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The i48 Experience

Dentists and aliens and dead squirrels, oh my!

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It's 5:58 p.m. and we're rounding the corner from Fort onto 6th towards The Flicks. We have two minutes to go before we're disqualified and 48 hours of work by 28 people goes down the tubes. We hit greens all the way down 6th until a red slaps us in the face at Myrtle. It's 5:59 p.m. I jump out of the car and begin sprinting across the intersection with a manila envelope in one hand and a bowling pin in the other. Across the lawn, around the corner, over the little brown fence and through the door, bewildered moviegoers gawk as I push past them to the submission table and hand over our masterpiece. And the bowling pin. As I exit the theater, my ride looks at me anxiously and I give the thumbs up. It's 6:01 p.m. and the i48 filmmaking experience is officially over.

Based on a similar event in Washington, D.C., the i48 Film Competition's second year attracted nearly 50 teams of local aspiring filmmakers. The basic rules were straightforward: Teams had 48 hours in which to write, film, edit and submit a four-to-seven-minute film. From Friday at 6 p.m. until the same time Sunday, teams worked frantically to put together compelling shorts from scratch.

The rules forbid participants from pre-planning anything, aside from gathering a team, assigning duties, and securing releases for potential talent and locations. Contest organizers Andrew Ellis and Gregory Bayne provided each team with four surprise elements at the outset on Friday to ensure every production stays spontaneous: The genre, a prop, single line of dialogue and a character all must be incorporated into the film.

A phone call from The Flicks to Team Lackadaisy reveals the elements we have to work with: It's a sci-fi involving a bowling pin, a character named Shannon Colgate, and the line, "How do you want to work this?" We brainstorm for 90 minutes and then the writers retreat to a separate location to compose the half-dozen or so pages to be the backbone of our film.

The remaining 13 crew members are visibly and audibly excited. The frenzy begins. Part of our technical crew, Wendy, Joe and Karla, start testing equipment. Wiley the set coordinator is ready to paint signs or build anything we might need. Louie and Jessie, our musicians, retreat to the studio to record the soundtrack while costume artists Britt and Carmen sort through costumes to find appropriate outfits. The rest of us buzz about like bees on espresso with nothing to do until we hear from the writers.

At 10:30 p.m., we get our first pieces of script. There will be a garage sale, a mystic, a dead squirrel and a mirror. The crew scatters across town to drum up card tables, garage sale oddities-and a dead squirrel. By 12:30, we have tables full of items, hand-painted signs, and an actor lined up to play the mystic. But no dead squirrel. About the same time, Jessie emerges from the studio for the first time to see how the rest of us are doing. She overhears a conversation about how to fashion a squirrel using an old fur stole, a toupee, and some brown paint and responds matter-of-factly, "You need a dead squirrel? I have two." When we stop laughing and realize she's serious, a car is sent to Jessie's house to dig through her trash for the two rodents. Unfortunately as Friday was trash day, the squirrel eludes us again. The squirrel becomes an owl moments later when Wiley returns with a wing and partial body retrieved from his basement.

It's 1:30 a.m. and still no script, which is now three hours late. Our crew of 15 has dwindled to six. By 2:30, only four of us remain, sitting on the living room floor with the script finally in our hands. We have a dentist, a taxidermist, aliens, a magic mirror and a plotline so complex, our tired minds can hardly navigate it. And at nine pages with five locations, it's far too long and involved to be shot in a single day.

The plot needs work. It's complicated and disjointed. Punch-drunk at 3 a.m., we are certain we're going to have to trash it. By 4, we're brainstorming a new script and not a single word has been written. At 5, we consider salvaging the original script with major edits. And at 6 a.m., we're still not getting anywhere. We've been debating ideas for hours and it's not feeling like fun anymore. Instead, we feel a little sick, sleep-deprived and stressed as the rest of the team will be arriving ready to shoot in an hour.

At 7:30 a.m. with the crew arriving and the actors close behind, the director makes the call to shoot with the original script. Mutiny is afoot and we're having tension for breakfast. But by lunch, something has changed. The actors are gelling, the crew is pulling together and we're having fun. The rest of the day goes by in a blur. We speed from location to location and wrap up our day with alien surgery, laughter and an exhausted crew.

Sunday starts with editing at 6 a.m. By 5:30 p.m. we have our seven minutes of film, but we're still missing the required line of dialogue. When we locate and insert the clip we need, we still have to transfer our film to tape and get it to The Flicks before the deadline. It's ten minutes to 6:00 and we've got a 15-minute drive across town. We race to the finish line.

Four locations, seven scenes, nine actors, five pizzas and many coffees later, the film has become something larger than us all. As one crew member put it, "The movie we ended up with, is nothing any one person involved would have ever made, but it turned out to be seven minutes of video that's pretty fun to watch."

Screenings of all i48 films will be held Saturday at the Flicks at 12, 2 and 4 p.m., 646 Fulton St, 342-4288.

The Best of i48 will be held at The Egyptian at 7 p.m. on Sunday, 646 Fulton St., 342-4222.

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