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Ever wonder what it’s like to make a film? Even a short film…say, five minutes? I’ve always been a little curious and recently I got the chance to experience this process. Last month a flier landed in my lap about The Untethered 48 Hour Film Challenge. In this event, several teams are each given a subject (and random actors) all at once, and then they have 48 hours to go out and create, film, edit and turn in a five minute short film.

On March 19th – 21st four teams competed to create a two-five minute film based off of the characters of untethered. On March 31st they will show the four films and award one of the filmmakers with a copy of Adobe CS4 Production Premium (valued around $1,700) at The Historic University Theater in Seattle, followed by the awards ceremony. The cost is $4 and it is open to the public.

Seems easy enough, right? After all, it’s only a five minute film! As you will discover in this report, there is a LOT that goes into making this challenge work, but with desire, ethic and a serious group of professional action, it can be done. I had no idea what to expect as I was pretty green walking into the film world. Check out what I discovered:

Friday 7:00pm

All teams have met up at Reel Grrrls to not only receive their assignments (subject matter) but to also be introduced to their actors that untethered has provided them with. I will be teamed up with team Look Mean Pictures for the next two days. I have just met director Hugh Berry and the three staff members he has brought with him tonight.

David Reyes and James Tobin are the actors assigned to this project and each comes with a bio on what their character-to-be-played is like. Immediately Hugh begins to size up each of their appearances and discussions about clothing and facial hair start up. The crew is given an open genre to choose from, so they can make any kind of film that they want. A sci-fi, dream style film is what Hugh has in mind. The actors agree on a place and time to meet up tomorrow, what clothes to bring and they are given a basic idea on what the film might be like.


We arrive at a pre-chosen office building that will be the headquarters for this project, located in Redmond, WA. Hugh plans on writing the script (and camera shots) for this film tonight and he already has a title in mind: Data Rapture. He begins to throw scene ideas to two of his staff members as he munches on a pepperoni and swiss sandwich.


Hugh shows the other staff for the night where he wants to create shots for tomorrow. In what will be called “The Moldy Lunchroom,” the crew begins to tint the ceiling lights orange by using two cuts of orange “gel” paper. This is not enough to change the color of the room, so a third cut is made. My face gets used for a color example.

Changing the room color

One thing to mention is that all staff on this project are volunteers (per the rules), many were found via Craigslist and the first hiccup has surfaced as an assistant editor has already backed out of the project.

Next they have to give an entire office (with four desks) a makeover to make it look like a Japanese-themed office by tomorrow. Just before 9:30, Avi is sent out to get some food (Burger King) for the crew and this is where I leave them for the night.

Saturday 9:20am

I guess in my mind I figured that on a project like this, the whole crew works until about two or three in the morning, then is back at it again at around seven the next morning. Well, that was far from the case. According to Hugh, the crew went home just after 11pm and even he went to sleep around 1:30am. He was back up again at about 6:30 and some staff members started trickling back into headquarters after 8:00. He is a little bothered that they are behind schedule because people are running late at this hour; he mentions this several times.

Office before

Office after


It really is astonishing to see how cleaned up and different the office looks, and the new green tint gives it a ghostly look. There are four more staff members running around getting things ready, as well as another actress in Wonder Russell, who is getting makeup work done. Actor David just got the script so he’s busy reading it; actor James isn’t due on set for a couple more hours.

Finally a bunch of us pile into two cars to head out for an outdoor shoot. We go to a portion of The Burke-Gilman trail and along the way I learn that when shooting in High Def, makeup artists have to be very careful with how much makeup they apply to an actor because it all shows up really easy. Because of this, the air brushing technique gets used a lot (think of painting a car, but with way less psi).


We arrive at the shooting site and one thing is noticeable instantly: bad odor. It seems that the site chosen has a couple of Metro sewer manholes right next to us, so the smell of sewer is blending with the morning chill. A much worse issue is that there are a ton of cyclists and runners on this trail, so filming without them in the picture could be tricky. After toying around, the staff has to deliver some bad news to Hugh: the fog machines (for a dream-like effect) are not working. “Are you fucking kidding me?” he says, sounding like a classic director’s response. Even though batteries were charged up all night, there will be no fog for this filming spot and they must move on.


If you have never seen a Steadicam strapped to a human being, it almost looks like a prosthetic. They are using a Panasonice HVX 200 strapped to a ProAim 7000. It took Hugh a long time to get all of the equipment strapped to his body, but after a while he is ready to go. Filming begins and I’m peeking out from behind a tree as Hugh is filming a 360° shot, so we all need to be out of range. Unfortunately, the bike riders are just not stopping and keep getting into the film. Hugh is getting pissed. So we break up into teams to go up and down the trail to try and hold people up. Some oblige, but some ignore us and give an attitude.

