TAMPA — At a picnic bench in St. Petersburg, a man dressed for bondage joins four men in blood-stained hazmat suits, two female fairies and a mother holding a baby doll. They belt out “Happy Birthday.”
In a Plant City neighborhood, a four-wheeler rounds a corner again and again, splashing mud on the same pedestrian each time.
And in a park in Seminole Heights, a man and woman on a date gobble down five gallons of ice cream as if it were a normal repast even as the frozen dessert melts into sugary goo.
All on the same weekend, Aug. 15-17.
No, pockets of Tampa Bay are not degenerating into insanity.
Rather, 21 teams were rolling tape in hopes of creating the winner in the annual Tampa-St. Petersburg 48 Hour Film Project.
“When you only have 48 hours, things can get weird,” said 33-year-old Christian Schwier, whose film “Contributors of Children’s Knowledge” included the bench scene reminiscent of “Alice in Wonderland” tea party. “You have to make do with what you have and think outside the box, which leads to creative and strange ideas.”
The fruits of the teams’ efforts will be shown Wednesday night at the Tampa Pitcher Show, 4416 N. Dale Mabry Hwy.
Films, no longer than eight minutes each, will be split into screenings — 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
Tickets are $10 per screening, either at the door or online at 48hourtampa2014.eventbrite.com.
They always sell out.
Under the 48 Hour Film Project rules, teams are supplied a character name, a prop and a line of dialogue to work into their original films — all to ensure no work is done in advance.
This year’s character was Andrew or Andi Tracey, a children’s books author, and the line was, “You don’t remember me, do you?” The prop was a membership card.
Each team randomly drew a genre including action, comedy, silent and musical.
So tight are the rules on timing that turning in the finished work just one second late disqualifies it.
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“I’ve seen most of the films,” said Rodrick Colbert, director of this year’s contest. “And most are really good. And only one did not meet the 48 hour deadline.”
Awards will be presented 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 17, at the Tampa Theatre, 711 N. Franklin St.
Those who attend tonight’s screenings vote on the audience award.
A jury then selects winners in categories such as best cinematography, best director, best actor, best writer, best editing and best overall film. The jury’s best film will be shown in the national competition in Los Angeles.
Winning would be nice, participants agreed, but that’s not their motive.
“It’s about having fun,” said Schwier, whose team won the jury prize two years ago for best film in the Tampa Bay area.
Schwier’s team selected the genre silent film and their story revolves around a children’s book author whose writer’s block leads to some outlandish plot lines for his next project.
“This was my sixth straight year doing it,” Schwier said. “It’s the most fun a filmmaker can have in 48 hours.”
The teams came from all walks of production life.
Schwier and his group work with the award-winning Litewave Media production company.
Mikael Guerra is a 20-year-old former home schooler who runs the upstart production company Master’s Mind Media. He united with other former home schoolers in the Plant City area to produce his movie in the film noir genre, “Executive Order.”
Set in a future world where each citizen carries one card for all purposes — identification, passport, banking, credit card and more — it follows what happens to one man when he loses it.
Dan Whiteside is a 44-year-old computer programmer who describes himself as a filmmaker hobbyist. The 48 Hour Film Project, he said, is an excuse for him and like-minded friends to gather for one weekend tof filmmaking.
“It’s hard to find the time to make movies,” said Whiteside, whose time travel film “Sunny and Kitten Get Ice Cream” is about a children’s author visiting the past to suggest a different career to his younger self. “This gives us a reason.”
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For Rick Gross, a 34-year-old finance officer at Bridgeport Church in St. Petersburg, the competition is a fun activity for his fellow church members
“We get together to showcase the talents that God gave us,” Gross said. “Winning and losing doesn’t matter.”
His comedy “The Andrew Tracy Story,” about a man who learns to be a musician through visions from a dream, includes footage shot during the 48 hour weekend in a church concert at Janus Live.
No matter their motives or background, the teams agreed that the most important skill in this competition is time management. While they want top quality, they come to know it comes at a cost.
“Our first year we did not get the film done in time,” said Schwier, a past winner. “You feel awful when that happens because everyone works so hard.”
Joel Bates said one team member yelled out the time every 20 minutes, all weekend long.
“It got repetitive,” Bates said. “But we needed it to stay on schedule.”
His suspense film “Setting Andrew Free” is about a children’s author whose stories come to life — for an unfortunate few.
Schwier said the second most important skill is in writing scripts within the means of the team.
“You need to produce a film based on what you have and not what you want to do,” he said. “This year we had a great special effects guy on our team so wrote something in for him to do. If you have a particularly strong actor, write around his skills. And only include locations and props you have available.”
Then, of course, there is the fatigue factor.
Bates said he only slept six hours during the weekend.
“You get so tired you forget your native language,” he quipped. “At that point you need to drink more caffeine.”