From May 17-19, local multimedia artist Ben Paul Morris and a team of credited colleagues will be consumed with completing their entry for the 48 Hour Film Project (48HFP), an international filmmaking competition. While the weekend earmarks his directorial debut, Morris is no stranger to the spotlight.
Born and raised in Pasadena, Morris began pursuing his second career around 2009 and quickly enrolled in fine art classes. Over time, he started appearing as a background and supporting actor on networks including PBS, HBO, and more recently, REELZ. Morris also racked up production crew credits and, by 2018, worked his way up to regular assistant director roles. The 48HFP weekend will give Morris the challenge of wearing a director’s hat for the first time, while also allowing creative freedom for his team.
“We kind of want to do something that’s not really within the constraints of the corporate atmosphere,” Morris shared, “which is what we’re accustomed to … having an objective given by a network where we’re making a certain kind of television. This is giving us an opportunity to say, ‘Are we really as good as we say we are? Can we do this on our own?’”
According to its website, 48HFP “is a wild and sleepless weekend in which you and a team make a movie — write, shoot and edit — in just 48 hours.” Teams do not know what movie they are making until Friday night when they draw a genre from a hat. Teams are then assigned a random character, prop and script line, all which must appear in the four- to seven-minute short film. Morris’ co-producer and screenwriter, Kay Ross, relates the experience with something like 48 hours of improv.
“It’s a gamble,” Ross said, “but I think that’s also part of the fun. It’s like a giant puzzle.”
Some preparation is possible — discussing costumes, scouting locations, mobilizing actors — all of which the team of more than 20 cast and crew members (DragonberryWTF Productions) is currently finalizing. After writing, shooting and editing the film, the completed piece must be submitted by 7:00pm on Sunday evening that same weekend. Submitted films are later screened to audiences and winners are announced. While competition rules do not permit cast and crew members to receive pay, an Indiegogo campaign was launched to help cover gear rental, location fees, food and other production expenses. Morris believes grassroots efforts like these are important to the filmmaking industry as a whole.
“Without independent filmmaking,” Morris said, “and without being able to spread your creative wings on your own and explore things on your own and different ideas, I don’t think that the television that you see commercially or on a larger scale would exist as it does.”
To learn more about 48HFP, visit www.48hourfilm.com. To watch the team’s pitch video and donate, visit Morris’ multimedia company’s website, www.oldlinemultimedia.com.