48 Hour Film Project Returns From Pandemic Hiatus

The competition celebrates creativity as teams spend a single weekend writing, shooting, and editing a short film. 

Get the director’s chair, megaphone, and beret ready. After two years, the 48 Hour Film Project is returning in person to the Queen City next month. The event—which features teams of participants write, shoot, and edit short films over the course of a single weekend—kicks off July 8 at the Hampton Inn near the University of Cincinnati. After 7 p.m. teams will officially have 48 hours to finish their projects by Sunday night. The competition is open to amateur and professional filmmakers alike, even if teams have no prior filmmaking experience.

Photograph courtesy Vernard S. Fields

This year, all projects submitted will be screened on Thursday, July 14, at 6:30 and 8:30 p.m. at the Esquire Theatre. The top films of the event, selected by its organizers, will be shown at a “Best Of” screening at 6:30 p.m., on Friday, July 22, at the Esquire.

The theater showings were the biggest loss from the pandemic. While all projects were available to watch online last year, Fields says there’s nothing like a live audience experience. For some participants, this is the only time they may ever see a film they’ve made premiere on the big screen.

Photograph courtesy Vernard S. Fields

As city producer for the event, Vernard S. Fields is responsible for locking down the dates of the competition, finding judges for awards, marketing the event to the local community, and securing a theater to show the finished projects. Having taken on the role in 2019, Fields says loves seeing how excited participants are but “I get the most joy out of fresh faces.”

One rule of the competition connects all entries, no matter what else they contain: all films must contain a certain prop and a particular line of dialogue, verbatim. Teams get more points if the prop is used as part of the story, not just in the background. The most unique case Fields has seen was a film whose required prop was a frisbee, and two characters in the film discussed the actual physics of the toy during a train ride.

In addition to running the competition, Fields is the founder and president of the Black Cincinnati Cinema Collective (B3C), an organization dedicated to connecting and strengthening the Black filmmaking community in Cincinnati. It started in 2017 as a social group, he says, then grew to include classes and an awards ceremony. The group now meets every month, connecting those both in front of and behind the camera.

Photograph courtesy Vernard S. Fields

“I realized that there was a lot of talent out there but they didn’t know each other,” he adds. “It’s all about making connections and letting people know that Black filmmakers in Cincinnati are here.”

And make connections it does. The last time Fields competed in the 48 Hour Project, in 2018, he convinced 60 B3C members to go with him to the event, and three more teams were formed and competed. “It felt great to be accepted into the community as a whole,” Fields explains.

In the future, he wants to see more college and high school students competing in the 48 Hour Project. There’s talent out there, he notes, and a chance for more experienced producers to spot a gem.

Late registration for the 48 Hour Project will run through July 8. More information, including FAQs and rules for filmmaking and the competition in general, is available at https://www.48hourfilm.com/cincinnati/48hfp.

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