What Is The 48?

The 48 Film Challenge

History of The 48 Film Challenge

In 2001, Mark Ruppert and Liz Langston (based out of Washington D.C.), initiated the first, 48 Hour Film Project (48HFP) which is the world’s oldest and largest time-based filmmaking challenge in the world – working with over 130 different cities. Since its formation, new film challenges (not associated with the 48HFP) have spawned their own 24-48-and-72-hour flavours, which are practiced in hundreds of cities by thousands of filmmakers around the world each year. For example, there are two-dozen notable time-based challenges across Canada, each exclusive to its city and/or region, including a 48HFP that has been operating in Toronto for 14 years.

What distinguishes our effort?

The 48 Film Festival, is the first and only not-for-profit federally incorporated, time-based film challenge representing Canada exclusively. WE ARE NOT CONNECTED in any way to the 48HFP’s international program nor its partner in Toronto. Through our Canada-wide film festival, we aim to draw in aspiring and active film artists in as many provinces and territories as possible. We hope to foster a cross-fertilization of talent and interest across the vast expanse of Canada.

What is a 48-hour film challenge?

Some of you will be familiar with the basics of a 48-hour film challenges; others not so. This time-based challenge and numerous others have generally been conceived as incubators for those new and experienced in the filmmaking arts. For this specific challenge, the idea is to conceive, write, shoot, edit, score and produce a short film within only 48 hours. All experience levels, genre and filmmaking practice is acceptable: from live action to animation to experimental, we are all about the exhibition of the moving image and the celebration of new and rising voices. To ensure the integrity of this endeavour, some mandatory guidelines must be followed.

At the beginning of the 48-hour period, entrants will be provided a set of mandatory instructions known as “The Key”. The project can not begin until participants receive “The Key”. For example, you may be required to include a particular camera angle or editing technique or work to a common theme. Films will be limited to the same duration (TBD, but always under 5 minutes); all must be completed and submitted at the conclusion of the 48-hour period.

All teams that register and complete a project on time will be screened locally in each participating province or territory. The top films from each participating province or territory will next screen at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto.

We want to see all productions step it up!

We encourage you to involve trained and/or professional actors from your local community to enhance screen presence, and to tap local composers and musicians instead of relying on random generic music downloads. We are looking for improved audio quality with better and smarter use of sound recording, including but not limited to, the use of voice-over to compensate for poor sound quality. We wish to inspire thoughtful use of filmic techniques and editing fundamentals and will be offering pro tips, resources and instructions. We are here to help you with all of the above and more to ensure your film is as good as it can be.

There will be lots of prizes and awards to go around, but most important, you will create a new film to present to an audience, and have the opportunity to meet, work with and grow together with artists within and beyond your province or territory.

The barrier to enter The 48 is next to zero; we encourage all those interested to try out. However, The 48 is not an easy challenge. We take filmmaking seriously and expect you to BRING IT!!! Most of all, we want you to work hard, be productive, stay safe and have FUN!

Online or in-person — Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has compelled us all to be innovative in using the online space as an alternative to in-person gatherings. How containment of the pandemic will play out over the next year is obviously not something we can answer. We aim to host in-person events for local screenings in the summer of 2022, but will have to assess the health and safety issues closer to that time, understanding that local screenings may need to be exclusively online. Our hope is that we can all celebrate coming together for an in-person event for the national screening in 2023 at the Canada-wide screening. For more on the projected timeline, go to How does The 48 work.

The National Announcement

Ideally it happens from February to April. Each participating province/territory will make a public announcement on their participation in The 48 and provide details of the timeline leading to local screenings and the Canada-wide screening.


Typically this begins in the spring. Each participating province and territory will host a registration period. There will be some regional variation, so check with the organization managing the event closest to you. Please pay attention to announcements, as registration typically is on a first come, first served basis. Entry fees will vary.

The Info-session

Ideally in spring each participating region will host an info-session (online or in person depending on health/safety conditions) explaining the rules and details about the festival. This will be a time to ask questions and connect with local composers, actors and extra crew members.

The 48 Film Challenge

In summer, for one weekend, each participating region will host The 48 Film Challenge in their locality. Ideally the rules and instructions will be similar across all areas, but often they will vary. Please check with the organization managing the event closest to where you reside. You will need The Key to begin!

THE KEY... Typically on a Friday, participants will receive an email that the challenge has begun. For example, the film challenge may go from 5pm on Friday to 5pm on Sunday. That email will contain your contest key which will include items mandatory for your film. These could be a theme, the use of a particular camera angle or editing technique, the use of a particular phrase in the script, etc. You will also be provided instructions for film format, export of files and documents that must be handed in with your film.

The Local Screening(s)

In summer, each participating region will host a local screening of all completed films. This will typically take place in the city in which the managing organization resides. There will likely be some local variation in details, so be sure to check with the organization managing the event that is closest to you.

The National Screening

The national screening will feature selections from each participating region. In Spring the following year, The TIFF Bell Lightbox or some place similar will host Canada’s national 48-hour film festival. Each participating locality will select two films for screening at the national location, so far its been locked in with the TIFF Bell Lightbox.