The Summer Meltdown 48-Hour Film Festival: A Heated Competition

Try making a five-minute film in two days.

Two days is plenty of time to do a lot of things: Run a marathon, eat a sandwich, and still have plenty of time to spare. And then there are those endeavors for which 48 hours seems like a near-impossible restriction — like writing a thesis, knitting a sweater, or producing a short film. But the masterminds behind Battle Stache Studios and Oaktown Indie Mayhem, two Oakland-based media production companies, believe the latter is entirely possible, so they’re pitting filmmakers against the clock with the Summer Meltdown 48-Hour Film Festival.

Filmmakers are invited to the Shattuck Muse (6525 Shattuck Ave., Oakland) on Friday, July 29, at 8 p.m., where they will be given a prop, a line of dialogue, and a theme before being thrust back out into the world and charged with producing a cohesive short film (under five minutes long) in two short days. The top flicks will premier at a pair of screenings in August, where the comedic Battle Stache trio of Colin Johnson, Brian Quakenbush, and Joshua Han will present each film through a series of live award show-style parodies, awarding cash prizes to the winners.

A lot can go wrong in filmmaking — especially under a restrictive deadline. Computers crash, procrastination sets in. Johnson said the average five-minute film can take months to perfect, absent a clear vision. But sometimes a tight deadline can be a motivating factor. “It’s all about finding the narrative simplicity and rolling with it,” he said. “A good solid team can bust something out in 24 hours if the concept is there.”

But films that fail to incorporate the requisite props, or those submitted even minutes late, will be nixed. Johnson, the type of guy whose every word borders on hilarity, sounds pretty serious about the rules. He said the organizers are allowing no “wiggle room” in the competition. “When you’re dealing with such a strict timetable, you can’t really afford to skimp on the principles of it.”

The aim of the festival, according to festival co-organizer Sarah Sexton of Oaktown Indie Mayhem, is generating exposure for and networks among local artists and filmmakers. “We’re really working to forge a network of performers, crossing boundaries between age, cultures, and art styles,” she said. The two groups have supported each other’s individual projects for the past couple of years, but Summer Meltdown is their first collaboration.

“A 48-hour film festival is the ultimate endurance test,” Johnson said. “The only thing that’s really more intense than the brutal intensity of a 48-hour production is the satisfaction of what came out of that chaos.” And Johnson should know. As a film student at Eastern Washington University, he participated in a handful of similar challenges. “So I’ve seen both ends of it,” Johnson said. “I’ve lived and learned, and I’m going to take that experience and turn it into the weirdest and most unique 48-hour film fest in the galaxy.”

Preview performance and screening at Shotwell Studios (3252A 19th St., San Francisco) on Friday, August 12 (9 p.m., $12). Official awards ceremony at Subterranean Arthouse (2179 Bancroft Way, Berkeley) on August 13 (8 p.m., $15). or

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