Timed competitions gain traction across globe

Think you have a tight shooting schedule? Try 24 hours.

Timed film competitions have blossomed all over the world, with aspiring filmmakers given extremely short windows ranging from 15 minutes to 48 hours to write, shoot, edit and deliver a short film. And these all-nighters are attracting big-name sponsors.

“We had no idea if it could be done or if anyone could stand to watch the films,” says Mark Ruppert, creator of the 48 Hour Film Project. Following its inception in 2001, the 48HFP now holds competitions in 55 cities worldwide and is sponsored by Panasonic and Rumblefish.

Diesel’s Film Racing Tour is in its second year. “It’s improv for filmmakers,” says competition director Charlie Weisman, who assigns a theme like “revenge” or “bad advice” and gives teams just 24 hours to finish.

Austin, Texas-based Filmmaking Frenzy builds some competitions around feature film promotions. New Line sponsored one for “Be Kind Rewind,” the Jack Black starrer about vidstore clerks who “remake” movies. The next race will be sponsored by Paramount Vantage’s “Son of Rambow,” about two boys who make a homegrown “Rambo” sequel.

Apple got into the mix last year with its Insomnia Film Fest, forcing teams to incorporate elements like radio static or a birdcage. The fest enlisted name judges like Nora Ephron and James Mangold … who had to travel all the way to their computer for jury duty.

At the end of this year’s Insomnia, Clay Olsen‘s “Imagine” won first place, though he had a bit of an advantage: He owns a Utah-based advertising firm, Advent Creative, and knows how to brainstorm under deadline. “I got a bunch of employees together and said we have to come up with a concept in an hour,” says Olsen. “And if it’s not great, forget it. We have better things to do. It was a gamble anyway.”

But do such competitions yield anything?

Olsen says the nod brought a wave of new business to his company. And some filmmakers have graduated to feature films that had fest runs. Andrew Hunt, who won an aud award in the Minneapolis 48HFP, was a finalist on Fox’s “On the Lot.”

But aside from collecting views on YouTube, most of these No-Doz-driven films have yet to break through. Henri Mazza, creative director at the Alamo Drafthouse cinema, says the 48 Hour Film Project pics he saw didn’t impress. “They were really painful to watch,” he says. “They took themselves way too seriously.”

In response, he created the Drunk Film Festival, where legally drunk participants have 12 hours to make a film — enough time to stumble around with a camera but not enough to sober up.

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