Orlando welcomes world to Filmapalooza

Cobb Plaza Cinema Café. (Photos are by and copyright Cameron Meier / MeierMovies, LLC.)

Exclusive to MeierMovies, February 26, 2019; updated March 4, 2019

Downtown Orlando will welcome hundreds of filmmakers from around the world when the City Beautiful hosts Filmapalooza for the first time, on March 6-9.

The annual international competition of the 48 Hour Film Project, Filmapalooza will screen 115 city-winning short films from six continents, plus a small collection of winners from the 48HFP’s other timed competitions. Paris was last year’s Filmapalooza host, with previous events being held over the last two decades in places such as Seattle, Atlanta, Los Angeles and New Orleans.

The 48 Hour Film Project is the world’s oldest and largest timed filmmaking competition. It brings together thousands of moviemakers from around the globe, who are challenged to write, shoot, edit and submit a short film in just 48 hours. (Films must be between 4 and 7 minutes and include certain required elements, such as a prop, a line of dialogue, and a character name and trait, to prevent teams from working before the competition begins. And a movie must fit one of two genres that team leaders select at random at the start of the contest.) Filmapalooza represents the culmination of those filmmakers’ efforts, as it screens the winning films from all participating cities. (Click here for my wrap-up article of last year’s Filmapalooza, at which I served as a judge.)

The event will be open not just to filmmakers but to their friends and members of the public, who can purchase festival passes for $395 each. That pass entitles you to admission to all events, including films, parties and discussion panels. But if a festival pass is out of your budget, keep in mind that tickets to individual screening blocks and the awards screening on Saturday might be available for $10 each, depending upon availability. (Special discounts are also available for Orlando 48HFP filmmakers. Contact the 48HFP for more information before March 5 for more information.)

The event represents the climax of Orlando City Producer Kyle Snavely’s campaign to bring Filmapalooza to Orlando. It’s also the culmination of his own tenure as city producer, as he will be handing the reins to someone new in the coming months, thanks to Snavely’s recent relocation to Charlotte, North Carolina.

“Words cannot express how honored and excited I am to host Filmapalooza in Orlando!” Snavely told me. “Both Filmapalooza and Orlando mean a great deal to me. They both represent the very best in community, art and culture, and to bring the two together for four amazing days has been a dream of mine for the past three years. It’s going to be an experience of a lifetime, and I cannot wait!”



Marriott Orlando Downtown

All events will take place downtown, except a couple of specially arranged backstage tours of Universal Studios, on Wednesday and Friday. (These tours are already fully booked, and participants must provide their own transportation to and from the studios.)

The Marriott Orlando Downtown is the official hotel, and events kick off there on Wednesday, March 6, at 2 p.m. with Filmapalooza registration. The festivities then move to the other side of I-4 with a 4:30 p.m. opening reception EVE Orlando. That reception will be followed by a special screening of previous 48HFP winners (and some surprises) at 7 p.m. at the Cobb Plaza Cinema Café (so named because they serve pretty good food and drink), with an opening-night party to follow at 9:30 p.m. at EVE.

Screenings and parties continue on Thursday and Friday, with all movies being shown at the Cobb and the celebratory gatherings at various downtown watering (and munching) holes.

A unique feature of Filmapalooza is the panels and workshops on Saturday morning, March 9. Starting at 9:15 a.m. and continuing until 12:30 p.m. at the downtown Orlando Public Library, they cover topics ranging from how to succeed on the festival circuit, to the practicalities of low-budget filmmaking, to pre-production protocol, to makeup. And they are free to everyone, including members of the public and local filmmakers. (I helped organize two of nine panels, and I encourage you to attend as many as you can.)

Shade Bar and Grill at the Marriott

Filmapalooza will conclude with a viewing of the best films – which will go on to screen at the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner – and an awards presentation. Weather permitting, this gala finale will take place at the Walt Disney Amphitheater at Lake Eola. (If it rains, it will move indoors to the Cobb.)

For more information and the basic schedule of events, visit http://www.48hourfilm.com/en/filmapalooza, and to find out when specific city’s films are screening, see http://www.48hourfilm.com/filmapalooza/2019/screenings. Or download the Filmapalooza app. But keep in mind some venues and times are subject to change.


