Your Guide to Madison’s “48 Hour Film Festival”

At 7:00pm tonight, Sundance at Hilldale rolls out two separate screenings for their 48 Hour Film Festival, with each screening boasting a unique blend of shorts from filmmakers all over the Madison area.

For the uninitiated, the 48 Hour Film Festival is a traveling annual competition that hops from city to city. Teams of filmmakers compete to create short films, all within a span of only two days. There’s another catch, too. The festival overlords require teams include predetermined criteria in their shorts, presumably so they can sit back and laugh as writers, directors, musicians, and actors tough through 48 hours of shooting, editing, mixing, and secreting any number of stress-related bodily fluids. This year’s requirements? A) a kleptomaniac by the name of Sinclair or Sylvia Vandermint; B) a pillow; and C) the line “Forget everything I just said.”

As you might imagine, an annual competition attracts a lot of attention from local filmmakers. To make things a little easier, here’s a preview of what you can expect from Madison’s filmmaking scene tonight. We’ve also covered several entries already in our Weekly Shorts series (here here and here), too.

You know what, forget everything I just said and read on:

Nice Melons Films — Last year, co-directors Wil Loper and Dustee Hardy submitted “Down the Hatch,” a pulpy thriller about a missing batch of drugs. If the prospect of Madison renaissance actor Tim Towne as a robotic Amish psychopath isn’t enough, the short’s worth seeing just for a glimpse of Channel 3000’s Rob Starbuck hamming it up. Nice Melons consistently deliver offbeat (and at the very least edgy) films, most recently evidenced in their submission to Milwaukee’s 48 Hour Festival last month. Whatever “Better Off Bread” entails, it’s probably no exception come tonight.

Pelican Media — Originally founded in 1997 in Orlando, Pelican Media’s resume is an extensive one, having worked with clients as diverse as Universal Studios and Seth MacFarlane’s Underdog production company. Last year, director/screenwriter Rick Jacobs took home Audience Favorite in his screening group with “Bleating Heart,” and I see no reason why Pelican couldn’t be another dark horse candidate this year.

North Grant Productions — I’ll admit I don’t know a whole lot about this Southern Wisconsin/Los Angeles hybrid. On the plus side, North Grant Productions already released a teaser trailer for their entry “Preeminent Woman” earlier this week. It’s good to be the queen!

Public Image Media — Founded in 2007, Public Image Media is headed by Greg Kuper, who has a (fantastic) habit of collaborating with Wisconsin indie action buff, Jarrod Crooks. Festival BFFs since 2011, last year’s entry “Bad Rep” won awards for sound design, genre and choreography. For a taste of Crooks’ penchant for impressive action, check out “Bitch Slapped.”

Drywater Productions — Drywater Productions made a huge splash at last year’s festival. “Tripping with the Planketts” absolutely raked, bringing in five awards and finishing as a runner up for Best Film. Consider yourselves warned that this husband-wife production team will clearly stop at nothing to win again this year. Nothing!

The Spinning Gyre — They put themselves on the map in 2011 when their Best Film runner up “A Fairly Normal Love Story” took home awards for character, genre, and writing. The presence of Sarah Hesch sweetens the deal, as the head of Madison’s 4114 Productions has proven herself capable of crafting edgy and sharp content. Look no further than her newly-released web series Chic.

Brian Kaufman — Infinite Panther took home an audience award for their drug-addled dark comedy “Riding the Elephant” last year. They look to continue their obsession with limitless abstract concepts this year as “Infinity Squared.”

Project Famous — The Madison-based collective “Project Famous” is comprised of local performance artists, musicians, face paint enthusiasts, and filmmakers. One of those filmmakers is Ben Wydeven, and if you’ve visited the site in the past two months, there’s a good chance you’re already familiar with the “Quantum of Vengeance” director. The Makeshift Media Group founder first partnered with Randy Lee and Brian Alberth on a country-fried 2009 entry “Southern Discomfort.” This year, he’s teamed up with other Project Famous members (including Joey Broyles and Kelly Lajter) for a horror film entry. Whatever you can make from their teaser trailer for “D,”  it’s safe to assume they’ll bring something… unique to the competition.

Firmament FilmsI was a big fan of their 2011 short “The Seven Year Wish,” and since 2010, Firmament Films have been perennial festival contenders each year. Don’t forget that writer-actor T.C. DeWitt is hilarious and a blast to watch whenever he’s onscreen. If he’s involved in any capacity this year, Firmament Films could have another winner on their hands.

This is still only a portion of the 27 teams in this year’s festival. Check out 48 Hour Film’s Madison page for a complete lineup of who’s playing when.

  • Festival tickets go sale tonight in the Sundance Lobby at 5:00 pm. $12 per screening and cash only.