Both 48 Hour Film Project (48HFP) and Cinema 2880 (C2880) require a team of filmmakers to write, shoot, edit, score, and deliver a short film. The film must contain the provided elements, and must be completed in two days (equals 48 hours equals 2,880 minutes, in case you’re wondering about the names).

We have taken part in 48HFP twice as a No Zombies Productions team, once on another team, Barron Productions, and one of us back in 2010. We have also done C2880 twice as No Zombies Productions. In this post, we’ll compare and contrast the two competitions.


48HFP is an international competition that takes place in cities around the world. Winners of each city advance to regional competitions with the possibility of being shown at Cannes. Kickoffs happen in person, with representatives of each team on hand to receive required elements. Entries are shown at the premiere in each city, and, if deemed good enough, at the Best Of screening.

C2880 is a local competition run out of Public Media Network in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Entries are shown at the premiere in Michigan, and also on public television in the area.

Advantage: 48HFP, but only if you win


48HFP provides all teams with the same character with a first and last name, including variants for gender, that character’s occupation, a line of dialogue, and a prop that must appear in the film. Each team then draws a pair of genres out of a hat.

C2880 provides each team with a different character trait, prop, location, line of dialogue, and genre, making the assignment for all teams unique.

Element: Genre

In 48HFP in Denver, there are several sections of teams. All participants in all sections get the same character, prop, and line of dialogue. Then each section draws from a set of genres, so a section will only have one drama film, one comedy film, and so on.

The genre selection is from a published list of possible genres, so you go in knowing a little about what you might get. From that list, you receive two genres, and can select which you want to use, or combine them together.

C2880 assigns a different genre to each team, and the genres are a little more unusual. Where 48HFP gives you the more typical Comedy, Drama, Dark Comedy, etc., with a few wildcards thrown in, C2880 includes things like Music Video, News or Sportscast, Game Show, Children’s TV Show, and the one we got: Art House Film.

Advantage: We prefer the way 48HFP does genres. Nothing off-the-wall, nothing television-show-oriented, and you have a bit more choice.

Element: Character

For 48HFP, the character has a name and an occupation. Occupations we have had include administrative assistant, writer, retired circus performer, and architect.

For C2880, the character has a defining trait. In the 2016 competition, that included foodie, beatnik, superhero, escaped prisoner, etc. We had, “someone with a bizarre sense of humor.” In 2015 we had, “someone who talks in a monotone voice.”

As the C2880 team has to come up with a different idea for each team, the ideas tend to be a bit more outlandish, such as “imaginary friend,” defining more of the finished product than the 48HFP requirements do. On the other hand, some can be subtly incorporated, like “cowboy,” or “computer geek.”

Advantage: Depends. If I were to express a preference between 48HFP’s approach and C2880’s, I suppose the answer is: it depends on how intrusive the C2880 one is.

Element: Line of Dialogue

For 2016, C2880 used lyrics from Rush songs for all teams. Each team had a different lyric to incorporate. Ours was, “He’d like a lover’s wings to fly on.” Another team got, “Are you under the illusion that you’re part of this scheme?” In 2015, they used movie quotes. We got, “Many times I’d felt alone, but until this afternoon, I’d never felt completely lonely” (from Dances with Wolves).

48HFP, on the other hand, has the same line of dialogue for all teams in a city. Team No Zombies has had, “There’s not much time,” and “You’ve got a little something on your shirt.”

2016’s 48HFP quote shaped films a little more with its specificity, but really, both competitions are similar in this requirement. One thing to consider, though: When I watched entries for C2880, I wasn’t listening for the required line of dialogue, and could pay more attention to the film itself.

Advantage: Perhaps slight edge to C2880.

Element: Prop

48HFP props we’ve gotten: a lamp, a map, a notebook, and a lollipop. All pretty easy to incorporate.

C2880 props we’ve gotten: a rake and a barbell. We had no trouble with the rake. We’ve got one in the garage, and if we didn’t, we could go to the local hardware store and find one. The barbell, on the other hand, we didn’t actually find at our local stores (Target, thrift store), and didn’t have on hand. So we changed it to a bell on a bar. Given our genre (see above), this wasn’t so bad. Most of the other props in the 2016 list would have been easy. Luck of the draw here. But this is the impact of coming up with a different prop for each team.

