Kristy Lussier picked up the film packet for this year's i48 Film Competition at 6 p.m., Friday, May 29. When she opened the envelope, it started a clock. When that clock stopped 48 hours later, at 6 p.m. Sunday, May 31, her team—RockIt Picture Company—had written, cast, shot, edited and produced an original film three- to six minutes long. The assignment: create a comedy, use a candlestick as a prop, include the line of dialogue "What was I thinking?" and introduce a character named Joe with a gambling problem.
Nearly two hours after opening the packet, a few members of RockIt were still trying to come up with ideas for their film.
"We're all thinking [about] that line of dialogue right now," said Lee Vander Boegh, the director of the operation at 8:45 p.m. "What were we thinking getting into this?"
Vander Boegh and Lussier had some prior experience with i48. Both have participated for half a decade in acting rolls and, more recently, by leading their teams. Coming up with the idea, they said, might be the hardest part.
"We need to take whatever the scenario is—the more outlandish, the better—and then put people who are the most incompetent into that scenario. Take the person who is least likely to survive and make them your character," Vander Boegh said. "We're just sitting here with our heads in a little triangle."
The idea became concrete around 3 a.m. on the morning of May 30. Vander Boegh started writing a skit about a man planning his own funeral, much like a couple would do for their wedding.
Vander Boegh's "real" job is at KIVI-TV Channel 6, where he produces promo videos for the news team. After a handful of 14-hour days and a few nights on only three hours of sleep, he found it a challenge to stay awake at the keyboard.
"I realized after [typing] eight pages of the letter 'R' that it was time for me to leave it where it was at," he said.
Lussier took over. She worked on the script until 5 a.m. and tried to grab two hours of sleep before the rest of their crew showed up at 7 a.m. Then the shooting began.
The crew set up a simple funeral scene in the backyard of Vander Boegh's parents' house overlooking Lake Lowell. They pulled down a few hanging baskets of flowers from the deck and arranged them on a red cloth-draped table for a makeshift altar, facing an assortment of mismatched lawn chairs.
"This is what a $100 movie looks like," Vander Boegh said.
Vander Boegh's dad held the boom microphone over the scene while Vander Boegh ran a camera he borrowed from the Channel 6 newsroom.
Zach Garner, a local musician, sat in one of the chairs—his blond hair hanging to his shoulders, a black cut-off T-shirt exposing his colorful tattoos, a silver flask in his hand and a 5-gallon bucket of chicken wings between his legs.
"Lee called me and asked if I wanted to be involved in his team," Garner said. "I thought he meant holding a microphone or something. I'm not an actor."
Vander Boegh made him one. Gardner plays Joe, the compulsive gambler, who is the brother of the man planning his own funeral.
"You've been to one funeral, you've been to them all," Garner said as the camera rolled. "You grab a corner of the dead-guy box and carry it somewhere. Then the kids play dreidel and you hit on their moms."
While Garner has never acted before, Gene Chandler—who plays the funeral planner—is more seasoned. He met Vander Boegh and Lussier through a Knock 'Em Dead Theatre play, and this is the second film he's starred in for i48.
Despite only seeing the script at 10 a.m., Chandler mapped out his character's life.
"He was a failed wedding planner," Chandler said, "so he went into funeral planning, but he's not very good at it because he gets too excited over things."
The team wrapped up shooting around 7 p.m., and Vander Boegh stayed up through the night to edit their five-and-a-half-minute entry. His brother, Matt, provided music and sound effects for the film. Lussier helped polish it up on the morning of May 31.
"Kristy came over at 9 in the morning and brought me a hot dog from Maverick," Vander Boegh said. "Power food."
He exported the film Sunday afternoon as the clock ticked closer to the 6 p.m. deadline. He rushed from his office to get it turned into the i48 organizers on time.
"We got it in by the skin of our teeth," he said. "I think I left a few marks on the road."
The film contest certainly isn't for nothing. The top film team in the open category will walk away with $1,000. Another film will be picked by the Sun Valley Film Festival to air at the VIP Short Lounge Film Series during the 2016 festival.
"I'm not really in it to win," Vander Boegh said during a break in the shooting. "Wait, there's a $1,000 prize? OK, everybody stop eating pizza, let's get back to it."