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Detroit Windsor International Film Festival Challenge Participants Make Short Films In 48 Hours

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DETROIT WINDSOR INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL
In advance of the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival happening on the Wayne State University campus in Detroit on June 20 to 24, 2012, at least 11 teams will compete in a challenge in which they will be asked to make a short film in 48 hours or less. | Alamy

A competition where you get just 48 hours to make a movie might seem like a weekend of torture to some people, but to contestants of the Detroit Windsor International Film Festival Challenge, as well as its founder Shane Sevo, the tight deadline is all part of the excitement.

Now in its fifth year, the DWIFF Challenge invites teams to make a film between the hours of 7 p.m. Friday and 7 p.m. Sunday. A group of local judges will choose a winner and two runners-up at a ceremony ending the film fest, which takes place June 20 to 24 on Wayne State University's campus in Detroit.

Sevo knows about the fun of frantically making an entire movie in one weekend from experience -- he's done it himself, several times.

"The short film competitions are something I fell in love with close to 10 years ago," he told HuffPost, "and at that time there wasn't a Detroit-area local competition."

Apart from frantically trying to brainstorm, shoot and edit a film in 48 hours, contestants have to abide by a variety of rules that add to the struggle.

Each film has to be between four and eight minutes long, and contestants also must incorporate certain elements that are kept a secret until the night of. In the past, rules have included shooting a scene at Campus Martius or incorporating the ubiquitous sound clip of a "Wilhelm Scream."

And then there's more randomized, individualized strictures: Teams spin a "Wheel of Genre" to find out what kind of movie they have to make and roll dice to determine certain character traits, which might leave them wondering how to fit a paranoid bicyclist into a Bollywood film.

"It does have that serendipitous quality to it; people just try something and a lot of times it turns out better than you thought," Sevo said. "You don't have time to worry, plan and critique. You just have to execute."

As of now, 11 teams are participating in this year's challenge, though Sevo said DWIFF has had up to 30 teams, and usually a few register at the last minute. In past years, they've had organized teams with up to 40 members, as well as smaller groups, or even just a sole animator committed to a project.

The 48-hour competition can be a stepping stone in the film industry, as participants network, take their films to other festivals, and occasionally go on to show at DWIFF in later years.

"It's a very rewarding moment to see people coming in who may have never thought of themselves as filmmakers," Sevo said, "and all of a sudden they're at a film fest receiving an award alongside seasoned filmmakers."

"I've been doing this for 10 years and I'm always surprised by what I see is possible in a weekend," he added. "There's definitely some rough stuff but there are some gems every year."

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