Experience the 48-Hour Film Challenge

Photo by Rebecca Calzavara

Meaghann MacLeod and group members shooting for the 48 hour film challenge

Eighty students cram into the lecture hall in C113 and struggle to find a spot. Greg Murphy, the dean for the School of Media, Art and Design (MAD) stands with a big smile on his face at the bottom of the lecture room. Wearing a bright colourful shirt, Murphy stands with Media, Art and Design who prepared to explain the 48-Hour Film Challenge. Meaghann MacLeod, a second-year student in Broadcast in Radio and Contemporary Media is waiting for her group number to be called.

Fifty groups were assigned between 9:00 a.m. and noon students were put in a group of 11 people they didn’t know. For the 48-Hour Film Challenge, students had to produce a two-minute film. Each group was given a prop, a specific genre and a character with one line of dialogue.

Meaghann waits until John Starling, a Media, Art and Design professor, holds up a green bag with a big number ‘2’ on it. This is Meaghann’s group. She is led out of the lecture room into a hall that continues to get more crowded as groups 3, 4, 5 and 6 pile in. John pulls out the prop: 4 rubber ducks. Then he tells the group the genre: romance. Next, he reveals the character: a tall dark stranger. All 7 group members are ready to get started. They move to a quieter space to get to know each other and to start working on the film. It is 9:30 a.m. on a Tuesday. They have until noon Thursday to complete a 2-minute film. On Friday it will be screened at the Cineplex Odeon and will be judged by Margret Campkin, Eileen Kennedy, Salima Kassam, Melissa Pringle, Andy Malcolm and Katie Boone.

“I was a bit skeptical going in because we were going to be meeting people we haven’t met before from different programs, I was worried about people not getting along,” Meaghann says.

Meaghann’s group members include students from advanced filmmaking, Broadcast for Contemporary Media, Journalism, Contemporary Web Design and Photography. Vik Paniwani, a Video Production student, breaks the silence and asks if anyone has any ideas. Once Meaghann’s group gets more comfortable and starts talking, they don’t stop. Idea after idea is thrown out. Once each group member agrees everyone helps out with writing the script and decide who is going to play what character. By 11:45 a.m. the script is finished. The next step is to get the equipment and then start filming on Wednesday.

The 48-hour film project is the world’s largest and oldest filmmaking competition, according to the official 48-hour film project website. It started in Washington in 2001, inspired by Mark Ruppert’s The 24 Hour Play.

Durham College is not the first school to do a film challenge. There are film challenges all over the world. The city of Toronto has participated in a 48-hour film project every year for the past eight years. People must register to be a part of the challenge. It is spread across 130 cities around the world and spans 6 continents. The winning film gets to represent Toronto at Filmapalooza. The 48-hour film project is a whole weekend and a team of people make a movie. They must write, shoot, and edit all in 48 hours.

The dean of Media, Art and Design, Greg Murphy, decided this opportunity would help students use both their developing skills and own creative talents. “I did something in Stratford with high school students. I did one at Fanshawe College when I was there. But… this is massive,” says Murphy. 500 Durham College students were involved with the film challenge.

Meaghann’s group leaves to get their equipment at 11:45 a.m. and when they get there the line up is at the top of two flights of stairs. Her team stands in line for three hours to get a camera and audio equipment. While waiting in line rumours spread up the staircase that half the equipment is gone because there is so many groups getting equipment. Only one group member was able to go in the media loans office and get the equipment from Megan, Vik volunteered since he was the only one with his student card. When it is his turn to get the equipment all the lighting equipment was gone. Once Meaghann’s group has their equipment they are ready to start filming. It is 10:00 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Megan Pickell, Student Support Technician and runs the Media Loans Office and Print Services for the School of MAD, was in charge of logistics. She also created all the print material and the packages for students and jurors and she managed the equipment sign out. She also designed the logo for the event. “I think it turned out well, there were a few hiccups here and there but overall I think it ran really well,” Pickell said.

Meaghann meets her group at EP Taylor’s Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. The opening scene takes place at a restaurant and a girl is going on a blind date with a tall dark stranger. Filming is a lot harder than one would think. Getting the light perfect on the main character’s face is a struggle since the sun cuts in and out behind clouds. Three different cameras get as many different angles as possible. Once filming is successful two group members, Vik and Richard, get together and start editing. Their goal is to get it done by noon Thursday. They have 36 hours. Once the film is edited and ready to be submitted they put it on a USB and hand it over to Professor Kris Felstead and Kevin Fraser along with technicians Oliver Fernandez and Keir Broadfoot who put the final films together for the screening at Cineplex.

Sixty people gather in the lobby of the Odeon Cineplex to watch. There are two theatres showing the films, with an intermission half way through the films. People buy popcorn and drinks and get ready to watch all the films for the next couple hours. There are five categories for the films: Romance, mystery, horror, mockumentary and western. 50 films in total.

Meaghann is nervous. Her group’s movie was about a girl who goes on a dating site and plans to meet up with a tall dark stranger. Meaghann is the main character.

Each category had a winner and along with the category wins, there was an extra award, the Deany award. The Deany award is a small statuette of Greg Murphy wearing a colourful shirt. A wooden plaque is attached to the statue. The winning team gets their names engraved on the wooden plaque and then put on display.

Group 33 won the Deany award. One of the group members that won, Darryl Callahan, who was one of the main characters and seemed to have gotten most of crowd laughing in his film. “I thought it was going to be a mess but then even seeing all 50 films it was well put together,” Callahan said.

Murphy was quite pleased with how the whole challenge came to end in a big success. “I think it was fabulous. It exceeded my expectation by a mile, it was just great and so much fun,” Murphy explained after the challenge was over. He put MAD students to the test.

“I think I had a really good group and it turned out really well,” Meaghann says.