The 48 Hour Film Project brought dozens of local teams of aspiring filmmakers to Cinemagic in Hooksett for the screening of their short films Wednesday. (Ryan O'Connor/Union Leader Correspondent)
HOOKSETT — Susan Jamback had been waiting all her life for the opportunity to make it on the big screen.
It came this past weekend, when she and her sister, Lynne Richards, joined forces to create a dark comedy as part of the New Hampshire 48 Hour Film Festival, which brought 26 teams of locals together to compete for an opportunity to represent the Granite State at the international Filmapalooza competition in Hollywood.
“I’ve been doing this for five years, and my sister joined us for the first time this year and immediately took on the starring role,” said Jamback.
Richards countered: “I was immediately killed. I had one line.”
“So we worked out our sibling rivalry on the big screen,” replied Jamback.
Like the Grafton sisters, many teams of friends, family and acquaintances gathered across New Hampshire last weekend to film 4- to 7-minute short films of random genres, each of which was shown on the big screen at Cinemagic in Hooksett Wednesday night.
“I’d definitely say the quality of films from this year’s group was significantly higher than in years past,” said New Hampshire producer Dan Greenleaf. “You can see teams that do it year after year are getting better and raising the bar and stepping up to meet the challenge of creating these films.”
Greenleaf, in his first year overseeing the competition, said this is the first year each Granite State film was submitted within the 48-hour window.
More impressive still is the fact that 60 percent of the participants are amateurs, said Greenleaf, a former entrant himself.
“One of the things I think a lot of people think is that this is really for professional filmmakers, but it’s amazing the number of folks who have no real professional experience in filmmaking, who just get together for and enjoy making films,” he said. “It’s something everyone is welcome to participate in.”
“None of us are professional,” said Jambak of her team of seven. “None of us have ever been in plays. None of us have any training of any kind, and we just do it because it’s the most fun weekend we have all year long ... but we’re not giving up our day jobs just yet.”
Dan Picard of Manchester is in his fourth year participating. He began as a member of a crew and just completed his second effort as team leader. He said each year presents new challenges and rewards.
This year, for instance, Picard said he began with a five-member crew and five actors. However, scheduling conflicts among teammates forced him to film and edit on his own with a whittled group of three actors.
“I love doing film. I love everything about film, and this was just a great outlet for me to be able to do something quick and dirty over a weekend, get some friends together and put something out that we can actually see on the big screen,” he said. “And it helps because when we come back next year, we’ll say, ‘Oh, this is something we should have done differently.’ It’s a great learning experience.”
Benjamin Peirce is in his sixth year with the competition. He said he and his 12 teammates were excited to draw dark comedy this year and worked until 6 a.m. the first night bouncing ideas off one another and writing a script. They reconvened at 3 p.m. and filmed until 2 a.m., and then spent the rest of the time editing.
“Every year we get a little bit better, and all the other films get a little bit better,” he said. “Every year you learn a little bit from the year before about how to make it a little easier, and a little more fun and a little bit less work.
He added, “Every year I’m just so blown away by the generosity that people have with their time in just coming out and throwing their inhibitions away and be willing to do things they would not be willing to do on a daily basis, just for the heck of it, just because you asked them to.”
Those very factors — fun, camaraderie and personal sacrifice — it seemed, were the universal components to each team’s experience. “I had the most fun I’ve had in a very long time, and I did things that I might regret,” said Richards. “It was something I never thought I’d do, but I loved the creative part of it, the sort of thinking it through, coming up with things on the fly, trying to figure out what would be funny and how you could say it in a different way. All in all, it was a great experience.” The “Best Of Screening” will take place on Thursday, July 24 at 7 p.m. at Cinemagic in Hooksett. The wrap party follows at 9:30 that night at the Tap House Grille.
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