Making a film in 48 hours - organized chaos, but fun on both sides of the camera

New Hampshire Sunday News
June 08. 2013 9:51PM
Jason Zonay, the camera operator for one of the teams competing in the New Hampshire 48 Hour film festival (SHAWNE K. WICKHAM PHOTO / SUNDAY NEWS)

Wads of cash, bags of cocaine, a crying baby and a cantaloupe. From such humble props, a movie takes shape.

Welcome to the New Hampshire 48 Hour Film Project, a mad-dash romp through the magic of moviemaking. This is the fifth year New Hampshire has held the competition, and 26 teams from across the state signed up.

The New Hampshire Union Leader is a media sponsor of the 48 Hour Film Project. Films will be screened Thursday at Cinemagic in two groups, at 6:30 and 9 p.m. For more, visit

The challenge: Teams have 48 hours to write, film and edit a short movie. On Friday night at Double Midnight Comics, teams were randomly assigned which genre of film they have to create.

Each year, the films have to incorporate a required prop (this year it's a cantaloupe), a character (an IT specialist) and a line of dialogue ("When did this happen?").

The rest is up to the creative inspiration of the teams, who have until 7:30 p.m. tonight to turn in their finished products for judging.

Saturday afternoon, a half-dozen friends met in Ben Peirce's basement on Manchester's East Side. They've worked together before, and by midday, they have a working script and the first set is taking shape.

The team has drawn "mistaken identity" as their film genre, and they're happy with the choice.

Peirce and co-writer P.J. Huot were up all night penning the script, about an indebted gambler named Charlie Price, who has to pick up some cash for the unsavory types to whom he owes money. When he finds himself in an apparent drug den with a dead hooker, Charlie unwittingly ends up calling a bored IT specialist for help instead of the mob's fixer.

Hilarity ensues.

Huot works as the technical director and camera operator for the Manchester Monarchs; he also does some camera work for the Red Sox. He loves the challenge of the 48 Hour Film Project.

"Despite how hard it is and the lack of sleep, it's really, really fun, and it's very rewarding," he said, "especially when everything comes together and you get a really good product out of it and a really good film."

Jay Syrene, the director of photography, studied film at Emerson College. Justin Zonay, the cameraman and editor, is a professional videographer.

There's something about the urgency of having just 48 hours that sparks creativity, Zonay said. "The challenge of it is why we all come and do it," he said. "It's surprisingly doable even though it's undoable."

All the films will be screened Thursday at Cinemagic of Hooksett, where the public gets a chance to vote for the "audience choice" award.

Peirce teaches video production at Southern New Hampshire University, where they planned to shoot a scene Saturday night. His lead actor, Dan Larson, is a self-employed illustrator who got into acting a couple of years ago through the 48 Hour Film Project.

Larson is one of the few team members who got any real sleep Friday night, but he just got the script about an hour ago, and he's trying to memorize his lines.

"Good or bad, succeed or fail, there's a real thrill to sitting in the movie theater," he said. "To actually see something you made up on the big screen is great."

For now, the filming is on hold, awaiting the arrival of Huot's 8-month-old son, Sam, who will play the role of the baby in the film. "We kind of have to wait for him to be done with his nap," Huot explains.

"Such a diva!" Larson complains.

Dominique Delprete, a communications major at Saint Anselm College, is the production coordinator on the film. She met Huot while doing an internship with the Manchester Monarchs, and signed on to help out with the film project.

"It's an organized chaos," she observes. "Once they get started, it kind of goes and the ideas start flowing."

While Syrene is working with Huot and Zonay to block out the shots he wants, Peirce heads upstairs to run through the script with his actors. His two dogs, Fenway and Vada, settle in beside him on the couch.

Kathy Sullivan of Goffstown, who works at an engineering firm, is playing Paula Sangert, the IT specialist who takes Charlie's call. Jacqueline Dubois of Derry, who does marketing for the Tupelo Music Hall, is playing the "dead" hooker who turns out to be not so dead after all.

They all used to work together at the Monarchs, and their participation in the Film Project is a natural outgrowth of their friendship. "Everybody's a wannabe movie star," Sullivan says.

"So where does this take place?" she asks Peirce.

"Where do you think it takes place?" he replies.

"Rhode Island?" she suggests.

"It does feel like Rhode Island, doesn't it," he agrees.

They settle on a name for their film, "Clear the Cache," a play on words that captures the film's conceit.

Around 5 p.m., Huot's wife, Nicole, walks in with baby Sam; he's rested and ready for his close-up.

There's still 26 hours left.


The New Hampshire Union Leader is a media sponsor of the 48 Hour Film Project. Films will be screened Thursday at Cinemagic in two groups, at 6:30 and 9 p.m. For more, visit

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