The 48 Hour Film Project

Frequently Asked Questions
for the Machinima 48HFP

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. For the Machinima 48HFP, the registration fee is 48 USD.

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 2011 there are 14 genres, including comedy, horror, romance, sci fi, mockumentary, 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 in Austin. The winning films from 2006 screened at our own Filmapalooza in Albuquerque. The winning films from 2004, 2005, and 2007 were screened at Cinequest in San Jose. The winning films from 2009 were screened at NAB Show. The winning films from 2008 and 2010 were screened at the Miami International Film Festival. In 2007, 2008, 2009, and 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 48HFP films. Is this the year for the next Meryl Streep?

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 2010 we visited 80 cities. In 2011, 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 international title of Best Film of the 2011 48 Hour Film Project.

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. www.48hourfilm.com"

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 48 Hour Film of the Year.

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 3,000 entries in 2010 and we gave out more than 800 awards. There were 80 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 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.

Is there a list of accepted virtual worlds?

Any virtual-reality system in which you shoot footage in real-time is acceptable.

Are we allowed to use external animation programs?

Yes. However, you may not use 3D animation, and all animation must be overlayed over machinima footage.

Can we mix footage from different virtual worlds?

Sure!

Are we allowed to use footage created from 3D animation programs, like Blender or Poser?

No, 3D animation programs—that is, anything that creates 3D footage not in real-time—are not allowed.

How many teams will be allowed to participate?

Up to 26 teams can participate in 2010.

Where will the Kickoff take place?

We are holding the Kickoff in Second Life.

Can we test connection speed on your FTP server?

Yes. We will publish the connection information soon.

Can we send a small test machinima so that you can acknowledge that our combinations of codec, resolution, and settings is correct for the contest?

Yes, we will ask all of the teams to do this.

What formats, codecs, resolutions, and compressions settings are accepted?

Your submission must be in the following format:

  • Quicktime or AVI (Quicktime is preferred)
  • self-contained (that is, without references or links to other movie files)
  • at least 720 pixels wide
  • a 16:9 aspect ratio
  • 30 frames per second for NTSC, 25 fps for PAL
  • If you're using Quicktime, you must use the H.264 or Sorenson 3 codec.
  • If you're using AVI, you must use the Cinepak or DivX codec.

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.

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 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 performers in our film?

Yes, but more paperwork is required. See the SAG page for more details.

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. Note: You may only use materials if the license granted to you allows for all forms of distribution.

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

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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