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Photo courtesy of Jennifer Gentner.

Make a Movie in 48 Hours: Detroit 48-Hour Film Festival


After two days of writing, casting, shooting and so much more, you’re in the final phases of editing your short film. You’re on a hard deadline. You’re putting the finishing touches on it when, all of sudden, the editing software crashes.

Oh, no.

You reboot the program, hoping, pleading, you didn’t lose any progress! The program starts up. You load your project and…it’s gone. The last four hours of work are all gone and you have 30 minutes to turn your project in on time.

Welcome to the 48-Hour Film Festival.

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Every year, filmmakers around the world participate in this grueling project. For what? Why subject themselves to so much stress in a short span of time?

“When I go and I’m a contestant, I’m super fired up and I’m kind of a competitive person anyway,” said Jennifer Gentner, co-producer of this year’s 48-Hour Film Festival in Detroit. “I go there and I have that kind of stress of wanting to make something really good…”

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Photo courtesy of Jennifer Gentner.

This will be Gentner’s first year as a producer of the Detroit festival. She is approaching the role with 10 years of experience as a contestant, as well as experience in other 48-Hour Film Festivals.

“With [producing], it’s one thing when you have a team of people,” Gentner said. “Now, I have 50 teams of people that I have to make sure everything is in line and ready for them. It’s still ‘fun stress,’ if there is such a thing, but you don’t want any problems. You want it to go out without a hitch.”

This Friday, July 13, filmmaking teams from across Metro Detroit will converge on the Motion Picture Institute in Troy for this year’s kick-off event. There, they will be given all of their required elements (things every team must include in their short film), such as a character and a line of dialogue. The most crucial element they will receive is their genre. Team leaders will draw two genres at random and be required to create a film in one or both of those genres.

From that point, the teams are tasked with creating a short film (typically 4-7 minutes in length) in 48 hours and the deadline is strict. Entries can be received after the deadline, but they will be ineligible for awards.

“Every skill level is welcome,” Gentner said. “We have groups that are right out of high school or in high school still…all the way up to people who are in college now going to film school…But, then we also have people who are professionals doing it as well.”

If the idea of stressing yourself out for 48 hours still doesn’t sound appealing, how about seeing your film on the big screen? Every year, the completed films are screened to the public at a local theater. This year’s screening event will be at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak on Wednesday, July 25.

For many, the idea of writing, shooting, editing and delivering a short film in 48 hours sounds like a load of unnecessary stress. For others, it’s a chance to force creativity. For better or worse, after those 48 hours are over, participants will have created something and for many, that’s what it’s all about.

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