‘Fort Smith Film Mafia’ competes in 48-hour film festival

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 113 views 

For anyone who has ever been involved with filmmaking, the process often times is long and tedious with hours spent filming a single scene and months of editing. Not to mention the writing of scripts and securing capital just to be able to get the project off the ground.

But a group of Fort Smith residents, along with about 29 other filmmaking crews across the state, have turned the filmmaking process upside down with their participation in the 48 Hour Film Project.

The project pits teams of filmmakers against each other in an attempt to write, shoot, edit and score a movie – all in two days. No more. No less.

The project's website said the goal of the event is to promote filmmakers and also advance the art of filmmaking.

"Through its festival/competition, the Project encourages filmmakers and would-be filmmakers to get out there and make movies. The tight deadline of 48 hours puts the focus squarely on the filmmakers — emphasizing creativity and teamwork skills. While the time limit places an unusual restriction on the filmmakers, it is also liberating by putting an emphasis on 'doing' instead of 'talking.'"

Locally, groups competed in the Little Rock-area competition. The top films from each American competition site will be featured at an event in New Orleans next year called Filmapalooza. And though groups from around the world are competing in local competitions, only the best from the various worldwide locations will be chosen to compete for the ultimate $5,000 prize in at the Cannes Short Film Corner in Cannes, France, a city known the world over for its very own international film festival.

In Fort Smith, a group of more than 20 individuals came together to compete, having to incorporate various components, according to Heather Carter, whose husband Jeff directed the final product, named "Metafloor."

"(It) had to have a plumber in the film named Annie or Andy Benoit, (it) had to have a horn of some kind visually in the film somewhere, (and it) had to have the line 'Tell me the truth' in the film somewhere," she said.

The film also had to be a science fiction flick, she said, adding that the group did not know any of what would appear in their film and what genre it would have to be until they picked up their information in Little Rock on Aug. 17.

So how does a group of actors, writers and cinematographers even begin to come up with a concept with so little to go on?

Charlie Ryan, an editor and director of cinematography for the short film, said the key to getting started was just figuring out what was available to the crew.

"The first thing you really have to think about is working around what you have. In a situation like that, you don't have time to put together a prop list and possibilities. You have to look at what you have," he said, adding that special effects and other features were not possibilities with only 48 hours to work with.

"The people in the room each had really good input and we each thought differently. Everyone brought something fresh to the table, especially (since) every (did not know) each other. It was really cool how it all worked together."

The group eventually decided on a short film that takes viewers on a journey.

"Metafloor is science fiction film about a man's elevator journey through the decisions he has made in his life," Carter said.

Ryan elaborated, saying that the film is about a man who makes a deal.

"He sells his soul and doesn't realize the consequences until it's too late," he said.

Levi Agee, the Little Rock City Producer for the 48 Hour Film Project and a programmer with the Little Rock Film Festival said the various films that result from the competition are unique stories moviegoers won't find anywhere else.

"I think it's a good display of all the ranges of talent in Little Rock and represents more than just filmmakers, but also hobbyists and people from all walks of life. You get a lot of good storytelling going on that you can't get in Hollywood or multiplexes," he said. "You can't get anything else like it anywhere else. It's raw. It's inspired. Despite the short time frame, there's a lot of effort and fun put into each project."

And even though each group only has 48 hours to create their film, Agee said the impact can go on for months, as happened with last year's winner, "La Petite More."

"(It) was about two singers who murdered their audience members who weren't paying attention. It was sort of a dark comedy, a music video done stylishly. It was a huge hit and I think the biggest reason was because a song performed in the film was extremely catchy. I remember people humming the song for months after it screened."

It is that kind of impact that the "Metafloor" crew, also known as the Fort Smith Mafia, is hoping to have when awards are given out Saturday (Sept. 14) in the three categories the short film are nominated in – best film, best cinematography and best editing. The award ceremony will be held in Little Rock. (Link here for the list of nominations.)

"Metafloor" Director Jeff Carter said competing this year was about more than winning a contest or awards. He decided to get involved in the competition as a way to bring awareness to filmmaking in Fort Smith and hopefully start a movement here at home, with the hope of bringing a film festival to downtown Fort Smith by Labor Day 2014.

It is projects like this that he hopes can bring a local interest to the field and make a festival next year a reality.

"We need a film festival in Fort Smith. We need to bring real actors, and Arkansas films, and we need to bring them to Fort Smith. That's what we need to do."