The 48 Hour Film Project Celebrates 20 Years in Austin
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Grab your camera and your crew: On June 10, filmmakers will gather at Kick Butt Coffee to kick off this year's Austin version of the 48 Hour Film Project – an event and organization committed to giving armchair directors a taste of the film industry over a single weekend, and there's still time for you to sign up.
The 48 Hour Film Project strives to create an inclusive environment that encourages representation for all communities. "The 48 is not just for people who have the training, and it's for anybody who doesn't even fit the Hollywood mold," Austin project producer Keira Marti said. "I would love to see filmmakers from every type of community here. I would love for everybody to come and make a film."
Originally launched in Washington, D.C., in 2001, the 48 Hour Film Project now takes place in 130 cities worldwide, including five in Texas. Austin – one of the first cities to pick up the project – will celebrate its 20th anniversary with the organization this year, making for an even sweeter return to in-person screenings following COVID-19.
By stripping back multimillion-dollar budgets and power imbalances that often prevent smaller artists from finding stardom in Hollywood, the project allows local artists to tell their stories and even reach film industry representatives looking for new talent. While it attracts filmmakers from all walks of life and experience levels, all participating artists are united by the common goal to celebrate local filmmaking. Marti, who joined the project as a volunteer in 2015 before becoming a producer three years later, said, "I call it a Lone Star state of mind when it comes to filmmaking, it's a lot less about the executives, and more about the actual filmmaking."
Though participating teams enjoy complete creative control over their films, a few guidelines exist to measure completeness of each film and generate ideas at the beginning of the 48 hours. On Friday night, teams of varying size will select a random genre from a hat, and producers will assign them a random character, prop, and line to include in their film. Teams must include all assigned elements in their films, or they face disqualification.
Judging takes place June 20-21, when all eligible films are screened for live audiences. While a different selection of judges work the project each year, producers often bring acting recruiters or film directors who could further the careers of local filmmakers. For Alyne Harding, a Austin project producer since 2013, it grants artists opportunities she dreamed of in 2012, when she was a working mom trying to get hired. "This project spurred on other careers for people who were ready to give up," she said. "People who didn't have much confidence in [themselves] see what they can do. I've had other filmmakers tell me this was going to be their last attempt, and then they win or they make the top 10."
Many artists learned the ropes of filmmaking at the 48 Hour Film Project (The Hobbit star Martin Freeman's short "The Girl Is Mime" even won the competition in 2010). Wining groups could be selected to compete at the Filmapalooza – a festival where 48 Hour participants can attend workshops and compete against fellow competitors around the globe. A handful of Filmapalooza winners are selected to showcase their work at the Cannes Film Festival. Though Austin's 48 Hour Film Project has not sent any groups to Cannes so far, Marti and Harding hope the chapter's 20th anniversary this year will grant participants some extra luck. "To make a 48 film here is to become part of our family," Marti said. "You can see that in every one of our screenings where people are talking to each other and networking."
48 Hour Film Project, Fri.-Sun., June 10-12.
Kickoff event Fri., June 10, 6pm at Kick Butt Coffee, 5775 Airport #725. Premiere screenings June 20-21 at AFS Cinema, 6406 N. I-35 #3100.
Regular registration ($168) ends May 31. Late registration ($188) closes June 10. Info at 48hourfilm.com/austin.