entire event has grown. "When I started there was about 30 cities involved," Schlecht tells us, "and now there are over 100!"

As producer, Schlecht is heavily involved in all facets of the project, including choosing the judges for the Houston portion. Schlect has chosen judges from the film community in Houston to pick the overall winner for Space City. Once a film wins here, it moves into the national running where it is pinned against other regional winners.

Each city has its own specific weekend to produce and for Houston it was June 8 to 10. Films must have been completed on time to be considered and include three preordained prompts. This year's films needed to include: a character named Jacob or Jasmin Alexander who was a chef, a briefcase must show up somewhere, as well as the line "Here's where it gets tricky." 72 teams took part in this year's Houston competition and of those 69 got it right and were able to compete. In addition to the judges' choice of best films, democracy also prevails and the shorts are given a screening with an "audience favorite" component. Last night 14 films in the Group C were screened, each of varying genre and skill.

The first film screened during last night's showcase was called Told You So and was created by a company called 4th Collective. The film was described as a dark comedy, but it could have also fallen into the mockumentary realm. It was about an underground "corn holing" competition, which I learned is the name to describe that game, usually found at elementary school carnivals, where kids throw bean bags into holes cut into wooden slats. I was impressed. It was hilarious and looked incredibly professional. Apparently 4th Collective know how to make a 48 hour film; they were the Houston winners in 2009.

Unfortunately screening them first set the bar fairly high, making it difficult for some of the other films to compete, but there were a few golden moments. Botched by The Filminators was a noir-esque detective drama and while it was hard to understand what exactly was going on, it looked pretty cool. Overall it was interesting to see how teams incorporated the dialogue and characters, a few films took them to the heart of the plot, others just glossed them over. I think I missed the briefcase all together in several of the films.

Damon Rexroad was watching alongside me, giving me tidbits about the competition. His film had screened the night before and had took home the prize of audience favorite. This is his third year participating in the project and he says it's a "great time."

"I probably slept like three hours," he says happily, "but that's more than lots of people."

Rexroad encourages any amateur filmmaker to take part in the project as it is a great way to dip your toes in the water. Since the 48HFP has grown, it's also become an annual staple in the community with lots of exposure. Because of this, filmmakers are able to shoot in locations they may have had to otherwise pay for or use actors that might not have the time to help out with a full-length. "It's great time to try out filmmaking," Rexroad says, "and it's just so much fun to be a part of."

You can still see two more screening Thursday, June 21 and Monday, June 25 at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are available at Studio Movie Grill's website. For more information on the entire project, visit 48hourfilm.com

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