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Working on The 48 Hour Film Project. Photo by Che' Spiotti.

Working on The 48 Hour Film Project. Photo by Che' Spiotti.

48 Hour Film Project Producers Aim To Put Charlotte on the Map 

Festival organizers set their sights high

WILL FISHER AND BLAKE PHILLIPS want to jumpstart Charlotte's creative economy at 30 frames per second. As Collaboration Films, Fisher, a self-described "business development guy," and filmmaker/graphic designer Phillips produce the city's edition of the 48 Hour Film Project, which challenges local filmmakers to conceive and complete a movie in exactly two days.

We spoke with the duo about what they're doing in May to help make this year's festival in August the most productive 48 Hours yet.

Creative Loafing: Blake, you do marketing for the 48 Hour Film Project. How did you make the transition from filmmaking to marketing?

Blake Phillips: Will asked me one day if I wanted to help him do this 48 Hour Film Project. I thought, "Why not?" Will has all the good ideas, and he needs somebody to make the flyers, set up the website, and push the festival on social media. I thought it was a great opportunity to try my hand at organizing an event. I'm enjoying the ride.

You want to use the Festival as a springboard to nurture the filmmaking community and get them together with the city's economic sector. What's the plan there?

Will Fisher: For our 2017 festival, even if we don't publicize it, we'll sell out the theater. Given that, what is the right thing to do with this festival? How can we add value for the people in our city who are making films? Being in business, I know that relationships and friendships drive sales, so we decided to use this international competition as a platform to attract people who buy filmmaking services as a part of their profession.

If you want to connect with an audience, the best way to do that is through art – to create a story around your message. Most business people can't really tell a story. It takes an artist who knows how to connect with the human experience. We needed to get these marketing people in the room to meet these filmmakers who know how to tell a story. This could be the beginning of kick starting a creative economy in Charlotte.

click to enlarge Working on a deadline. Photo by Aaron Seelbinder.
  • Working on a deadline. Photo by Aaron Seelbinder.

Phillips: There's been a lot of talk in Charlotte about the lack of upward mobility. As an artist, someone who is creative, I can tell you that being creative is a hard way to move up. You have to know people. Creative people tend to not to be outgoing, as they should be. They just need a better path to move up through the ranks, so they can continue to do what they love. The 48 Hour Project is an easy way to get yourself in front of an entire city.

How do local businessmen come into the picture?

Fisher: We have two major events that are open to the greater community. On May 23, the top twelve (48 Hour films) from around the world will screen at the Cannes Film Festival. On that night, Blake and I will screen the same twelve films at the Knight Gallery in Spirit Square. We've put together an expert panel of local filmmakers who will watch the films one by one and critique them.

Phillips: The discussions can get very raw. Everyone truly has their own often strong opinion about these films.

Fisher: This event also introduces the marketing world to the filmmaking world. Our goal is to create an experience in Uptown around the Cannes screening. So we partnered with 204 North and Malabar, two restaurants near Spirit Square that have created special menus that will be served that night. We call it Dinner and the Movies.

This is a package where marketing executives, creative directors and ad agencies are invited to have dinner in Uptown, and then come and meet the filmmakers, watch the Cannes collection. Then we have an after party, where guests can have more opportunities to get to know each other. That's the channel that we are using to bring the marketing people into the filmmakers' world, offering them a memorable experience.

Then on August 26, we will sell out the McGlohon Theater. There will be 700 people in the room, and we'll be watching the 14 top films from Charlotte. We'll have an awards ceremony, and we will walk away from that evening knowing which filmmakers will represent Charlotte on the world stage.

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