Film festival organizers believe pandemic restraints will offer creative opportunities

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The 48 Hour Film Challenge was cancelled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Archive Photo by Melanie White | Collegian Media Group)

Creative minds rarely stop imagining new ideas and concepts, even during a global pandemic. The Kansas State 48-Hour Film Challenge hopes to serve as an outlet for student creativity, hosting its first-ever virtual contest.

After the cancellation of the 2020 festival, members of the festival committee said they are excited about student submissions. Rusty Earl, director and video producer for the College of Education, believes pandemic restrictions will push students to think outside the box.

“[Students] can still get together as a team, whether that’s virtually or not,” Earl said. “[They] can still make something really good out of restraint.”

Earl helped organize the festival back in 2016, serving as the committee chair before this year. Katherine Karlin, associate professor of English, will take on the position for this year’s festival.

“I’m convening the committee, but it’s very much a collaborative work,” Karlin said. “I have enjoyed these festivals so much. People come up with such ideas, and we’ve had a lot of genres.”

Thrillers, comedies and horror films are just a few genres Karlin has seen entered in the festival. She loves the range of ideas and the student creativity this event gets to showcase.

Of course, the 48-Hour Film Challenge will look immensely different this year. Past festivals offered workshops, brainstorming sessions and a spectacular ceremony at the Staley School of Leadership announcing the winners.

“It was a big blowout,” Nick Homburg, journalism and mass communications instructor, said. “There was food, we gave away prizes, all kinds of stuff. It was like going to the Emmys.”

The virtual aspect of this year’s festival leaves many things up in the air. Homburg hopes to maintain some of its glamor while adapting to COVID-19 restrictions. Earl brought up the possibility of a hybrid launch, with team captains attending in-person.

“We really like to have [team captains] there in-person where they can ask questions and really kind of flesh out ideas,” Earl said.

“This is still very much a work in progress,” Karlin said. “Up until the end of last semester, we were thinking maybe — fingers crossed — we can go all live.”

When it was announced the first two weeks of classes would be online only, Karlin decided planning a live event wasn’t feasible. Holding the festival over Zoom not only keeps people safe but allows friends and family from all over to attend.

Judges for the event range from local filmmakers to Hollywood producers and editors. Part of Homburg’s role on the committee is finding those judges, reaching out to several interesting contacts.

“I got turned down as much as I got yeses,” Homburg said. “We’ve had judges from other film festivals, you know, big ones like Sundance.”

Committee members also designate specific elements students must incorporate in their films, like phrases, locations and props. Creators who can weave these elements into the story stand a better chance of winning than those who just check them off the list.

The teams of about four to six students have 48 hours after the initial launch to create and upload their films. Judges then view the films, leave critiques and cast their votes. All of the films are then showcased a week later, with audience members voting for their favorite.

Karlin offered some technical advice for students interested in the festival.

“Leave plenty of time for editing,” Karlin said. “That is the most time-consuming and in many ways the most creative part of the process.”

She also urged students to use quality audio equipment. While phones can capture great visuals, they lack the audio equipment needed for a quality film. If necessary, students can sign out equipment from the media resource center.

The 48-Hour Film Challenge is scheduled to kick off Mar. 25, with the final showcase and announcements on Apr. 8. For more information and to reserve a spot, visit the K-State 48 Film Fest website.

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