When the clock started ticking on Friday night, the participants of Paducah's 48 Hour Film Project left Maiden Alley Cinema splitting up to cobble together scripts, casts, props and scenery.
The pressure was on with 13 teams in the fast-paced filmmaking challenge all working to finish an original short film, between four and seven minutes in length, by Sunday evening.
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Escapist Pictures, a team of veteran participants with 51 competitions under their combined belts, and the winners of last year's contest, retired to a nearby office building. The group had drawn the genre options of fish-out-of-water or drama.
Over the years of working in the competition together, they had worked out a brainstorming process where two team members, Austin Madding and Todd Holloman, came up with a story kernel and the rest of the group filled it in to avoid a "too many cooks in the kitchen" situation.
"The team as a whole figures out story beats and clever ways to get from A to B," Madding explained. "This year we just started with the idea of a hero shot and exterior shots and figured out how to get there together."
What was a simple sentence and list of characters at 9 p.m. on Friday turned into a full script a little over two hours later. With their story -- a whacky, bombastic, Loony Tunes-like thriller surrounding a group of suburban dads getting involved in matters of the occult -- in hand, they went to sleep.
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Elsewhere in Paducah, another team, known as the Franklin Bunch, was hard at work. Many teams end up being like families after years of competing together, but the Franklin Bunch actually is one.
For the group's holiday theme, they elected to go with the story of a big family preparing for Halloween.
"I think it's relatable story for a lot of families, big ones especially, when it comes to the stress getting ready for a big event or a holiday," said team member Dawson Criscoe Saturday afternoon.
Spooky decorations and toys were scattered around the house, along with the 15 or so relatives that were on-location for the project (another set of relatives telecommuted to appear in the film, bringing the total to around 20).
"We probably worked on it for about four hours last night coming up with the story and writing the script, but now that we've got it, it's real solid," said Criscoe. "We kind of got a late start and we'll be going late into the night."
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Saturday had a bright and early start with breakfast, rehearsals and blocking work as the Escapist crew mapped out what shots it would need, as the team was using Madding's house as the set. By a little after 9 p.m., their Saturday was through with all but one shot in the can.
"There's just been little shaves to our process over the years; nothing has really changed dramatically," explained Madding. "We've had a pretty good routine down for the last four or five years of the development on Friday night, production on Saturday and post-production on Sunday."
True to form, the final day of the competition was mostly spent putting together the pieces, editing, sound designing and polishing what was to become "Cult Concerto."
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Sunday wasn't all post-production fun for the Franklin Bunch, as they had a baby shower to attend, which cost them some editing time.
Most everybody was inexperienced on the film, with the exception of Criscoe and his mother Angela. The two have done the competition together several times in Atlanta.
"We've always wanted to do a full family video and this was the perfect opportunity to do it," explained Dawson, who also composed music for the project.
"The most difficult with having as many rookies as we did was just keeping everyone quiet on set and acting without seeming cheesy. Acting was the hardest part for the people in our crew, especially the younger kids."
There wasn't much trouble to be had though, with the exception of a nunchuck to the head that made it into the final cut, as the group turned in its finished product, "Finkle Family Nightmare," around 4 p.m., hours ahead of schedule.
"Doing the video as a family was pretty challenging, just having everybody over in the house and getting on everyone's nerves," Criscoe said Sunday. "By the end of the night Saturday we were all ready to be done with it, but I think we would definitely do it again next year. It's definitely chaotic having such a large team, but it was a good experience for everybody."
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While the production phase only held one true setback for the Escapist crew -- a mistake with fake blood stained the skin of one of their actors, causing them to delay their shoot and costing them crucial golden hour daylight -- difficulties with the editing software on Sunday hit the project hard, as they were still rendering the final product when the deadline hit.
Their film will still be shown with the rest of the competitors, though it will not be eligible to move on to the next stages.
The result, while disappointing for the group, is not the end of the world. Escapist strives to use the competition as a tool to sharpen their skills and try something.
"The main thing to keep in mind is that it's about experimenting and trying new things to learn something rather than trying to put your best foot forward and stick to your comfort zone," Madding said. "48 Hour Film Project should be a lab."
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Maiden Alley Cinema will hold a premiere screening of all the teams' films Saturday at 4 p.m., with other screenings over the following days. The winner of the competition will be announced during a ceremony Aug. 19.
The winning film will be screened at Filmapalooza 2020, which will take place in Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
To learn more about this local branch of the international competition, visit www.48hourfilm.com/paducah-ky.