"The Reluctant Reaper" by OUGDA/That Animation Company. This short was named first place in the upperclassmen category of the 2017 48 Hour Shootout. The short is also the first animation to win first place in the 15-year history of the competition.

48 Hour Shootout Spins Tales of Murderous Girlfriends, Funny Grim Reapers

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A bullied youngster has a harrowing experience with the Grim Reaper.

A young man discovers that his girlfriend is a murderer. (But, he’s kind of okay with it.)

These are the basic premises of The Next Step and The Reluctant Reaper, the first-place shorts in the 15th annual 48-Hour Shootout, which took place in Athens last weekend.

Since 2002, the competition has brought together Ohio University School of Media Arts and Studies students into tightly knit crews to craft three to five minute shorts based around specific genres, props, and lines randomly assigned to each group. They are given 48 hours to complete the projects over the course of a weekend early in the spring semester. All of the shorts screened on Sunday evening.

Emelia Douglas, the producer of The Reluctant Reaper, the first place short in the upperclassman division of the competition, said that the 2017 shootout was, by, far, the least stressful one that she’s ever taken part in.

“We really had a great group of kids working on our team,” said Douglas, a games and animation major senior. “Everything went really smoothly. Friday night was a little stressful, which isn’t what you usually expect with the shootout, but everything worked out. We had some late nights, but I know that this is the year that I got the most sleep.”

The Reluctant Reaper was put together by OUGDA, the Ohio University Game Developer Association, a student group that puts emphasis on animation, as well as video game design. The team’s official shootout name was That Animation Company.

The short was the first ever animation to win first place in a shootout.

Douglas’ group was given a cape as their prop and the line “People find it easier to forgive others for being wrong, than for being right.” Initially, they were assigned “romantic comedy” as their genre, which they traded (with the lower classman winning team, nonetheless,) for “fantasy.”

That Animation Company swapped genres with Monster Futon Productions, an underclassman group that created The Next Step, a romantic comedy that examines the oft-rocky first days of a budding relationship, all whilst hinting at murderous tendencies in one of the partners.

Assigned eggs as their necessary prop and the line “one can never have enough socks,” Monster Futon Productions focused on creating something quirky enough to suit the constraints they were presented as sophomore college student filmmakers.

“We actually never had a fully written out script,” said Mitchell Sturkey, who played the boyfriend in the short. “We just had a sort of outline, a backbone, for the plot.”

“We really wanted to use improvisation,” said Nick Atz, the director of the film. “That way you can sort of get that quirkiness that you want out of actors who aren’t super experienced.”

Monster Futon Productions said that they’re eager for 2018’s shootout, which they are already preparing for.