48-Hour Film Festival seeks pros, amateurs alike

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PORTLAND — Have a movie idea you’ve been kicking around? Wondering what it might look like on the big screen?

Well, here’s your chance to find out. Registration is now open for the fifth annual 48 Hour Film Festival, scheduled to take place Aug. 13-15. 

The 48 Hour Film Project is one of the largest international film-making competitions in the U.S. In 2009, more than 40,000 film-makers produced more than 3,000 films in 76 cities.

The competition tests the creativity of amateur and professional filmmakers alike. Everyone is given the same character, prop, dialogue and genre to include in their movie.

The catch: filmmakers only have 48 hours to write, shoot, edit and score their seven-minute films, all of which will be guaranteed a show time at the Cinemagic movie theater in Westbrook.

Those parameters can make for some entertaining films, according to Portland producer Ben Keller, who is organizing Portland’s film festival for the third year.

“It’s fun to see the lengths these guys go to make their films,” the 41-year-old said.

Each film will be judged by a panel of three movie industry professionals, some of whom have ties to Hollywood. Judges will hand out awards in 18 categories, including best use of props, character and dialogue as well as best actor and actress, special effects, musical score and cinematography.

The winner of the best film is eligible for the national competition, where filmmakers can qualify for an international competition.

The quality of films produced since the festival came to Portland has put the city on the film-making map, Keller said, noting a 2008 entry made it to the prestigious Cannes Film Festival.

“That was huge,” he said. “Now, Portland has a reputation for turning out some pretty fantastic films.”

While professional filmmakers use the festival to make a name for themselves, Keller said there are many people with little or no film-making experience who enter the contest.

“Some of the low-tech films are the best,” he said. “The technology doesn’t matter. It’s about the story and the imagination.”

Last year, one group decided to do an animation. While they were unable to complete the project within the time limit, the film was still shown at the theater and was a crowd favorite, Keller said.

Another group, meanwhile, decided they were going to make a zombie movie.

“It didn’t matter what subject they got,” Keller said. “It was going to be a zombie movie.”

Registration will initially be capped at about 30 entries, then a waiting list will be made. If there are enough people on the list and if theater time is available, more teams may be added.

Registration fees are $135 for teams that sign up by July 27 and $155 for those that sign up later.

For more information, or to register online, visit 48HourFilm.com/portland_maine

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net