Stopwatch prod’n

Groups race against the clock to create insta-films

NEW YORK — There’s no time for development hell at Raw Impressions.

The recently concluded bicoastal fest premiered seven short films that started production 16 days earlier. Seven teams, each consisting of a writer, a composer, a director, actors and other staff — many of whom had never worked together before — were given two locations and a theme (“without thinking”) and told to make a 10-minute musical film. The frantic productions culminated May 23 with preems in Gotham and L.A.

The ambitious fest, which cost less than $20,000, is just the latest time-limited film fest organized by Raw Impressions, which has also whipped together similar events for the stage since its founding in 2001. It is one of a growing number of orgs specializing in such under-the-gun style productions that can create not only an adrenaline rush, but also a networking opportunity for participants.

Org with perhaps the most star power is The 24 Hour Company, whose 24 Hour Plays events — plays written, rehearsed, and, yes, memorized in a day — have featured the likes of Brooke Shields, Christina Ricci and Marisa Tomei. Founded in 1995, org does several events a year, including a big Broadway benefit for arts education charity Working Playground, and has licensed the name to several dozen spin-offs.

Founder Tina Fallon sees her events as a “jolt to people’s systems,” noting “a lot of times people get stuck in safe working patterns.” Raw Impressions co-founder David Rodwin, meanwhile, says such fests offset theater’s “culture of development workshop hell where you never see your work fully done.”

As for auds, they’re “in on the process, they know what you’ve been through,” says Fallon, so they get to enjoy “the thrill of something going wrong.” When Amanda Peet forgot her lines in last year’s Broadway event, there was laughter instead of awkward silence.

Another play-in-a-day event is Fast & Loose, which began in 1998 and is put on by the Sacred Fools company in Los Angeles. Org called theAtrainplays recruits scribes and songwriters to write plays and musicals while taking Gotham’s A train its entire length and back again. Instant Films, based at L.A. Center Studios, and the 48 Hour Film Project, which does events in many cities worldwide, create films in two days. There are also time-limited events for comic books, videogames, and even novels.

The fast-moving fests are expanding their missions to push for even more time constraint activities. The 24 Hour Company is holding a Starbucks-sponsored event for British students at the Old Vic this summer, and are planning to partner with Working Playground to bring The 24 Hour Plays to New York City public school students.

And Instant Films co-founder Peter Lebow says his org might even go for broke and try doing a feature in 48 hours.

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