Buffalo 48 Hour Film Project

Buffalo Film Receives International Awards in Paris, Screens at Cannes

By Shawn Patrick Greene, November 1, 2018


On March 10, 2018 in Paris, France, the Buffalo film making team known as Partially Submerged Elephants won “Best Cinematography” and fifth place overall at Filmapalooza – the finale for the international film competition known as 48 Hour Film Project. The Buffalo Niagara Film Commission website described the 48 Hour Film Project as “a wild and sleepless weekend” in which teams write, shoot, and edit a movie in 48 hours.

“The competition means the world to me,” stated Jordan Lema, filmmaker and Buffalo producer. Lema accompanied Partially Submerged Elephants at Filmapalooza, where he also received an award for “Best Social Media Video.”

Production team Partially Submerged Elephants, Winner 2017 “BEST FILM” from Buffalo.

In May, Lema and Partially Submerged Elephants returned to France, representing Buffalo’s “Best Film” as an Official Selection for the Short Film Corner of Festival de Cannes. It was the finish line from the nine-month adventure, that can be summed up by the team’s film title – Ride of Your Life, a silent film about a woman, played by Maria Braun, who goes on a carnival ride and experiences flashbacks to major memories and highlights of her life. The seven-minute film not only takes Maria on a literal ride, but takes the audience along with her emotionally. Braun’s challenge as an actress for this film was “to convey the emotions necessary to tell the story without dialogue.”

The films submitted required 3 elements to be included in the production – a line of dialogue (“Who said that?”), a prop (an extension cord), and the character’s name and occupation (Lloyd or Laurie Tantallon, Unpublished Author). Ride accomplished the line of dialogue during a flashback scene in an office, though the majority of the film was silent with a music score.

Members from Pegula Sports and Entertainment and graduates of Canisius College came together to form Partially Submerged Elephants. The team members are Travis Carlson, Megan Gonsalves, Aaron Rizzo, Maria Claire Braun, Marc Braun, Marc Davies, and Cole Bielecki.

Maria Braun describes her role in Ride, “Our team has a very fluid process when it comes to roles, so many of us wear several hats when making a film. We actually tend to avoid labels to define our roles when working together. We believe it helps to emphasize the efforts of our team collectively instead of as a group of individuals.” Her contribution, she says, was brainstorming, searching for props, makeup and costuming, as well as, scouting for locations to shoot.

“We had no expectation that we would win in Buffalo,” said Ride Director Travis Carlson, and described his experience at Cannes as, “much like the 48, very similar vibe and spirit – great comradery…it was a huge honor.” He credits Lema with being a big part of his team’s accolades.

37-year-old Jordan Lema graduated from Canisius College in 2005 with a BS in Digital Media Arts and is the founder and CEO of Lemur Studios, a corporate media company. He participated in the Buffalo 48 Hour Film Project for the first time in 2007, winning “Best Cinematography.” His team continued success winning “Best Film” in 2008, and “Best Cinematography” four more times in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2015. “They didn’t give out an award for best cinematography in 2008 and I took it personally,” stated Lema, although his film was in Filmapalooza that year, among the top 15 films in the world.

In 2017, he retired from competition and accepted the role as Buffalo’s City Producer, taking over for former organizer Bobby Gott. Mr. Lema explained his passion for the process and the transition, “When I was a competitor, I was really serious about it and didn’t get too involved with other filmmakers because I felt like they were the enemy.” When the opportunity arose for Lema to take over the duties as City Producer, it allowed him to worry less about being competitive, and focus more on “assisting everyone else’s film-making.” Lema said, “Now I’m on everyone’s team and our goal is to make the best films in the world, right here in Buffalo and screen them at the Cannes Film Festival.” And he did just that.


Under new leadership, The Buffalo 48 Hour Film Project, was held between August 18 – 20, 2017. At 6:00 pm, Friday, 23 teams, with over 100 people, gathered for the launching party at Delaware Park inside the Parkside Lodge. Each team drew a film genre from a hat, and were given a character, prop and line to include in the films, and by 7:30 pm, the teams were let loose to produce their films all over Western New York. The teams are made up of as little as 3 members, to as many as 25 members, all with various level of expertise in film making. The teams had until Sunday 7:30 pm to turn in the films to the event production base camp at Parkside Lodge. A video of each team leader was recorded as they submitted the final edits. The videos were posted on social media to promote the upcoming screenings.

After a week of deliberation by the judging panel, the films were screened at the North Park Theatre on August 26 and 27, 2017, in front of an audience of filmmakers, friends and families. Ballots were cast after each afternoon for audience favorites. The judging panel then had one week to finalize their nominations and select their picks for the winners of each category, and decide the top 10 films overall. The 2017 judges were: Terry Fisher of the production company Full Circle Studios, Anthony “Tony” Billoni of TV show Off Beat Cinema, Linda Pellegrino, host of TV show AM Buffalo, and Jordan Lema.

