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The Guiness world record for longest continuous film shoot, Quora reports, is Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut” which took 15 months to complete back in the late 90s.

On the flipside are the short films produced by filmmakers who participate in the 48-Hour Film Project, the world’s oldest and largest timed filmmaking competition. The project challenges filmmakers across the country and globe to race from idea, to script, to filming, to finished product in a short two-day span, what they call “a wild and sleepless weekend” of movie-making. The final product must be between four and seven minutes long, not including credits. 

Winners of each city competition have the opportunity to compete against films from around the world at “Filmapalooza 2020” to win the grand prize: screening at the Cannes Film Festival’s  2020 Short Film Corner.

How the 48-Hour Film Project works

48-hour weekends are kicked off across the country in different cities throughout the year. Teams registered in a particular city assemble, and on a Friday night are given a choice of two genres, from which they must select one. “It’s a total wild card draw,” said Phoebe Frear, filmmaker and owner of Elephant Trunk Films, a local film company, who participated in the 48-Hour Film Project for the first time last year.

“The genres can be anything from musical to horror, western to suspense,” Frear said. In addition to the film genre, teams are also given the same line of dialogue, character with specific description, and prop, which all teams must work in some way into the script and filming of their short production.

Frear and her team are gearing up for this year’s 48-Hour Film Project out of Pittsburgh, July 12-14. “One of the goals of the project is to encourage networking with other filmmakers and people who want to be involved,” said Frear, and she and her team have been busy finding other professionals in the business with whom to partner.

A film crew consists of more than camera operators and actors; Frear includes people who work audio, slate, script supervisors, script writers, editors, a producer, and many volunteers to help with sourcing locations and finding props. 

Frear draws on her previous experience when approaching new projects, like this one. Her short film from the first 48-Hour Film Project challenge, “When it’s Time,” fell into the Time Travel genre she selected at the start of the weekend. She and a team of 20-25 people wrote the script, shot scenes, edited, and submitted the 5-minute, 49-second-long film, which included driving the final product to Pittsburgh for submission. 

“We went to the screening of all Pittsburgh-registered 48-hour participants and met at least half of the filmmakers at the event,” said Frear, who was one of only three female directors out of a group of 15. “Of the 15, 12 qualified for screening,” she said. Those who didn’t end up qualifying either missed the deadline or didn’t include the necessary elements of line, character, and prop.

To ensure she’s up to the challenge again this year, she’s been working on elements she can control: assembling the crew, developing a list of possible shooting locations, finding actors who can be available during the filming portion of the project, and brainstorming general storyline ideas. “A lot of low budget films base their stories on what actors are available and what space is available at the time,” said Frear, so this approach is somewhat typical and gives the team a head-start on ideas.

It all comes back to the project’s goal: to unite fellow creatives and encourage the process of filming a complete movie in 48 hours, whether you’re a seasoned filmmaker or just dabbling in the art. The connections she’s made is what has Frear most excited. “It’s really cool to have people who support and believe in you,” she said. “To see who is willing to invest time and talent in my projects is very encouraging.”

If you’re interested in joining the Elephant Trunk Films crew as an actor, crew member, prop provider, business owner with a filming location, or volunteer on the project, email phoebe.frear@gmail.com or connect on Facebook @ElephantTrunkFilms. Follow this year’s 48-hour film production on Facebook!