Director Hugh Berry

Getting the Steadicam ready

Practicing for the shoot


We are back at the office, getting ready to shoot the office dreamscape version. An Australian fellow, Director of Photography Julian Dahl is on this set and it’s kind of fascinating watching him work. He’s strictly professional, very bold and to the point. He reminds me of Mr. Wolf from Pulp Fiction when he said: “If I\’m curt with you it\’s because time is a factor. I think fast, I talk fast and I need you guys to act fast if you wanna get out of this. So, pretty please… with sugar on top. Clean the fucking car.” He just has that same “do as I say” attitude, but with respect, and his guidance gets followed and things are moving as smooth as can be. Simply put: it’s really awesome to watch him work and I just try to stay out of the way.

Actor David Reyes gets makeup




The theme of the day seems to be that nothing is on time as the crew should have been back about a half hour ago from another outdoor shoot, but they are not at headquarters yet. Hugh phones and says they picked up some shots in a parking garage close by and will be right back. The rest of the staff puts finishing touches on the “space dome” that they souped up. But he says that no real problems happened other than the fog machines this morning.

A “rubbing eyes” scene:

They arrive soon after and it’s back to the office for a waking up scene. After taking a lot of time to get split camera angles set up, they discover that only three of the four television monitors they are using as props will come on, so they power down the cameras while the crew scrambles to fix the last monitor (they want them all to show snow).


Via phone, Hugh says that shooting is done for the night and that they did another fog attempt outside of the headquarters tonight. It was mostly pulled off, however the wind got in the way a little bit. A limited staff should be back on set around 11am tomorrow. He sounds tired.

Sunday 12:45pm

As soon as I walk into the office, a staff member tells me that there is an editing problem and that Hugh wants to be left alone. Check. So I go and get introduced to the sound/music engineers Brendan and Laura. They are having issues also as they can’t use Pro Tools to create sounds and have to go with Digital Performer, which is kind of limiting because their equipment isn’t matched up right. Digital Performer is fine for making the score, but for sound effects it’s having problems as their laptop keeps crashing. Brendan says that typically editing is done the night before music and sounds need added, but that didn’t happen due to some snafu’s, so this is kind of a crunch. As a piece gets edited by Hugh, he gives it to them bit by bit.

After a while I get to see Hugh, who has been editing since 8:00am and I’m sensing a feeling of panic from him and the crew. They only have until 7:00pm tonight to finish editing, add sounds and music, then put this into the correct format, and deliver the product. Last year they missed the deadline by minutes, which made them ineligible to win the contest. This is a big deal. After a while, Hugh says he needs “alone time” again, so we all leave the room.

Although watching the sound crew create is pretty neat, watching them time sounds to live action, and even watching Hugh edit is pretty boring because they are pressed for time and don’t really have time to demonstrate how things work. So I decided to get out of their hair and let them do their thing. All the rest of the staff were doing was re-setting the office back up anyhow.

As it turns out, the film was turned in on time (as were all four films from all crews), at 6:45pm (they had until 7pm) and Hugh sounded very excited about the finished project. They did run into a sound issue around the 5pm mark, but were able to muscle through it. Hugh said that he was burning the film to a DVD on his laptop while driving to have it turned in.

So do you want to know what Data Rapture is actually about? Per director Hugh Berry:

Data Rapture explores how subtle things (a smell, a noise) can influence and shape our dream states and how a dream is never without meaning when there are issues being worked out. Utilizing characters from the TV pilot untethered, this short sought to examine the interior worlds we live in and the ways missed connections between people cause confusion and also compassion.”

One thing I will say about Hugh Berry is that he makes for a really great leader. Maybe this is just “the norm” in the film industry as I\’m still new, but it was really intriguing to watch him create ideas on the spot, listen to other ideas, make quick and articulate decisions, know when to cut the chord and keep moving. I think his whole crew was really mellow and laid back because that was the example that he set.

I think the public is going to be very impressed with the finished product of Data Rapture and I can’t yell it enough that each member of that staff should be proud of the work they did. The set was rarely in a panic mode and even when problems arrived, the crew just seemed to work through it really smooth and professionally. It’s going to be really interesting on March 31st to see who the winner is as I’m sure all of the films will be challengers in their own right. Be sure to check back with this article for updates on future showings of these films other than on March 31st. And I\’m hoping that this story might inspire people all over the globe to maybe enter a film challenge, start a film challenge or just show more interest in the film industry in general.

Looking back, I had no idea what actually went into making a film, no matter how large of a film it is. I also didn’t realize just how many people need to be involved for a timed project like this to happen. With all of that said, I think each of these people deserve a congratulations and below is the full list of staff for Data Rapture.

Wonder Russell: Gail

David Reyes: Ben

James Tobin: Matt

Hugh Berry- Writer/Director/Producer

Julian Dahl- Director of Photography

Sean Avichouser- Production Manager

William Dangle- Associate Producer

Minna Brown- Asst. Camera

Robert Kaelin- Key Grip/2nd AD

Roger Evans- Steadicam Supervisor

Hugh Berry- Steadicam Operator

Jeff Anderson- Asst. Coordinator

Lala M. G.- Hair & Makeup

Kirsten McCory- Wardrobe

Jolene Loraine -Art Dept PA

Don Kellie Jr.- PA

Sam Klein- PA

Brendan Hogan- Sound/Music

Laura Edenfield- Sound/Music

Although this was a five minute film, below is the extended version that couldn\’t all be squeezed into five minutes…

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