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In a few days, filmmakers from all over Houston will begin the challenge of writing, shooting, and editing a short film in just 2 days. They’ll need actors to fill their casts. Some filmmakers may need only a few actors while others may be shooting a script that requires dozens of actors. The opportunity for actors to work and even get some face time is pretty good in this type of competition, but there are some things for an actor to keep in mind before the 48 Hour Film Project weekend begins. I’ll outline 5 action items to complete even before your team finds out its genre and all filmmaking participants find out the required character, prop, and line of dialogue.


Whether it’s gaining basic on set experience or playing against type, every actor should establish a primary reason for doing the 48. I’ve used this type of weekend filmmaking competition to play characters I don’t normally get to play in typical paid projects. This year my thinking has changed. I want the kind of role that could lead to more work as the same type of character in a feature film or on a TV series. It doesn’t need to be the lead character, but he could be someone pivotal in the story and appear in as few as one or two scenes.


Actors won’t usually get their pick of any team; often they will have to wait to be picked by a director or producer of a team. That doesn’t mean you go with the first team who asks you to join. Get acquainted with the team’s vision and goals and see how closely they match your own. If the team has participated in the past, take a look at previous films to see the quality of the work. An actor who wants to avoid projects with nudity, gratuitous violence, and adult language will want to avoid working for a team with a history of this kind of content. 


Rather than watching any short film, which could be made over the course of a longer period of time, limit your selection to 48 Hour Films from other participating cities. Type in “48 Hour Film Project” on YouTube, and spend a couple of hours moving from film to film. Get acquainted with the ways directors tell their stories in under 10 minutes. Get a sense of the kinds of stories you’re seeing as well as the choices in wardrobe, locations, and actors. 


You have no idea what the script will demand so be prepared to bring anything you own to the set. Beyond your typical casual and business casual wardrobe options, consider what special items you may own. A lab coat, a cowboy hat, or a pair of overalls might be just the thing your character needs. 


This is as unpredictable a weekend as you can imagine. I have been on teams where we thought we had the story set by 10 pm on Friday only to end up starting from scratch overnight. It can be a fast-changing, fluid experience. Make sure you have other commitments and obligations under control, even if the director tells you that you won’t shoot past 6 pm on Saturday. Things change. A new scene could be added. A previous scene could require a reshoot. A camera may be acting faulty. Sound didn’t record properly. A nearby toilet overflowed and the set is now getting flooded. There was a power outage in the neighborhood. The police showed up with a warrant and arrested the homeowner. Anything. Is. Possible. 

The Irony Coast team gathers at the 2012 48 HFP drop-off spot in Houston.

The Irony Coast team gathers at the 2012 48 HFP drop-off spot in Houston.