48 Hour Film Project @ Indianapolis: Experiences + Tips

It has been two years (2010 + 2011) that I’ve now participated in the 48 Hour Film Project that comes to visit Indianapolis around the last weekend in July each year. I had two very different experiences on each film, which is to be expected.

Montage in action! 😀

The 48 hour Film Project is a strange sort of beast. It’s “one giant big medieval mess” as Merlin in Sword of the Stone might say. It’s quite a bit of everything. On the good side, it’s a lot of excitement, a rush, innovative, on your toes critical thinking, and all around creative. The downside is that it’s high stress, high emotion, tick-tock goes the clock, grab fistfuls of hair in agony, and it can almost take some people over the edge of ‘too much’. If you are up for a challenge like you have never probably done before (and even if you have, it’s never the same) then this is most certainly for you. I warn this much, NEVER underestimate it! You can create some amazing films from this and learn more about yourself and/or your team members. Especially you’ll learn about the ability for things to go wrong, the necessity to be able to compromise with a give and take, you’ll learn just how different personalities are in regards to having control, gulping pride to work with others despite disagreement, having inspiration take a dive out the window randomly, etc. All the planning in the world will never be enough for this beast. Learn to go with the flow and do it quick, you won’t have time to fiddle around!

SKIP THIS if you know 48hfp… If you aren’t familiar with the format of the 48 hour films, first you register your team on the website, and suggestions are to register early (it’s cheaper) but they do allow quite a bit of time to do so. Eventually, the big weekend approaches, and on that Friday, everyone meets up at a certain time/location for about an hour or two. During this meetup, if it’s summer, you stand around sweating outside for awhile, then stand around inside for awhile.  Side note: I wish I’d remember to bring water with me, as I’m usually always dehydrating and feeling a bit too much adrenaline by the time they start up. 

Always be prepared for anything with stuff, stuff, and more STUFF!

But all kidding aside, they’ll start the event, and everyone draws from a hat for the genre film from a decently big list of film genres. Also, if you should draw something you really really hate or can’t work with, you have an opportunity @ the end of the meeting to give it back and draw from a smaller pool of ‘Wildcard’ genres. This can be quite risky, but many are willing to take that risk if they draw say, musical/western. 🙂 Finally, everyone no matter what genre they get must work with the following: Character Name (guy or girl) and their ‘occupation’, dialogue line, and prop. Be very vigilant what these are and how to use them and do not deviate, because if you forget, you’ll be kicking yourself later.

So last year, 2010, was my very first 48hfp. I had no idea what I was getting into. We ended up pulling fantasy! YESS! YES YES YES. I couldn’t have felt more excited for this genre. I had no idea what we might draw, but I kind of hoped we could do a fantasy theme. They announced later that we needed a character named Cooper O’Brien, that he was a dog walker, the dialogue line was “What time is it?”, with using the prop from a car part. (almost everyone groaned when this was pulled) We rushed over to Starbuck’s near campus, a perfect location in hindsight to meet up, caffeinate ourselves to oblivion, and think think THINK! It was probably one of the greatest brainstorming sessions I’d ever taken part in. We were able to really come up with a solid overall idea and feel for the film. I admittedly LOVE humour, so the fact that we were able to mesh fantasy and humour together made me so happy. We also came up with some brilliant montage idea and a great twist. It seemed fairly well put together, so we texted our actors/actresses what they’d need to bring the next day and wrapped.

The Team! 🙂

The next day, we were due to film starting early in the day. Enter OMG WTF moment. Our lead actor hadn’t shown up after setup and preparations were almost done. We were getting ansy. We called and called back again and fretted and worried and spit and screamed. We were out a lead actor and had to give up the idea they were still showing up. (Apparently they not only overslept but the phone was forwarding straight to voice mail which was certainly worrisome, but later, I was glad to find out he was okay) We had one of two choices.

Freak out or somehow pull this together. Thankfully, it turned out to be the best thing to happen to us. Our new lead actor, who had to show up to all this chaos extremely last minute, was so awesome – Absolutely amazing! Easy to work with, quick on his feet, intuitively he took direction well, and did a damn fine job of making this Cooper O’Brien fellow come to life. LUCK was on our side. Morale skyrocketed as we blew through scene after scene. This is how you turn around what could be a very bad situation and make it golden. In fact, I must stop and say I was entirely amazed and grateful and in awe of all our cast and crew that day. Everyone was working like a well-oiled machine, knew their roles, gave it their all, laughed off the hurry up and wait of the production, and left with their sense of humour intact. You cannot ask for more! Production is the first of several hurdles.

Once you wrap, relief will sink in, but only for the moment. Then comes the edit, sound, refinement, and color correct/grade.

Lights, Camera, Action!

With a few snags here or there, which really in a whole picture is not bad at all, the edit came together and we went home for the night. I won’t mention the part where the timeline bugged in FC, got switched, and confusedly thought we were over time length. Oh noooo. 😉 hah. There’s really no good way to describe how the edit will go. Some choose to start capturing as soon as possible while the filming finishes. Others do it all at once. Some edit solo, others edit as a group. There’s no right or wrong way, it’s whatever way works best as a whole. I will say you don’t have the same time you may be accustomed to tinkering around with the edit, so the pressure can be hardcore at this moment. It’s best to just keep your blinders on, edit away, get feedback, and move into the refinement period as soon as you can. Don’t let the editing process go on. Remember, if there’s too many cooks in the kitchen…

The next day was full up on the sound and VO recordings, sound effects, and music, as well as color correction, titling/credits, etc. until you can export. There’s a very strict deadline – I don’t suggest you even consider missing because while you may be able to show your film, you cannot get any awards from it. It’s just good general practice to know your deadline and run up to meet it before it has come than to see it fly by you at the last second. We were able to drive over and turn it in without too much panic. I had never felt so proud of a project until this day because it’s just so different than anything else you can imagine. The time constraints + everyone having to pull together in a hectic and chaotic yet fun environment… it spurs the kind of creativity and passion you don’t always see everyday. This is what I loved best about the experience.

"Where do you think you're going, Mister!"

In about a week’s time, we attended the IMA to see all the screenings (they’re usually divided into groupings, like A, B, C) Our film, Cooper O’Brien and the Magical Moustache managed to pull away with Best Musical Score. That montage moment is seriously epic in my eyes, and always will be. The dream moment when Sarah barks is a particularly hilarious moment when you think they’ll pull together and kiss or something instead is brilliant. I smile like a giant dork the entire time watching it. It’s a totally feel good fantasy short film. It’s also been in other festivals and won several awards since then.

WATCH OUR FILM HERE: Cooper O’ Brien and the Magical Moustache

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