Depth of Focus

Photo by Brent Fleury

Photo by Brent Fleury

When the Blue Ridge Community College team won Best Film and Best Credits in Asheville’s 48 Hour Film Project this year, they were a little surprised.

It wasn’t that their film, Serial Love, didn’t deserve it. It’s just that they’d barely gotten it turned in on time, thanks to a series of mishaps. Expectations were also low because they hadn’t won anything last year, despite thinking that the submission was their finest of all three years. And every year, in the midst of a stressful, sleep-deprived weekend of filmmaking, they swear they’ll never do it again.

“It’s a bit like childbirth,” says Jennifer Treadway, director and head of the drama department at BRCC. “At the time it can seem terrible. We say we’ll never do it again. But then a month later, we’re asking ‘When do we do it again?'”

So, who knows? When they make a new film for the upcoming invitational shootout (recently rescheduled from this month to January 2009), they might have a good chance among the international competition.

Next time, at the very least, they’ll be sure to double check their DVD submission and turn it in extra early….

The Setup

The 48 Hour Film Project is a worldwide event in which teams of amateur filmmakers create a movie in 48 hours. Teams compete against other local teams, and the winner of Best Film goes on to compete in an annual invitational.

All at once, teams are given a genre and specific elements that must appear in the movie, and then they have to go to work. No advance scriptwriting or filming is allowed — everything must be done within that 48-hour time span.

This year’s festival in Asheville featured the following elements:

Character: Chuck or Chelsea Raynal.

Prop: An ashtray

Line of dialogue: “Is that all you’ve got to say?”

In an interesting twist, four members of the BRCC team weren’t even in Asheville when the elements were announced. Their team members drew the comedy genre at the kickoff event at Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company and then called the travelers, who had driven to Greensboro to pick up a former BRCC student and team member.

Two of those on the road, Treadway and Katie Winkler, were the founders and leaders of the team. Perhaps more importantly, Winkler, an English professor at BRCC, is the lead writer. And so, on the four-hour drive back to Flat Rock, she began writing the screenplay.

The Race Is On

What Winkler and her fellow writers came up with was a story about a magician, his lovely assistant, his jealous wife, and her lover. It’s a comedy alright, but it could have been a murder suspense, or a horror movie.

“We wanted to make it Monty Python bloody,” Winkler says. “You know, blood everywhere.”

But that changed when the team decided on a location to film their twisted flick — a team member’s in-laws were out of town for the weekend, and their luxury home provided the perfect backdrop for the successful magician’s home. But they weren’t going to be able to splatter fake blood all over the expensive walls and floors.

As soon as Winkler and the others got back to Flat Rock, everyone got right down to business. The script had to be fine-tuned once the writers saw the set. Actors had to memorize lines. Everything had to be filmed. Then, everything had to be edited. Finally, the end product had to be burned onto a DVD and driven to the Asheville Pizza Company by the deadline. All within 48 hours.

“What I love about it is you have to learn to work together as a team,” Winkler says. “You have to take people at a stressful time, and you have to handle yourself.”

A Small Problem

For some reason, film editor Tabitha Nowak thought she ought to doublecheck the DVD she had just burned. Treadway, Winkler, and some others were already driving up Interstate 26 to Asheville, and had even left two hours early.

When Nowak put the disc in a player, she was horrified — it didn’t work! She quickly called Treadway and told her to test the DVD they were about to submit to the judges. Fortunately, Treadway had a laptop with her, but unfortunately, her copy didn’t work either.

Some team members in another car turned around and went back to Flat Rock to get a new copy. Treadway and Winkler went ahead to Asheville.

When the car bearing Serial Love finally arrived at Asheville Pizza Company, they only had minutes left. That’s when they encountered gridlock as a crowd of contestants filed into the parking lot. Two team members who were smoking outside noticed their delivery car stalled — and ran to the rescue. They passed the film off to one another, relay style, and ran it into the restaurant.

The final countdown had begun — 10, 9, 8…

“As soon as I heard them counting down, here comes the film,” Treadway says. “I think I collapsed on a nearby pinball machine.” Watch Serial LoveThis year’s Best Film and winner of Best Credits at the 48 Hour Film Project in Asheville, Serial Love, can be viewed on Simply type in the title, and press play.A previous submission by the Blue Ridge Community College team, Copy Cops, can be viewed at

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