Get Uncomfortable: A 48-Hour Film Project Report

I got an email from my friend, Mike Fleisch, a couple weeks ago inviting a group of friends to do a 48-hour film. Or something like that. Between work and a baby at home, I don’t have a lot of attention span left. It sounded cool, but I wasn’t sure I could square much time for it.

But it turns out that the 48-Hour Film Project is a real thing. Last weekend, 28 teams in Cincinnati made a film in 48 hours. That is, they got assignments on Friday evening (genre, a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue you must use). They had until Sunday evening to write, shoot, edit, and output everything related to their 4-7 minute film. Want some music in your film? You’ll have to record that sometime over the weekend.

It’s a crazy project. I’ll try to show up for crazy. I got over to the meet-up around 8 p.m. and spent the next 7 hours spinning story ideas that met the requirements (drama, a magician named Tom Rococo, a fan, and “What have you done for me lately?”). We also talked about what we’d been up to. One of our crew gave a poetry reading the week before, and we’ve done a Poem Depot type thing at Northside’s Second Saturdays a couple times (watch the video). Mike knew a magician. That was our start.

“The magician and the poet” suddenly became completely understandable as our main characters. We talked about who they were, pitched backstories, looked for conflict and decision points, what happens. Then we split off for 15 minutes and individually wrote up a story outline with these two characters. They had things in common and divergences. It got late, and several people had to head home. The three of us still there at 2 a.m. quartered some sheets from a legal pad and described the main scenes. Our story had a plan.

Seven hours later we were filming the first scene. As we shot, and crew members came and went, the story changed. We’d forget to shoot a connecting scene before an actor left, or we’d realize while filming that we wouldn’t have time to use much-if-any of that scene. When one plot point changed, it changed others too. As the story developed, we could see the story’s climax better and steer toward the strongest version of it we could find.

The critical final scenes were shot Saturday night, but I wasn’t there. I was home with the dude while my dear wife went out with some friends. I’d volunteered to try to create some music and planned to do that while the dude was sleeping. I’d heard Eliza Rickman at Chase Public (the crew’s space) recently. She played solo but accompanied herself with a loop pedal. I thought I’d try to do something similar in Garageband.

It turns out I only had an hour to work. Dude’s been teething, so he woke up upset and couldn’t get settled enough again to be put down. I was able to record one repeated bass-like vocal line, doubled (two recordings of the same notes). For percussion I tapped on a glass jar with a wooden spoon and added a shush from rubbing two of the dude’s wooden puzzle pieces together. It was about 40 seconds long.

In the morning I edited down the takes, picking parts that kept the beat the best. I looped them out so that the total “song” was about 1:30. I also saved versions with just the glass jar, and just the glass jar and puzzle pieces. Between all the parts, hopefully there were usable bits. Here’s the “music” I made:

I send the files to Mike, and my work on the project was done. Other stuff happened, Mike did an enormous amount of editing, and the film got turned in under the deadline. (Cue exhausted sigh.) I’m not a “film guy,” and I’m not close to turning to a life of film. That’s why it was a great project to join. On the next blog post, thoughts on short-order creative projects.


Libraries buy books. Sometimes they’re digital.

I’ve been visiting libraries with our E-Reader Sandbox program, introducing the devices and ways to use them. When we get to the section on checking out ebooks from the Ohio Ebook Project, I see lots of frowns when I describe the waiting lists for some titles. At the moment, for example, there are 163 patrons on the waiting list for The Help, even though the page shows that the library has 108 copies. “It’s just like with books,” someone says.

But They’re Digital

People know that the ownership model isn’t the only option when it comes to digital files. I don’t know much of anything about Netflix’s inner workings, but I know they don’t have to buy a “copy” of each TV episode I want to stream. They have licensing agreements in place. No one has to wait for me to finish watching Mr. Bean “eat” steak tartar to watch it themselves. I’m not interested in those licensing agreements (unless one ends and I lose access to content I like). As long as it just works, that’s all I need to know.

If patrons are confused about the way ebooks and libraries work in this regard, it’s not necessarily naiveté. Maybe they think of ebooks like text files that can be duplicated endlessly with a simple keystroke. But maybe they’re thinking of other access models. Count me among the crowds who would like ebook access to newly-released titles to be as open as works in the public domain hosted at Archive.org. How should I know that the library’s access doesn’t work like that?

Welcome to the Real World

That kind of access is a pipe dream, but ebook licensing is among a number of library functions that often take place invisibly. Sometimes invisibility is good. As a patron, I can ask for a book at the counter and it’s handed to me, or it’s put on hold and delivered to my branch, or the library considers purchasing it. Maybe Inter-Library Loan deserves its own episode of “Modern Marvels,” but on a daily basis, that process’s invisibility is fine with me.

Conflicts arise when people have expectations that aren’t met. “I have to wait behind 163 people? Wait, 164? I thought I could just download it now.” We can help people set their expectations by educating them before they’re disappointed. Tell your patrons how ebook lending works, and make that part of your pitch. When Kindle-format ebooks came to Overdrive, libraries quickly sent out the word on their websites and Facebook pages. “Now available” was true, but it only told part of the story.

Limited availability is bad news in some sense, but it’s also important news. When you read a Black Friday ad, it’s important to find the footnote that reads “Minimum 2 per store.” You’d probably prefer that number to be 500, but you’d definitely want to avoid waiting in line all night to be the thirtieth person to find the item’s out of stock.

Libraries buy books. Sometimes they’re digital.

Maybe this six-word summary doesn’t say enough to communicate the essential message, and maybe it doesn’t accurately describe your system. Find the simplest explanation you can. Use a footnote if necessary. Whatever explanation you use, you’ll need to use it a lot, in lots of locations: your website, your Facebook wall, your entryway hall. Find ways to keep the message fresh. You don’t want to bore people who have seen the message twenty times already, but you don’t want to miss the patron who’s finally coming to see what the ebook buzz is about.

Create your own documentation on the topic and keep linking to it. Don’t rely on Overdrive’s site to explain it. Help set patron expectations early and often, and they’ll be better able to move past the bad to the good news about ebook lending.