Six Minutes of Celebrity

In May 2001, Washington, D.C., filmmaker Mark Ruppert decided to make his own short film, having tired of all the talking and cash scrabbling and back-end bullshit that goes into big filmmaking projects. Not content with simply making a short film, he decided to supersize the challenge by doing it in 48 hours. He enlisted his partner, Liz Langston, and several other D.C. filmmakers to form their own teams and join him in the experiment. The big question, of course, was: Would films made in only 48 hours even be watchable?

Six years later, with more than 100 successful competitions behind them in scores of U.S. and international cities, from Austin to Amsterdam and Tampa to Tel Aviv, the answer would seem to be yes. This summer Ruppert and his group’s 48 Hour Film Project are adding Charleston to their expansion list. With local filmmaker and ChasDoc Film Festival organizer Justin Nathanson on board as local coordinator, the short film competition hits the peninsula Aug. 17-19, and registration for locals opens Mon. June 25.

“The 48 Hour Film Project gives teams and groups of people — not necessarily just filmmakers but anybody who wants to be involved — a two-day window to conceive, write, shoot, and edit a 6-7 minute film,” Nathanson explains. The tight Friday-Sunday time frame puts the focus squarely on the filmmakers, he says, emphasizing creativity and teamwork skills. It also liberates them by putting the emphasis on doing instead of talking.

“It’s a fun thing,” he says. “You know there are 10 or 15 other teams out there on exactly the same playing field as you. If you work in film, you understand tight deadlines and hard work and forced creativity. It’s a chance to see what filmmakers go through all the time.”

But the project isn’t just for experienced filmmakers with professional resources. Nathanson stresses that the competition is about creativity, not equipment. A team of local judges will evaluate each film and choose the winners based not on production values but on creativity and storytelling. All the films will be shown for the public in a pair of festival-style screenings at Physicians Auditorium on Wed. Aug. 22, and the overall winner will be entered into the national competition.

“Creativity is the number one thing,” Nathanson stresses. “There are an infinite number of ways to do that. If you have a $300 videocamera and do your editing in iMovie, you’re set.”

Learn more about the 48 hour Film Project and register as a group or an individual writer, actor, or filmmaker at —Patrick Sharbaugh

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