48 hours of insanity

The 48 hour film competition is an annual event where teams of people are given 48 hours to write, shoot and edit a film. I’ve been involved in a few now and I thought I’d try and tell you a little bit about it. I’ll try and keep this light on technical terms. Although they are hard to avoid.

At 6pm on a Friday our team will assemble for a dinner that has been made by our catering unit. This is a luxury our team has but it’s also the best part as the food is delicious and our caterer is the loveliest woman you’ll ever meet. The competition starts at 7pm. One member of our team is at the competition HQ and will text us through the compulsory elements.

These will be things we must include in the film a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a technical element (some fancy pants film technique like a specific type of shot or edit). You’ll also be given a specific genre of film you must make. Horror is very popular, musical is probably the least desired along with one shot (The whole film taking place during one shot, a more experienced team might actually love this as they’d like a challenge)

The first night (Friday) is fun, if you’re not a writer/director. You pretty much hang out with your team and watch films or tv shows together. I recommend a comedy series. Leave the writers alone. Sure have a quick chat as a team about the idea. But once your writers are locked away leave them alone to nut out the story. 48 hour works best as a dictatorship. A nice dictatorship 🙂

Saturday. This is the day the bulk of your filming gets done if you’re lucky. If you’re unlucky you’re up early on Sunday. Again there’s a quick chat and breakfast. While the actors do a read through/performance of the script. I have never been able to judge the quality of the film off a read through. Often the finished film has been much better then what I thought we were headed into. I just trust the director.

My job on the day is continuity. This involves taking a lot of photos and making sure the right people have the right hair, costume and correctly repeat the same action in every scene. Easy for some people with modern phones but my disability makes touch screens difficult so I use a digital camera. I am not the worlds greatest continuity person. I do my best but  I get fatigued and continuity is the kind of job that gets easier the more you do it. I am continuity one day a year.

Filming usually starts slow and then once you gain momentum you can catch up. Weather, the public, traffic, many locations in different places, equipment failure these can all lead to loss of time. Things tend to get a bit frayed around 10pmish. People are cold, the pizza is bad (Not on my catered team of course) and your itchy jumper is keeping you warm but it’s itching and you still don’t really get what the director is going for, or why the actor keeps making that face at the end of each take. Also you’re out of coffee and filming in the middle of someone’s cousins farm and the cows won’t stop mooing and you’ve got cow poo on your shoe which means your car will also smell of poo. It’s time to have a YELL GODDAMMIT! Or be the person that makes a few coffee’s, teas and hot chocolates to keep everyone’s spirits up. Also make sure that you have plenty of that stuff. DO NOT RUN OUT OF COFFEE OR YOU WILL BE LYNCHED (or whomever is responsible for coffee). Be understanding everyone is tired and they all want to go home. Work together and get through the night.

Sunday. Post day. You’re lucky your shoot wrapped at 330AM and you’ve had some sleep and your not involved in post so go back to bed jerk. This is what the editor who drove out to the directors at 2am to start editing is thinking as you drop off the footage and notes. I am not involved in post so I don’t have a lot to say about it. Good notes are key. Always note the best takes as this will help your editor cut faster. On a normal film they can cull a performance from all the takes, this is 48 hour speed is of the essence. Sound mixing, VFX, colour correction and grading sometimes extra filming. These all happen now.

I have directed one 48 hour film and it all kind of went wrong on post day. My editor and I started working at 6am. We had the thing cut by 10am. I am not a complicated director so we were really just adding sound effects and trimming while waiting for graphics. Then someone turned up to view the film, then two more people turned up with notes on what we could add to the film. Everybody wanted to change one thing and the film was tweaked to hell. Then more friends were called in. My editor noticed my slumping shoulders and once the room cleared said “You’re not having as much fun now?”. Understatement. The film was fine, I don’t have a copy of it and I waited 3 years before I got back in to 48 hour.

Now I am in a very organised team and it’s a lot more fun. We just hang out and a film happens to get made.

Dictatorships all day please!



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