Countdown to GSO’s 48-Hour Film Festival

by Mark Burger

Preparations for the 48-Hour Film Project are in high gear, and this weekend the clock will be ticking. More than 40 teams of filmmakers from the Greensboro (and, by extension, the Piedmont Triad area) will be shooting 24 frames a second… or somewhere thereabouts. They’ll be in the moment, on the lot and giving it everything they’ve got. “The film industry here and throughout North Carolina is booming and expanding,” said Mindy Scott, co-producer of the festival. “It’s pretty obvious that there are lots of aspiring, ambitious filmmakers right in our own backyard just trying to find things to do.” The Greensboro chapter has hosted a number of meet-and-greet get-togethers in order to lay the groundwork, consolidate the filmmaking community and, most important of all, to toast each other’s creativity. One such gathering took place last week in downtown Greensboro last week at Rum Runner’s. It was there that festival producers, volunteers and filmmakers gathered to discuss the magic of movies and the madness of trying – much less achieving – to knock out a short film in 48 hours. Last year’s top five winners from the overall competition were screened (out of competition, of course) at the Cannes Film Festival, the first such distinction for the 48-Hour Film Project. If only one of those films this year was from Greensboro, “that would be our goal,” says Scott. “That’s what we’re aiming for.” The 48-Hour Film Project was born in Washington, DC in 2001 and, in the age of digital filmmaking, multiplied like bad sequels. Greensboro joined the party in 2005 – and that year one of those films was selected as one of the top 10 overall. In those two years, Greensboro (and, by extension, the Piedmont Triad) has become one of the most prolific 48-Hour Film Project areas for a city of its size. This year has already seen over 40 teams register. That’s less than Atlanta (60-plus) or Washington, DC (over 100), but Greensboro is running neck-and-neck with Richmond, Jacksonville and even Chicago – and it’s outpacing Las Vegas. And more than half of the Greensboro teams that participated last year are back again. Don’t the Greensboro producers worry about the sanity of these breakneck filmmakers? Major sponsors for The 48-Hour Film Project include Barbizon Lighting Company, the Carolina Theatre (where the three groups of selected films will be screened on Aug. 11), the aforementioned Rum Runners and – hey, what do you know? – the very newspaper you’re lucky enough to be reading right now. The rules are simple, and are “enforced” by the unspoken but no-less-sacred tenets of the honor system. Each filmmaking team must draw the genre for its film out of a hat. That’s it. What you pick is what you get, and what you’ve got to do. Bringing the sense of thematic and irreverent compatibility – or incompatibility, as the case may be – each team must also incorporate the same character, prop and line of dialogue that will be announced at the launch. The films must be filmed and edited in the allotted 48-hour time-frame, and should be at least four and no more than eight minutes long, including credits. Therefore, those filmmakers expecting to make major script revisions during shooting better make sure that their script doctors make house calls. More than 50 cities in North America are participating in this year’s event, and the grassroots impetus remains the same: to encourage filmmakers to get out their and do it – on a deadline, of course. They’ve even recruited some high-profile, morally pristine judges (myself included, of course) to determine the winners this year. For more information about the festival, dial 336.514.0479 or go online at For questions, comments or ideas, shoot Mark Burger an e-mail at