By CHARLIE PINGEL
Why does the dog always have to die? As two Drake students set out to make a short for this year’s 48 Hour Film Project, money and reputation on the line, they stopped for a moment and considered this question, a moment that would come to shape their entire experience and the artistic growth they found along the way.
The 48HFP is a competition where filmmakers in teams are given forty-eight consecutive hours to write, direct and edit a complete short within the specific guidelines of character, genre, prop and dialogue they are given at the beginning of the process.
The Des Moines project, which took place from July 19 to July 21, saw Lucius Pham and Adam Heater, two local filmmakers and Drake Digital Media Production majors, taking their place in the midst of the experimental fray.
Their short, Buddy, the story of one dog’s attempt to solve the mystery of his sleeping owner with morbid consequences, took third place at the project’s screening event on August 2.
Drawing from their given genre, Cop/Detective, Pham said they always had the idea to do something with the dog, it was just a matter of finding the right niche for it.
“We thought, ‘What do we have at our disposal, one secured actress and Adam’s dog,’” Pham said. “We knew the genres but not necessarily what we were gonna get, it just happened one we came across was the detective genre. The google doc title up until even an hour before was just ‘Noir Dog’.”
One aspect of the film that became cause for much shock was its ending, a scene in which the titular character, Buddy, (SPOILER ALERT) dies by way of suicide.
Despite room for potential criticism, both Pham and Heater felt very confident and rather enjoyed mulling over the decision, elaborating on what they feel is the best moment in the short.
“When we were thinking about how this dog could commit this act, our thought was for him to fashion a noose from his own leash,” Heater said. “We knew the accompanying genre was always going to be dark comedy because that’s who we are as people and what we write.”
Though both knew it was the best way to wrap it up, Heater had his doubts early on, mostly relating to the projects familial ties.
“We’re in my parents home, this is my parents dog, and my parents are going to come to the film screening,” Heater joked. “And they’re seeing their loving, family pet killing himself at the end, my biggest concern then was being disowned by my family.”
They pushed forward, however, and eventually the duo agreed that the angle of dark humor was both necessary and helpful to the filmmaking process within the project as a whole.
“At these festivals, a lot of people will create problems for themselves by trying to take on something dramatic or serious in tone which you just can’t feasibly do in six or seven minutes,” Pham said. “We very much took the audience into consideration and thought comedy was the best most efficient use of our time.”
When sitting down to plan out the short, the two said the challenge really stemmed from simply sitting down to get the story straight, but once they did, it really came together.
“One of the tips we’d gotten from people who had done it before was do not end the first night until you have a full script,” Heater said. “I don’t know who threw it out first that the dog was going to kill himself but after that we knew exactly how to proceed with the story.”
In the end, the two filmmakers championed the project, capitalizing on what it meant to them as two college students competing against professional production companies.
“We went into this knowing most people had large crews, but we saw that as extra and knew we could do it with just us two,” Pham said. “So to go in there as just two guys studying video, not really having done anything professionally, and placing, that’s something I’m really proud of.”
Further information about the project can be found on the competition’s website. For those wishing to check out Heater and Pham’s short, the film can be found on their respective Facebook pages at Milk Chocolate Productions and Adam Heater Media LLC.