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Short Films from Des Moines' 48 Hour Film Project Set To Premiere

48 Hour Film Project Kickoff
Photo credit: James Watson
Teams gathered at TeeHee's Comedy Club on Friday, July 30 to kick off the 2021 48 Hour Film Project.

From Friday, July 30, to Sunday, Aug. 1, 36 teams participated in Des Moines’ 48 Hour Film Project, a weekend-long competition to write, shoot and edit short films in just two days.

On the evening of July 30, the participating teams gathered at TeeHee’s Comedy Club, where they received their required elements, including a character, prop and line of dialogue, and selected their movie genre from a random drawing.

Next, they were off to the races to complete their film and submit it by 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 1.

All the participating teams finished their project, but only 34 teams submitted their film by the deadline, according to Sam Pace-Tuomi, the City Producer for Des Moines’ 48 Hour Film Project.

The 36 films will premiere Aug. 9-11 at the State Historical Building Auditorium in Des Moines. Each night will showcase 12 of the short films, followed by Q&A sessions with the teams. Tickets for the three screenings are available online.

Eligible films will be evaluated by a panel of judges, all of whom are previous city winners. The film voted Best of City will go on to compete internationally for a chance to be screened at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival.

Last year, the pandemic prompted the 48 Hour Film Project to transition to a virtual model, with entries and Q&A sessions available online. Pace-Tuomi, who has served as City Producer for 12 years, said he is looking forward to a return to normalcy.

Des Moines City Producer Sam Pace-Tuomi leads the kick off event for the 2021 48 Hour Film Project.
Photo Credit: James Watson
Des Moines City Producer Sam Pace-Tuomi leads the kick-off event for the 2021 48 Hour Film Project.

“The fact that we’re back in person is the biggest thing this year,” Pace-Tuomi said. “It will be exciting for film fans and filmmakers to see their films screened up on the big screen that they made just a few days ago.”

Des Moines has hosted the 48 Hour Film Project every year since 2005, welcoming teams of all sizes and skill levels.

“The good thing about ‘48’ is that it’s open to pros and amateurs alike,” Pace-Tuomi said. “Even teams that are newer that may not finish the filmmaking weekend learned a lot. We welcome all experience levels to become a part of it.”

First-time participant Travis Taylor said his team was looking for a fun challenge to test their filmmaking mettle, and that proved to be the case. Taylor and his team, Fat Kids Productions, were put through their paces from the outset, first receiving a difficult genre (multi-generational film) and then encountering equipment failures.

“They say some movie sets are cursed, like ‘Poltergeist.’ I started to feel like that after a while,” Taylor said. “But we overcame it, and we fixed all of our problems.”

John Hansen, leader of Team Last to Enter, has regularly competed since the 48 Hour Film Project first started in Des Moines. That year, Hansen’s team won Best of City and went on to win at the International 48 Hour Film Project.

Hansen, whose team competes again this year, described the weekend as an exhausting but worthwhile endeavor. “I compare it to someone who runs a marathon, and they get done with it, and they’re just tired and worn out. And they’re like, ‘Why did I do that?’ But then a week goes by, and they’re like, ‘You know what? I’d like to run another 26 miles.’ That’s what the ‘48’ is for me,” Hansen said. “It’s like a marathon. You’re really tired, but then it’s done, and you almost can’t wait to do another one.”

Hansen said the thrill of selecting a genre at the competition’s kickoff is the most exciting aspect of the weekend.

“At the very beginning, when you’re picking up your genre, and you’re worried about what it’s going to be, there’s this nervous feeling that you’re going to get ‘soap opera’ or something you don’t want to get,” Hansen said. “So that’s kind of exciting, the anticipation of getting a really horrible genre. I think it’s actually my favorite part.”

Despite the intensity and lack of sleep, Hansen keeps coming back year after year.

“The most fun thing is hanging out with your friends, making a movie and getting to see a finished film at the end of the whole process,” Hansen said.

According to Pace-Tuomi, the 48 Hour Film Project is designed to educate and grow the film community in Des Moines while inspiring local filmmakers. “That’s our biggest goal, just to promote filmmaking and local filmmaking culture,” Pace-Tuomi said.

An awards ceremony and Best of City Screening will be held at the State Historical Building Auditorium on Aug. 26. Tickets for the event are available online.

Nicole Baxter is a Sponsorship Coordinator and covers film as a contributing writer for Iowa Public Radio.