The incarnation of i48, about to celebrate its 10th anniversary, was under the radar.
"I thought, 'Let's do this super quiet; no hoopla.' We wanted to work the kinks out," said i48 founder Andrew Ellis. "We were hopeful of getting six, maybe eight teams."
Ellis, filmmaker, former Ada County deputy prosecuting attorney and newly sworn-in Ada County magistrate judge, smiled as he remembered the festival's humble beginnings.
"We ended up with 32 teams" he said.
For the next nine i48 festivals, an average of 50 teams per year--one year as many as 60--have endured the sleep-deprived madness of Boise's favorite local film showcase.
"I think i48 has become the premier event for the local filmmaking scene," said Ellis. "A number of things still tickle me: I'm pleased when I see utter newbies come together and say, 'Let's make a movie.' But I'm equally flattered by the working professionals that tell me that this is the only time of year that they do something for themselves."
But i48 isn't exactly homegrown.
"Like all good things, we stole it wholesale," said Ellis. "A friend of mine had just participated in this amazing event in Washington, D.C. That's the granddaddy and the biggest player on the 48-hour festival scene."
Ellis began crafting a Boise version of the competition, where teams scramble to write, cast, shoot and edit an original film in 48 hours. And he chose to work as a free agent.
"The 48-hour festival is franchised in about 80 or 90 cities. They've approached us a few times asking us to be a franchise," he said.
Ellis has always turned down the invitation.
"We would certainly lose local control. But yes, we acknowledge them. We don't hide that we lifted the concept," he said.
Some of the rules, including the use of bizarre character names and props, aren't revealed until the beginning of the competition. And the most important rule--the 48-hour deadline--is strict.
"We've had a few people over the years who were pretty upset when they were five minutes late," said Josie Pusl, general manager of The Flicks and co-director of i48. "They beg, plead or mope around with puppy-dog eyes."
Ellis said he and Pusl, on occasion, have seen people "at their worst," at the finish.
"They've been up for 48 hours," Ellis said. "They're tired, grouchy, everything has gone wrong and they come rushing in."
And while late films always somehow find a place on the big screen at a public showcase, latecomers are bounced from the competition.
Another rule, curbing sex, violence and profanity to a PG-style film, has been less of a challenge, with one major exception.
"Do you know Will Schmeckpeper?" asked Ellis with a laugh, referring to his friend and collaborator on several commercial film projects. "He likes to push the boundaries."
In the fourth year of competition, Schmeckpeper submitted a film that opened up with an image of a dead woman in the trunk of a car.
"She was buck-ass naked," Ellis said. "I said, 'No.1, you were 30 minutes late, but we'll show your movie. I need you to put black bars across her breasts.'"
That's one of the reasons he introduced h48, a horror-themed spin-off that recently held its own third annual competition.
"A lot of filmmakers have said, 'You're really killing us with the PG rating,'" said Ellis. "I was convinced by the argument that you really can't do a good PG horror film."
Horror aside, the best of i48, will be celebrated at The Egyptian Theatre, when every Best Film winner from the past decade, as well as five additional Director's Picks will be splashed on the big screen. The band Hillfolk Noir will also perform at the Egyptian, and the audience will be asked to cast their votes to crown a Best of the Best champion.