Running time

Though many people trained in creative fields are making their livings carrying trays, Joseph Nilo is actually working in his medium of choice: film. As project manager at local Bclip Productions, Nilo clearly loves what he does, and raves that the company supports its employees’ after-hours endeavors.

But, like most nine-to-fivers, Nilo often finds it hard to get motivated to put late-night time into his art. At the end of a long day at the office, he’d rather watch videos than make them.

“This is an excuse to not have that excuse,” enthuses Nilo, who’s referring to the 48 Hour Film Project — an international competition where professional and amateur teams alike compete to craft short (7 minutes maximum) movies, racing to beat not just each other but the ticking clock.

The fine art of blood seepage

Nilo heads up a team called “After Five.” For two days — from 7 p.m. Friday, July 22 until 7 p.m. Sunday, July 24 — After Five members can’t morph into couch potatoes following work. Instead, Bclip will allow this team to use the company’s professional equipment and whatever expertise they’ve garnered on the job to craft what they hope will be a winning film.

“We’re mostly corporate,” Nilo says of his work with Bclip. “We don’t really do documentaries or that sort of thing, so if we get to do horror — have zombies and blood seeping — that would be fun.”

Here’s the catch: The teams can prepare as much as they want in advance, but no one knows what genre they’ll be working in till 15 minutes before the competition begins. Past genres, drawn at random, have included mockumentary, comedy, romance, mystery, and superhero. “In addition, all teams are given a character, prop and line of dialogue that must appear in each film,” explains the rules posted on the contest’s Web site,

For last year’s competition in Greensboro, N.C., Asheville’s Bonesteel Films was assigned the apparently coveted horror category, and won overall Runner Up for their film Detached.

This time around, Bonesteel is acting as production sponsor for the regional branch of the film project, debuting July 26 and 27 in Asheville. Other worldwide locations this year include Boston, Los Angeles, London, and Sydney.

It’s all about air time

The 48 Hour Film Project got its start in Washington, D.C., four years ago. “The idea originated with two friends … Mark Ruppert and Liz Langston, who wanted to provide an outlet for creative people to harness the power of digital-video technology,” reveals an article in the Christian Science Monitor. “Mr. Ruppert had seen the 24-Hour Plays in New York [a 10-year-old event where plays are composed in a single day], and the two hoped to translate that idea to film.”

In 2004, the project took place in 11 cities, and this year, the list is close to 30 locations, including Asheville.

“Two years ago, I’d wanted to make up my own contest,” admits Katie Kasben, a producer of the local event. “I knew about the 48 Hour thing, but I thought, let’s make our own.”

But before Kasben could go solo, she was called into a meeting with Paul Bonesteel and others about bringing the global event to local filmmakers.

The winner goes on to a national competition, Kasben explains. The five winners there enter a showdown where they compete for a high-definition film camera. And on the home front, whatever films take the local prize — 25 professional and amateur groups are competing, including Ironwood Media Group and our own Xpresso Productions — will be shown at Bele Chere, and at the Asheville Film Festival this fall. “They’re going to get a lot of air time,” Kasben notes.

Meaning, she says, that winning isn’t everything. “This is more about bringing people together where they can experience filmmaking, where they’re guaranteed a showing.”

Have camera, will travel

Last year, the Bonesteel team had to drive six hours round trip to compete — the travel time eating significantly into their 48 hours, of course. “We drew our genre at 7 p.m. on Friday,” remembers Evan Schafer, who edited the movie. “On the car ride from Greensboro, we developed our story. We called the actors and actresses we’d lined up.”

The five-member group started working at 9 a.m. on Saturday, shooting until 11 that night. Then Schafer went to work editing the film at 4 a.m. Sunday morning, finishing up in time for the six-hour drive back to Greensboro. “It was really the 36-hour film project for us,” he jokes.

The editor admits to being “a little disappointed we’re not [competing] this year.” He, too, intones that “it’s not about winning.” Schafer decides “it’s about having fun.”

Part of Bonesteel’s job this year is to take all the tapes the teams bring in and transfer the films to a DVD, to be shown at Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company.

But that part of it — the finished product — is still a long way off. For now, hopefuls can do little but dream about the film they’ll shoot once those elusive genres are announced.

“My job is to score music,” Nilo reveals. “So if [we’re assigned] a musical, that could be really interesting.

“A few nights ago, we sat around over drinks thinking about some locations. We need to be really pre-planned, because once the clock starts, we won’t have time to sit around for 10 hours brainstorming.”

For more information on the 48 Hour Film Project, visit or The films screen at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on Tuesday, July 26, and at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Wednesday, July 27, at Asheville Pizza & Brewing Company (675 Merrimon Ave.). Tickets are $5/showing. 254-1281.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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