Another 48 Hours… another slew of winners

by Mark Burger

A family heirloom.

Luke or Laura Brown, the head of a non-profit organization.

The line “I’m fixing to get started.”

For 36 teams of area filmmakers, those were the necessary elements that had to be included in this year’s 48 Hour Film Project. Beyond that, they needed only to stick to their genre and, of course, submit their film before the deadline.

Last year’s winner of the award for best film (which went to “JoBeth”), the Keene Collaboration, picked up awards for best editing and best use of character for the horror film “Buried.” The film was originally shot in 3-D – a 48-Hour Film Project first – but had to be submitted in regular format in order to make the deadline. Nevertheless, the film was shown in 3-D at the awards ceremony Sunday night.

“Good Morning, Mr. Brown” (Good as a Mugg) had a strong showing, winning four awards (best director, cinematography, sound design and special effects), but the award for best film went to the musical “Cadence” (DarkHawk Productions), which also won the awards for best musical score and best use of line of dialogue.

The rest of the awards were generally spread out: The time-travel puppet epic “Space Time” (Jive Mechanic Films) won best writing, “Take the Day Off” (Team Go Gettus) won for best acting, “Mama’s Trip” (Neon Kudzu) won for best use of prop, “Hourglass” (General Pictures) took home a special award for art direction, and “Dues of the Heart” (Green Pax) won for best costumes.

The judges this year included NCSA School of Filmmaking faculty member Dale Pollock, former UNCG faculty member Gregg Easterbrook, Nicole Haddock (from the 48 Hour Film Project’s national headquarters) and, taking the heat as always, yours truly – an award-winning film critic in my own right (must’ve been a slow year).

Of the 36 entrants, 19 were eligible for judging. Those deemed ineligible were for the usual reasons: The deadline was missed, or an element was muffed.

For the second year in a row, Suzan Magee and Mindy Scott served as the Greensboro project’s executive directors. Ed Moye and Nisha Coffey, who previously served as executive producers for the Greensboro event, were also on hand to lend their support.

Dustin Keene, the executive producer of last year’s winning team, the Keene Collaboration, admitted that it was almost a last-minute decision to participate again this year. After all, he and fellow team members had only recently returned from their trans-Atlantic jaunt to the Cannes Film Festival in May, where their winning film, “JoBeth,” was screened as part of the Un Certain Regard shorts program. Keene says he still hasn’t gotten over the experience. (“He’s still dreaming in French,” quipped “Jobeth” screenwriter and YES! Weekly Editor Brian Clarey.)

Last year marked the Keene Collaboration’s very first attempt at the 48 Hour Film Project, and Keene joked that the idea of “retiring with a perfect record” crossed his mind. But the idea of reuniting with the winning team crossed his mind even more.

“It’s one of the coolest things around the globe,” Keene says. “There’s a lot of competition. Without a doubt, this is one of the toughest regions.”

Although bereft of the services of Clarey – who detailed his feelings about the situation in his column last week (the printing press is still smoking) – the Keene dream team added cinematographer and NCSA alumnus Jim Ricker this year.

“We absolutely have high expectations and we hope to meet them,” Keene said.

After “Buried” was screened at the Carolina Theatre (and the judges’ deliberations were finalized), Keene explained that the intent was always to attempt a 3-D film – “to do something that had never been done before” – and that they were delighted to have scored horror as their genre. Although mildly irritated that they could only submit a flat print of their film, “Buried,” in order to make deadline, the overall experience was, he said, a good one.

“JoBeth” director, Matt McNeil, was pleased, too… until the jet lag kicked in. He flew in from Los Angeles on the red-eye the night before shooting was to begin. With the obstacles of shooting in 3-D and the time constraints, McNeil joked that by the end of the breakneck shoot he needed 3-D glasses just to see straight.

There was the distinct air of a more heated competition this year, and it wasn’t just global warming. Clarey’s column last week pretty much said it all. And, despite Clarey’s oft-repeated joke that I voted against “JoBeth,” I simply happened to like “Jessica” a bit more. (Just tell that to Brian Clarey and Dustin Keene!)

Hey, I was hardly in opposition to “JoBeth,” as it was clearly one of the best selections last year. Besides, my favorite film this year didn’t win best film, either. That’s two in a row for me. Last year, I preferred a film showcasing a blow-up sex doll and this year a film populated entirely by puppets. There’s a trend here, one best left unexplored.