This paper argues for a break from the notion of small cinema as a temporally and geographically located space and reconceptualises it as a socially constructed place. A shadow site that mirrors elite forms of cinema in microcosm and as a locus for communities of practitioners that intersect primarily through project networks. This case study of a long-running 48 Hour Film Challenge in the UK asks how identity formation contributes to a sense of membership within peripheral production communities. The socialising process that confers membership, provides a basis for the development of relationships that cement the interconnectivity of the network. Emphasising fluidity over stability the paper argues that networks of practice are a dominant organising principle. The research draws on a rich mixture of auto-ethnographic reflection, observation and qualitative data gathered over a four-year period. The paper evidences the contribution that a 48 Hour Film Challenge, as a locus for networks of practice, can make to the evolution of a regional creative economy. It attests to the ways in which participation in a filmmaking and screening activity has value for early-career filmmakers through an engagement with their own personal narratives.