The 48 Hour Film Project

Frequently Asked Questions 

General Questions | Technical Questions

General FAQ 

What is the 48 Hour Film Project?

It's your chance to stop talking and start filming! The premise? Filmmaking teams have just one weekend to make a short film. All creativity—writing, shooting, editing and adding a musical soundtrack—must occur in a 48 hour window beginning Friday evening at 7 and ending Sunday at 7. The following week, the completed films are screened to an eager audience.

How much does it cost?

The registration fee is for the entire team. In the United States, registration fees vary from $125 to $175 per team, as follows:

First year cities (cities new in 2015):
- $125 for each team

Repeat cities (48HFP has already been to your city at least once):
- Early Bird registration: $140 (expires four weeks before the competition)
- Regular registration: $160
- Late registration: $175 (during the two weeks just before the competition)

For the registration fee outside the United States, please visit the relevant City page.

The registration fee includes two free tickets to the screenings, which are given to the team leader just before the screening.

When will the 48HFP come to my city?

The dates for each city are listed on our tour page. If we do not have listed dates, then the dates have not yet been determined. We generally start announcing dates in February. If you want to be the first to find out when the 48HFP is coming to your city, sign up for your city's newsletter.

What are the films about?

That's up to the filmmaker; however, each team must select the genre for its movie in a random drawing 15 minutes before the start of the competition. In 2015 there are 14 genres, including comedy, horror, mockumentary, sci fi and musical or western. In addition, teams are given a character, a prop and a line of dialogue that must appear in their film.

Who sees the films?

The films screen to sold-out audiences in every city we've visited. Of course the filmmakers, actors, family and friends are there to enthusiastically support the premiere of the weekend's work. But also supporters of the local film community, and discriminating viewers who want to see something new—something raw and alive—are there to feel the creative energy. Winners of the city contest are distributed on a "Best Of" 48 Hour Film DVD, which you can buy here.

They are also screened at major film festivals. The winning films from 2003 were screened at South by Southwest. The winning films from 2004, 2005 & 2007 were screened at Cinequest. The winning films from 2006 were screened at Filmapalooza. The winning films from 2008 & 2010 were screened at Miami International Film Festival. The winning films from 2009 were screened at NAB Show. The winning films from 2011 will be screened at Taos Shortz Film Fest. In 2007, 2008, 2009 & 2010 we have had a selection of films screened at the Cannes Film Festival in France, and our films have been featured in many other festivals.

Who are the filmmakers?

The 48 Hour Film Project is open to all filmmakers, pro and novice alike. Rules state that all team members (crew and cast) must be volunteers. Most teams consist of film and video professionals. And teams have attracted some top talent on both sides of the camera. Martin Freeman, Penn of Penn and Teller, Dennis Farina, and Nick Clooney have all appeared in a 48HFP films. Is this the year for the next Meryl Streep?

Is there a limit to the number of people on a team?

No. Our smallest team was just one person—he sets up the camera then runs around to act. Our largest team to date was a team from Albuquerque with 116 people and 30 horses! The average, though, is about 15 people per team.

Am I allowed to be on more than one team in the same city?

Yes, you're allowed. We hope you can make the scheduling work out!

How long are the films?

The films are short; they must be a minimum of 4 minutes and a maximum of 7 minutes long Short is good. Not only are shorter films tighter and usually more interesting, they are more marketable.

Where and when are they shown?

On the first few days following the competition deadline, the movies are screened at a grand premiere in a local movie theater. A guaranteed standing-room-only audience of tired, excited filmmakers, crews and friends are in attendance to cheer on the films. The winning films go on to Filmapalooza, our international screening and awards weekend.

What cities has the 48 Hour Film Project visited?

The project began in Washington, DC in 2001, and in 2014 we visited 126 cities. In 2015, we'll be in even more places. (See all of our cities here.) Filmmakers just can't get enough of the 48HFP!

How is the event advertised?

The event is advertised by word of mouth, on the web, and via local press. Local filmmakers and organizations are our most vocal supporters and do a great job spreading the word. In each city, the 48 Hour Film Project has generated considerable interest from local and national media. From CNN to the Washington Post and LA Times—we've had coverage in hundreds of media outlets to date.

What should I do with my film after the 48HFP?