After another week and a half of finalizing the ballots and nominating the films, an awards show was held, at Shea’s Smith Theatre, in Buffalo’s Theatre District, Thursday September 7, 2017 at 6 pm. The 200-seat venue was filled, with a mix of attendees wearing anywhere from casual and business casual to sequin dresses and tuxedos. The audience was made up mostly of the participants of the top 10 films. Once the top films finished rescreening, the awards ceremony began, with host Jordan Lema and hostess and actress Tracie B. Wilson (also a former participant in the competition). The nominees for each category were read, and the winners were awarded their certificates.

In 2001, filmmaker and event producer Mark Ruppert launched the 48 Hour Film Project that activated has over 325,000 participants worldwide. Lema stated, it “allows amateurs and professionals alike to explore their film-making dreams.”

Throughout the year, each participating city is given a designated weekend to produce the event. The events are organized in over 130 cities, coordinating more than 110 producers, with over 5000 teams submitting more than 25,000 films to date. Filmapalooza became the annual film festival celebrating the top films in the world. Filmapalooza screens 150 films, gives virtual reality presentations, sets up networking events and parties, and concludes with the Award Ceremony.

The last few years, Ruppert partnered with organizers of the Cannes Film Festival to allow a small selection from Filmapalooza to be a part of Cannes Film Festival’s Court Métrage, or Short Film Corner. “The short film corner,” describes Lema, “is a catalog of films in a computer system in a networking area. You can meet people and then go into the viewing room and watch the films and try to sell it.”

Ride of Your Life represented Buffalo against 130 plus city’s winners around the world at Filmapalooza, held in Paris, France on March 6 – 9, 2018. Ride won in Buffalo in 5 categories including, “Best Film,” “Audience Award,” “Best Acting,” “Best Editing,” and “Best Effects.” Jordan Lema also won ‘best social media video’ and was nominated for best ‘social media campaign’ in the world.

A few months later, in May, at the 71st Annual Festival de Cannes, Ride was in the top 12 films in the world representing the 48 Hour Film Project. Mr. Lema and the Partially Submerged Elephants team members paid their own way to get to Filmapalooza and Cannes, with the help of a GoFundMe campaign. The team recouped some of their expenses by selling Ride of Your Life at the Short Film Corner.


After a successful run by Ride, Jordan Lema and Partially Submerged Elephants returned to the US repeating the steps towards Filmapalooza 2019. Production weekend was August 10 – 12, 2018, screening weekend was at North Park theatre on August 18 and 19, 2018, in front of an audience of filmmakers, friends and families. Ballots were cast after each afternoon for audience favorites. Buffalo tied the record for most teams participating in a year at 24.

The props, lines, and characters required each year may change, but the challenges to making these films remain the same. Taylor Martin, actress from the project CYRANO 2.0 stated, the biggest challenges of the 48 Hour Film Project is getting started and “agreeing on an idea.” Her team, Generous Blur, spent a lot of time on their concept before actually filming.

Maria Braun revisited her role as actress in this year’s film Eyes Like Mine by Partially Submerged Elephants. She explained the challenges her team faced, “We had a small crew and had to split up to get the footage we needed within the time frame given,” and to accomplish this the team “filmed in several locations.” She continues, “Ride of Your Life offered us some flexibility in the sense the that that story was driven mainly by montage. Eyes Like Mine didn’t allow for this flexibility, which again put a lot of pressure on achieving the strongest execution of a plot.”

A month after the screenings, Wednesday Evening, September 12, 2018, the Buffalo 48 Hour Film Project held the awards show once again at the Shea’s Smith Theatre. Partially Submerged Elephants did not come away with the win for Buffalo’s “Best Film” this year, but received awards for “Audience Favorite Group B” and “Second Place” overall. CYRANO 2.0 won “Audience Favorite Group A.”

Summer Lost by Vegan Leather won 6 awards including “Best Film” and represents Buffalo at Filmapalooza, being held in Orlando, Florida on March 6 – 9, 2019.

Film team Vegan Leather, Winner of 2018 “BEST FILM”


Partially Submerged Elephants received several nominations and awards for Ride Of Your Life.

Ride of Your Life (2017)
– – Cannes 2018
– – – – – Official Screening
– – – – – Short Film Corner
– – Filmapalooza 2018
– – – – – Best Cinematography,
– – – – – Top Five Film,
– – – – – Nominated Best Editing
– – Buffalo 48HFP
– – – – – Best Film 1st Place,
– – – – – Audience Award,
– – – – – Best Acting,
– – – – – Best Editing,
– – – – – Best Effects

Watch the Facebook live videos of the Buffalo 48 Hour Film Project Awards Shows:

2017: [https://www.facebook.com/Buffalo48Hour/videos/1916285171721304/]

2018: [https://www.facebook.com/Buffalo48Hour/videos/1072125129613956/]


Follow Shawn Patrick Greene on Twitter @shawnpgreene | @shawnpgreene

This article was the final draft submitted for an assignment for Intro to Journalism, at University at Buffalo, published October 24, 2018, https://eng193blog.wordpress.com/2018/10/24/48-hour-film-project/

Check out the short film While We Were Waiting (2018) produced by Shawn Patrick Greene

Stills of While We Were Waiting (2018) short film



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