Film: Despite criticisms, 48-Hour Film contest coming back with few changes | News | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Film: Despite criticisms, 48-Hour Film contest coming back with few changes

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Pittsburgh's first-ever 48-Hour Film Project drew interest from some 200 actors, directors and producers last year. But it also drew some criticism.

Shortly after the competition's award ceremony, some contestants used the race-against-the-clock competition's blog to gripe about everything from teams breaking rules to judges being unqualified.

Much of the criticisms were "illegitimate," says event producer Rick Frisco. But he concedes that "There were a few legitimate complaints about last year," and organizers have tweaked the rules for this year's contest, which kicks off June 6 at 7 p.m.

The 48-Hour Film Project is a national competition that made its way to Pittsburgh last year. Teams compete to finish a four-to-seven minute short-film in 48 hours. The contest begins with each group picking a film genre out of a hat; entries are also required to include a given prop, line of dialogue and local landmark.

The movies are screened for judges and the public, who award honors in a variety of categories, including best actor and best cinematography. The winner of the ultimate prize, "Best Film of Pittsburgh," moves on to compete nationally.

"This year is going to be better than last year," Frisco pledges. For starters, the film drop-off and screening locations will be more convenient to the city. Some teams complained that last year's site -- Bridgeville's Star City Theater -- was unreachable by bus.

This year, teams will deliver their finished films to Cefalo's Restaurant and Night Club in Carnegie. And film screenings will be held at 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m. June 17 and 18 at the nearby Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall.

"The price [for the venue] was right," says Frisco. Carnegie Mellon University and SouthSide Works were also considered as screening sites, he adds: "We were hoping to have it more in the city, but we would have tripled our costs."

Still, Frisco says the Carnegie location is at least accessible by bus. From Downtown, the 31D stops just a short walk away from the drop-off site and the screening hall.

According to Frisco, the most frivolous complaint about last year's Film Project concerned the qualifications of the contest's three judges: Night of the Living Dead producer Russ Streiner; award-winning producer Amy Lamb; and Scott Burkett, an executive for Hughie's Audio-Visual Productions.

Most of the criticism was directed toward Burkett, whose company supplies film equipment and produces live events, like trade shows and banquets.

"The judges last year were more than qualified," says Frisco, adding that there will be three new judges this year. "If anybody complains this year, I guess they won't be happy unless we get Steven Spielberg in here."

Like last year, the names of this year's judges won't be revealed until after the competition ends, Frisco adds.

And the festival is making another change to the judging: Each team's producer will get their own ballot. That way, the winners will be determined equally by the judges, spectators and filmmakers.

"It's better to have the producers involved" in the voting, says Michael Kadrie, a member of team Zoetifex. "They're going to be a little bit more critical."

Kadrie says he likes the changes for this year's 48-Hour Film Project, though he "didn't have a problem with the way [the contest] was run" last year. In any case, he says, he's more focused on changing the way his team approaches the contest.

"We're preparing much differently," says Kadrie. This year, he says, his team will fit actors into roles instead of fitting roles into actors, like they did last year. "Until you're in this, you don't know what it's like."

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