Dubai 48-Hour Film Project

Scores of local filmmakers to make movies in two days


It takes months, if not years, to make a movie, right? You need a good idea, a script, auditions and rehearsals before you can even start shooting. And then there’s editing, dubbing, sorting a soundtrack… even making a short film must take months of meticulous preparation.

Wrong: it takes just a weekend, according to the guys behind The 48-Hour Film Project. Taking place in Dubai on Thursday November 1, the project invites filmmakers to embark on a wild, sleepless weekend in which they write, shoot, edit and score an entire short movie in no more than 48 hours. Since launching in a single city – Washington DC – 11 years ago, the project now stretches across six continents, with 4,000 short films from 120 cities expected to be made for the competition this year.

Mo Rida remembers first encountering the project as a young Lebanese-American filmmaker studying in New York. ‘It looked like a great idea,’ he says, casting his mind back eight years. ‘I’m a filmmaker, I’m not busy this weekend, so why not go and make a film? The first time I entered we made a dark comedy about two friends who kill a girl, then try to pretend she’s still alive… It wasn’t the best film.’

That film, in 2004, was the first of three annual efforts that the budding young Rida, now 34, submitted while establishing himself as a filmmaker in America. However, it wasn’t until 2010, when Rida made the decision to move to his native Lebanon, that he had a light bulb moment: why not bring the project to the Middle East?

After launching the project in Beirut in July 2011, he hosted the first event in Dubai last November. ‘I’d never been to Dubai before – I just showed up with a laptop and started making calls,’ remembers Rida. The event turned out to be a huge success, attracting 38 teams and producing several good short films, including the overall winner, Solus, a horror by Shoot a Short Films.

Earlier this year Mo launched the project in Amman and Cairo, and has now returned to Dubai to take entrants for this year’s competition, with ‘kick-off’ on Tuesday November 1. The nomadic life his role requires – travelling from country to country, sleeping on friend’s couches and working from internet cafés – is a long way from Hollywood. So what keeps him going? ‘Because I believe in it, because I think it has potential, and because of the positives it has for the community,’ he explains. ‘It’s the most popular film competition in the world and it gives real opportunities to local filmmakers. And when you get the films on the screen and the crowd is screaming, it’s something really special. People are really surprised they are shot in just 48 hours.’
Entry to The Dubai 48-Hour Film Project costs Dhs643 per team before Thursday October 25; Dhs735 after (space permitting).

The schedule

Thursday November 1, 6pm
One representative from each team gathers at the first meeting (at a spot that’s yet to be decided), drawing one of 21 genres from a hat, as well being told the prop, character name and line of dialogue that must be used in the submitted movie. This ensures that none of the movies have been prepared in advance.

Thursday 1, 7pm
Kick-off: the representative leaves the meeting and can contact the other team members for the first time.

Saturday 3, from 6pm
Drop-off: the completed four- to seven-minute movie must be submitted on USB or DVD by 7pm to be eligible for prizes, although any film entered before midnight will be screened.

Thursday 8 to Saturday 10, 7.30pm
Over three nights, all the submitted movies will be screened to the public at The Fridge in Al Quoz, where anyone present can vote on the daily Grand Audience Awards.

Thursday 15, 7.30pm
Awards nights: Based on the judges’ decisions, the top ten to 12 movies are screened again, before awards are given out to the best movies. The Best Film winner will receive a prize of film equipment, and the winning movie will be sent to Hollywood to be entered into the worldwide competition.

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