Frequently Asked Questions Seattle, Washington

1. 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 7:00pm and ending Sunday at 7:00pm. The following week, the completed films are screened to an eager audience.

2. How much does it cost?

The registration fee is for the entire team and includes two free tickets to the screenings (which are given to the team leader).

In the United States, registration fees vary from $125 to $188 per team, as follows:

First Year Cities

$125 to $145 for each team

Repeat Cities

Fees range from $148 to $188 depending on the registration period: Early Bird, Regular or Late.

For the registration fee outside the United States, please visit the webpage for that location.

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3. If I have to drop out, how do I withdraw?

48 Hour Film Project Refunds in the United States
If a team (Entrant) must withdraw, refunds will be paid on the following schedule:

  • Notify the 48HFP more than 30 days prior to your competition weekend, receive a full refund minus a $25 administrative fee.
  • Notify the 48HFP 7-30 days prior to your competition weekend, receive a full refund minus a $35 administrative fee.
  • No refunds less than 7 days prior to Kickoff event.
NOTE #1: If Team Leader contracts Covid and must withdraw his/her team within seven (7) days of Kickoff, then the registration fee will be refunded minus a $35 administrative fee.

NOTE #2:  In lieu of a refund, Registration may be transferred to a different City Project (depending on availability) or credited to the following year at no charge.  This request must be made through the Withdraw link below at least seven (7) days prior to Kickoff.

The 48HFP Refund Policy may vary in other countries.

To Withdraw
To withdraw and, if eligible, request a refund or a transfer, the team leader must complete this request form:

4. When will the 48 Hour Film Project come to my city?

The dates for each city are listed on our 48 Hour Film Project website. If we do not have listed dates, then the dates have not yet been determined. If you want to be the first to find out when the 48 Hour Film Project is coming to your city, sign up for your city's newsletter.
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5. 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. There are 30 different genres.  Each team will receive two genres from which to choose.

In addition, teams are given a character, a prop and a line of dialogue that must appear in their film.

6. Who sees the films?

The films screen to live audiences at a local theater. 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.

7. Who are the filmmakers?

The 48 Hour Film Project is open to all filmmakers, beginners, pre-professionals and pros.  Even hobbyists are encouraged to participate. The Rules state that all team members (crew and cast) must be volunteers. Experience does not always equate to awards.  Beginner teams have won big awards, too.  And, you never know who you may see in a 48 Hour film—Martin Freeman, Penn of Penn and Teller, Dennis Farina, and Nick Clooney have all appeared in 48HFP films.

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8. 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.

9. Am I allowed to be on more than one team?

Yes, you're allowed. We hope you can make the scheduling work out!
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10. 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.

11. 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. An eager audience of tired, excited filmmakers, crews and friends are in attendance to cheer on the films.

13. What should I do with my film after the competition?

Get it out there! Enter it into festivals, play it in public screenings, upload it to websites, get it on television, and show it to anyone you can. Be sure you abide by any restrictions in the Team Leaders's Agreement.
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14. May I show a modified version of my film?

Yes, presuming that the showing adheres to the Team Leader's Agreement that you signed when entering the 48 Hour Film Project. If it is a modified version of a 48 Hour Film Project 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.

15. 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".

16. Will I win?

Depends on what you mean by winning. Countless filmmakers over the years have told us that their filmmaking weekend was a fantastic experience. 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.

17. Will I get rich?

Probably not. Over the years a number of films have been purchased for distribution, but this is rare.  However, quite a few 48HFP filmmakers have had success with their films in other festivals including SXSW.  One team won a $100K filmmaking package at another festival.  Quite a few filmmakers have made indie features and other filmmakers have used their 48HFP experience to get paying work.

Additionally, if the 48 Hour Film Project is able to distribute your film, you are entitled to the bulk of the proceeds.  While the market for short films is nearly non-existent, the 48HFP garners more interest in our films because of the 48-hour concept and the fact that they are part of a bigger collection. In summing it up, while folks have lots of fun doing the 48 Hour Film Project, they don't make lots of money.

18. 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 rate the films. In addition to determining the 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 48 Hour Film Project film of the year has not even won its city. When it comes to evaluating art, a lot comes down to matters of taste.

20. Does the maximum length of the film include credits?

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

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21. Are credits in the beginning permissible?

Opening credits are allowed. They do not count against the credit time limit. However, they do count against the 7 minutes of film. Remember, the audience is here to watch, not read.

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22. 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.

23. Can I film outside of my 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. 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!

24. Are stock footage and photos allowed?

Stock film and video footage is prohibited, except as part of a special effects filter. However, 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.
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25. Is animation allowed?

Yes. However—while you may use still drawings created before 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.
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26. 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.
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28. 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.

29. Do I need to subtitle my film?

No. However, if the judges in your city cannot understand your film, they are less likely to give it awards.

30. 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). If you're on a PC, format your drive to NTFS.

31. Have any of the movies been shot on film?

While it is rare that filmmakers shoot on film, it has happened a handful of times over the years.  You must weigh the beauty of the picture and the experience of shooting on film with the time it takes to process the film.  Teams who have done it in the past have had connections with labs that enabled them to develop the film with enough time for the teams to submit in the 48 hour time period. We were quite impressed!

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

No, only the team leader needs to sign it. However, everyone who works on the film must sign the Liability Waiver form. See the production documents page for more details.
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33. What's a logline?

A logline is a very short, catchy summary of the story, usually not longer than one sentence. We ask you to provide a logline for your film on the Wrap Up Form. EXAMPLE: Transported to a surreal landscape, a young girl seeks a way home to Kansas, befriending along the way a scarecrow without a brain, a tin woodsman without a heart, and a lion without courage.
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34. Can we submit a faxed release form?

Yes.  If you are working with someone out of town, they may email or fax you their release.  Simply include a paper copy of it with the rest of your paperwork.

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35. How do we document public domain or royalty-free music and photos?

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 information that shows your rights to the music or materials, such as a license, a purchase receipt, or a statement by the author.

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36. 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 48 Hour Film Project's Team Leader's Agreement and therefore cannot be used.
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37. 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.
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38. Can the required character be heard instead of seen?

No, we must actually see the required character in some way on the screen. Just being audible off screen - like on the other end of a phone conversation - does not count. Remember, he/she need not be the star of the film, just make an appearance.
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39. 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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