Film Festivals

44 Flicks

1 May , 2004  

Written by Genevieve Butler | Posted by:

Forty-four teams of filmmakers saved a lot more than daylight when the 48 Hour Film Project Came to Boston April 2.  Here's a report on the event and profiles of some of the audience award-winning shorts.

Without much time or money, 44 teams of filmmakers embarked upon a dizzyingly busy weekend of writing, shooting, editing, and even singing after the 48 Hour Film Project’s (48 HFP) Friday night "kick-off" ceremony on the April 2.  

The 48 Hour Film Project’s 2nd annual stop in Boston is a story NewEnglandFilm.com first brought you last month. Back then, local producer Ben Guaraldi was preparing to supervise a wild weekend of filmmaking and a series of what were sure to be exciting local screenings in the weeks to follow. A lot can happen in one month… Since then, there were the character, prop and dialogue drawings at the kick-off at Boston Beer Works; there were two days and two sleepless nights of film production; a frantic race to the finish line at the Sunday night "drop-off"; and four nights of screenings where filmmakers mingled with filmgoers, watched the product of their labor and answered questions at the end.

The Kick-Off

Circa 6:30 PM, Ben Guaraldi was standing on a chair at Boston Beer Works calling out team names and announcing the results of each team’s genre drawing. The names themselves were an interesting and often funny element, ranging from the well-known ImprovBoston, to names like Wait, What?, Film Gods, Dorchester Shrimp Co. and The Electric Ragamuffins. There was animated reaction after each drawing ranging from cheers to sighs of relief, and the occasional look of concern. The genres were Comedy, Mystery, Musical or Western, Detective or Cop, Sci. Fi., Mokumentary, Horror, Romance, Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Spy, and Superhero.

Next came the announcement of the prop, the one item that must make an appearance within each competing film. The inanimate object headed for fame in the following days was the unspectacular ‘Garden Hose.’ The group of filmmakers then waited to hear Guaraldi call out the character — the single name and occupation viewers would encounter some 44 times at the screenings to follow — and the line of dialogue which would be heard in every film. The character’s name: ‘Spudgy McGonnagle,’ ("That’s ‘S,’ ‘P,’ ‘U,’…" it was necessary for Guaraldi to repeat the spelling a few times so that his audience could frantically scribble it down.) McGonnagle’s raison d’etre: ‘Pastry Chef.’ Guaraldi’s last dip into the hat produced the line of dialogue: "What’s the plan this time, Brainiac?" The line was to be included in every film, as with the previous two slips of paper Guaraldi pulled, and must be said verbatim.

"Pay your bills, and you’re free to go! Be back Sunday by 8:30! If you’re later than 8:30, you’re late! Recognizable landmark not required but strongly encouraged!" Guaraldi bellowed over the competing voices of the filmmakers who were all already on their cell phones calling their writers who were presumably awaiting their assignments. The bar echoed with the likes of "that’s right, a garden hose!’ and "no, Spudgy, with an ‘S’!" and "what did you get?"

Within minutes, the bar was all but empty, but there were a few stragglers looking remarkably relaxed and unconcerned. Ken Kina and Greg Shea, of Team Pulse had just drawn ‘Mystery,’ and just wanted to finish their beers first. Linda Redding and Brian Perreault, the Producer/Team Leader and Gaffer of D3 were talking locations and ordering a quick dinner before heading out to their base on the South Shore. "It’s the ultimate film challenge," Redding said.

By 7:00 PM the bar was empty, save Ben Guaraldi, his brother Will, (who signed on to help out through the whole process) and friend Brian Fife, the Boston 48 HFP Official Photographer. Guaraldi explained that 48 HFP producer Liz Langston and producer and founder Mark Ruppert had written the categories, but that the rest of it — the pre-kick-off networking sessions, or ‘happy hours,’ the kick-off and drop-off, and the screenings — were all up to him. Those events began in early February, and were an important part of the process to Guaraldi, who sees them as a golden opportunity for local filmmakers and enthusiasts to meet each other. "There’s not a very coherent film community here," he said, "so the networking lets people talk and meet each other."

