Update, May 30: At the 48 Hours Film Project awards on Thursday night, Adam Welch was named runner-up for Best Director for “Breaking the Bond,” and Leigh Cooper was named runner-up for Best Editing. The film “Relative” by WIT Films was the D.C. champion.
Here is “Breaking the Bond,” the final product:
Original post, May 3: When director Adam Welch finally went to bed at 5 a.m., he had almost nothing. No script. No plan. And the crew that was coming to shoot his movie was arriving in two hours. And they only had a day to shoot. Welch was a little stressed, and wired out of his mind on Red Bull, coffee and adrenaline.
Variations of this scene, played out in Fairfax City early Saturday, unfolded around the D.C. area last weekend as more than 100 groups of filmmakers raced to write, shoot, edit and produce a seven-minute movie in just 48 hours. It’s the 12th time that Washington filmmakers Mark Ruppert and Liz Langston have launched The 48 Hour Film Project, and this year the project is traveling to 101 cities around the world between March and November. The winners have their movie shown at the Cannes Film Festival, and the grand prize brings a trophy and $3,000. Last year, 3,000 films were made in 80 cities.
For the 100-plus filmmaking groups in the Washington area who signed up for this past weekend’s frenzy, their finished products will be shown in groups of about 13 in screenings starting Tuesday night and running through Friday at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center in Silver Spring. One group of 14 filmmakers took on the additional challenge of making a G, PG or PG-13 rated film.
So last Friday at 7 p.m., all the participants received the following requirements: Their film had to have a character named Riley Tompkins, who is a teacher; they had to have a pencil as a prop; and the line of dialogue “I’m taking it one day at a time” had to be somewhere in the film. Also Friday evening, each group drew a film genre out of a hat. Welch’s group got science fiction.
Ten hours into his 48, Welch had some ideas for a science fiction short. But no actual script.
The rules specify that everything must be done in the 48-hour time period, including the writing. So Welch recruited his film school friend Sean Kelly to come down from Philadelphia, along with his wife Leslie Welch and some neighbor guy [me] to try to bash out seven pages or so before his volunteer film crew showed up at 7 a.m. I threw out some ideas, and even typed up some dialogue on a laptop, but these were promptly discarded after I conked out at 1 a.m.
Welch, who makes films and video productions for the educational association ASCD in Alexandria, had read something about a newly discovered substance called graphene, and had seen some video about the fourth dimension, and wanted to work those together. Originally, the story focused on his main character [“the Man”] searching for his abducted daughter, and winding up at the school where “teacher Riley Tompkins” worked. Around 3 a.m., he realized this wasn’t science fiction. He started again.
More drafts, but not much. The attempt to sleep at 5 a.m.? Also not much. Friends and coworkers who had talents in video photography, sound and editing arrived with their equipment at 7. Under fierce pressure, Welch and Kelly hammered out something about how the graphene enabled “the Man” to travel through time, to revisit a tense moment with his wife and try to make it better. There’s more to it, but I don’t want to spoil it for the folks at Cannes.
By mid-morning, shooting was happening in the Welch kitchen, starring Kelly and Leslie Welch. And then in the Welch bathroom. Then in the Welch backyard, as well as the Welch tool shed. Although there had been plans to use a warehouse-type space in Fairfax City and also shoot at an elementary school, that was nixed for time concerns, and the production never left the Welches’ extremely cozy rambler on Embassy Drive. Welch’s mom, Christine Walters, oversaw the craft services [food].
On Saturday night, while co-worker Leigh Cooper started editing the footage together, a process which lasted through the night, Ben Licciardi came over to watch clips and make some soundtrack music on guitar and keyboards. Welch slept for a while, and woke up to find that Cooper had strung the film pieces together masterfully. On Sunday morning, he sent sections to another film school friend, Jeremy Fernsler, in Philadelphia to add special effects. That these were done in a matter of a few hours is plainly amazing. Welch slapped the final pieces together and drove it to the city, where they arrived with a half-hour to spare.
His short film, called “Breaking the Bond,” by “Lee Mellow and His Ambient Rock Gods,” [there was trance music playing throughout every phase except the filming], will screen Thursday at 7 p.m. If the other films are half as entertaining and challenging as this one, these screenings will be one terrific night at the movies.