Just 12 hours ago, co-producer Mischa DeWalt was lying in a bathtub at a spacious house in Bernalillo. Her arm – a fake slash on her wrist – dangled over the side of the tub. Mathis calls for more blood
Time is running out. The Gentleman Bastards are making final tweaks to the film they created for the 48 Hour Film Project. For the film to be considered by the judges, hard copies are due at Tractor Brewing by 7:30 p.m. Their 7-minute film “Glitch” is still exporting.
At 6:58 p.m. writer/director Dan Mathis peeks at the estimated time for the export to finish. “There’s no way. It’s taking three minutes for every minute,” Mathis intones, pacing around the room with his hands clasping his head.
Just 12 hours ago, co-producer Mischa DeWalt was lying in a bathtub at a spacious house in Bernalillo. Her arm – a fake slash on her wrist – dangled over the side of the tub. Mathis calls for more blood. Special effects makeup artist Robert Posey is on hand and liberally squirts her arm with special prop goo.
“Was I on blood thinners?” DeWalt quips.
“This is how people bleed in movies,” Mathis replies.
It’s a fairly elaborate setup for a few seconds of film. Welcome to moviemaking. That’s why feature films often take months to shoot. But the Bastards only have 48 hours to write, shoot and edit their 7-minute masterpiece.
The Bastards are one of 43 teams that recently competed in the 48 Hour Film Project here in Albuquerque. All the teams boast similarly oddball names. The films screen Thursday, July 30, and Friday, July 31, at the KiMo Theatre (421 Central NW). The winners screen on Friday, Aug. 7, at the KiMo.
Many teams get little to no sleep over the weekend, and there is no monetary reward. Yet Liz Langston, who co-founded the 48 in Washington, D.C. years ago, says it’s a rite of passage. “We’ve had quite a few filmmakers discover their love for making films. Many have moved to L.A. Quite a few have made feature films,” said Langston.
There are now 48 Hour events in 130 cities around the world. Wherever you are, it all starts with the Friday Night kickoff where teams find out what genre they’ll be working in, plus required elements that prove to judges the film was written, shot and edited in the allotted time span. This year, all teams had to include a male or female character named Kelly Cartier, a tape measure and the line “You only live once.”
Most teams send just one or two representatives to the drawing, then immediately contact their teams to begin writing. Co-producer Steve Weir, Mathis and editor Jor-El Morales – his dad was a huge Superman fan – are on hand. They all have a few 48s under their belts and don’t plan to emulate greener teams wherein members stay up all night and write. But then they pull sci-fi as their genre.
They’re worried about visual effects. Sci-fi is a genre Mathis has never worked in. Back at his house, things are moving at a glacial pace. When DeWalt arrives at 9:30 p.m., they throw out two ideas centered on virtual reality. Neither pleases Mathis. His team members have seen this pattern before, and they know it will pass. “Once he gets into his groove, he’s phenomenal,” Weir says. The cast and crew call is for 6 a.m. on Saturday at the house in Bernalillo. “I’d prefer to get a draft done and be home by midnight. That would be ideal,” DeWalt says. “We’ll see if that happens.”
Morales sets up the Blackmagic cameras they’re using courtesy of Transcendent Films, a production firm Weir’s involved with. Each camera costs about $6,000, but they have the capabilities of cameras that not long ago cost far more. That’s one reason independent filmmaking is flourishing. The technology has become much more affordable.
The cast and crew receive the script on Saturday morning at 9:42 a.m. It’s the dark tale of Kelly Cartier, who attempts to use a virtual reality machine to commit suicide. Naturally, things go terribly wrong. DeWalt admits they struggled with the sci-fi idea. “We thought we’d roll with the punches but we got sucker-punched,” she jokes.
At 1 p.m. on Saturday in Bernalillo, cast and crew await the final setup. It’s a late start, but Mathis, smoking a cigarette, appears noticeably calmer. Actress Megan Pribyl is already in makeup, her hair coiled tightly in a bun. Pribyl had parts in “Manhattan,” “Killer Women” and other productions, but she says doing the 48 is much less stressful than auditioning. “It’s a nice throwback to why I wanted to [work in movies],” she says.
The Bastards get the first shot around 2 p.m. Throughout the day, breaks happen around the kitchen counter, which is piled with food; there are also quick smoke breaks out in the courtyard.
The script is only seven pages, but each scene requires a set-up that takes at least an hour. Around 8 p.m. DeWalt breaks out some popsicles and brews more coffee. Consumption of energy drinks increases dramatically. Despite a serious collective sleep deficit, there are few flares of temper.
“This is the calmest 48 I’ve ever been part of,” says Posey.
Actress Delina Ellise was Natalie Portman’s stand-in and photo double on “Jane Got a Gun,” and she owns her own promotional modeling group. Yet she continues to participate in the 48 every year.
“I just love the spontaneousness of it,” Ellise says.
It’s 8:15 p.m., and Mathis is getting more creative. “I’m freaking out a little because the way we’re shooting this is a little experimental and surreal,” Mathis says. “It might not work, but the best place to roll the dice is the 48.”
As darkness descends, the crew beams amber light through the window slats and affix a red gel over a wall fixture. A dusty Cabbage Patch doll takes on a spectacularly hideous visage. Around 10:30 p.m. a spontaneous chorus of “The Banana Boat Song (Day O)” erupts with altered lyrics. “Midnight come and me wanna go home. …” But they don’t wrap until 3 a.m. That’s when Mathis and Morales leave to start the editing process.
The file finally finishes exporting at 7:16 p.m. Weir jumps into his car with the thumb drive just as massive lightning strikes light up the sky. He makes it to Tractor with five minutes to spare. They join other teams in celebration. If the Gentleman Bastards plan to do the 48 Hour fall event, they may be disappointed to discover the genre has been switched from horror to … sci-fi.
— Megan Kamerick is an independent radio and print journalist and producer at New Mexico PBS.