48-Hour Challenge Highlights Omaha’s Growing Film Industry

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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) – It’s been a decade since Omaha’s Alexander Payne shot the six-time Oscar-nominated film Nebraska, largely in his home country.

Since then, cameras have rolled on three-time Oscar-winning Nomadland, the Coen brothers’ Buster Scruggs, and a growing number of feature films that go beyond the low-budget category, including 2022 festival favorite Bones and All, partially filmed in the western part of the state and opens nationwide in November.

Continuing to reap the seeds sown in decades past, Nebraska’s current filmmakers are nurturing the creative energies of young filmmakers and actors with events like the Omaha Film Festival’s 48-Hour Film Challenge, which launched online Friday night, when teams of young and experienced filmmakers figured out what genre they’d shoot the movie in, plus a few other fun challenges.

“We’re going to drop ping pong balls for every pre-registered team to reach and it’ll be comedy or drama or horror so you don’t know as a filmmaker you don’t know what your genre will be” , said Omaha Film Festival executive director Marc Longbrake. “Then we’re going to give everyone a line of dialogue and we’re going to give everyone a prop, so for example, the prop can be a skateboard skateboards, now every movie has to have a skateboard and every movie has to have that line of dialogue.”

They must then shoot, edit and deliver a film under 5:00 p.m. by 7:00 p.m. on Sunday evening.

Filmmaking, of course, has long been centered in Hollywood, but Nebraskanians in the entertainment industry say that’s changing.

“I was pleasantly surprised when I moved here that there was such a growing film community,” said Bellevue producer and actress Kate Pryor. “And we get SAG feature films shooting here. I was just on one recently that shot in August, [and] I know there’s another one happening now too. To have this kind of movie happening here is really really cool.

Building local film credibility is part of Longbrake’s charge as executive director of the Omaha Film Festival, which sponsors the 48-Hour Challenge and provides an outlet for filmmakers each March.

The Nebraska Film Office is starting to provide more grants and incentives to shoot here, trying to lure in the likes of festival favorite Bones and All, which was partially filmed in the western part of the state a year ago.

Longbrake said Omaha-based filmmaker Dana Altman, who is currently filming Going for Two on the subway, appreciates the non-monetary incentives found in his home country.

“[They are shooting] in a neighborhood and all the neighbors are excited about the movie,” Longbrake said. “You can call a bar and say ‘hey, I want to shoot a scene from a movie in your bar’ and they’re like ‘great can I feed people?’ In LA they would be cool, give me a million bucks… So we have incentives, they’re built differently and they’re from a cool place, Nebraska and Omahans.

The 48 Hour Challenge films will screen Nov. 11 at Brownell Talbot High School Theater.

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