Filmmaking event is a race against time

Filmmaking event is a race against time
Crew member Ary Hernandez of San Diego, left, slates a scene with actor Elaine Litton of Cardiff on the set of “The Truth Fairy” on July 13 at Co-Merge in downtown San Diego. “The Truth Fairy” is Mercury Cinema’s entry into this year’s San Diego 48-Hour Film Project. The film premieres at 6:30 p.m. July 30 at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp 15 in downtown San Diego. Photo by Carla Van Wagoner

COAST CITIES — Sitting over coffee outside a local café along Coast Highway 101, Roman Koenig admitted he was already starting to feel the anxieties creep in. 


Over a period of 48 hours, Koenig and his band of filmmakers will have written, directed, produced, edited and starred in a short film.

That’s the premise behind the 48-Hour Film Project, a now more than 10-year-old competition meant to advance filmmaking and promote filmmakers.

“San Diego is going into its tenth year,” said Liz Langston co-founder of the 48-Hour Film Project. “It’s one of our largest cities and it’s one of our most vibrant filmmaking communities.”

About 40 percent of the filmmakers participating do work in the film industry, she said, and some end up moving to Los Angeles to work in the business.

For young filmmakers, it’s a “rite of passage,” Langston said.

For film crews, the 48-hour deadline can be harrowing, exhausting, even overwhelming.

But Koenig is no stranger to deadlines. The 42-year-old is a former journalist and now the editorial director for the North Coast Current; he’s also an assistant professor of journalism and film at San Diego City College.

“It’s a lot like putting out a newspaper,” he said of managing a film production.

There is the parallel, he said, between putting out a newspaper and making short films — especially in a 48-Hour Film Project setting. “Because you’re working on such a tight deadline, that you have to be organized…you have to be on top of everything,” he said.

Going back to his childhood, Koenig said there were two things that always interested him: Film and journalism. “And somehow, those two things have sort of paralleled all these years since I’ve been in school all the way through to my professional life.

“And I don’t know what it was about it, but it really seemed like a really cool thing to do,” he said.

He started making movies in 2000, completing an independent feature in 2001 called “Human Resource,” which earned an honorable mention in an online film festival. In 2002 he made a follow up film, and then got swept up in work as a reporter.

For Koenig, who has competed in the event since 2009, mainly as a way to keep his filmmaking abilities sharp, said that in the last couple of years the nerves have only increased, as opposed to decrease. “And I don’t know if that’s because…each time I’m wanting to do something better every year,” he said.

At a kickoff event on July 12, Koenig received a genre to work within and a few other parameters to include in his film. He spent the night writing, turning the finished screenplay over to his actors early the next morning.

After filming at a downtown San Diego location for 12 hours on Saturday and editing the project through the night and into Sunday morning, Koening was able to finish his film and submit it before the 7:30 p.m. deadline.

Their finished project: “The Truth Fairy.”

“What we ended up doing was a ‘Judge Judy’-style courtroom story with tooth fairies as the plaintiff and defendant,” Koenig said.

Elaine Litton, a Cardiff-By-The-Sea-based actress, filled the role of the “Judge Judy”-type.

All of the production went well, Koenig said.

While he said he was happy he hasn’t made a bad film since entering the contest, there are two films, his 2009 and 2010 offerings, which he’s really happy with; and both of those films were selected to be on the “Best Of” screenings for San Diego entries.

Of the 72 teams that entered in San Diego, 59 of them were able complete and turn in films for judging, said Duane Trammell, co-producer of the San Diego event, amid preparing the films for judging with co-producer Robyn Sarbis.

Though no film from San Diego has won the best film of the year award yet, Trammell said that some of the films have been selected to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

The winner of each city contest will be screened at their end of the year event “Filmapalooza,” and 12 of the best films will be screened at the Cannes Film Festival.

San Diego is one of about 120 cities worldwide in the competition. It’s also the only city where the films are shot and screened in High-Definition.

But Koenig asserts that the essential part of the film remains its story.

“And not just the story,” he said, “but the ability to tell it in a way that removes anything superfluous — removes all the extra stuff that beats around the bush. Because you basically have six to seven minutes to tell a complete story and that means every shot counts,” he said.

While he waits for the judges results, Koenig will continue work in the media and his teaching.

For the past several months Koenig has been working on creating a 10-episode web series, set in the future where information and news is traded on the black market.

“It’s something that I would like to do and get pre-production going on by the end of the year,” he said.

Visit to view the trailer for “The Truth Fairy.”



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