The 2004 48 HFP is a first for Guaraldi and Fife who have known each other since they were students at Dartmouth, where they watched a lot of movies and Guaraldi made his first short films. He described that experience as good preparation for this job and what he was expecting over the next two days. "I’m used to fast, no budget filmmaking. It’s easier not to force it: it’s more like playing with Play-Doh than sculpting marble. Woody Allen, Play-Doh; Scorcese, marble; Tarantino does both." As far as his role as a motivator and organizer, Guaraldi says it suits him: "I like organizing… I recruited 73 teams." In fact this is the first year that the Boston 48 HFP was not able to accept all of the applicants.

Guaraldi also speaks highly of his bosses: "Mark and Liz are great managers.  They made the infrastructure solid, so they are able to do more." For instance, the 48 HFP has a special agreement with SAG so that SAG actors can appear in 48 HFP films. This and the networking virtues of the 48 HFP experience contribute a lot to the film community, according to Guaraldi. Fife also thinks that all the participants also benefit from challenges: "It kicks your creativity to be restrained."

Two day after this conversation, the completed films will have been brought back to Boston Beer Works. On the following Tuesday evening, Guaraldi will be presiding over the first of the four screenings which will premiere the films to the public and participants alike.  

The Screenings

48 HFP films were screened at the Brattle Theatre on April 6th and 7th, and at the Somerville Theatre on April 13th and 14th at 7:30 and 9:00 PM. Most of the screenings enjoyed great attendance, ranging from sold-out early shows to near capacity. Filmgoers were given ballots to vote for their three favorite films upon entering the theatre, and some ambitious groups gave out snacks and cards to solicit votes. Guaraldi introduced each evening’s screening with thanks to producers Mark Ruppert and Liz Langston, "who are with us in spirit if not in body," and the 48 HFP sponsors Avid and the Muse Hotel. As promised, late films were screened as well as the competing ones, first in fact, and Q&A’s were held at the conclusion of each screening.  

Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Late Films: "On Bread Alone," by The Illuminati (Comedy), "Puzzle Pieces," by Raptus Regaliter (Action/Adventure), "Cherry Pie," by Side by Side Productions (Mystery), "Mounting Evidence," by Two Bits Productions (Detective or Cop)

Competing Films: "Limbo," by The Electric Ragamuffins (Musical or Western), "Fatal Choices," by Sneaky Camel Productions (Sci-Fi), "Super Position," by Rustmonkey (Spy), "Rubbers," by Team Torpor (Mockumentary), "The Other Side," by Liberation! Films (Fantasy), "Lung Capacity," by Pirates (Horror),

"Rubbers," by Team Torpor (Mockumentary)
*Audience Award Winner

It sounds like sex: Spudgy and his wife Jan like it hard ("hard, hard enough?"); however they are grave rubbers. The film opens with the couple exchanging their art-related banter at the Forest Hills Cemetery in Jamaica Plain, and continues through their earnest but ironic interviews and introductions to their shrink and another rubber they have hooked on crayons and tracing paper. Spudgy wants to be "more creative than a pastry chef," and wants to open his own bakery (he works at Hostess for now). Jen is also looking for more creativity in her life; she enjoys working with her hands much more than being a telemarketer.

This film won over the audience, and it’s hard to imagine who wouldn’t have truly enjoyed this one. With "Rubbers," co-directors Doug Cabot and Dave Baron managed to create a beautifully realized, wittily written and hilariously funny mini-mockumentary comparable to one of Christopher Guest’s. Notable differences include a combined cast and crew of 10, the absence of professional actors, and a budget of "a couple hundred bucks," ("if you count food and beer.") according to Cabot.

In describing the film and the process, Cabot is modest: "I think I tossed out gravestone rubbers… it was the only option that nobody hated." From there they improvised. "We just kind of trusted that the process would take care of itself. Amazingly, it did."  

Indeed. Anthony Austin, a musician, played Spudgy, and delivered an amazingly sophisticated performance for someone whose acting experience has been minimal. He made every transition from dry wit to deadpan sincerity look effortless as he described the vicissitudes of "tactile-compulsives." Cabot’s sister-in-law, Karen Cabot, who played Jan McGonnagle, is a student at the University of Southern Maine, and has had a lot of experience in the USM theatre. It shows: she and Austin had great chemistry and her portrayal of the supportive wife, eccentric in her own right, was excellent. The other three cast members have never acted, but all performed well. Lisa Stemlar, a law librarian played the McGonnagle’s therapist; Mayeti Gametchu, a lawyer, played fellow grave-rubbing enthusiast, Sydney Marshall; Andy Marshall played the hose-wielding neighbor who is not into rubbing ("fuckin’ freaks!").      

