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Locally Produced Short Film Screened in L.A. at 48 Hour Filmapalooza Festival
by Jordan Canahai
Silenced, a nine minute silent drama produced by local filmmakers for Rochester’s 48 Hour Film Project in 2014 was recently screened alongside 125 other shorts from around the country at the Filmapalooza Festival in Los Angeles. The film details the story of a deaf woman who risks her life to save her friend who is being held hostage by three criminals in his restaurant. I spoke with one of the film’s co-directors, Buffalo native Gabe Simon, about the experience of making the film.
“The 48 Hour Film Project is a crazy weekend in which you and a team write, shoot, edit, and score a short film in just 48 hours,” explains Simon. “Each team is given four requirements: a genre, character, prop, and line of dialog to appear in their film which they receive in a random drawing from a hat.”
Simon was brought on to the project at the request of a long time friend, Alaa “Zak” Noweihed, co-drector of Silenced. “ When we were two weeks away from the actual event, Zak asked me if I’d like to be on his team. Having wanted to do the 48 Hour Film Project before, I agreed. I had also wanted to work with Zak for years on movies and this seemed like the perfect opportunity.”
Part of the fun, and challenge, of the 48 hour film project comes from the random nature of the requirements a team must work with. “Our genre was silent film, our character was Amanda Peters, who needed to be a visitor, our prop was a deck of cards, and our line of dialog was ‘You don’t have a clue do you?’”
“We almost wanted to draw a wildcard, as permitted by the rules, because many of us on our team had doubts if we could pull off the silent genre” says Simon. “However, Zak and I were confident we could make a great silent film.”
Silenced certainly takes a different approach to the genre. “When you think of a silent film you immediately conjure up imagery of Charlie Chaplin and piano music playing in the background to epic sword fights. Zak had always been a long-time fan of the genre and had a great idea right off the bat. We agreed that making a serious and gritty silent film that would break people’s expectations of the silent genre would probably have the strongest impact. We decided to tell a violent story from the perspective of a deaf protagonist.”
Simon and Noweihed wrote and developed the story alongside fellow filmmaker Joseph Wachowski, a former winner of the Best Director prize at Rochester’s 48 Hour Film Project in 2013. Silenced is fundamentally a classic story that follows the hero’s journey, presenting an unlikely hero, Amanda Peters (Buffalo actress Leora Owens), a woman with a hearing disability. One night, while visiting a diner owned by her good friend (Jason John Beebe), the restaurant is held up by a violent group of masked robbers. Amanda decides to take action rather than become just another victim of the situation. Taking her fate into her own hands, she must fight and outwit the criminals within the dark maze of the restaurant at night.
Putting together a film with such limited resources and in a span of two days with a small group of talent that has never worked together before is no easy task. “Our team consisted of 8 people, only 6 of whom were actually on set for the actual production. At any given time, 5 of those people could be on camera. This hopefully puts into perspective that we really were all pitching in doing a bit of everything. There is no way we could have put this thing together at all, let alone with any semblance of quality, if it was not for the incredible work ethic of everyone involved. Filmmaking takes patience, limitless energy and enthusiasm, and I’m very proud of the work our team did.”
“We can’t thank Jack Adly enough for his total commitment to this project also,” says Simon. Adly is the owner of the Venus Greek and Mediterranean Restaurant and Slice of Italy in Rochester where the entire movie was shot. “Without Jack there could be no Silenced and it is generous business owners like him that make independent film possible all the time. He was even up in the middle of the night serving our crew pizza. This personifies the team spirit we all had and the belief that what we were doing was worth every minute of lost sleep.”
Silenced went on to win the Best Film, Best Directing, and Best Cinematography awards at Rochester’s 48 Hour Film Festival. It was also selected to be screened alongside 125 other 48 hour film festival shorts from around the country at the Filmapalooza Festival in Los Angeles. Simon, Noweihed, Owens, and Beebe were present to attend.
“We all took an awesome trip out to California for Filmapalooza to represent Buffalo filmmakers with our movie only weeks ago. We left behind the ridiculously cold weather and no-budget filmmaking to go to warmer pastures and tour Universal Studios, Paramount Pictures, and the historic Chinese Theater. It was an unforgettable experience, and we have all grown tremendously as artists as a result of this project. It was amazing in particular getting to network with passionate film-makers from all over the world who were just as crazy as we were, running around for 48 hours straight hoping to tell stories that will last forever.”
Silenced is still making waves at other film festivals as well. It is an Official Selection of the Short, Sweet Film Festival and the Toronto Short Film Festival. Simon looks forward to collaborating with his Silenced team on more projects soon. “We already have another short film and our first feature in development. Buffalo should stay tuned for more stuff from our group in addition to the many other talented filmmakers in Buffalo who have just been on the world stage. We look forward to keeping everyone up to date on its continued success and we plan to use this as an opportunity to collaborate with more Buffalo film-makers in the future.”
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