Advantage: 48HFP narrowly. They’re just a little easier to work with here.

Element: Location

This element is unique to C2880. In 2015, we got Parking Lot. In 2016, Restaurant/Bar. This is another one of those things that can influence your film. For example, if all the other elements fit a wilderness adventure, and you drew office or restaurant, well, now you’ve got to find a creative way to blend it in.

I won’t say it’s a bad thing, though.

Advantage: 48HFP does make it easier.


One thing that I think C2880 does exceptionally well is this concept of a team category. They have three: Student, Amateur, and Professional. Their definitions are cut and dry.

  • If ALL members of the team are high school students and younger, you’re Student.
  • If ANY member has earned 50% or more of their annual income as a media professional in the past three years, you’re Pro.
  • Otherwise, you’re amateur.

We’ve competed in the amateur category and are likely to continue to do so for the foreseeable future.

In 48HFP, all teams compete against all other teams.

Both events have a wide range of skills and experience, and that contributes to a diverse premiere. But it is nice to have something that we can actually compete in without dedicating our lives to filmmaking. We non-zombies have day jobs, you know.

Advantage: C2880.

Movie Length

48HFP requires that the finished movie be 4-7 minutes long, and they give you an additional minute for credits. That’s a span of 3 minutes and 1 second.

C2880 requires that the finished movie be 5-6 minutes long. They do mean 5:00 to 6:00 – a span of 61 seconds. It includes credits.

48HFP’s requirement gives the team a lot more flexibility on where they end up. Toward the end of the race, when time is running out, you’re probably pretty close to in-between the required times.

When we did C2880 in 2015, we actually had to pad our times out a little bit, and couldn’t edit out some of the things we thought were a little slow in our entry. Hitting that narrower window is much more difficult.

Advantage: 48HFP.

The Event

There is a much higher energy at the 48HFP kickoff. Dozens of teams are represented, and the genre draw is live out of a hat. By contrast, C2880 kicks off by sending you an email with all the specifics.

On the other end of the event, you have to physically take the media to turn-in for 48HFP. For C2880, you upload it to YouTube or something similar and send an email to the organizer. We’ve got some exciting stories about getting to the turn-in location for 48HFP that would never happen for C2880.

Then again, when you’re trying to make a film in two days, do you really need the extra excitement?

Advantage: Tie.


48HFP is trying out a really early-bird special this year for $125 if you register in January for the July event. Last year, early bird was $140, and on-time was $160. Not hugely expensive, and they still get on the order of 50 teams per year, so they’re probably in a sweet spot.

C2880 is $20 per team. Anybody can do it.

There is one aspect to this that I think is strongly influenced by this price point: it’s not hard for a team to throw it away. That shows in the percentage of submissions for C2880 versus 48HFP. In 2016, 48HFP had 90% of teams turn in a film. For C2880 it was closer to 50% – even among professional teams.

Advantage: For us, we’ve budgeted for both each year. If you’re a student, that $20 entry fee is pretty nice. But between the cost and the participation rate, this category is pretty even.


48HFP happens in the summer. When exactly? Well, we don’t find out until it’s close to go time. There are dependencies on venues, competing events, and possibly staff.

C2880 takes place in October. They announced the schedule for their 2017 event right after the 2016 event finished. It’s nice to be able to plan ahead.


What’s a competition without prizes? 48HFP gives out a variety of prizes from local vendors, software, etc., as well as the ability to move on to the next level of competition if you win. There are some really good teams in the Denver area.

C2880 gives you cash. If you’re a best of, you’re taking home $288, which is 14 times the entry fee.

Given that there are fewer teams participating in C2880, chances of winning are better there. If you can turn in something on par with the excellent Denver teams, 48HFP might be your home.

Advantage: C2880.

In Summary

Both events have something to offer a team interested in participating in a film race. If you’re really new to them, you might try C2880 first. Then again, it happens later in the year, so if you’re excited about doing something like this, jump in to 48HFP.