The Berkeley Beacon

Friday, July 10, 2020

Under Pressure: Students make short films in the span of 48 hours

By Jess Waters / Beacon Correspondent
September 17, 2014 at 3:50 pm

From writing the script to scheduling the scenes, framing the shots, and editing it all together, making a short film takes time. In the case of nearly 180 Emerson student filmmakers working in teams last weekend, it took exactly 48 hours. 

The eighth Annual Cornucopia of Creativity 48 Hour Film Festival had nearly three times the participants it has averaged in previous years, according to event director Jackson Davis, a sophomore visual and media arts major. The festival challenged teams of between five and 13 students to produce a three to four minute short within 48 hours. And, it had to fit an overall theme and a randomly assigned genre.

This year’s event kicked off on Friday, Sept. 12 and culminated with a screening of the 27 completed films in the Cabaret on Sunday, Sept. 14. The number of participants was so unexpectedly large that only four filmmakers from each team could attend the screening. 

Awards were handed out at the end of the night. The first place winner was team 14, which had to use the theme of ‘time’ and their randomly assigned genre, ‘comedy’. The film’s director, Luke Gibson, said the group created a short piece about a college student who discovers he has an hour left to live and sets out to complete his bucket list in the most rushed, mediocre way possible.

Gibson, a freshman visual media and arts major, cited some examples. 

“To visit a different country, he went to Chinatown; to get high, he climbed up on the roof; to reconnect with his parents we cut to a shot of him standing in a graveyard,” said Gibson, with a grin and a shrug. “It was definitely dark comedy.”

The most tense moment of the weekend, according to script supervisor Justin Ruiz, also a freshman visual and media arts major, was trying to shoot the scene where the protagonist achieves his dream of starting a band.

“We were filming with one actor dressed as a homeless person shaking a cupful of change,” said Ruiz. “And [the protagonist] comes up with his own bottle of change and starts shaking it around and dancing. I think our homeless actor was a little too convincing, because there were a lot of judging stares.”

Despite the tense timeframe and competitive nature of the festival, according to Davis, who is also a resident assistant of the Film Immersion learning community, the main goal here isn’t winning. 

“It’s more about becoming more comfortable in the film department at Emerson, which is why it’s really good for freshmen,” said Davis. “You’re forced to find resources, like the editing labs, that you might not have needed for your classes until much later.”

The Cornucopia of Creativity is traditionally a Film Immersion event, but was co-sponsored this year by the Writer’s Block, Performing Cultures, and Digital Culture learning communities, as well as the National Broadcasting Society’s Emerson chapter.

Evan Yee, a junior visual and media arts major and president of NBS at Emerson, was a judge for this year’s event. He recalled participating in the festival in his freshman year.

“It was my first real experience of film at Emerson,” said Yee. “For the first time, I wasn’t forcing my high school friends to make movies with me. I was working with a group of people who were really passionate about making films.”

Team 17, an all-freshman crew, got to experience this 48-hour plunge into all things Emerson film firsthand. Consisting of five visual and media arts majors Nicole Smith, Madison Gallup, Annette Sherrod, Shay Kim, and Camille Speer, and marketing communication major Sheldon Liu, all but Kim live together in a six-person suite on the Film Immersion floor. It’s in this suite—flat surfaces stacked high with DVDs and the flyer for the festival pasted on the wall—that the brainstorming, scriptwriting, and most of the shooting took place for their three-minute horror short.  

Friday night was spent brainstorming and script-writing, Saturday was roughly allocated for shooting, and most of Sunday was left for editing. Though the team struggled through some conflicting moments—in Gallup’s words, “There were some strong opinions,”—in the end they produced a product they were proud of, according to Speer.

“There weren’t any concepts like it,” she said of their piece, a horror short about a girl who loses touch with reality after her mother’s death.

When asked if the festival made them feel like they had chosen the right school to study film, all members of the team gave a resounding yes.

“The only thing I wish” said Sherrod, with a smile and a shrug, “is that we’d had more time.”

Waters can be reached at