1. What is the 48 Hour Film Project?
It's your chance to stop talking and start filming! The premise? Filmmaking teams have just one weekend to make a short film. All creativity—writing, shooting, editing and adding a musical soundtrack—must occur in a 48 hour window beginning Friday evening at 7:00pm and ending Sunday at 7:00pm. The following week, the completed films are screened to an eager audience.
2. How much does it cost?
The registration fee is for the entire team and includes two free tickets to the screenings (which are given to the team leader).
In the United States, registration fees vary from $125 to $175 per team, as follows:
First Year Cities
- $125 for each team
- Early Bird registration: $140
- Regular registration: $160
- Late registration: $175
For the registration fee outside the United States, please visit the webpage for that location.
3. When will the 48 Hour Film Project come to my city?
The dates for each city are listed on our 48 Hour Film Project website. If we do not have listed dates, then the dates have not yet been determined. If you want to be the first to find out when the 48 Hour Film Project is coming to your city, sign up for your city's newsletter.
4. What are the films about?
That's up to the filmmaker; however, each team must select the genre for its movie in a random drawing 15 minutes before the start of the competition. In 2015 there are 14 genres.
In addition, teams are given a character, a prop and a line of dialogue that must appear in their film.
5. Who sees the films?
The films screen to sold-out audiences in every city we've visited. Of course the filmmakers, actors, family and friends are there to enthusiastically support the premiere of the weekend's work. But also supporters of the local film community, and discriminating viewers who want to see something new—something raw and alive—are there to feel the creative energy.
6. Who are the filmmakers?
The 48 Hour Film Project is open to all filmmakers, pro and novice alike. Rules state that all team members (crew and cast) must be volunteers. Most teams consist of film and video professionals. And teams have attracted some top talent on both sides of the camera. Martin Freeman, Penn of Penn and Teller, Dennis Farina, and Nick Clooney have all appeared in 48HFP films.
7. Is there a limit to the number of people on a team?
No. Our smallest team was just one person—he sets up the camera then runs around to act. Our largest team to date was a team from Albuquerque with 116 people and 30 horses! The average, though, is about 15 people per team.
8. Am I allowed to be on more than one team?
Yes, you're allowed. We hope you can make the scheduling work out!
9. How long are the films?
The films are short; they must be a minimum of 4 minutes and a maximum of 7 minutes long Short is good. Not only are shorter films tighter and usually more interesting, they are more marketable.
10. Where and when are they shown?
On the first few days following the competition deadline, the movies are screened at a grand premiere in a local movie theater. A guaranteed standing-room-only audience of tired, excited filmmakers, crews and friends are in attendance to cheer on the films.
11. How is the event advertised?
The event is advertised by word of mouth, on the web, and via local press. Local filmmakers and organizations are our most vocal supporters and do a great job spreading the word. In each city, the 48 Hour Film Project has generated considerable interest from local and national media. From CNN to the Washington Post and LA Times—we've had coverage in hundreds of media outlets to date.
12. What should I do with my film after the competition?
Get it out there! Enter it into festivals, play it in public screenings, upload it to websites, get it on television, and show it to anyone you can. Be sure you abide by any restrictions in the Team Leaders's Agreement.
13. May I show a modified version of my film?
Yes, presuming that the showing adheres to the Team Leader's Agreement that you signed when entering the 48 Hour Film Project. If it is a modified version of a 48 Hour Film Project film, please include a title card and a mention in the end credits that say:
The concept for this film developed during the 48 Hour Film Project. [competition:website]
14. Is this a contest and will there be a "Best of" selection?
Yes and yes.
One film in each city will be chosen Best of City.
15. Will I win?
Depends on what you mean by winning. Countless filmmakers over the years have told us that the 48 Hour Film Project weekend was fantastic. They loved getting to use their creative talents; they had fun with their friends; and they made a film, too! So if winning means having a great time, you've got a very good shot at it.
There were over 4,000 entries in 2012 and we gave out more than 1,130 awards. There were 113 city winners...and only one grand prize. There are even more entries this year. So if winning means getting that grand prize, you've got your work cut out for you. But don't let that discourage you—you can do it!
16. Will I get rich?
Probably not. As far as we know, no one has made much money selling a 48 Hour Film Project film. However, some of our 48HFP filmmakers have had success with their films in other festivals including SXSW; one team won a $100K filmmaking package at a festival; and filmmakers have used recognition of their 48 Hour Film Project film to get paying work.
Additionally, we at the 48 Hour Film Project have set up an arrangement whereby if we're able to earn money by distributing your film, you will receive a portion of that money. We believe our arrangement is fair and equitable. As you may know, the market for short films is nearly non-existent. However, we do garner more interest in our films because of the 48-hour concept and the fact that they are part of a bigger collection. So, while folks have lots of fun doing the 48 Hour Film Project, they don't make lots of money.
17. Who judges the films?
In each city we gather a group of film and video professionals to serve as our judges.
These judges generally have extensive experience within the field. We require these judges to be fair and impartial. Our judges donate their time and talent to rate the films. In addition to determining the winner they also select a number of other awards. The judges on the national/international level have included actors such as Julianne Moore, directors such as Simon West (Con Air), and editors such as Thelma Schoonmaker (Raging Bull, The Departed).
