The front of the Grove Arcade in Asheville became a temporary movie set in the pre-dawn hours of a recent hot summer night. That’s where Aaron Putnam (pictured) and a few of his friends and classmates in Western Carolina University’s program in motion picture and television production got together to film part of a spoof called “Cosmo of 1932” for the 48 Hour Film Festival. As the festival’s name suggests, ambitious filmmakers such as Putnam have only two days to start and finish their creations.
Through the action-crammed hours, Putnam, a 2005 graduate of North Buncombe High School, wrote the script and filmed the story of Cosmo, a modern-day cop who plays his job as if he’s in the 1930s; his chief of police; a sidekick; and an improbable gang of villains including a cowboy, flapper, pot-growing environmentalists, and an umbrella-toting criminal mastermind in a kimono.
“It’s really a stress test,” Putnam said. “While I was writing the script, the others went out to find what we had or could adapt to support the story.” Finally, sleepless for 36 hours, Putnam and his team filmed the showdown at a pond in Weaverville. “That was pretty rough. I couldn’t think clearly,” Putnam said. After a brief rest, he started editing. That took another 10 sleepless hours.
The effort paid off. “Cosmo of 1932” carried off nine of the possible 19 awards at the festival, including the Best Film Award and Audience Award. “That’s a real star for Putnam’s resume,” said WCU’s Arledge Armenaki, associate professor of cinematography and a veteran moviemaker.
Putnam, who wants to write and direct professionally some day, expects to be back in the grueling competition again next year. “I won’t think about it until the deadline,” he said. “I’ll let it come to me when it happens. I’ll be better able to adapt if I don’t think about it too hard beforehand.”
For a look at Putnam’s award-winning film, go to www.putnamfilms.com (link no longer active). For information about Western’s program in motion picture and television production, visit the Motion Picture & Television Production Program.