Reflection: Inside the 48 Hour Film Project

By Daniel Ciccarello and Rachel Duncan

It was a Friday just like any other Friday, except I was sitting in an amphitheater waiting for my group leader to pick what type of film we’d soon be making. I was there for Jacksonville’s 48 Hour Film Project–a competition where local filmmakers get together to try and make the best movie they can in just two days. Some teams were as small as two people and the largest was an entire high school film class. Each of the teams was competing for a $5,000 prize and the chance to have their film shown at Filmapalooza 2016. From there, the film could be shown in the Cannes Film Festival.

A few months ago a fellow student approached me about helping with the 48 Hour Film Project, and I immediately agreed. After months of waiting and excitement the day had finally come. We had a ragtag group ranging from a fourteen year old with little experience to people in their sixties who have worked on countless videos. The team also had a heavy FSCJ tilt with two other students, Ryan Blevins and Chris Johnsen and one professor, Byron Caplan. FSCJ also provided the audio and video equipment used to create the film.

At the opening ceremony, our leader drew the film genre from an envelope. We sat and stared in anticipation. He reached in and handed the scrap of paper to the organizer who read aloud to everyone, “Team Bad Idea…musical/western.” Our collective hearts sank. We were not prepared in the slightest to film a musical, but a western might work. After a short talk with the team, we decided that we would try our luck with a wild card genre. The wild card options seemed more appealing than what was chosen. For a brief moment we felt relieved, and again our fearless leader went up and drew. This time our group selected action/adventure. Most of us thought this was doable and the group was excited.

Each group randomly selected its own genre, but all the groups had to include a few other assigned elements in their film: a prop, a line and a character. These elements included a briefcase, the line “I’m so, so, so stupid” and a chef named Mitch, or Michelle Stockridge. Unfortunately, a wrench was about to be thrown into our group. Two people showed up to the ceremony without a group of their own and our director, Ryan, in his good natured way, allowed them to join ours. Though it was a noble and honorable thing to do, in hindsight it was not the best idea, as neither of the new members had much experience with film production. From there we went to a local eatery to work on the story. One of the two additions mentioned a boat race that was happening the next day and convinced the group to work the film around it.

My team members hard at work during the 48 Hour Film Project (Photo by Rachel Duncan)

We threw together a rough outline of the story and a few of us stayed up all night in a hotel lobby finishing a draft of the script. After two hours of sleep, my girlfriend and I were back and ready to revise the script and begin shooting the film. An hour or so later we made it to the marina and realized it wasn’t exactly what we thought it would be. Given the nature of the project and its impending deadlines, we rolled with it and did the best we could. This set the tone for the whole day, but it was something we all expected. It’s an inevitable part of filmmaking, and we all learned a lot.

When presented with problems, we overcame them the best we could and managed to get the film done and delivered with at least ten minutes to spare. Looking back, there are all kinds of things I would change, but I wouldn’t give up the experience for anything.

If you would like to learn more about the 48 Hour Film Project, check out

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