But no matter how careful we are in selecting our judges, judging itself is extremely subjective. So many times, two regarded critics feel markedly differently about the same film—remember the long debate between Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert about Apocalypse Now; remember Pauline Kael's ambivalent review of Star Wars. Similarly, on many occasions our favorite 48 Hour Film Project film of the year has not even won its city. When it comes to evaluating art, a lot comes down to matters of taste.
18. Can I or my organization be a sponsor?
Of course! Email Mark Ruppert, our Founder, to express interest.
19. Does the maximum length of the film include credits?
No. Your film may be 7 minutes long plus 1 minute of credits.
20. Are credits in the beginning permissible?
Opening credits are allowed. They do not count against the credit time limit. However, they do count against the 7 minutes of film. Remember, the audience is here to watch, not read.
21. Are we allowed to have footage under our closing credits?
Yes, however, the narrative must end before the closing credits begin. So outtakes, Ferris-Bueller-like antics, or bonus scenes are allowed. But if we removed the credits, the movie should still feel complete.
22. Can I film outside of my city?
Absolutely! The only requirements are that you have a representative from your team at the Kickoff and that you deliver your film to the Dropoff. Other than that, it's up to you. We've had teams shoot hundreds of miles away from their host city. We've even had a Boston team upload footage from Panama!
23. Are stock footage and photos allowed?
Stock film and video footage is prohibited, except as part of a special effects filter. However, if you have the rights to them, then stock photos are permitted. In other words, you may use photos not taken during the 48 hour time period. Note that photos cannot be used in sequence to create the illusion of motion.
24. Is animation allowed?
Yes. However—while you may use still drawings created before the Project—you may not use sequences of drawings created before the Project to create the illusion of motion. Using existing images and 3D objects is permissible, provided that you have full and permanent rights to them. Again, only animation created during the 48 hour period is allowed. And, as with a live action film, you must have all rights to the animation you submit.
25. What about special effects? What's allowed?
You may use special effects that involve any of the allowed elements that you have rights to: still photographs, footage shot during the 48 hours, or footage rendered during the 48 hours. You may also use stock footage if it is part of a post-production effect or on a background screen or television and the stock footage is placed over or under footage that is shot within the 48 hours. Stock footage of people or other performers is not allowed.
26. May we include our logo that was made before the filmmaking weekend?
Yes, provided that it begins the film and is shorter than five seconds long. Note that the logo does count against the 7 minute running time of the film.
27. Should we shoot in HD? Should we shoot in widescreen? Should we use surround sound?
Unless you are otherwise notified, your film will be shown in Standard Definition in stereo or mono. So you may shoot in HD or use surround sound, but the film will generally not be projected that way. Please make sure that you adhere to the format requirements found on your city page.
28. Do I need to subtitle my film?
No. However, if the judges in your city cannot understand your film, they are less likely to give it awards.
29. My file doesn't fit on my flash drive. What do I do?
It might be that you've got the drive formatted for the wrong file system. Generally drives come formatted with the FAT32 file system, which cannot store files larger than 2GB. If you're on a Mac, format your drive to Mac OS X Extended (Journaled). If you're on a PC, format your drive to NTFS.
30. Have any of the movies been shot on film?
Yes. Three 48HFP movies were shot at least partially on film stock. These teams had connections with labs that enabled them to develop the film and transfer it to one of our accepted formats in the 48 hour time period. We were quite impressed!
31. Does every team member have to sign the Team Leader's Agreement?
No, only the team leader needs to sign it. However, everyone who works on the film must sign the Liability Waiver form. See the production documents page for more details.
32. What's a logline?
We ask you to provide a logline for your film on the Wrap Up Form. Read more about loglines here.
33. Can we submit a faxed release form?
Yes, if you are working with someone out of town, can they fax or email you the release form? Please include a paper copy of the faxed or emailed release form with the rest of your paperwork.
34. How do we document public domain or royalty-free music and photos?
Have the person who has the rights to the music or materials sign the release form. In the case of royalty-free materials, this is the person who purchased them. In the case of public domain materials, this could be anyone on the team. Please also include documentation that shows your rights to the music or materials, such as a license, a purchase receipt, or a statement by the author.
35. Is music or materials from Creative Commons allowed?
You may use Creative Commons music or materials that are Attribution Only. If the Creative Commons license is either Non-Commercial or Sharealike, it is not compatible with the 48 Hour Film Project's Team Leader's Agreement and therefore cannot be used.
36. Do I need a Location Release to shoot on public property?
No, but you may need a permit. We do not require you to prove to us that you received a permit, but you may be stopped from shooting or even fined if you do not have one. Please check with your local film commissioner.
37. Can I get a copy of my submitted film and/or paperwork?
Yes, copies of the release forms and/or film may be requested by the team leader—or an individual release form by a team participant. To request a copy, please send a letter with your name, team name, the film name, the city, the year, and a check made out to the 48 Hour Film Project (to cover our costs). The check should be for $75 if you want just the paperwork, $100 if you want just the film, or $150 if you want both the film and the paperwork. Send these to:
The 48 Hour Film Project
Attn: Archive Request
PO Box 40008
Washington, DC 20016 USA
38. Can the required character be heard instead of seen?
No, we must actually see the required character in some way on the screen. Just being audible off screen - like on the other end of a phone conversation - does not count. Remember, he/she need not be the star of the film, just make an appearance.
39. Does the required character have to say his name or wear a name tag?
As long as the audience can infer who the character is, he/she doesn't need to be further identified.