Two Days, One Film

“It’s a transmitter, D Radio for speaking to God.” Valois Restaurant. Strobe Light. At six o’clock in Cox Lounge this is the only direction in which our team’s film is going. This is the first hour of University of Chicago filmmaking society Fire Escape Films’ Second Annual 48 Hour Film Festival. The goal: One approximately eight-minute short film. The problem: It must be written, filmed, and edited between 6pm Friday and 6pm Sunday. I’m not really sure how successful this endeavor will be with a three-hour time slot on Saturday, and Sunday to edit, but hey… either way I scored a free T-shirt. As we were walking out, I could hear the collective creativity fizzing: “So…the whole film will basically be a metaphor for sex?” No doubt it will be interesting to see what the diverse group of UofC students in the room will come up with.

Saturday, an hour and a half before we begin filming, our team is having a meeting to toss around some ideas and hopefully come up with a plan for our time with the camera. We decide to go without a script, for better or for worse, and form a loose schedule of places to film: Promontory Point, 53rd Street, Valois, Walgreens, the frathouse DU. Hopefully the movie will just create itself from a little imagination and a lot of spontaneity…hopefully.

Saturday night, we’ve reached the end of our allotted camera time and it’s time to return it and work with whatever we have. When we go to import the movie, Cox Lounge is full of entertainment. Half the room is filled with huge flat screen computers with high technology film editing software. A local band, The Names That Spell, is playing while teams are watching their movie take shape. There’s excitement–“Isn’t this a cool shot? Apocalyptic, you know?”–and some disappointment–“So you can’t see his face, at all?” After looking over some of the shots that we took, and seeing how some of our experimental ideas turned out, our team decides it’s safe to leave the remainder of our project for tomorrow.

As Sunday morning rolls around, I decide to head over to Cox a little early to see how everyone’s projects are culminating as the end of the day is approaching. With coffee and doughnuts to start the creative wheels turning, plenty of people are in good spirits; minus of course the Fire Escape members who have been diligently working during the entire weekend. Despite BA papers among other things, the Fire Escape staff has been supervising equipment, helping the teams individually, and making sure the whole process goes smoothly and successfully, which, as a general opinion, seems to be the case. First-year student Asher Klein remarks that the experience was “Really stressful…but a lot of fun. You know it’s not going to be a big deal no matter what.” With a variety of filmmakers, the movies range from murder mystery to comedy, detailed to abstract, each of which presents its own difficulties. Klein expresses a little concern with his group’s project: “Ours is kind of a silly video, so the biggest worry is that, well, the jokes needed to work…but when the nudity happened I think it all came together.” Klein opted not to contextualize the information, but let the movie speak for itself at the screening, which will take place on March 10 at Max Palevsky Cinema, and should be entertaining to say the least. Fourth-year undergraduate Oliver Mosier, also a first-timer with the festival, describes the weekend as “fun–we basically just cracked open a couple PBRs and filmed until one or so in the morning…”

Now our group is churning out the final cut of our movie, and six o’clock is quickly approaching. At 5:55, we all gather around to watch the final version of our film, “The Tribal Life.” As we watch scenes, plots, and themes unfold in a film we barely planned, we all congratulate each other on a job well done before walking to Cox to hand in the final product.