Think of everything you’ve accomplished within the past 48 hours.
Now imagine having to write, cast, direct, shoot, edit and ultimately produce a movie within that same amount of time – all without knowing your film’s genre until the clock starts ticking.
Last weekend, nine teams of SUNY New Paltz students did just that as part of NP48, the college’s second-annual 48-hour film festival. The contest sets student filmmakers up against one another to work under strict rules and time constraints: film genres must be randomized to avoid pre-planning, and every movie must be submitted before time runs out.
Crowning in at first place was the teen movie “Hooky,” produced by team The Matt Damon Experience. This barely five minute film follows three high schoolers on a mission to ditch class and drink beer in an abandoned barn – but in a turn of events, they start to get a sense that they are not alone.
The rather rebellious Megan, played by Megan Sullivan, steals some beer from her older brother to kick-start their exciting adventure. At her side is Alyssa, the shy “good girl” played by Catherine Kaczor, and Chewy, the quiet and ever-hungry friend played by Nick Winzig.
On their way to the barn, Megan tells her friends of a gruesome murder that occurred at the very path the teens are walking on. The scene flashes back ten years to show an athlete, played by Deborah Chai, who was brutally killed with her own tennis racket while walking home from practice. Catching onto the area’s violent past, the teens realize the rumors of a haunting could be true once they start hearing faint sounds of a tennis ball bouncing continuously on pavement.
After that, their day out from school isn’t so fun anymore.
Given the teen movie genre at random, the production team found that coming up with a storyline to fit the category was a bit challenging at first. While most teen movies cover late-night parties or young love, the murderous twist to “Hooky” made for quite the unique approach on an already well-explored genre.
“The movie is like a murder mystery at one point – a coming of age murder mystery,” Winzig, who played Chewy in the film, said.
With collaboration from the entire production crew, the storyline came together by the end of Friday night, allowing time to film Saturday and edit on Sunday. Despite the crunch for time, organization was one of the team’s strong points, crew member and graphic designer Morgan Malecki said.
“We came into the writing stage just spit-balling ideas, using bits of humor to approach the whole project in a more relaxed way,” Malecki said. “We all had a part in writing the script, which really helped in keeping us organized throughout the weekend.”
The group, which also included cinematographer Pat Angher, actor Matt Bruekner and audio engineer Caitlin Little, said despite common belief they didn’t have trouble with exhaustion over the small amount of time they had to work.
“We actually were able to get a good amount of sleep despite our packed schedule,” Kaczor, who played Alyssa, said. “But we did find ourselves getting hungry a lot.”
Well, everyone except for Chewy: the comedic relief character amidst the otherwise serious and horror-laced teen film. Though each of the movies in NP48 belonged to different genres, all filmmakers were required to include three specific aspects within their piece: a tennis racket as a prop, a character named Chewy and the phrase “I wish it was bigger.” From these came the racket-turned-weapon killing story, and the incorporation of Winzig’s character, Chewy. Throughout the film, Chewy’s affinity for granola bars is made clear as he spends most of his screen time eating or clutching onto one of these fiber-filled snacks.
Looking back at their fresh NP48 win Tuesday night, the production team said they thought the incorporation of flashback scenes and the usage of on-screen graphics were what ultimately set their film apart from the others. The graphics, in form of a scribble-style text font across the screen, likened those of the title sequence from “Juno,” the 2007 teen movie classic about a young tomboy trying to come to terms with her unexpected pregnancy.
The weekend garnered nine films overall, ranging everywhere from horror romance and adventure to film noir. Last semester’s NP48 winner was later submitted to a SUNY-wide festival in which it earned another first-place title.
According to co-president of the Media and Journalism Society Ryan Percy, who helped organize the competition, NP48 is well on its way to becoming a SUNY New Paltz tradition.
“Last year’s festival was a big success and we definitely wanted to do it again,” Percy, a third year digital media student said. “A lot of people don’t realize how much work it actually takes to film and edit a movie, let alone within two days. NP 48 is quickly becoming [the event] to get involved in as a production or media student.”