48 Hour Film Project: Winner Could Go to Cannes

Budding filmmakers in South Florida finally have a chance to show off their skills and make a movie that will get some attention. It need not be the next Gone With the Wind or Citizen Kane, but it must be made in only 48 hours.

Participants in the 48 Hour Film Project (48HFP) will be given a subject Friday and then must turn around a film by Sunday — a feat that would test even the most intrepid producer. The contest is expected to draw a mix of abilities, from experts to people who may have never even stepped foot in a film studio.

"The people that enter the 48HFP are professional filmmakers, students, budding directors, and everyday people who have dreamed of making a movie," says Cathleen Dean, the producer of the Miami/Fort Lauderdale 48 Hour Film Project, one of the 130 local competitions taking place through October. "Some never considered it before their boyfriend or sister got involved with this in the past. Some of the professionals want an opportunity to exercise their creativity outside the constraints of their 9-to-5 jobs. Some join with the [express] interest of only acting because they shoot or edit for a living. Others are game to do it all, and others stay in their professional lanes. They just get creative with the content."

According to Dean, more than 60,000 people are expected to take part in the worldwide event, with the winning film from each area competing for the grand prize at the international Filmapalooza 2017, which could lead to an opportunity to screen work at next year's Cannes Film Festival.

"HBO, AMC, Sundance — give me a call."

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Lest any amateur think he or she is at a disadvantage when facing off against the more experienced, Dean says there's little reason to worry. "The playing ground is pretty level in the 48HFP," she insists. "Just because someone has years of technical experience, it doesn't mean that they can conceive and create a good story. The team that won best film last year made their very first film ever during and for the competition."

According to Dean, past winners have really raised the bar. "I am constantly surprised and blown away by the results of the competing entries," she admits. "Last year, Tabitha Mudra and her team 1310 Bandits won for their horror film Souvenir. The film was so out-of-the-box and masterfully crafted that it swept seven awards, including Best Film for 2015. It was Tabitha's first film ever! She went on to have a prolific year producing and directing independently for WPBT-TV (Channel 2) and nationally for PBS. Her second film debuted at the Miami International Film Festival. In 2013, Team Lonely Avocado, led by Christopher Sopher, won Best Film for their entry Bon Voyage. I like to describe it as The Office meets The Walking Dead. It also won an audience award [and] awards for best directing, best editing, best sound design, and best writing. They came back last year and placed third with their film Nuro."

Those success stories aren't alone. "In 2011, Jose Jacho and his team, People in Trees, won an audience award for their film Skip Nation, a mockumentary about skipping culture and how it was taking over," Dean recalls. "Jose was an early proponent of the 48HFP, and he participated many times. He went on to cofound FilmGate Interactive."

According to Dean, the competition can be a steppingstone toward greater glories. She says that many creative individuals have cut their teeth with the project and gone on to future success. "I can't really describe it as a rite of passage because it's a project that people look forward to repeating year after year," she says. "It stands the test of time and lets filmmakers exercise their storytelling skills each time. They get better and better each year."

In fact, the inspiration for the event came from two filmmakers who attempted to meet that challenge on their own. It dates back to 2001, when Mark Ruppert and Liz Langston came up with the idea of making a film in 48 hours. "They tried it and found that it was not only possible, but it was also exhilarating," Dean explains.

This year's competition is supported by grants from the group's community partners, including, Video Mix TV, Budget Video, Professional Sound Services, Piccolo Restaurant, WPBT, BlackCat Media, and Monster. Dean says the panel of judges will consist of "experts selected based on their knowledge and the experience they've gained actually working in the industry." She adds that finished films must be a minimum of four minutes and a maximum of seven minutes in duration, not including the end credits.

While the challenge may be intense, Dean insists that it can also be invigorating. It may even be fodder for reality TV. "I think the 48HFP would make a great reality show," she suggests. "The drop-off event takes place the Sunday night after the kickoff, and it is so much fun for me to see. The filmmakers race to the drop-off location to get the films in on time. Most are extremely exhausted at this point in the competition, but they hang out and share their stories. I get a firsthand account of what they encountered and endured over the weekend of filming, and it's never dull. So we are open to [the possibility of a reality show]. HBO, AMC, Sundance — give me a call."

48 Hour Film Project
Friday, June 24, through Sunday, June 26. Registration fees are $175 per team through kickoff. Email Cathleen Dean at, call 954-651-7806, or visit

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Lee Zimmerman