48-hour film challenge tests local film enthusiasts

Still from the movie "Contained"
Still from the movie "Contained"

In 48 hours, most college students can effectively write a last minute research paper. Most diligent students can cram for and, with a little luck, ace a midterm or final exam. But can most college students write, film, and produce a quality movie?

The Anchorage 48 Hour Film Challenge, which began on Friday, Sept. 16 at 7 p.m. and ran until Sunday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m., put local filmmakers to the test; create a movie no longer than 15 minutes and no shorter than a minute in two days.

It sounds easy enough; how hard can it possibly be to make a 15 minute movie? All you have to do is show up to registration with a movie already in mind.

Participating teams were each given these two things that they had to include in their movie for them to be eligible for the competition (the two prompts were: “something Mexican” and the phrase, “this isn’t a game”). In addition to those two prompts, organizers chose genres at random and gave them to the teams. By now, almost any movie a team could have conceived prior to registration is out the window, unless it was already in their assigned genre and the main character really liked tacos.

Still from the movie "Contained"

One team, Laputka Films, was instructed to make a science fiction movie. With a core team of 18 actors and production workers, they wrote and designed their entry, “Contained,” overnight.

Woodruff Laputka, the director and sound designer for the movie, and his team convened at around 8:00 a.m. on Saturday and began filming “Contained” at 10:30 a.m.

“Contained” is the story of a man who goes away on a trip and gives a young woman a chest to keep safe, but asks her not to open it (similar to the story of Pandora). The other tenants all want the chest, thinking it full of money, and the girl must keep it out of their hands without being tempted to open it herself.

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Laputka Films did all of their filming in the apartments above Cyrano’s Theater, and as they were filming, Laputka’s assistant editor, Nicholas Bradford, was already editing the shots and putting together the first raw product.

“You gotta work quick, so what we had to do was, as soon as a scene was shot and finished, and they were setting up for the next shot, I would take hard drive off the camera and run back to the office, dump the footage, and start editing right away,” said Bradford, “There was a lot of back and forth.”

The team filmed for roughly 15 hours according to Bradford, and after that, a nearly sleepless night of video editing ensued.

Photos Courtesy Laputka Films

“I did actually get three hours of sleep. I wouldn’t call it sleep; I closed my eyes and woke up three hours later, and I didn’t feel any better,” said Laputka.

Bradford only slept for an hour Saturday night, as did their director of photography Kevin Dean, but when Sunday morning rolled around, there was still an entire day’s worth of work left to do, including sound. All of their editing took place at Alaska Channel, which was only a few blocks from the Alaska Experience, Theater, where the end product had to be turned in. This served the team well when, at 6:50 p.m. they walked through the doors and handed in their 14 minute and 58 second labor of love.

“When we got there to deliver the film, I overheard that everyone’s films were pretty much three or four minutes,” said Bradford. “I think 15 minutes was a lot to cram into 48 hours, but we did it.”

The contest was open to anyone who wanted to make a movie, and while Laputka Films was a large team, some teams consisted  of only a single member. Participants of all experience levels were encouraged to enter as well.

Despite the advantages Laputka Films had in the way of experience, access to good equipment and the sheer number of team members,

Photos Courtesy Laptuka Films

Laputka himself didn’t think the other teams were necessarily at a disadvantage.

“if it’s quality content, and you did the best you can, it’s going to show. If it was one shot on a cell phone, if you were clever enough, it’ll come off stronger than that awful story, awful cast, and awful script on that awesome camera,” he said.

Laputka is glad that there were so many participants, both new and veteran to the Anchorage film community.

“The most important part of these projects is to generate more activity in the independent film community, which will ultimately encourage more film makers to make films.”