Lights, camera … Kansas: 48-Hour Film Challenge celebrates the Sunflower State

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K-State's Annual 48-Hour Film Challenge Red Carpet event was held at Town Hall in Leadership Studies. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

The annual 48-hour Film Challenge shifted back to the big screen in person at Kansas State after premiering virtually this past year, and student filmmakers were ready to bring their A-game.

The theme of this year’s festival was inspired by the Gordon Parks exhibit at the Beach Museum of Art, which highlights the unexpected beauty and opportunity of rural Kansas.

Students were given 48 hours to create a 2-6 minute short film featuring a specific prop, setting and line. This year, the required elements took the form of sunflower seeds, an iconic Manhattan mural and the line “there’s no place like home,” respectively.

Jackson Berland, junior in theatre and graphic design, said this focus presented exciting conceptual opportunities for his group’s film “Sun Seeds.”

“In any culture that you find yourself in, especially this midwest culture in which you learn to make your own fun, there’s a phenomenon of the above-ground versus the underground,” Berland said. “Our film became a tale of the protagonist’s adventure into the underground — away from the Kansan world she knows — and then back.”

(Photo courtesy of Dawson Wagner)
Jackson Berland filming Breanna Palmer for their film, "Sun Seeds." (Photo courtesy of Dawson Wagner)

Time management was a key skill for contestants to cultivate during their 48 hours. Conflicting schedules on the catch-all weekend after spring break presented an obstacle for many groups. Taylor Stevens, junior in strategic communications, said that delegation was a major help for her seven-person team.

“We had one person go to the kick-off event and collect the information we needed, and then part of the group started to create a script,” Stevens said. “After classes got out on Friday, we filmed everything, and then on Saturday, a couple of members of the group put it all together.”

Berland’s group also found success in dividing creative labor between members. He said this improved both efficiency and artistry.

“We basically had two crews working at the same time: we had a filming crew, and then a kind of art department composed of two really gifted people,” Berland said. “We all would get so excited to find out what [the art department] came up with while we were shooting. Seeing the miniature processes of creation and execution that were going on in the middle of this overall project was such a gift.”

(Photo courtesy of Dawson Wagner)
Jackson Berland filming Breanna Palmer for their film, "Sun Seeds." (Photo courtesy of Dawson Wagner)

While the $200 cash prize was no shabby motivation, many participants found fulfillment enough in the camaraderie and skill development that accompanied such a challenge. Maxwell Lansdowne, junior in communication studies, said that a cohesive group made all the difference.

“Our team worked together really well,” Lansdowne said. “Everyone was getting along, and no one seemed to be focused on the pressure of time or scheduling. It ended up going as smoothly as you could hope.”

Developing a strong plot, cast, script, score and set for a short film are difficult tasks on their own. Consolidating this process into 48 caffeine-fueled hours led by groups of college students makes successful final submissions even more of an accomplishment. Berland said that ultimately, the trickiest part was cutting down all of his team’s work to a six-minute product.

“What could have been ten-minute scenes were cut down to forty seconds,” Berland said. “Squeezing everything down to six minutes was the hardest part, but that’s the nature of the festival: you put something together and throw it out, and whatever sticks, sticks.”

Dakota Cherney, junior in journalism and mass communications, said that the time limit was a challenge for his team as well.

“It’s hard to leave your audience feeling like the film was complete and not just the beginning of something, in two to six minutes,” Cherney said.

I Am Home,” the film submitted by Cherney’s team, The Crew, won first place in the festival. Despite none of the four-team members having participated in a challenge like this before, The Crew finished their submission early Saturday morning with time to spare. Their film used the prompts to touch on sensitive, relevant subjects like housing insecurity among college students.

(Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)
Jessica Ramirez (left) and Dakota Cherney (right), members of the team "The Crew," won the 2022 48-Hour Film Challenge with their film "I Am Home." (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

“Honestly, the most enjoyable part for me was hearing it announced that our film won first place,” Cherney said. “I was a little nervous: the other films were really great, but when they announced that we had won, it made that 48 hours of very little sleep and a lot of Redbull feel so worth it.”

Second place went to the Rhinestoneless Cowboys with their audience-voted favorite film, “Seeds.” More films and information about the Challenge are available through the K-State 48 Film Challenge Twitter Account.

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