Get it out there! For more information on how to do that while abiding by the Team Leader's Agreement, read this page.

May I show a modified version of my 48HFP film?

Yes, presuming that the showing adheres to the Team Leader's Agreement that you signed when entering the 48HFP. If it is a modified version of a 48HFP film, please include a title card and a mention in the end credits that say:

"The concept for this film developed during the 48 Hour Film Project."

Is this a contest and will there be a "Best of" selection?

Yes and yes. One film in each city will be chosen "Best of City". All "Best of City" films will compete for the international title of Best Film of the 2015 48 Hour Film Project.

What are the prizes?

Each city winner will receive our special trophy, and go on to represent their city in the finals. More prizes are detailed on our prize page.

Will I win?

Depends on what you mean by winning. Countless filmmakers over the years have told us that the 48 Hour Film Project weekend was fantastic. They loved getting to use their creative talents; they had fun with their friends; and they made a film, too! So if winning means having a great time, you've got a very good shot at it.

There were over 0 entries in 2014 and we gave out more than 1,260 awards. There were 126 city winners...and only one grand prize. There are even more entries this year. So if winning means getting that grand prize, you've got your work cut out for you. But don't let that discourage you—you can do it!

Will I get rich?

Probably not. As far as we know, no one has made much money selling a 48HFP film. However, some of our filmmakers have had success with their films in other festivals including SXSW; one team won a $100K filmmaking package at a festival; and filmmakers have used recognition of their 48HFP film to get paying work.

Additionally, we at the 48HFP have set up an arrangement whereby if we're able to earn money by distributing your film, you will receive a portion of that money. We believe our arrangement is fair and equitable. As you may know, the market for short films is nearly non-existent. However, we do garner more interest in our films because of the 48-hour concept and the fact that they are part of a bigger collection. So, while folks have lots of fun doing the 48HFP, they don't make lots of money.

Who judges the films?

In each city we gather a group of film and video professionals to serve as our judges.

These judges generally have extensive experience within the field. We require these judges to be fair and impartial. Our judges donate their time and talent to select the top film in each city. In addition to determining the city winner they also select a number of other awards. The judges on the national/international level have included actors such as Julianne Moore, directors such as Simon West (Con Air), and editors such as Thelma Schoonmaker (Raging Bull, The Departed).

But no matter how careful we are in selecting our judges, judging itself is extremely subjective. So many times, two regarded critics feel markedly differently about the same film—remember the long debate between Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert about Apocalypse Now; remember Pauline Kael's ambivalent review of Star Wars. Similarly, on many occasions our favorite 48HFP film of the year has not even won its city. When it comes to evaluating art, a lot comes down to matters of taste.

Can I sponsor the 48HFP?

Of course! Email Mark Ruppert, our Founder, to express interest.

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Technical FAQ 

Does the maximum length of the film include credits?

No. Your film may be 7 minutes long plus 1 minute of credits.

Are credits in the beginning permissible and do they count against the credit time limit?

Opening credits are allowed and do not count against the credit time limit. However, they do count against the seven minutes of film. Remember, the audience is here to watch, not read.

Are we allowed to have footage under our closing credits?

Yes, however, the narrative must end before the closing credits begin. So outtakes, Ferris-Bueller-like antics, or bonus scenes are allowed. But if we removed the credits, the movie should still feel complete.

Can I film outside of my 48HFP city?

Absolutely! The only requirements are that you have a representative from your team at the Kickoff and that you deliver your film to the Dropoff. (If this is the first year the 48HFP is in your city, you must also include a landmark in your film.) Other than that, it's up to you. We've had teams shoot hundreds of miles away from their host city. We've even had a Boston team upload footage from Panama!

I know that stock film and video footage is prohibited, except as part of a special effects filter. What about stock photos?

If you have the rights to them, then stock photos are permitted. In other words, you may use photos not taken during the 48 hour time period. Note that photos cannot be used in sequence to create the illusion of motion.

Is animation allowed?

Yes. However—while you may use still drawings created before of the Project—you may not use sequences of drawings created before the Project to create the illusion of motion. Using existing images and 3D objects is permissible, provided that you have full and permanent rights to them. Again, only animation created during the 48 hour period is allowed. And, as with a live action film, you must have all rights to the animation you submit.

