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Thursday, July 24, 2014

New Hampshire 48 Hour Film Project screening Thursday at Cinemagic Hooksett

What can you accomplish in two days?

Could you write, cast, direct, shoot, edit and score a short film, based on required elements and a genre given to you on the fly? Apparently, many folks are up to the challenge, as proven by this year’s submissions to the New Hampshire 48 Hour Film Project, to be screened Thursday evening at Cinemagic in Hooksett. ...

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What can you accomplish in two days?

Could you write, cast, direct, shoot, edit and score a short film, based on required elements and a genre given to you on the fly? Apparently, many folks are up to the challenge, as proven by this year’s submissions to the New Hampshire 48 Hour Film Project, to be screened Thursday evening at Cinemagic in Hooksett.

One weekend in June, from 7 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Sunday, actors, directors and other film buffs joined forces to crank out something worth watching for four to seven minutes. They were given three required elements – one character name/profession, a prop and a phrase – that must be incorporated into whatever type of film they produce. This year, Granite State submissions had to include Alexis or Alan Fleming, a long-distance runner, an award, and the phrase “In my opinion, it’s perfect.”

Originating in Washington, D.C., in 2001, the experiment has gone national, this year hitting 120 cities where more than 60,000 people will make short films. The first question that arises – right after “aren’t you crazy for trying to do this?” – is “are the films any good?”

“That’s the first barrier you have to get past when you say, ‘Oh, I make these movies,’” said Mark Marshall of Wax Idiotical, an award-winning independent film group that’s produced 23 short films over the years, competing in New Hampshire, Boston and Providence. “People think, 48 hours, they can’t be very good. I’m always blown away by what we get as a final product. That’s not the case with all teams, and that’s fine,” Marshall said. “But having participated in all the New Hampshire ones since the beginning, I can tell you, this year, I’m blown away. There’s a lot more strong competition.”

Marshall, of Newton, Mass., and his WI partner, Kyp Pilalas, of Walpole, Mass., met in college. “We were theater buddies,” Marshall said. “I loved acting, he loved movies. We started filming our hijinks around town with a point-and-shoot camera. We’d edit together random things, like running around Walmart at 2 a.m. It’s cool; it ended up becoming a living photo album,” he said.

After doing their first film off a script Pilalas and a friend wrote, the duo heard about the Boston 48 Hour Film Project “about seven years ago, joined a team and had a blast. It left us wanting more, and wanting to do it our way,” Marshall said. “The next month, we competed in Providence with our own team. The next year, we did Boston, New Hampshire and Providence and we ended up winning (the latter two).”

The Providence event a few weekends ago was Wax Idiotical’s 23rd submission. “We’ve been doing it for six years. Kyp and I cofounded it, and over the years have had our friends join in. I do a lot of theater in New Hampshire and ended up recruiting people from theatre KAPOW,” Marshall said.

So how does the 48 hours go down?

“At 7 p.m. Friday night, Kyp and I meet at the kickoff,” Marshall explained. “We pull the genre out of a hat by screening group – to avoid getting all comedies, all horror, etc.; that’s one of the things I think is really intelligent – and we have an immediate conversation on whether or not we like the genre. We’re typically not afraid of any genre. We can do it, figure it out. You can turn it in for a wild-card genre, though, like silent film, period piece, historical, family, animal … So after you receive and accept your genre, you’re given the required elements: a character, a line of dialogue and a prop.

“Then we drive back to Boston and sit down, typically shoot out an email to our team asking for input,” Marshall continued. “For Providence, for example, our genre was time travel. We asked them, if you could go forward or backward in time, where would you go and why? We got to sit back and take a breath.

“For New Hampshire, we had a lot of trouble with comedy. We went round and round, and finally decided on the theme of waiting to be interviewed for a new job. Kyp and I have always wanted to improv a movie. I mean, we already finish each other’s sentences; it’s disturbing,” Marshall said, laughing. “Victoria’s been with us since the beginning. So we were excited about this group that can act well together.

“Friday, we write until it’s done, between 11 p.m. or 2-3 a.m.,” Marshall said. “Saturday, we meet the tech guys at 9 a.m., start setting up, try to start shooting by 10-11 a.m., and film until we’re done. The earliest we’ve ever finished was 6 p.m. for New Hampshire this year; it was 4 a.m. Sunday for Boston.

“Kyp is very thankful I’ve (also) started editing,” Marshall said. “He puts the final cut together; usually he goes back to work on the rough cut and sends it the music person. It’s collaborative editing,” he said.

Filmmakers have to get their finished product to the drop off by the deadline in order to qualify for judging. If you’re late, they’ll still screen it, Marshall said, and it will be eligible for the audience choice award – the award Marshall and his team were “super excited” to receive at past events.

The judges choose about half of the movies to publicly screen, and Thursday will have about a dozen shown at Cinemagic Hooksett. Awards will follow usual film industry categories: best film, director, editor, music, actor, ensemble, writing, etc., plus “best use of dialogue, character and prop,” specific to the 48-hour project.

Marshall said it’s fun to see everyone’s movies on the big screen, and to have the good-natured friendly rivalries with some other teams. He said it’s nice to see a surprising number of children participating in the films. “One guy told me, ‘It’s my 40th birthday and I wanted to do something fun over the weekend with my family.’ It was awesome. It’s great to see this project encouraging everyone,” he said.

When asked about the stress, Marshall quotes “an eerily accurate” line of dialogue from a staged reading he did last weekend. “The line was ‘He didn’t need a muse, he needed a deadline.’ I think that’s how it is with the creative process. You wait until the last minute. That excitement-and-anxiety cocktail makes the creativity happen.”

Aaron Compagna, an actor who lives in Manchester, agrees. Compagna was in WI’s Providence film, and is also in Quest’s New Hampshire film submission.

“I’ve participated in New Hampshire three times now and it’s always been great; this is my first time with Wax Idiotical,” Compagna said. “It’s really fun; I enjoy the process. From the first idea, getting the genre, brainstorming, all the way up to the screening and seeing what everyone else pulls out of their hats. I’m always amazed at how people produce under pressure.”

Compagna started in the circuit as an actor in 2011, with the team Quest. He was called back in 2013 to also help write/edit. This year, he’s part of “Stalkey Puck,” Quest’s horror-spoof submission that will be screened at Cinemagic.

“The whole thing is so much fun,” he said. “It can be stressful when writing and organizing actors and their schedules, but for the most part, the pressure makes it feel alive. You have to cut out all the unessential, and that makes for a better movie.”

Compagna hopes to go to the Philadelphia 48 Hour Film Project in mid-August, and maybe the one in Maine as well. “I’m getting exposure, making a demo reel, making connections,” he said. “And it’s also really fun. It doesn’t even feel like work,” he said.

“I have a 48-hour project addiction, and I need help,” Compagna said, laughing. “You can quote me on that.”

The screening should be a fun evening of short films, whether you participated in producing one, have a friend who did, or are just a fan of flicks. “One thing I noticed is that most of them end up being funny, no matter what genre they were assigned,” Compagna said. “That really helps make for a very entertaining evening at the movies.”

Marshall concurred. “If we learned anything from the film project, it is that four to seven minutes can feel like a really long time if it’s boring,” he said, laughing.

Kathleen Palmer can be reached at 594-6403 or kpalmer@nashua telegraph.com. Also, follow her on Twitter (@Telegraph_KathP or @NHFoodandFun).