Cabot, a production assistant at Powderhouse Productions in Somerville, co-directed, filmed and edited "Rubbers," using a Canon GL2 and FCP 3.0. This is his second film. His first, a 1-hour documentary, "The Men Who Would Be Vikings," he made while a graduate student at Emerson in 2003. Co-director Baron has had some experience shooting Pixelvision footage, but is a lawyer by day. Baron also served as script supervisor on "Rubbers." Kimi Tsuji and Andrew Santospago created the music, and Nathaniel Cabot (Doug’s brother) was the assistant editor.

The film was outstanding, certainly deserving of the Audience Award, perhaps the final award.

"Lung Capacity," by Pirates (Horror)

This film was produced, written, directed and filmed by Patrick Daly, Leah LaRiccia, Darrell Panza and Matt Scher; Leah LaRiccia lead the team.

(b/w) Spudgy is a TV chef with a flirty assistant (Andrew O’Meara). A man (Lucien Desar) sits, transfixed, watching the show from his wheelchair. His wife (Megan Walsh) moves behind him busying herself with housework and caring for him. Presumably, this man is watching himself (Spudgy) in a later and lesser incarnation. His overwhelmed wife makes, what LaRiccia called "the best use of the garden hose," on him in the film’s spectacular ending.

Daly and Scher came up with the initial concept, and the team wrote until past midnight Friday night, creating and adjusting storyboards and talking about Hitchcock. However they worked without a script in the end, improvising most of what was seen. LaRiccia now plans to go back and continue work on the film, and is sold on filmmaking: she hopes to ease her way out of the pharmaceutical industry and into filmmaking.

"America’s Next Top Superhero," by Playomatic (Superhero)

Reality TV meets every superhero cliché in this hilarious short. A tyrannical super-villain posts a personal add seeking a side-kick. There are nine eccentric and enthused responses ranging from a lollipop-sucking sleep-inducing baby, to a clucking turkey-woman and, of course, Spudgy McGonnagle. Though he lacks an actual superpower, he has terrific doughnut aim and calls himself a ‘creaminator.’ The film is divided into segments (physical challenge, weakness, etc.) and losers are ‘obligerated,’ as on the Apprentice.

The film is very funny and campy, and the costumes are certainly the best of the 44 films, one of which was an earthy Poison Ivy-esque get-up incorporating the garden hose. Playomatic is a north shore production company headed by Steve Stuart.

Wednesday, April 7, 2004

Late Film: "Tarts and Hose," by Obnots (Comedy).

Competing Films: "The Last Batch," by Everybody’s Favorite (Mystery), "Dead Men Don’t East Dainties," DopeAimine Productions (Musical or Western), "Cut and Dry," The Jilted Beasts (Detective or Cop), "Section 30," Dead Art Films (Sci-Fi), "Storyboarding," Miracle Pictures (Mockumentary), "Splatter Day Saints," by Banana in the Tailpipe (Horror), "My Ulcer…It’s Back," by, Dorchester Shrimp Co. (Romance), "Ripped," by Chuck Tucker Productions (Fantasy), "Irish Blood," by The Clip Show (Action/Adventure), "Delicious," by Team Dartmouth (Spy)

"Irish Blood," by The Clip Show (Action/Adventure)
*Audience Award winner

This film is a saga of two feuding matriarchal mafias: one is Irish, the other, Asian. The two Irish kids, a duo with a combined IQ in the double-digits, rob a store and subsequently end up at the mercy of the meditative, but decidedly dangerous Godmother of the other mob. Even their mother knows her sons are not great thinkers, so it is obviously with grave reservations that she sends them off in an attempt to avert Armageddon in the underworld, but they "fuckin’, fuck, fuck," offend their way further from the good graces of the Asian mob. A fantastic fight scene ensues as she pummels the two stooges. The film cuts to the boys’ mother getting ready for their funeral, but she’ll never make it.

