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They're young, they're artsy, and they've got exactly 48 hours to make a movie

Wednesday, Nov 5 2003
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SYNOPSIS: A team of film students from the Academy of Art College in San Francisco qualifies to enter a national contest to make a five-minute movie in 48 hours. First place wins $10,000 and a screening at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Last year, the San Francisco school took second place behind Florida State University. This year, the 50-person cast and crew -- all new to the contest -- are determined to beat the 12 other schools they're up against. And at the end of two sleepless days of insanity, they produce something that will surprise contest judges and even themselves: not just one movie, but two.

ACT ONE

We open on a fog-shrouded street in the Sunset District. Saturday, 9 a.m. The fog clears to reveal a two-story house of pale gray stone. A crowd is gathered in the front yard. Bleary-eyed young people mill about, checking their watches, anxious. "Got any coffee?" one of them murmurs. We move past the crowd. Through a gate and an interior courtyard, piled high with spools of black cords. Up a twisting flight of Spanish-style steps.

Inside the house, IAN TAKAHASHI bustles through a crowded hallway. IAN, 20, wears a gray T-shirt that says "PRODUCER" on the front. He bought it last month on the Internet. Across the back of the shirt, on a strip of masking tape, someone has written "Big dude." IAN's black hair is cropped short. His smooth, clean-cut features are placid. He exudes a humble confidence. He is in control, but approachable. Movies are in his blood: Last semester, while earning a 4.0, he worked on 17 film projects in 15 weeks. He's been shooting movies since he was 12, when he staged epic screen battles in the back yard of his parents' Napa home between a cardboard Cyclops and G.I. Joe figures. In high school, he helped shoot and edit for a guy who produced videos for country clubs and corporations; last summer he worked at American Zoetrope, Francis Ford Coppola's production facility, on a top-secret project he's not allowed to talk about.

Clearly, IAN is comfortable in his role as producer. A silver cell phone is glued to his right hand. He speaks with an authoritative tone into a headset, nodding as he passes members of his crew, who are busy uncoiling cables, hefting furniture, taping down wires. Some look up and ask IAN if he's gotten The Call yet. IAN shakes his head: "Not yet." CUT TO:

A digital clock. It reads 9:17 a.m.

We pull back from the clock to see a kitchen. The floor is stacked with oversize bags of burger buns and tortilla chips -- sustenance. The counters are covered with cases of Monster and Rock Star energy drinks -- fortification for the two nutty nights ahead. Lighting equipment is piled in the corner, where IAN consults with PETE PADUANO, his production manager and loyal right-hand man. PETE is big-boned and solidly built. His square face is bright and earnest beneath a black knit cap. IAN and PETE are getting nervous, despite their well-laid plans, and sweat beads on their brows. A faculty proctor was supposed to have called IAN at 9 a.m. to divulge the all-important "log line" -- the scenario, picked weeks ago by the contest's sponsor, Pioneer Electronics, which the San Francisco team must base its script on. The professor hasn't called yet, and the two writers secluded in the basement are antsy. The two-hour window IAN has allowed for script writing is rapidly shrinking, threatening to derail the meticulous schedule he's spent the past few months preparing. He tells PETE to drive the proctor crazy until he answers his phone: "Call him over and over and over again." CUT TO:

A digital watch. 9:33 a.m.

The man checking his watch is a bearded, burly guy named DAVID LOPEZ-TIBBS. This is his house. "But I don't even recognize it anymore," he says. A student at the college and a friend of IAN, he lives here with several other roommates, spread across five bedrooms. IAN chose the house last week as the set and headquarters because he liked its ample street parking, proximity to the beach and other possible shooting locations, and spacious back yard. As DAVID watches a steady stream of strangers cart all the furniture out of the living room except for an L-shaped couch against the far wall, he says: "I'm expecting something to be broken today."

IAN sags against the couch, checking his watch again. 9:45 a.m. The crew needs an XLR sound cable. IAN digs into an envelope of cash -- $500 from Pioneer, $200 from a guy named Frank (his donation earned him the title of executive producer). PETE bounds into the room. He's called the faculty member 15 times -- no answer. IAN wonders aloud whether the professor has had a heart attack or gotten run over by a bus or something -- it's not like the guy to flake. He chews his lip. Should they continue working without the log line, not knowing if they'll be disqualified from the contest? "We can't just say, 'Fuck it,' and go home," IAN says. CUT TO:

A low-ceilinged basement, dominated by a squat couch opposite a wide-screen television. The walls are plastered with the modern film student's typical poster collection: Scarface, Casino, The Godfather, Pulp Fiction. We meet the two writers, JOSH BUCHIN and RUSTY IRANI, who auditioned alongside 15 others to win the job. RUSTY, who is originally from Bombay, is in a wheelchair; JOSH paces the room. Screenwriting software awaits, blank, on the screen of a nearby laptop. IAN enters and tells them the bad news: There's still no log line, but they have to start writing. Write anything, he says. If the log line arrives later, they'll work it in somehow. You can almost hear JOSH and RUSTY gulp -- this is the first large-scale production for each of them, and now they're on the spot.

About The Author

Matt Palmquist

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