Is it possible to make a “film”, albeit a short 4-7 minutes long one, in 48 hours? To fix on a narrative, write the script, get the actors, shoot, edit and do the post production? That’s what the 48 Hour Film Project, 48HFP for short, sets out to test. An international competition which began in 2001 as a “crazy idea” by American short-film maker Mark Ruppert, it’ll be held in 120 cities round the world this year. Of these, three are Indian — Mumbai (since 2008), Delhi (2011) and Hyderabad (this year). (The Delhi leg of the event began yesterday.)
The format’s quite simple: participants assemble at a venue at 7 pm on a Friday evening and pick a chit with one of 14 genres —comedy, detective, horror, fantasy, musical, etc. To make it more interesting — and prevent cheating — a prop, a character, and line that the film must include are also announced. “These are random: the prop could be a set of keys; the character a security guard and the line, ‘you must be joking’,” says Preeti Gopalkrishnan who, along with Yogi Chopra, is the India producer of 48HFP. All films must be turned in by 7 pm on Sunday, or latest by 7.30 pm. There are few other rules — teams can be large or small; spend large sums or very little; travel wherever they want.
For the participating film makers, it’s two days of madness as they scramble, groggy with sleeplessness towards the end, to put together their ideas and skills and get around unforeseen incidents such as a corrupted CD, a traffic jam or a recalcitrant actress. Mumbai-based short-film maker Anshul Joshi of team Aapan Yaana Paahilat Ka recalls being excited when he picked “musical” as the genre at last year’s 48HFP in Mumbai. “There was only one small problem — none of us was a music composer.” On a whim he called a school friend whose mobile was out of reach. Joshi was still exploring alternative ideas 15 minutes later when the friend called back and jumped at the idea of a musical, even booking a studio for the recording. The film, I.M. Singh, is about two men in an office fighting over a girl — only to have her declare she’s a lesbian in the end! It won the best musical award and was screened at this year’s Kala Ghoda Festival.
A panel of established filmmakers judges the winners after watching the films all day the Saturday after submission. Earlier editions of 48HFP have had Amol Palekar, Nagesh Kukunoor, R. Balki on the jury; Anusha Rizvi of Peepli Live-fame has agreed to be a judge in Delhi on August 18. Screenings are open so anyone can walk in and vote on their favourites. As for the winner he gets cash of around Rs 27,500, film equipment and the chance to compete with winners from other 48HFPs around the world.
Winning, however, is not the point of 48HFP, as many of the participants will tell you — it is meeting the deadline. For film makers, 48HFP also helps to build a sense of community, providing touchpoints and interface opportunities, says Gopalkrishnan, through events such as Meet-and-Greet where technicians, actors come together and forge partnerships. The growing number of participants at the event — from around 30 teams in 2008 to 137 last year and 120 already (in Hyderabad and Delhi, with Mumbai coming up in October) this year — is testimony to how much young and emerging film makers are in need of such a forum.