POWERS UNLEASHED: A RHODA POWERS STORY (Denver 2012 48-Hour Film Project by Maskil Productions)

On the set of Powers Unleashed: A Rhoda Powers Story. Photo by Chris Dodge

I have been aware of the 48-Hour Film Project for many years, but I haven’t actually had a chance to participate in the competition until now. The stars seemed to align this year, giving me an opportunity to join an amazing team of talented local filmmakers and actors who possessed boundless enthusiasm and excitement for the project.

For those of you unfamiliar with the 48-Hour Film Project, it is an annual film competition held in various cities around the world, where teams with different experience levels get to write, shoot, edit and deliver a complete short film in the span of just 48 hours, basically – over the course of one weekend. Each team randomly draws a specific genre out of a hat and gets assigned a name and occupation of a character, a line of dialogue and a prop that they have to use in the film. How it all fits together is entirely up to the filmmakers’ imaginations. All of the submitted films are screened the following weekend and are voted on for the Audience Awards.

While there is also an official judging process and prizes for the winning films, I think the more important idea behind the competition is to encourage filmmakers to stretch their technical and creative abilities to the limit within a tight deadline, which is quite an exhilarating experience. To make an entire film from start to finish (and that includes writing the script, securing locations, production design, casting, catering, shooting, editing, sound mixing, special effects and scoring), even if it’s only 5 to 7 minutes long, in just one weekend is a gargantuan collaborative effort that requires tight coordination, communication and thinking on your feet, not to mention – vast amounts of coffee to stay awake through the process.

Luckily, I was just a camera assistant, so I didn’t have to deal with all of the logistics. Our team, Maskil Productions, was comprised of a cast and crew of approximately 20 people, spearheaded by director Tim Nolte. I have previously worked with Tim on the camera crew for Worm, where he was the Director of Photography, and for a couple of days on the set of Mark Roeder’s upcoming short film The Low Road, Baby. [By the way, stay tuned to this blog for more of my behind-the-scenes photos and videos from both of those shoots!]

I was camera assisting David Quakenbush, who was the DP on our 48-Hour Film project. The rest of our cast and crew were also a truly fantastic group of people, many of whom I’ve worked with on other shoots before, and some of whom I was already good friends with. Being on that set was a lot of fun, despite the grueling long hours (we started shooting at 7am on Saturday and didn’t wrap until after 3am on Sunday morning).

We drew the Mockumentary genre, which wasn’t something any of us were hoping for, but ultimately we gave it our best shot. I think, the finished film is both enjoyable and funny, in a subtle way (the way we told our story was modeled after films and TV series such as Best In Show and The Office). We were all very pleased with how it turned out.

Here are the required elements that we had to use:

Character Name: Russel or Rhoda Powers, Coach
Prop: A straw
Line: “Let’s keep it in the group.”

And here is what we came up with!

A little bit about the making of the film: We shot most of Powers Unleashed: A Rhoda Powers Story in just one location, which was surprisingly diverse to be used as an office, a park, a bookstore and a church, all on the same premises! Several other scenes were shot a few miles away at a strip mall in Broomfield. We filmed on DSLRs, mainly on David’s Canon T2i with 35mm F1.4 and 85mm F1.4 Bower lenses, and I think David even used his 500mm mirror lens for one scene. We also used my Canon 7D as B-camera for some of the interview shots and an iPhone 4 for the amateur video filmed at the church.

I had an amazing experience working on this project, and it was inspiring to see what we could accomplish in just 48 hours. It’s certainly an incentive to continue networking with the creative, talented and vastly diverse Colorado independent film community and to keep making films. If we can do this in just 48 hours, imagine what we could do in 4 weekends, in 2 months, or in a year!

On every film set, I try to get at least a little bit of behind-the-scenes video, usually with my little Canon PowerShot point-and-shoot camera that I keep in my pocket. I enjoy doing it, and I feel that it’s important to have at least a partial record of the filmmaking process, if nothing else then simply to remember the good times and to share some of the fun and excitement that often takes place on independent low-budget film productions. Personally, one of my favorite things about filmmaking is not so much the end result, but the process of working and bonding with awesome people and just having fun shooting. It’s almost akin to being a kid again, exploring creativity and just playing and goofing off with your friends and building imaginary worlds. It’s the true movie magic.

Hearing some of the horror stories from other filmmakers about their 48-Hour Film Project experiences (unreliable crew members, flaky actors, personal drama, ego battles and etc), I’m thankful that our experience was the opposite of that. Honestly, I don’t think any of us could have asked for a better cast and crew and I can’t wait to work on more projects with them in the future!

Below is a short BTS montage I put together from the set of Powers Unleashed:

And here are a few stills:




Powers Unleashed: A Rhoda Powers Story premiered at the Gothic Theatre screening last Sunday in Group A and was very well received. Tim and David did a short Q&A after the film:

And then, some of the cast and crew got together for lunch across the street, where we finally were free to release our inner beasts!

UPDATE: Here are a few more BTS shots, courtesy of Mark Mook:

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