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Buffalo 48 Hour Film Project includes MIA Film Fest in 2017

This Friday, August 19th, will be the kick-off for this year’s annual 48-Hour Film Project.

Unfamiliar with the 48-Hour Film Project? That’s ok, most people are. Let’s me summarize it briefly: the average Hollywood feature film takes about 6-8 months to film, edit, and finalize. The average 30-minute sitcom on TV takes about 5-7 days per episode to film, edit, and finalize.

In the 48-Hour Film Project competing teams have two days to write, film, edit, and finalize a four to seven minute film. To some, this might sound easy. To others, insane.

This year marks the eleventh year that the project is happening in Buffalo. As one of the largest film festivals in the world, Buffalo is just one of 130 cities worldwide participating in the ‘48’ but as an international competition, the ‘48’ has a standard set of rules each team must abide by. At the kick-off event on Friday, a representative from each Buffalo based team will draw at random a choice of two genres of film that they have to create. Genres are sorted into two categories, and paired between each category. For example, a team might draw “Musical or Western,” while another team might draw, “Silent Film or Science Fiction.” The film the team makes, and submits must represent one of the genres they randomly selected. Furthermore, each community is given a set of ‘elements’ that also must be included in the film, including a specific prop, a specific line of dialogue, and a specific character.

The film judged to be the best from each city goes on to Filmapalooza 2018, and the overall top ten winners from all cities will be shown at the Cannes International Film Festival.

I had an opportunity recently to discuss the festival, and what is new this year with Buffalo’s participation in the 48 with Jordan Lema, the City Producer for the 48-Hour Film Project here in Buffalo. Lema is new to the position of City Producer, but is a long time veteran competitor in the 48-Hour Film Project with multiple regional awards from the films he has created.

“I’ve competed ten or eleven times in 48-Hour competitions over the years, then this opportunity came up, and I thought, well, who would be a better person to be a city producer, because I do love it so much,” Lema explained of his transition from competitor to producer. “It’s a total flip of the switch,” he continued, “it’s a fierce competition, and now I’m on everyone’s team trying to make it the best competition that it can be. That’s how I win.”

In an effort to make it the best competition that it can be, Lema has teamed up with longtime creative colleague Robby Takac, and the Music Is Art Festival in order to add some new, and unique elements to the ‘48’ here in Buffalo.

“I’ve known Robby Takac for many years from a visual performance project I worked on for his band. He has been a great benefactor, and working with him was the most incredible thing I could have imagined.”

As part of the expansion of the ‘48’, Lema will be teaming up with other creative talents to bring the element of film, and film presentation to the Music Is Art festival, taking place at Buffalo Riverworks on September 9th.

Lema expanded on the connection, and collaboration between the ‘48’ and MIA Festival, “Music Is Art is all things Western New York performance wise, especially music, but they’ve never had film. This kind of completes that circuit for them now that they have an area for a Film Festival… Buffalo Riverworks gives us some unique spaces. We’re taking the locker rooms at Riverworks which can seat 30-35 people, maybe more, and turning them into small theaters. So if people want to take a break, they can come into an air conditioned theater, and spend some time seeing films created during the 48-Hour Film Project.”

The collaboration with Takac, and the Music Is Arts Festival also opens up more options for the filmmakers of the 48-Hour Film Project.

“With the collaboration, we would love to have Music is Art musicians send in their music so that we could have a library for filmmakers to use. So if you’re a musician or have a band, and you want to see your music in a film, this would be an opportunity where you could send your music to, and include how you want to be credited in the film and we’d make a library for the film makers and they’d be able to pick and choose for their films.” Lema detailed as part of his initiatives to make Buffalo’s ‘48’ more compelling for other artistic groups to get involved in. “There are awards for songs. You could have your song in a film and then win an award. That would be cool too. There’s a blanket award for best music and that’s a pretty cool thing to win. And it’s big for the film makers too because that’s always a problem. Obviously they can’t use copyrighted music so to have pre-signed-off  music, that’s another tool in the toolbox to make great films.”

Lema is also looking for a little help from past competitors from the Buffalo 48-Hour Film Project to assemble a reel of the best films of the past competitions.

“I can really use everyone’s help out there, if you were a past 48-hour producer from 11 years ago, maybe it wasn’t online yet, or maybe it got put on YouTube and no one knows where the link is, please get at me at that would really be amazing to get some of those older films.”

In addition to a theater showing 48-Hour Film Project entries from the past 11 years of competition, other theaters include Bill Cowell’s Buffalo Film Festival, John Renna’s (film maker –  Johnny Gruesome) Horror film marathon, an Everything Buffalo theater showing Buffalo documentaries, and art films, and a haunted theater showing thrillers, and horror films from Terror Technologies.

As for the ‘48’ a screening of all of the competing films will be held at the North Park Theatre, August 26th and 27th at 11:30AM.

Registration is still open for teams looking to join in on the 48-Hour Film Project for 2017. Details can be found on the competition’s city web-page at

On August 15th, Lema is hosting a casting call event for those who are looking to join a team already registered for the 48-Hour Film Project. Join other ‘48’ teams at 6:30 at the Salumeria Belsito and see how you can help a team create their 48-Hour Film. Event details can be found here:

Written by Paul Fanara

Paul Fanara

Paul Fanara is a photographer, writer, and artist living in Buffalo, New York. He founded Living In The Buff Studio as his photography label in 2007, after being an active photographer for over 20 years. Now, in his tenth year of professional photography, he has expanded his talents, and interests to include film-making, and acting. Paul is currently the event photographer for the Community in Buffalo, is an active journalist in Buffalo, and published monthly in Act Dance Model Sing Magazine, based in Los Angeles. Currently, he has joined local film makers with the 48-Hour Film Project, and now writes, directs, and acts with the Buffalo Filming Group, "Welcome to Lovejoy." Find him on-line at

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