Elon employees, alumni participate in 48 Hour Film Project

One of the teams will have its film screened at the national program festival, Filmapalooza, in March 2013 in Los Angeles.

Ryan Witt (right)


By Natalie Allison ’13

Several Elon University faculty, staff and alumni took part this summer in the 48 Hour Film Project, a filmmaking competition held in hundreds of cities internationally. Participating in the Greensboro competition were three teams with Elon connections that won awards for their films.

A team including Elon staff members Ryan Witt, an Elon video producer, and Sean Walker and Dallas Smith, university event support specialists, took home several awards, including Best Film, Best Sound Design, Best Writing and Best Directing for their eight-minute film, “Cake.” The team consisted of the three Elon employees and several others, and it was written and directed by Witt’s friend Josh Dasal.

For winning Best Film, Witt said “Cake” now has a spot at the 48 Hour Film Project’s finale festival, Filmapalooza, in Los Angeles in March 2013. Some of the winning films will be screened at Cannes Film Festival in France.

Mike Lobacz (right)

“We didn’t go into it thinking about winning, but just to make something,” Witt said. “I’ve done a lot of documentary work in the past six years, but I did this because I hadn’t done any fictional stuff since grad school. I’d been itching to do a project.”

A second team included Rick Earl, technical director for cultural and special programs; Todd Coleman, associate professor of music; Tony Sawyer, lecturer in music; Katherine Thomas ‘08, staff accompanist; and alumni Jessica Brust ’08, Michael Lobacz ’10 and Nathaniel Hodges ’13. Their film, “The Tattoo Artist,” won Best Use of Character.

Peyton Lea ’10 was a member of another team that won Best Musical Score and Best Cinematography for its film, “Your Turn.”

The 48 Hour Film Project granted the participants exactly two days over the course of a weekend to write, shoot and edit a film that had to fit the given requirements.

Drawing film genres out of a hat, Witt’s team was assigned Film de Femme, a film featuring a strong female personality, and Earl’s team was assigned horror. All participants were required to include in their films characters named Chuck or Cherry Thompson and a tattoo artist, flowers as a prop and the line “Give me the bad news.”

Witt said his team had written the script by midnight the first night and started filming at 8 a.m. the next morning. They wrapped up most of the shooting at 9 p.m. and edited all night at Witt’s Chapel Hill home before driving back to Greensboro to submit it Sunday evening.

Earl’s 20-person team was prepared for the unexpected, as the scriptwriter they had lined up backed out at the last minute. “We kind of look at the team-building and collaboration that comes out of this,” Earl said. “It maybe is a different experience for us than it would be for some of the other filmmakers.”

Witt said he and his team enjoyed the challenge, but he always prefers working on projects when there is plenty of time for fine-tuning.

“It’s tough doing something in 48 hours, especially when you’re kind of a perfectionist,” he said. “You just let it go and turn it in.”

The recent opportunity, though, has inspired Witt to begin new projects.

“I want to do some more serious short films and ones we can spend some more time on crafting,” he said.