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Saturday, July 12, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 71.0° F  Overcast


Army of one: Making a movie for the 2011 48 Hour Film Project: Madison

Credit:Ben Reiser
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In all my years as a singer in a struggling rock band I somehow managed to avoid pay-to-play venues. The movie business, on the other hand, is always pay to play and the $175.00 admission fee I fork over to participate in this year's 48 Hour Film Project: Madison makes the little movie I created this weekend my biggest budget film to date.

Here's how it went down:

I arrive at the Electric Earth Café on Friday evening to draw my designated genre out of a hat (I pull Superhero -- yikes!) and to get a list of other required elements (must use a calendar as a prop, have a character named Matt Michaels, Musician and must use this line of dialogue: "Where do you want to meet?"). The café is teeming with teams of filmmaking geeks of all ages, creeds, colors and sizes, but I am an army of one. My usual gang of would-be filmmakers (friends, neighbors, family) are mostly away or busy for the weekend so I am basically going it alone.

I ponder my fate -- create a four to seven minute superhero movie, from scratch, in 48 hours. Depression sets in. Why couldn't I have pulled something like Mockumentary or Comedy? Though I suppose I was lucky not to get Musical or Western.

I start scribbling on a piece of paper (there's LOTS of paperwork to fill out with the 48 Hour Film Project; releases of all kinds, crew lists, affidavits, pledges, manifestos, etc.) and suddenly a fully formed idea comes to me. It involves my backyard, a birthday party and kids, lots of kids, in homemade superhero costumes. It also involves some stunt work and at least one fairly tricky camera move, but it seems doable.

I head home and enlist my wife: Can we organize a birthday party at our house for tomorrow afternoon? Can we gather up fifteen to twenty grade school kids to be on camera? Can we put our seven-year-old boy in grave physical danger all in the name of art?

Turns out we could. The next day we shoot most of the afternoon and evening and everything goes about as well as I could have hoped for. I stay up late Saturday night editing and wake up bright and early Sunday to put some finishing sound design touches together.

I arrive at the Jade Monkey at 6 p.m. Sunday evening with two copies of the movie and a pound of paperwork to hand in. I am the first to arrive. I ask if I get a prize for being first. I do not.

The results can be seen in a screening at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, July 21 at Sundance Cinemas.

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