On March 24 through 26, a few of my classmates and I were involved in this year’s 48 Hour Film Challenge. This event is a particularly interesting challenge in which a group of students must work to create a short film — writing, story-boarding, shooting, editing, and rendering — all within 48 hours. My group and I were competing as an assignment for Dr. Michael Wesch’s Digital Ethnography course, alongside two other teams from this same class.
My group was a bit of a hodge-podge: Brock Edwards, Nathan LaGrou, Evan Lynch, Cooper Deters, and myself. None of us had spent that much time with each other outside of class, so we didn’t have any real connections whatsoever. Just a handful of ideas that immediately went out the window as soon as the challenge announced its themes and limitations.
On that Thursday, March 24, I jaunted from Professor Karlin’s creative writing course alongside her and fellow classmate Aidan Nelson to the Leadership Studies Building for the kickoff. There, our theme was announced. The theme, “Kansas: All the Beauty in the World,” was based on the Marianna Kistler Beach Museum’s exhibit on Gordon Parks. The limitations provided were that we must include sunflower seeds as a prop, any of the murals in Manhattan as a setting, and the phrase “no place like home” had to be used somewhere in the film. Once they were announced, my team and I raced to a Zoom meeting to discuss ideas.
After a few ideas were tossed around late into the night, our group settled on the story of a baseball player down on his luck and searching for answers in an unknown future. One does immediately think of the boys of summer and their seed-laden dusty dugouts when faced with sunflower seeds, after all. We decided to focus on the friendship and brotherhood between him and another character as well, something that would eventually ground him at the end of the short film. With the hours ticking away on night one, we went to bed and got ready for the filming that would come the next day.
The next afternoon, the five of us rolled up to one of Manhattan’s many public ballparks with our equipment and props. A few of us, including myself, were former ballplayers, so not much acting training was really necessary. It was decided by vote that Cooper looked the most like a baseball player out of the four of us who could act, and that Evan’s acting chops lent themselves the best towards a brotherly friend. Cooper tossed on a jersey, Brock brought out his camera, and I borrowed a glove as we began shooting B-roll for the baseball sequence early in the short, frenetic and handheld to help portray motion. Nathan and I worked behind the scenes, with him working on foley and audio and me helping with throwing off-screen for both sound and an extra glove for Cooper. Time spent not working with a camera or a microphone was often time spent making sure the aluminum bat could in fact still hit a baseball. We were all pleased to learn that it could, for all of us who tried it. A quick friendship formed between the five of us.
Following this, the group separated temporarily to lessen the load on Brock’s SD cards before regrouping at Evan’s house to shoot the Draft sequences. Brock and Evan helped chat up lighting and shot progressions with Cooper while I readied myself for voice lines that would be used later on. The somber blue light came out excellent in the finished product.
We finished filming at the house late, but knew we had a few more shots to get. The group split again, this time with Brock, Cooper and me heading out to a local Shortstop gas station while Evan finished some work. The bright neon burns of the convenience store contrasted well with the night’s dark backdrop, and the emotional voice of the sequence lent itself well.
Finally, the group once again met as a whole to shoot our final sequences by The Chef on Poyntz. We all became directors, tossing ideas and shot suggestions out as the ticker tape came down on a finished project right around midnight on Friday. We had eighteen hours left for editing — and we wouldn’t need them.
Brock strapped himself in to edit, with the rest of us popping in and out throughout the next day up through the six p.m. deadline. We gathered all of our signatures and paperwork necessary, took a deep breath, and turned it all in.
A few days passed between the shooting and the closing ceremony. We grew restless as the days stretched on, building hope with each day that we might win first, especially with the lack of teams participating. 2019’s contest attracted a group of nearly 20 participants. This year’s competition seated a far more intimate four, with a late addition being thrown in for fun. Representatives from all four teams sat spaced around the room. The three representatives of our group decided to dress nicely for the event, something that was not so much reciprocated from the rest of the attendees, still recovering from the hectic weekend prior. The results were later shared to the competition’s Twitter, @KStateFilmFest.
As disappointed as we were with the final results (we took second place out of four teams and took heavy criticism from our three judges), we were still glad to have received the audience’s choice out of the four films. More so, we were glad to have gotten a perfect score on our assignment for Dr. Wesch’s class — and that we had forged new friendships in the flame of competition.
It was a worthwhile experience for anyone interested in stories and storytelling. I’m not a creative writing major, but I do spend a lot of time typing away at stories at my laptop. This provided an excuse to put that hobby to good use and find a creative outlet.
I’d highly recommend it in the future to anyone interested in any form of creativity, not just future filmmakers or storytellers. The experiences had crafting a story with others and compiling it within 48 hours were very enjoyable to me.
— Lucas Cook (BA ’23)