Crash of Rhinos and NDCA Share Their SecretsTuesday, September 14, 2021
This week we speak with Nan Ficca, Director of the National Conservatory of Dramatic Arts in Washington, DC. The school is DC’s only accredited, post-secondary school training people for careers in the performing arts since 1975. Their programs covers not only performance but all aspects of technical theatre and film production and writing and content creation.
Through their production company, Crash of Rhinos, actors from the NCDA have been participating in the 48 since 2011. And they started with a bang. Their first film, How Mulch Is Made won Audience choice and Best Ensemble Acting. From that point on, they were hooked.
Tell us, Nan, how many 48s have your teams participated in?
Our teams have participated in more than 15 Projects including the DC 48, the Baltimore 48, and several special genre 48s. This year we entered two teams in the DC 48. Several of our alums have moved to Atlanta and LA. In fact, a bunch of us from DC made a special weekend trip to join them to compete in the Atlanta 48. And, our LA-based alums won the 48HFP Special Holiday Project.
And, your teams have been quite successful, right?
We’ve been nominated for many awards and we’ve won Best Film in DC three times.
What have been the benefits to participating--and especially for the actors?
For our advanced program students it’s a way to work the skills they have learned in class from writing through creation, shooting and editing with the bonus of having a competition to try and win something. Not only that, it’s a fun and intense process and we get to make a film in just one weekend. We participate for our students and alumni who have the opportunity to participate along with us and create.
Our actors love getting to work with new crews and network with creatives they’ve not worked with before. And actors LOVE to walk away with clips for their reels.
What are your secrets to a successful 48?
The secret is to have a production team in place with coverage for all production points from producer to boom and everything in between. We also reach out to a fairly large pool of actors to have on call for casting once we see what the writing brings.
We learned very quickly to have a production schedule just as if it were a film or play we are being paid for. We have deadlines for every aspect from writing to casting and locations to when shooting ends. While we are typically racing against the clock like most – there have been a few 48s when we’ve turned our film in hours before the deadline.
What has been your favorite film made for the 48?
Everyone loved working on Mouse Dad. AND -we kept all 20 mice alive and didn’t lose a single one! Unfortunately we couldn’t keep 20 mice so we returned them to the pet store – assuring ourselves that they would all be adopted to fine homes and not become snake food….
And Mouse Dad even went all the way to Filmapalooza!
What has been your favorite experience in the 48?
Creating the special effects for the film Denny where one of our main characters was an invisible alien. And being very glad that we had written a scene where our alien Denny reveals himself to our protagonist since the rules of the 48 do state that the required Character must appear on screen at some point. We added that scene sort of last minute – not because we remembered the rule but because a team member had the idea to make it Denny a Claymation. Whew!
Which of your 48 cast or crew members have gone on to bigger things?
Most of us continue to be working actors, writers, directors, DPs, editors, musicians, lighting designers and combinations thereof making a living in our arts.
Doug Wilder won a West Coast Regional Emmy award for Best New Lifestyle Show for a TV show and has opened his own production company called Better Together Media Group which currently does branding and content creation for local companies and is working on another new lifestyle show.
What would you say to someone who is undecided about doing the 48?
Just do it! What are you afraid of? If you are a solo artist, the 48 Folks even have artist meet ups where you can network and join a team to get your feet wet before jumping in full steam on your own.
If you have dreamed of making a feature or are working on one now in its infant stages – 48 is a great way to do the whole process from beginning to end and learn your strengths and areas where you can improve. Our team has made two feature films which are still in post – but MANY experiences doing our 48 competitions informed our decisions making in our features. In fact – they are a huge part of what made us know we could make features.
Anything to add in closing?
It’s just been a wonderful ten years of meeting new people, learning new things and sharing knowledge with other filmmakers and teams and getting to see the results of our work on the big screen. I love sharing it with the audience and hearing their reactions in real time.
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