What about special effects? What's allowed?

You may use special effects that involve any of the allowed elements that you have rights to: still photographs, footage shot during the 48 hours, or footage rendered during the 48 hours. You may also use stock footage if it is part of a post-production effect or on a background screen or television and the stock footage is placed over or under footage that is shot within the 48 hours. Stock footage of people or other performers is not allowed.

May we include in our film an animated logo for our team that was made outside of the 48 hours?

Yes, provided that it begins the film and is shorter than five seconds long. Note that the logo does count against the 7 minute running time of the film.

Should we shoot in HD? Should we shoot in widescreen? Should we use surround sound?

Unless you are otherwise notified, your film will be shown in Standard Definition in stereo or mono. So you may shoot in HD or use surround sound, but the film will generally not be projected that way. Please make sure that you adhere to the format requirements found on your city page.

Do I need to subtitle my film if it's in a language most people in my city don't understand?

No. However, if the judges in your city cannot understand your film, they are less likely to give it awards. If you're not in the United States, you may wish to check with your City Producer about what languages the judges speak in your city. City Winning films will be judged in English, so if they are not already in English, they should be subtitled by the team once they have been named Best Film of their city.

My file doesn't fit on my flash drive. What do I do?

It might be that you've got the drive formatted for the wrong file system. Generally drives come formatted with the FAT32 file system, which cannot store files larger than 2GB. If you're on a Mac, format your drive to Mac OS X Extended (Journaled). (These instructions may help.) If you're on a PC, format your drive to NTFS. (These instructions may help.)

Have any of the movies been shot on film?

Yes. Three 48HFP movies were shot at least partially on film stock. These teams had connections with labs that enabled them to develop the film and transfer it to one of our accepted formats in the 48 hour time period. We were quite impressed!

Does every team member have to sign the Team Leader's Agreement?

No, only the team leader needs to sign it (and turn it in at the Kickoff). However, everyone who works on the film must sign the Liability Waiver form. See the production documents page for more details.

I was looking at the Wrap Up Form, and I'm still not sure what a logline is. Can you tell me more?

Read more about loglines here.

May we use SAG-AFTRA performers in our film?

Yes, but more paperwork is required and the SAG-AFTRA waiver applies only to competitions in the US. See the SAG-AFTRA page for more details.

If we are working with someone out of state, can they fax or email us the release form?

Yes. Please include a paper copy of the faxed or emailed release form with the rest of your paperwork.

We want to use public domain or royalty-free music or photographs. What do we do about the Music Release Form or the Materials Release Form?

Have the person who has the rights to the music or materials sign the release form. In the case of royalty-free materials, this is the person who purchased them. In the case of public domain materials, this could be anyone on the team. Please also include documentation that shows your rights to the music or materials, such as a license, a purchase receipt, or a statement by the author.

Is music or materials from Creative Commons allowed?

You may use Creative Commons music or materials that are Attribution Only. If the Creative Commons license is either Non-Commercial or Sharealike, it is not compatible with the 48HFP's Team Leader's Agreement and therefore cannot be used.

Do I need a Location Release to shoot on public property?

No, but you may need a permit. We do not require you to prove to us that you received a permit, but you may be stopped from shooting or even fined if you do not have one. Please check with your local film commissioner.

Can I get a copy of the release forms that I turned in with my completed film or of the completed film itself?

Yes, copies of the release forms and/or film may be requested by the team leader—or an individual release form by a team participant. To request a copy, please send a letter with your name, team name, the film name, the city, the year, and a check made out to the 48 Hour Film Project (to cover our costs). The check should be for $75 if you want just the paperwork, $100 if you want just the film, or $150 if you want both the film and the paperwork. Send these to:

The 48 Hour Film Project
Attn: Archive Request
PO Box 40008
Washington, DC 20016 USA

Are the rules the same for the Machinima 48HFP?

No. there are some slight differences.

If the "required character" is audible off screen — like on the other end of a phone conversation — does that count?

No, we must actually see the required character in some way on the screen. Remember, he/she need not be the star of the film, just make an appearance.

Does the required character have to say his name or wear a name tag?

As long as the audience can infer who the character is, he/she doesn't need to be further identified.

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