x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Filmmakers feel the weight of a tight deadline on 48 Hour Project

A decade after it started in the US, the challenge to create a seven-minute movie in two days is coming to Dubai.

The filmmaker Andrew Squires took part in the 2008 48 Hour Film Project in Edinburgh. Courtesy Dubai International Film Festival
The filmmaker Andrew Squires took part in the 2008 48 Hour Film Project in Edinburgh. Courtesy Dubai International Film Festival

While many directors complain about the tight deadlines enforced by studios, few have to work within the constraints that will be faced by budding filmmakers across Dubai this weekend.

A decade after it started in Washington, having since expanded to 100 cities around the world, the 48 Hour Film Project lands in the UAE for the first time tonight at The Pavilion, Downtown Dubai. As the name suggests, this is a film competition that takes place over just two days, during which time teams of all sizes, shapes and experience (or lack of) must create a short film between four and seven minutes long.

But it's not that simple. In order to ensure that nobody can jump the gun and give their production a head start, teams are given a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue on the night. Just to make things even more interesting, each team is also handed an individual genre, ranging from "Superhero" to "Time Travel". Forty-eight hours later, the finished product incorporating all these elements, must be handed in.

While assembling of the team, casting and the scouting for locations can be done before (and is actively encouraged), the actual production and editing must take place within the two days. Anyone hoping to emulate David Fincher's penchant for exhausting multiples of takes might want to reconsider.

"I'd actually taken part in it myself in New York as a filmmaker," says Mo Rida, the Dubai producer of the project. "I remember it being great fun, where we'd get together for a weekend and make a movie. We didn't take it too seriously, but we used to always look forward to it."

While holidaying in Lebanon last year, Rida noticed that there were a lot of film festivals, film schools and people interested in making movies, so he asked the 48 Hour organisers if he could expand the project into the Middle East. The first Arab competition was held in Beirut in July. Dubai will become the second event in the region and Rida hopes to take it to Cairo next April.

"We had about 30 teams in Beirut, of which 22 actually were able to hand in a finished film," says Rida. "I was surprised at the quality - there were some really good entries."

The overall winner in Beirut was a socio-political satire called Anoesis, set in an underground bunker and produced by the Orange Dog team.

"Their genre was 'Anniversary Birthday', so they set their story around a party," says Rida.

Anoesis will now go on to be screened at the annual Filmapalooza event, the 48 Hour Film Project's grand finale to be held at the Taos Short Film Festival next March, as will the winners in Dubai and Cairo. The winner of this event will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

Although La Croisette might be a long way off for most entrants, the 48 Hour Film Project seems a great opportunity for people who might always have wanted to try their hand at filmmaking, and for those with some experience actually to see their creations screened before an audience.

And, even if the finished product has people laughing for all the wrong reasons, it should be an enjoyable experience for teams nonetheless.

"If you're making short films, you want to have fun," says Rida. "If you're not having fun, what's the point?"

The 48 Hour Film Project kicks off tonight at 6pm at The Pavilion, Downtown Dubai. The first screening of the finished films will take place next Thursday at The Shelter. More screening dates are likely to be added. Check www.48hourfilm.com/dubai for more information