Planning your visit

If you’re new to Orlando, you’re coming during the perfect weather season. Sure, we could get some sprinkles, but in general you can expect mostly clear skies and high temperatures ranging from 63 to 84 Fahrenheit (17 to 29 Celsius). That’s a nice change from the bitter cold of Paris in 2018 and Seattle in 2017, when the latter saw a freak snow storm.

Orlando Public Library

If you have extra time and money before or after Filmapalooza, you should check out the four theme parks, two water parks and countless other goodies of Walt Disney World, and the two theme parks and one water park of Universal. But if you’re looking for alternatives, you might enjoy the cultural attractions of Loch Haven Park (about three miles north of downtown), which include the Orlando Museum of Art, the Orlando Science Center, the Mennello Museum of American Art, the Orlando Fire Museum, the Orlando Shakespeare Theatre and the Orlando Repertory Theatre.

But the greatest museum metro Orlando has to offer is Winter Park’s Morse Museum of American Art, which contains the world’s best collection of Tiffany glass. You will also find the Cornell Fine Arts Museum in Winter Park, on the campus of Rollins College. And farther afield are Sea World and the myriad attractions of International Drive, including ICON Orlando 360, which features the second-largest Ferris wheel in the United States (after Las Vegas), Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum and an aquarium.

If you want to stick to downtown, there’s the Orange County Regional History Center and the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts, plus a smattering of galleries and shops. (But downtown is mostly businesses, bars and restaurants.)

The closest beach to Orlando is Cocoa Beach on the Atlantic, which is roughly an hour’s drive east (though the Gulf Coast’s beaches are nicer). But if you’re looking for nature a bit closer, Wekiwa Springs State Park is only about 30 minutes north/east on I-4 and offers stunning swimming and canoeing.

Orange County Regional History Center

If you’re looking for a cinematic experience, check out our local arthouse theatre: the Enzian. Located in Maitland, it’s about a 15-minute drive east/north on I-4, unless the under-construction interstate lengthens your trip. (Tip: Avoid I-4 like poison during the morning rush hour and between 4 and 6:30 p.m. on weekdays.)

You might be wondering how you get back and forth between the Cobb and the Marriott. Of course, you can drive if you have a car, but the hotel charges a valet fee, and downtown garages charge from $5 to $15. (You can get a parking voucher from Cobb if you opt for their multi-story car park, but it’s not exactly the most user-friendly garage, as it was seemingly designed by M.C. Escher. I prefer the garages near the corner of Orange Avenue and Central Boulevard, just two blocks north of the Cobb.) So I’d suggest the free downtown bus. It’s the LYMMO Orange Route 60. The pick-up is at the Bob Carr Theater, just across the street from the hotel, and the drop-off is five stops later, at the Orange County Public Library. The bus system has an app to track buses in real time: https://www.golynx.com/tripapps/. You could also walk the nearly one-mile route. It’s doable in about 20 minutes, especially in nice weather if you stick exclusively to Orange Avenue and Livingston Street. But if you attempt it at night, walk with a group of friends instead of alone. (And please be warned that I-4 construction might block some of the route, especially late at night.)

Lastly, there’s no shortage of eateries downtown, but let me suggest two rather classy joints: the bar/restaurant at the Grand Bohemian Hotel (one block south of the Cobb on Orange Avenue) and Chela Tequila and Tacos (adjacent to the Cobb).


Thank you

On a personal note, let me thank the entire 48HFP staff, including founders Mark Ruppert and Liz Langston, along with Laura Schlecht, Brian Bowers, Krk Nordenstrom, Orlando’s TL Westgate and especially the aforementioned Kyle Snavely. (And best wishes to Langston, who, after 18 years, is stepping down from her role with the 48 Hour Film Project. This year’s Filmapalooza will be her last.)

In addition to helping with the discussion panels, I assisted with the jury process this year. This means I’ve already watched all 115 films competing in the main Filmapalooza competition, and, as usual, there are some superb ones. I can’t wait for you to see them too. Welcome to Orlando!

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