The past week has been quite an exciting (and exhausting) one for The Observer. Not only did we get to play host to our colleagues from around the country and enjoy an afternoon with former President Clinton, but we finally finished recovering from (and basking in the afterglow of) making a movie.

The 48 Hour Film Project, an annual international competition to see who can make the best seven-minute film in just two days, returned to Little Rock this month, and Team Arkansas Times again girded for battle. Devastated as we were last year by a disqualifying late entry (but still a pretty damn good flicker, if you ask us), we puffed out our chests and declared that this year we’d give ’em all hell.

That turned out to be a bit more of an uphill fight than we’d anticipated. From 7 a.m. to midnight, we did battle with stifling heat, at Murray Park and in our backyard, suffering a million hellish pricks of sunburn, barking dogs and out-of-control wheelchairs, and producing enough sweat and body odor to crush a man’s soul. It was all in pursuit of art — well, art, and the opportunity to lay the smackdown on our rivals. Stinking and sopping wet, we trashed The Observer’s house, ran down our North Little Rock street screaming like idiots and stuck our bare backsides out of moving car windows. Our neighbors stuck their heads out front doors in a decidedly quizzical and gopher-like manner, no doubt fearing for their property values.

Yes indeed, it was High Art in the making. We will do anything for it.

What came out of that process startled even us. Though we had again written the script for our movie and (humbly, of course) knew it to be good, we were uncertain of what the final product would be. Truth be told, we were not expecting what we saw on our computer screen: honestly one of the best 48 Hour Films we’ve ever seen, no joke.

And as it turned out, it needed to be. This year boasted twice as many qualifying films as last, and overall quality was roughly twice as good. We attended the screenings of all 28 films at Market Street Cinema and were pleasantly surprised at how much everyone had learned since 2005. The stories were better, the visuals more interesting, the funny even funnier. Truly, there is quite the budding film scene here in Little Rock, and we’d very much like to see the city do more to support and encourage it — a robust art scene only helps a city grow, after all.

We were privileged enough to have our film screened dead last to close out the festival, and the audience reaction was everything we’d prayed it would be. We killed. We’ve got a couple of competitors nipping at our heels, but we’re pretty sure we’ve got a good shot at the title and some international bragging rights. Is it too much to dream that we might leave our mark on Hollywood Boulevard?

Regardless, and though we were left bone-weary, smelling like lumberjacks and saying a quiet prayer of thanks on Sunday that this comes only once a year, we found ourselves revitalized and ready to go again in a matter of mere days. Give us a camera and a crew and a Microsoft Word template, and we’ll give you seven minutes of joy.

The top 10 films will be screened on Thursday, June 22, at Market Street starting at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $7.50. The winner will be named after the screening.

Three men — two in police or security-guard uniforms, the third a civilian — stood on the brick sidewalk watching with what seemed to be an odd amount of interest as a fourth man, looking in general a sight more raggedy, painted a new coat of white onto the picket fence outside the Historic Arkansas Museum.

The Observer was too far away to hear their conversation, but we imagined it:

“Bet you wish you didn’t have to WORK all day and could go a-swimming with the rest of us. But maybe you LIKE fulfilling your community service hours this way.”

“Like it? Well, I don’t see why I oughtn’t to like it. Does a man get a chance to whitewash a fence every day? ...”

We didn’t get to stick around to see for ourselves, but we spent the morning imagining the raggedy man sitting on a barrel, swinging his legs and munching an apple, while the two uniforms whitewashed away, Aunt Polly none the wiser.



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