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Frantic filmmakers

Who are all these movie folks, and why are they in such a hurry?
By ERIN ENBERG  |  May 31, 2006

The 48 Hour Film Project is coming to Portland for the first time this weekend, so local residents should watch out. Roughly ten filmmaking teams will be competing in a weekend of film frenzy. Each team can have as many crewmembers as it chooses (fifteen is the most this year, and one is the smallest) and is given a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue they must use somewhere in their film. Genres will be chosen from a hat and could include anything from action/adventure or comedy, to mockumentary (think This Is Spinal Tap) or holiday film. The films must be no longer than seven minutes and must be completed in 48 hours, starting Friday. The winner of the Portland effort will compete for a grand prize with all the other finalists around the country.

Sound like a cinema circus? James LaPlante, owner of Sputnik Productions in South Portland, thinks the project is a great opportunity to meet other local filmmakers and challenge his company. He received a phone call about the project and his filmmaking team was immediately interested, though his choice of an animated piece is problematic. One of his production company’s recent animated shorts took two to three weeks to make and was only two and a half minutes long. “It’s sort of why some runners will run a marathon — to see if they can do it,” says LaPlante. “That’s how we feel. We’re trying to make an animated film in 48 hours to see if we can do it.”

Jesse Savage of Scarborough, the producer and facilitator for the Portland competition, was on a team himself in Boston a couple years back. They were called the “Dorchester Shrimp Company” and he enjoyed it so much he became involved in the organization. He hopes it will become a tradition in Portland. “It’s a great way to get exposure and for filmmakers to promote their work and business,” he says. One of the stipulations of the project is to include the “essence” of Portland in these films, whether it’s a landmark or local business. Two other teams, Bill Dyszel’s “Cinema Solo,” and Raphael Diluzio’s “3leggedog” have already begun their scouting locations in town, though each has a very different approach.

Dyszel, a writer for PC for Dummies and PC Magazine, has done a whopping eleven 48-hour films—and five of them have been this year. He always works alone and turns every film into a musical, no matter what genre he’s given. Although he used to live in Maine, he now lives in Manhattan and has been a member of the New York City Opera. “My process is based on impulse, and a musical score, while others write a script.” What drives his addiction to this two-night stand of filmmaking again and again? “It’s a great community event and everyone’s cheering for each other. Each city has been different and the filmmakers in each region have different ideas and approaches.”

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