Friday night's downtown power outage canceled a Redbirds game and the Orpheum's production of Cats, but the casts and crews of FuelFilm:Memphis' 48 Hour Film Launch pressed on. What started as a group of aspiring filmmakers discussing everything from vague ideas to detailed screenplays ended Sunday evening with a packed house watching five completed films.
The film launch is the latest in a series of monthly events from FuelFilm, each one intended to demystify a different aspect of filmmaking with an eye toward shooting more films in Memphis. The nonprofit operates on the idea that the city is full of people who have both the ideas and the drive to create great films — they just don't always have the right tools or contacts.
"The idea is to put all these people in one place and make as many films as we can," says Matt Beickert, co-founder of FuelFilm.
The film launch combined all the processes of film creation into one frenzied, improvisational process with a time frame that left no room for writer's block.
"Our goal is not just to get filmmakers to make some shorts but to [help novice filmmakers] dip their toes in the water," Beickert says. "Lots of people can't spend a month working on a film, but they can spend a weekend."
Thus, FuelFilm created a weekend moviemaking schedule: Friday night, people pitched their ideas, then put together casts and crews for those that received the most votes. All the shooting would take place on Saturday; the editing and screening would follow on Sunday. Easy enough, right?
"I had a friend call from Los Angeles, predicting all this contention," says Jim Sposto, another co-founder. "I just said, 'This is Memphis! Everyone's going to be really cool about it.'"
He was right. About 75 people gathered at FuelFilm's offices to pitch 12 ideas on Friday; they chose five, assembled crews, and produced the films by Sunday night. A few sponsors — Nikon sent over some cameras, Red Bull kept the caffeine flowing — and a lot of pitching in, from food preparation to sharing cameramen, resulted in the creation of a community in just 48 hours.
Among the five casts and crews were locals, commuters, seasoned filmmakers, and brand-new additions. Francis Is a Lion came from a 17-year-old writer, director, and producer. Soul, which received the most backstage buzz, started as an idea its sole actor, Jerre Dye, artistic director of Voices of the South, had on the way to the film launch. It seems the guys at FuelFilm are right about available resources.
"The people who showed up to make something in 48 hours — those are the people you want working with you," says David Merrill, another co-founder of FuelFilm.
Beickert echoed that sentiment to the 150 or so attendees who watched the five finished films at Emerge Memphis.
"We've got the directors, the screenwriters, the actors," he says. "Let's invest in our community."