What do you get when you hand an aspiring film maker, a random genre, a character, a prop and a line of dialogue and say, “Make a film. You have 48 hours.”? The answer is one of the toughest film competitions I can imagine. And this is what I did over a week ago…though it feels like it was yesterday.
This is not the first time that I have participated in the 48 hour film project…or “no sleep for you” weekend as I affectionately call it. In fact, this is the fourth year that I have lead a team into the wilderness and we have emerged on the other side only slightly worse for wear.
This year was an experience unlike any other. For me, the project whipped into full gear on Friday morning when Esther and I caught the MARC from Union Station and headed to Baltimore. My sister was kind enough to pick us up, though in a car that was not exactly what I had been expecting…her Mustang…which has virtually no back seat.
Upon stuffing some of our bags in the trunk, Stephanie (my sister) handed me the keys to her car, hopped in the back seat and I drove the three of us home with a small detour to get Steph’s school books.
Esther and I had a few hours to set things up and for me to mentally prepare for the weekend before Steph’s boyfriend, Eric, took the four of us to retrieve three of my team from the bus station. This sub-adventure turned amusing when we attempted to fit Becky T’s suitcase into Eric’s car while having all of the seats up. Eventually we made it back home and soon the rest of my team arrived.
At 5:30pm, Geoff, Esther and I left for the assignment portion of the evening. We arrived, dropped off our forms, and then began pacing in anticipation of the drawing. When our turn finally approached, Geoff had the honors of drawing suspense/thriller from the cruel hat of fate. I called the team back home and we decided that this was our best option and stuck with it. After receiving our required elements (Louis/e Ledbetter, neighborhood busybody, a dog collar, and “If you want me, you know where to find me”), we rallied the troops at home and we were off.
Much of the rest of the weekend past a bit in a blur. Around 10:00pm, the writing team had a break through. (I should note that I’m not on the writing team and spent a lot of this time pacing back and forth while occasionally going to see how the writing team was doing.) The break through, however, triggered some very important errand running that needed to be done. So, off to the Walmart Esther, Marshall, Dan, Joss and I went to retrieve the items needed to create a film in 48 hours.
Once we had returned, I took a quick look over the script before returning it to the writing team with my edits. At 12:30pm, the team emerged once again with a final copy and we held a read through. Having something done this early only added to the excitement. Everyone was then sent to bed at 1am with the instructions to be ready to roll out by 8:30am.
5:45am came much to early for my liking, but I needed to be up, dressed and ready to go. And once Esther was up and ready, we made a trip to Wal-Mart to pick up some of the odds and ends we forgot the night before.
Upon our return, most of the cast was up and ready to roll, which was great. Breakfast was being served and I was hot on the trail of trying to print out the scripts…of which I got one before getting frustrated with the printer, told to eat several times and then carted off to gather other things we would need for the day. Jackie was left to tend to the printer and Esther was sent with Rebecca D. on a mission to gather the things we forgot at Wal-Mart, which included a dog tag for the dog collar and something else that I can’t remember.
In the meantime of me gathering everything, Jackie managed to get the scripts to print…by simply turning the printer on and off again and Geoff managed to talk me through the rough storyboard he sketched. I talked to my grandmother, who had graciously offered her house as the shooting location for the film, and once Rebecca and Esther had returned we were off!
It was a 45 minute ride to Bel Air, Maryland, but the change in standard location was a welcome one. We literally utilized my grandmother’s whole house to create a house of Louise Ledbetter, a house for Alan Churchville, and some other things that I won’t get into for fear of ruining the suspense of the story.
We arrived to find my grandmother not home, which I knew would happen as when she called she told me she was heading out for breakfast and how I could get into the house. Once inside we began setting up our portable editing studio, and our camera in our first location.
My grandmother arrived sometime in the meantime, and it was a good thing she did as we prepared to set-up we discovered that the battery in the shotgun mic we had was dead. Luckily, my grandmother knows backroads and found a battery at a CVS in no time. And then we were off.
I don’t recall a lot of the shooting. I was too concerned about making sure that we were getting all of the shots we needed and my production manager was concerned about making sure we were on time.
Beyond the mic incident we really only had two major problems with the location of my grandmother’s house. One was easily solved upon expanding the view window of final cut. Simply put, our actor and actress were wearing patterned clothing and on a small screen it looked like all the footage was bad because it was blurred. This wasn’t the case. It was just a small screen. the second was that the battery on the camera continued to die…so the last scene we shot at my grandmother’s (which is a 2 minute scene, btw) took almost an hour to film…and we were still racing daylight to arrive back at my parent’s house for the final shot of the evening.
Once we wrapped our first location around 6pm, we hopped back in the car and began our race against daylight. Lucky for me my father has an extension cord that is infinitely long that allowed us to not worry with battery for the camera. We just made our last shot as the sun began to set. It was now all up to my editor (Lucas), me and my composer in New York (Teresa).
Lucas was at the wheel first with finishing up the rough cut he had been working on all day. This was where we ran into another snag. For whatever reason, let’s call is Murphy’s Law, final cut decided that it no longer wanted to log and transfer the footage off of the camera. We quickly put the cast into a holding pattern and had them wait before they could change as we would need to reshoot the entire last scene if we couldn’t get the footage. We engaged back-up plans B and C. B being installing final cut on Jackie’s computer to pull the footage if necessary. C being Lucas finding software to convert the files over to .mov files. Half an hour later or so, plan C worked and we were back in business. But, while we waited it was terrifying. The moment that software malfunctions on a time limit is terrifying.
Around 10pm, Lucas handed the editing station over to me and we moved into fine cuts. Now is another point where I don’t exactly know what happened. I know I took over editing and really got into the meat of it around 1am. I slept between the hours of 5:30am and 6:30am, but only briefly and by 10am I exported a copy of the film to Teresa so that she could start composing in NY while I continued to sound edit and put finishing touches on the film back in Baltimore.
Around 3:30pm, the film was ready…we were just waiting on music from NY. Most of it trickled in not long after 3:30pm…but this was where we hit our very last snag. As I had made a stupid mistake earlier in the day and missed the last bit of stuff to export to Teresa, the music for the end credits was off…but trying to convey that to her was difficult as we could only talk via email. This wouldn’t have been a problem except that the email wasn’t going through properly.
We eventually sorted it out around 4:30pm and then at 5pm we began the exporting and burning process. By 6:30pm, we were ready and out the door to head to Chesapeake Systems to turn in our finished project by 7pm…once again proving to myself and my team that we can make a 48 hour film.
Upon our return home from the drop-off, my mother had food waiting and we screened the final film for our cast. They sat in awe at seeing themselves…especially since many of them hadn’t seen anything since they finished shooting. I’m very excited to for them to see the film on the big screen.
This year’s 48 was a big one. I had a bigger crew, a harder genre, the challenge of location s, and a composer in NY. I don’t know how we did it, but we did.
I have to really thank a lot of people for making this happen. My parents, who every year offer their house and food to support my team, my grandmother, for lending us her house, my sister, for the chocolate she gave me as I started to fade around 11pm Saturday, my sister’s boyfriend, for picking people up, Geoff, for putting up with my yelling at him, Jackie, for trying to keep me sane, Esther, for all the tea she made, and last but not least, Joss, who stayed up with me all night so I wouldn’t fall asleep at the computer while editing. My entire team was incredible this year and I’m so excited to see what they come up with next year.