The rules of the 48 Hour Film Project, now entering its 12th year, have become well known. Filmmakers gather on a Friday night and are given a genre, a line of dialogue and a prop. All must be incorporated into a short film, which must be completely shot, edited, scored and handed in by Sunday night.

The rules are designed to prevent sneaky directors from pre-shooting a film, hanging out for the weekend and then dropping off their “just finished” products on Sunday looking suspiciously well-rested. But they also necessitate 48 sleepless hours of frenzied writing, location scouting, shooting, and lots and lots of coffee — all to create one, theoretically coherent, short film.

Each year, Maine filmmakers jump at the chance of competing against their peers in this international competition.

But why?

“It’s the challenge,” said Maine moviemaker Alan Dillingham, who’s participating in his first 48 this weekend (screenings are Aug. 8 at the Nickelodeon). “I shot a short film for Maine Mayhem (Southern Maine Community College’s student film festival) called ‘Bloody Solstice’ in three days this past year, and I’m used to working fast, so I thought this would be a good fit.”

Dillingham sounds confident about his ability to have his obviously untitled (and un-everything-ed) film finished in time, which is probably a good way to embark on such an uncertain endeavor.

Not everyone is so blase, however.

“It’s terrifying,” says Candie Connerney, another first-time participant, who will be serving as Dillingham’s script supervisor on the shoot. “I don’t want to fail at my job and let my crew down.”

As to why she’s on board, Connerney echoes her director. “I saw (the 48) as an opportunity to get my name out there and to gain experience. This is perfect practice for the high-pressure situations involved in making movies. It’s a big challenge.”

Both say that, even without any idea of what their film will be, establishing the movie’s foundation is the most important prep work that can be done beforehand.

“We’ve secured the crew, cast, equipment and locations,” said Dillingham, whose Killatainment Films is teaming up with local film company Freight Train Films for the shoot. “It’s up to about 30 people, all of whom can do different things — it’s good to have a backup.”

As for the myriad things that can go wrong, Dillingham again sounds confident in his crew’s abilities.

“We’ve got five people ready to work on the script, and I always like to have the actors come up with the story and work with the writers to make a script,” he said. “The location we’ve found has a hundred acres with lots of different features. You can’t control the weather, and have to hope an all-volunteer crew will show up when they’re supposed to. But we’re going to be on the go, trust them enough to do it, and then it will come down to the editing.”

And the whole “working for two days straight with no sleep” thing?

 “It’s definitely going to be a challenge,” concedes Connerney. “I see lots of coffee and energy drinks. I get cranky if I don’t get my sleep, but I’m ready.”

Obsessive preparation, nerves, stockpiles of caffeine — sounds like the 48 Hour Film Project is back in town.

Dennis Perkins is a Portland freelance writer.


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