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Lights. Camera. Action!

The DMC’s 48-Hour Film Fest makes a return

Hands hold a reel of film depicting a shot of a house. While film reels are still used in some movies today, most are shot digitally. // Illustration by Milo Openshaw

On Friday, May 19, Western’s Digital Media Center will kick off its annual 48-Hour Film Fest, an event in which students will be challenged to write, shoot and edit a short film in just 48 hours.

Groups will be assigned two genres and given a line and prop that need to be incorporated into their films. Films will be judged based on technical execution, storyline and how much they stand out. 

Such a tight time constraint introduces a lot of unique challenges for student filmmakers. Participants will have to think on their feet and embrace any unexpected turns. 

Dawn Dietrich, a professor of film studies at Western and a former judge of the 48-Hour Film Fest, encourages participants to improvise and get creative with the time constraint. 

“What’s remarkable is that the constraint of 48 hours forces you to mobilize so quickly and be susceptible to luck and chance, so it usually generates super creative stuff,” Dietrich said.

Without the time to properly lay out and outline a film, the approach changes completely. Instead of writing, shooting and editing being separated into steps, groups may need to write while they shoot and make decisions on the fly. 

“I love the unexpectedness, and how you can create surprises in your work that you didn’t even know existed until it happens. That constraint leads to deep creativity,” Dietrich said.

Genres, props and lines will be assigned on the kick-off day, so participants will not know what they are working with before the start of the event. Sof Dubois, the DMC’s student manager, hopes that students will get creative with what they are given. 

“Try not to come in with an idea,” Dubois said. “If you come in with a really strong idea and it doesn’t work with any of your prompts, it’s going to sully the experience because you’re going to try to force it.”

Haven Patrick, a student filmmaker who is the lead officer of Western’s Film Production Club, said that he often works better on a tight deadline. 

“With the project I’m working on now, I could easily set a release for fall quarter, but the rush to hit the deadline of summer gets the creative juices flowing. I feel like I work better under pressure,” Patrick said.

Following the end of the competition, the DMC will host a screening of all the completed films on Friday, May 26. This is also when each film will be judged and prizes will be awarded to the top three finishers. 

Each film is expected to be around four to 10 minutes in length; this way films can flesh out a full story without dragging on too long. 

With the two genres that each group is assigned, they can either choose one or combine them. In last year's festival, a group combined thriller and mystery to make a noir murder mystery. 

The DMC will have equipment kits available at the kickoff, which will include a standard camera, microphones and all of the necessary cables and batteries. Those who are interested can sign up on the DMC’s website. Questions can be sent to Sof Dubois through the DMC email.

Lyra Montemayor

Lyra Montemayor (she/they) is a campus life reporter for The Front. She is a second year student at Western and a visual journalism major. In her free time, she likes watching movies and spending time with friends. 

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