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Downtown Reflections. Photograph by Brian Cohen.
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Pop Filter Hot Pick: 48 Hour Film Project screens locally made movies

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Could you make a move in 48 hours? See who in Burgh rose to the Scorcesean challenge, creating an entire film--from writing and casting to filming and editing--in a mere two days. On July 28th and 29th, the world’s largest and oldest filmmaking competition hosts a premiere screening of the 48 Hour Film Project's 35 fresh off the cutting floor, locally produced works at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont.

From housing the first nickelodeon to serving as the 21st-century Gotham, Pittsburgh's legacy is inextricably linked to the moving image. With countless new feature and indie flicks--as well as TV shows and video projects--being filmed on local turf, Pittsburgh has stepped up its game in and outside of Hollywood. Local sightings of stars such as Emma Watson (The Perks of Being a Wallflower), Jake Gyllenhaal (Love and Other Drugs) and Russell Crowe (The Next Three Days) have lit up Twitter and Facebook feeds over the past few years, Taylor Lautner rented a home in Mt. Lebanon while filming here, and new film Out of the Furnace, starring Christian Bale and Robert Duvall, has been shooting this summer.

The Burgh's legacy in celluloid is a rich one, with pioneers of the 20th-century experimental film scene turning their lens to the city's rich topography, and new support for locally based directors, writers and producers spearheaded by the Steeltown Entertainment Project. And the impact can be quantified. While most residents can count the city's number of Super Bowl Rings and Stanley Cups, few may know that Pittsburgh has also been home to some 30,000 film elements alone.

But what about the action that goes on behind the camera? Whether your film has a budget of $1,000 or one million, the art of making a movie requires nothing short of a Herculean effort. If you have ever wondered why people who work on films always look so tired, you can now go behind the scenes to experience a bit of the creative endurance test required to make a movie, when the 48 Hour Film Project's screens 35 new homegrown movies this weekend.

Crowdsourced cinema

Lights, camera, action ... for only 48 hours! Think you have the chops to write, cast, shoot, edit, and score a movie in a mere 48 hours? It's that time of year again, when film junkies, veterans and rookies alike descend upon the Burgh and race like mad to make a 4-7 minute movie in just one fleeting weekend.

Marking its 6th year in Pittsburgh, the global film phenom known as the 48 Hour Film Project will debut the 35 entries that were completed last weekend and submitted to its judges panel on July 22nd. Throttling toward the finishing line--and the big screen--were 38 teams of all ages and skill levels, who assembled creative crews and put their talents to the ultimate act of extreme movie making. Each ambitious team started off with a randomly assigned a genre, character, prop, and one line of dialogue to work into their film. Teams ranged in size from two to 31 members, and included high school students as well as senior citizens.

Some 500 people--from crew members to actors--participated in the movie marathon. The last few minutes before the strict deadline saw filmmakers, operating on little sleep and lots of adrenaline, rushing to submit films on time. Each year, the number of participants in Pittsburgh has grown, and the creative and social aspects of the project resonate with with aspiring filmmakers locally and worldwide.

"It's a great yearly social event for filmmakers to have a meet and greet, and find common ground. People are now working with each other on other projects. It's cool to see amateurs compete against professionals, and you never know what is going to happen. I have seen high school students turn out beautiful movies," says co-producer Nina Gibbs. "It's like a game. The teams are challenged and get to meet with other filmmakers at the same time--there is a huge social aspect to it. People plan all year for this, and even plan their vacations around it."

Gibbs says a wide variety of HD and analogue equipment is used, from professional grade cameras to home video cameras. One filmmaker even considered making an entire filming with his cell phone.

What's new on the 48HFP silver screen?

This year's screening features a family feud, with a mother competing against her two sons, and a wife pitted against a husband, as two films called Beginnings and Dangerwood vie for the spotlight.

Local celeb and resident WQED documentary filmmaker Rick Sebak stars in one film, while another features Pittsburgh actor David Fielding--known for playing Zordon on the original "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. Films were shot and produced locally, with scenes that include Downtown Pittsburgh, the stadiums and even DuBois Business College in Beaver County. One ambitious team shot on location on the roof of the iconic Wholey's Fish Market in Pittsburgh's Strip District.

All entries will vie for awards given by a panel of celebrity judges that inlcudes: artist, activist, entrepreneur, and Pittsburgh native Lamman Rucker (Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns); WQED senior producer Minette Seate; and On Beat Productions owner Nicholas Danko.

500 participants, 48 hours, 35 films, one city

The world’s largest and oldest filmmaking competition now boasts participation by 120 cities around the planet--from Rome to the Rust Belt. In 2012, more than 50,000 filmmakers made close to 4,000 films in 120 cities on six continents around the globe. Since its inception in 2001, the 48 Hour Film Project has initiated the making of 19,000 films have been made by 278,000 aspiring directors.

All films made here in Pittsburgh and in all participating cities will travel to Filmapalooza, where the project's top 12 films will be screened at the prestigious 2013 Cannes Short Film Corner. Locally, the 48 Hour Film Project is co-produced by Nina Gibbs and Kahmeela Adams, who participated in the national competition in 2004, and took over the Pittsburgh leg in 2008.

A film producer and event planner, Gibbs is co-owner of Garfield-based gallery Most Wanted Fine Art, where she organizes art exhibitions, works on community revitalization efforts and serves as a GoodWill Mentor. Adams got her start in event production in working for her family business, ADD Love Productions, in Toledo, OH. A graduate of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh, Adams runs the video, photography, and event production company, RuggedAngel Productions and works with MCG Jazz. Both are board members of The Hollywood, a nonprofit single screen theater in Dormont.

So what's it really like to make a movie in 48 hours? Check out the project's blog to hear the full scoop about the wild weekend--challenges, break-throughs, bloopers, deleted scenes, and all--straight from the filmmakers themselves. View a complete list of films and teams.

The 48 Hour Film Project's premiere screenings will take place on Saturday, July 28th at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. and on Sunday, July 29th at 1 p.m. and The Hollywood Theater in Dormont. Tickets are $8 (students: $6). A "Best Of Screening" and an awards ceremony will take place on Saturday, August 4th at 7 p.m. at The Hollywood Theater.

Read all the Pop Filter picks.

Images: Confluence Productions, photo by Suzie McGugin. Team Mike and Andy, photo by Team Mike and Andy.

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