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Coming Attractions / 48 Hour Film Project

The creative clock is ticking

The 48 Hour Film Project crew (Jordan Lema in center holding reel)

Photo courtesy of 48HFP


August 17


Preliminary screenings held at North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Avenue



Could you direct a short film in forty-eight hours with only a genre, a prop, a line of dialogue, and a character to get you started? If you believe you can, or you’re just interested in experiencing timed creative cinema, then the 48 Hour Film Project (48HFP) should be on your radar. Held annually in cities around the world, the filmmaking competition has grown in popularity each year since it began in Buffalo in 2007. Films that started here have gone on to worldwide acclaim, even screening at the Cannes Film Festival.


Registration for the event, held August 9–11, opened in June, and that means Western New Yorkers are ready to hit “record” and get creative. No one knows the feeling of being behind the camera with the clock ticking better than Jordan Lema. The city producer of the 48HFP in Buffalo and a past competition award-winner himself talks here about “filmmaking as sport,” and why there is nothing quite like this two-day event.


While many have heard of the 48 Hour Film Project, not everyone knows what it all means. Give us an overview.

The 48HFP is an international time-based filmmaking competition that takes place in more than 130 cities. Participants meet up at a kickoff event where they receive their film’s genre, and then they are off to the races to make a film from start to finish, concept to completed edit, in forty-eight hours. At the kickoff, they receive a line of dialogue, a prop, a character, and a genre for their film. It’s filmmaking as a sport; there are teams and a deadline, and the whole thing is a competition. For many young filmmakers the event is a rite of passage. To some, it’s an addiction. And to others, it’s a creative escape from their day jobs.


The filmmaking weekend is followed by the premiere screenings at the North Park Theatre on August 17. This event is open to the public. It’s so much fun to see what local filmmakers have accomplished and also to vote for the audience favorite.


A few weeks later is an awards show at the Shea’s Smith Theatre. [The date was TBD at press time.] The top ten films are screened and the awards are presented. The event is complete with red carpet photography and video, and features our amazing emcee, Tracey B. Wilson. It’s a Hollywood-style event that everyone loves.


The bottom line is that it’s fun and creative and when you’re done, you have a film. This is especially great for actors, as sometimes they put their time into projects that just disappear. When you do a forty-eight-hour project, you have a film in two days.


How did you get involved?

In 2007, I competed and won the “Best Cinematography” award. In 2008, my team won Buffalo’s Best Film, and then went on to be in the top fifteen internationally. For a long time, we were the only team in Buffalo to make it that far. Throughout the years, I competed and won “Best Cinematography” five times. When the opportunity came to run the local 48HFP, I put my name in for consideration and was accepted. My first year as the city producer, Buffalo had one of its most successful teams ever, the Partially Submerged Elephants. They went on to be ranked in the top five in the world, won “Best Cinematography” internationally, and went on to the Cannes Film Festival.


How have things changed from year to year, and what makes 2019 unique?

This competition is getting more intense every year. As cinema technology is more accessible and computers get more powerful, the films look better than ever. With YouTube and other methods of self-publishing, indie filmmaking is in its prime, and that means increasingly talented people are joining the competition. On the flip side, we also have more people joining for a platform to make their first film and have fun with their families.


How do you enforce the rules?

As a former competitor, my main goal is to provide a clean, fair competition. Everyone works too hard for there to be any tomfoolery. I select a panel of industry professionals to judge the films and we have a long list of rules for people to follow. Films have been disqualified and projects that are late are screened but not eligible for awards. If someone is suspected of cheating, they are turned over to the international office and they have a whole host of protocols to make sure everyone has a fun, fair competition.


Also, assigning the prop, line of dialogue, character, and genre, is a way to make sure nobody has created their film in advance. If they did—or tried to—they would be missing the point of the challenge.


What most excites you about the contest each year?

I love seeing the films, supporting the film community, and watching people succeed in making films. I enjoyed competing and it was my creative outlet, but I’m always so excited to provide this opportunity to others. I can’t wait to see this year’s winner.


For more information or to watch films from previous years, visit 48hourfilm.com/buffalo.



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