Is it possible to write, direct, and edit a great short film in forty-eight hours? What if you were required to use a genre, line of dialogue, character, and prop that were determined just before the clock started ticking? I’m skeptical that really great movies can be produced under these circumstances, but as I discovered at 48 Hour Film Project’s Best of Minneapolis screening last night at the Riverview Theater, even when the results aren’t spectacular, they’re quite entertaining.
48HFP is the most established of the timed film competitions that seem to be proliferating across the country faster than their TV kin, the ratings-troubled On the Lot with Minneapolis 48HFP alum Andrew Hunt, tanks in the ratings. The organization holds competitions in sixty-six cities, but Minneapolis draws the third largest number of participants (eighty-five teams this year), a nod to our sizable creative community and our hardy disregard for food, water, and sleep when something as essential as art is on the line. During the Minneapolis competition held in early June, filmmakers were challenged to make a four- to seven-minute film that incorporated a portable music player, a veterinarian named Jason or Jill Myers, and the line of dialogue “They will get them if we let them.” Last night the top twelve films (determined by an unannounced panel of judges) played to a full house at the Riverview, where awards were also given, including for Best Picture to the film that will now compete against other cities’ top films.
The big winners were two clever comedies—Buddy, Buddy by St. Paul–based creative firm Mojo Solo and Open House by Keith Hurley of 7 Minutes Late. The two films swept the acting, directing, and writing categories, with Buddy, Buddy winning Best Picture bragging rights over audience-favorite Open House. The latter follows a Realtor’s doomed attempt to sell a house occupied by a grumpy ghost who keeps interrupting his sales pitch by spooking prospective buyers, while the former tells the story of a mentally challenged man who decides to euthanize himself before allowing his brother to do the same to his beloved cocker spaniel. It had to be a close vote. Buddy, Buddy ended too abruptly for my taste, but it made better use of the required veterinarian character and was arguably the acting showpiece of the bunch.
Animals were everywhere in the “Best Of” reel. In the pitch-perfect Single Female Sci-Fi Vet, a cast of puppets and stuffed animals escape a lab before they can be incinerated. Le Film Animal opens with the filmmakers arguing about what to do with their assigned genre (animal film) and then turns into a homage to the French New Wave with its lead actor dressed in a mangy animal costume and about to undergo an unpleasant procedure at the vet. In The Natural Channel, a bored channel-surfer bonds with a skateboard-riding Boston terrier in his dreams. And although it’s off-camera, a dog ends up being the perfect punchline to Eric Mueller’s Der Hund, a ribald story of a vain singer bragging about career triumphs and sexual conquests of days gone by. For my money, Der Hund was the most creative in incorporating the required prop, character, and dialogue—plus, it had a killer set design.
On average, the comedies fared better than the serious stuff, with the global warming–themed actioner Megastorm an example of an idea too big and costly for the confines of this competition. In the drug-crime-gone-wrong horror film Safehouse, by Minneapolis creative agency Urban Mountain Media, visual effects overshadowed the story as they did in Prime Productions’ The Feminine Mystique, which is set at an art gallery opening and shot in one continuous take. And then there’s Midnight Motel, a gorgeous black-and-white murder story that was that rare film that seemed stifled by the time constraints and begging for a longer-form execution.
I've got my fingers crossed for Buddy, Buddy's competition with 48HFP's other sixty-five cities' winning films.