March 19, 2008, Updated September 14, 2012

Amit Saragosi with his trophy for Best Film from the 48 Hour Film Project.Israeli director, Amit Saragosi wasn’t even sure until the day before that he was going to take part in The 48 Hour Film Project – a two-day international marathon in which participants produce a film based on guidelines disclosed only at the start of the competition.

“We missed the application deadline,” said 32-year-old Saragosi. “But then I got a call from the organizers saying that another group had cancelled and we could take their place.”

It was a lucky break. Especially as the film Saragosi wrote and directed, TimeCatcher, has just won the Best Film Award in the competition, beating out regional winners from 55 other cities around the world, ranging from Mumbai to Los Angeles.

The rolling competition, which takes place all over the world, this year attracted more than 30,000 participants. The Tel Aviv regional competition was held in June last year, and the finals were held in San Jose, California earlier this month. It was the first time a team from Tel Aviv took part in the event.

Each participating group is given a character, a line of dialogue and a prop that must be included in the film, which has to be written, shot, edited and scored within the 48-hour period.

Saragosi, who directs TV commercials and promos in Israel, worked on TimeCatcher with seven other friends in the professional film industry. He developed a story line around a “superhero” – the character his group had been given – who can predict how long people will live.

Only four minutes long – films cannot exceed seven minutes in length – TimeCatcher nevertheless quickly builds a tense atmosphere and sustains suspense to the dramatic end.

“There were many other great films made, but Amit’s was the most complete,” Naama Salomon, one of the Tel Aviv organizers, told ISRAEL21c. “The film has a real start, middle and finish to it and there is genuine character development even within such a short time span.”

In addition to best film, TimeCatcher also grabbed the best editing, script and directing awards. “The audience simply loved the film, it got the most ovations of any of the films in San Jose, where the judging of the regional winners was held,” said Ruth Efroni, co-producer of the Tel Aviv event.

The competition prize of $7,500 may not have made Saragosi rich, but it has buoyed his career.

Since winning with the film, he has joined forces with one of Israel’s largest ad agencies where he has launched a new department. As befits someone who can produce a film quickly and with limited means, the new department specializes in low-budget commercials.

Saragosi also hopes to utilize the momentum in another direction. “My dream now is to do a feature film and I’m looking for a scriptwriter to help me develop an idea I have,” he told ISRAEL21c.

He will have more than 48 hours to develop his feature film project but those who want to take on the challenge and fun of being part of an event in which “every second counts” (the project’s slogan) are invited to join this year’s competition in Tel Aviv July 2-4.

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Jason Harris

Jason Harris

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