The third weekend in June, the town of Newmarket was startled to find Bigfoot in its midst, strolling around town like it was no big deal. He rummaged through garbage cans, snatched food off diners’ plates and drank all the beer at a local college party.
This was just the beginning of what would be a very strange New Hampshire weekend; not far away, a lake house in Barrington saw blood, and a local zombie named Alan began training for a foot race. Random people laughed when things weren’t funny, screamed when they weren’t scary, and weirdest of all, they kept saying this one phrase: “In my opinion, it’s perfect.”
Crazy things happen every year during New Hampshire’s 48 Hour Film Project, but according to filmmakers, the biggest peculiarity is that this weekend, films are made in 48 hours.
“In that 48-hour window, you have to do everything,” said Dan Greenleaf, the producer for this year’s event. “It puts a lot of pressure on you. Some of these teams get just four to five hours of sleep that whole weekend. … But they end up with something finished. … It’s also nice for them to see work on the big screen within a few days.”
The New Hampshire 48 Hour Film Project is one segment in a world-wide event. At every location — Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Washington, Chicago and abroad — the concept is the same.
The 26 New Hampshire film teams met on June 20 at precisely 6 p.m. at Red River Theatres in Concord, where they sized up the competition, drew a genre from a hat and learned the three required elements for the film. (This year, those elements were: an award, a long-distance runner named Alan Fleming and the phrase, “In my opinion, it’s perfect.”)
These requirements help ensure there’s little to no pre-planning; teams, which range in size from two to 40, may scout out locations and gather movie props ahead of time, but there’s little allowance for story development.
Filmmakers had until Sunday, June 22, at 7 p.m. to write a script, shoot and edit a four- to seven-minute film. The first screening occurred June 25 at Cinemagic in Hooksett. The final one will happen Thursday, July 24, at 7 p.m., also at Cinemagic, during which audiences will view 14 to 15 of the best films and the three judges — Dan Hannon, John Campanello and Jonathan Meath — will announce the winners.
In its sixth year, the number of participants has plateaued; the growth is in the quality.
“The technical quality has improved greatly. This year there weren’t any weird glitches, strange things going on,” Greenleaf said. “But this year I think you also see better storytelling. … There’s a big challenge to keep the story short enough so that you can tell it in that time.”
Some filmmakers, like Alex Berard, find the restrictions stimulating. His team, Sacred Llama Productions, was assigned a parody, and before the event, they nailed down a Newmarket setting and gathered a list of 45 locals and eight businesses willing to participate. Their film became Losing Bigfoot, a documentary-styled production that spins off Animal Planet’s Finding Bigfoot.
“The whole Bigfoot idea came up because one of our team members is really into monster effects and creatures,” Berard said. “We thought, what would happen if they did find Bigfoot? Where would the show go from there? That’s what jump started the idea. In the film, he’s a bum who hangs around town.”
Finding locations ahead of time is common practice among the 48 Hour filmmakers; for her team’s film, Stalkey Puck, Nancy West secured a spot at her wooded lake house in Barrington. Team Quest drew the horror genre.
“Horror is not my strong point. … Luckily, our videographer, Dave Benedetti, is really into horror. He brought up two gallons of homemade fake blood that he probably had on hand for parties,” West said.
Many of the filmmakers return each year to make movies, but also to meet new people.
“For me, yeah, we want to win — but for the most part, we’re out there to have a good time,” Berard said.
As seen in the July 17, 2014 issue of the Hippo.