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Film: Working on the Weekend

The 48 Hour Film Project returns for another year of creative mayhem

By James Proffitt · June 14th, 2006 · Movies
  TaTa Productions' Laura Hester (left) and Ashley Akers shoot a scene for their entry in the 48 Hour Film Project.
TaTa Productions' Laura Hester (left) and Ashley Akers shoot a scene for their entry in the 48 Hour Film Project.

It's late afternoon on June 10 when I find Ryan Seymour and his crew of five deep in the woods at Devou Park. Amid a cool drizzle and fading light, Seymour, producer and editor at TaTa Productions (tataproductions.com), works intently with his crew to finish filming before conditions make it impossible.

"We're done for the day," he sighs after the last take. "Right now we're going to go eat dinner then dump all our images into my computer. We'll start editing so we know what shots we need to do again tomorrow."

Like the nearly 50 area independent film crews taking part in the 48 Hours Film Project, TaTa Productions puts all its time and creative energies into the making of a 7-minute film over a single 48-hour weekend (7 p.m. Friday through 7 p.m. Sunday). Founded in 2001 in Washington, D.C., the competition features more than 1,000 filmmaking teams from around the world.

The project's mission is to advance filmmaking and encourage filmmakers to get out and create movies. Chris Strobel, an assistant professor at Northern Kentucky University, is again coordinating the Cincinnati competition.

Ryan Seymour's crew of five includes Chris Rust, Chris Nolan, Andy East, Laura Hester and Ashley Akers, all amateurs working on the thinnest of shoestring budgets and with equipment mostly on loan from the Community Program Center in Latonia.

With the oldest member at 22, TaTa is a fledgling group with little money -- but not one without vision.

"Basically, none of us have gone to school, except Ashley," says Seymour. "So that's why I refer to us as a rat-pack group of artists. Because with us, we're the people who really want to do this, but we don't have the financial backing for the training. What we're really doing right now is working on putting together one more piece for our portfolio. We're hoping from our work here, and our other work, we'll get a job somewhere."

Twenty miles west in Lawrenceburg, Ind., another crew spends Saturday shooting after a long Friday night of brainstorming, scriptwriting and revising. Unlike TaTa, The Brawny Lads (brawnylads.com) is a well-established and reasonably well-funded group. Russ Lamkin, director and original founder of The Brawny Lads, leads a crew with four other longtime members. The team, which has swelled to 18 for this project, began filming the morning of Saturday morning and finishes by mid-afternoon.

A day later I stand on a front porch between a house and a 35-foot motor home parked on a lawn. There are several people asleep in the camper. Another handful, including Lamkin and Marcus Adams (editor and director of photography), are working intently at multiple PCs spread throughout the house.

"The biggest thing for us is the lighting," says Jennifer Ogden, a member of the Lads team. "We manipulate the lighting in every scene no matter where it is, inside or outside. And we're lucky enough to have a professional guy, Mike Lumis, working with us this year. He's a freelance lighting guy with some of the local news stations."

Last year the Lads won two awards: "Best Use of Props" and "Best Use of Special Effects."

"I think the reason we won the special effects award last year was because of our editing and use of computer technology," says Ogden. "They're very savvy with that stuff, those computer geeks in there," she says, nodding toward the house, laughing.

Are The Brawny Lads pinning any professional hopes on The 48 Hour Film Project? Probably not, since all the members have full-time jobs in other fields. According to its Web site, the group's work is much more about passion than paycheck: "Probably the single most amazing aspect of The Brawny Lads is that we create films in our spare time just for the hell of it. We pour our hearts into everything we do and strive to make bigger and better films every go-around."

Before I leave Jennifer and the Lads, I quietly tiptoe inside to glimpse the crew editing their film just a few short hours before the 7 p.m. June 11 deadline. Everyone is glued to computers. If they notice me, they don't acknowledge it. But I do manage to get Lamkin to give one final piece of advice to any upstart film crews out there: "Get used to disappointment and to getting almost all your ideas shot down," he says, leaning back in his chair. "But have fun doing it!"

Fun and disappointment in the same sentence? It sounds like a discouraging line, but for 21-year-old Ryan Seymour of TaTa Productions it simply reaffirms his commitment to film.

"We know there's going to be some trouble and difficulties, but for us we don't mind," he says. "We'll learn from that, and we really want to learn. We love doing this. We're really just running on desire."

48 Hour Film Project screenings continue daily through Friday at The Carnegie Visual + Performing Arts Center in Covington. For more information, call 859-491-2030 or go to www.48hourfilm.com/cincinnnati


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