The production values are amazing considering the constraints on time, and most of the filmmakers testified to reserving equipment they weren’t sure they could use, but Irish Blood did not waste a thing. The production design, particularly the lighting, was masterful and the acting was excellent.

At the Q&A many of the questions were directed at Steven Dypiangco who led the team, and the store-robbery scene was of particular interest. "Toys R’ Us is the best place to buy guns," he announced. In fact that scene got a lot of attention, even before the screening. During the shoot, passing police officers noticed the tell-tale signs of a hold-up and intervened, "in the end they were pretty nice" however, Dypiangco said.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Late Films: "When Given Lemons…" by Eliot Lives Productions (Detective or Cop), "Imperfect Heroes," by R and R (Superhero), "Watershed," by Wait, What? (Sci-Fi), "Twice Baked," by Streetgeek Productions (Comedy), "He Didn’t," by Tapioca Productions (Romance)

Competing Films: "La Bella Torta," by Top Feeg (Mockumentary), "The Merchandise," by Team FSB (Spy), "Corral," by Wallace and Henry (Mystery), "Best of Friends," by lower case productions (Horror), "Checking Out," by Bighouse Films (Action/Adventure), "Recipe for Love," by ImprovBoston (Musical or Western)

"Recipe for Love," by ImprovBoston (Musical or Western)
*Audience Award winner

"Cooking is like a man: crusty on the outside and flake off in your hand," began the star of the film in song as she "followed the recipe for love." In the next scene the woman is the third wheel, eating a meal with a couple, who, in that well-meaning way, sing, "no wonder you’re alone!" Turns out, she’s been trying to seduce a baker (Spudgy) with her own pastries! She goes do bed dreaming of a happy ending with Spudgy: they dance on the pier, the Boston skyline behind them, but the dream quickly turns to a nightmare as they are surrounded by the cackling happy couple and a group of menacing bakers who throw pastries at them. The real ending is happy, but unexpected.

This is ImprovBoston’s first time at the 48 HFP.

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Late Films: "Spudgy McGonnagle: The Final Flick," by Sophomoric Productions (Superhero), "B.A.N.G.," by Serious Penguin Films (Mockumentary), "Box Lunch," by Team V’ger 3000 (Comedy), "Little Did She Know," by Film Gods (Spy), "Aiden and Aiofe," Echo Planar (Horror)

Competing Films: "The Icarus Project," by D3 (Sci-Fi), "You’re Mine!" by Kinotavr (Fantasy), "Sweeter by Far," by Summer Villa (Musical or Western) *Audience Award winner, "Nobody," by Team Attic (Detective or Cop), "Blood Sugar," by Team Pulse (Mystery), "Thousand Yard Stare," by Advanced Teamwork (Action Adventure)

"Blood Sugar," by Team Pulse (Mystery)

This film definitely features the best opening scene: a rolling pin is rolling (banal by day 4, given the character), but blood spurts out all over, dripping down the rolling pin onto the countertop, fabulous! There follows the interrogations of two femme-fatale sisters. "She says she was just trying to save me from myself," says one of the other. Her weakness? A baker named Spudgy and his product, "I don’t know if I was more hooked on his junk or him." The sisters had seen Spudgy switch one fine white powder for another, but during the split-scene interview they both exclaim: "It wasn’t me, I left first!" The production values were excellent and the ending as camp-tastic as the beginning, upon finding out that Spudgy was a diabetic, Team Pulse leaves the audience with the final line: "But he always had such good taste!"

Karen Black, Team Pulse leader (and producer/director/co-writer) said that "as soon as we heard "mystery" we decided to let the brainstorming flow…we brainstormed from around 7 p.m. to midnight, and writing ended around 5 a.m. We are very proud of what we accomplished in 48 hours, and we also wish we could turn back time and do some things differently! It was a great experience, very trying and exhausting but so worthwhile."

"Blood Sugar," was co-written by Karen Black, Wendy McDowell, and Paul D’Amato.

More information about the 48 Hour Film Project can be found at http://www.48hourfilm.com/.


More information about the 48 Hour Film Project can be found at http://www.48hourfilm.com/.