48 Hours of Pain and Panic
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Heard of the 48 Hour Film Project? It's a great idea . teams compete to write, shoot and edit a film in a single weekend. Starting on Friday night when each team is given a genre and other plot elements they must include, they have 48 hours to complete all the creative work involved in making the film. They have to write a script, cast actors, shoot, and edit within that 48 hours. They also have to make their soundtrack, graphics and any other creative elements.
It's been going for some time in the U.S. but this was the first time it had come to New Zealand, where I live, and I sure wasn't going to miss out, so I filled in the forms and sent of the money and then worried about getting people to help.
Thankfully, I know the owner of a video facilities rental company, and after a short email I had confirmed access to equipment to shoot and edit my film. Now there was the issue of collaborators . thankfully, I have some very creative friends and I got them on board as my writing panel. I was going to shoot, direct and edit this film, they would write it and help direct it.
Now, actors. Hmm, it's really hard to cast a film when you haven't written it, and don't know what it's going to be about. Still I spoke to a few actors I know, and they expressed interest so that was going well. Now I just had to sit and wait for the day to roll around.
And it did! On Friday night I went to the Chinatown Cinema, where the genre drawing was to take place. The weeks of anxiety all come together in one moment, when I stepped up, and in front of everyone placed my hand in the hand, pulled out a folded bit of paper and read out aloud, .Cop slash Detective,. there was an .ooooohhhhh. from the audience and I went back to my spot and watched the rest of the teams draw their genres.
The final pieces in the story puzzle were provided to us all, and they were a character (.Gnarly Watson . Rock and Roll Legend.), a prop (A Flashlight) and a line of dialogue (.Well, I didn't see that coming.).
As 7:30pm rolled around we were released, and in a flurry of cellphone activity we all informed our waiting teammates of the specifics of the stories we were about to write.
Once we had out story outline in place, we decided to take some time out and head out with the camera for some general scene-setting shots. It was also a location recce really. We arrived at one location, near railway tracks that we wanted to use for a chase. We shot some general shots and then we heard it, a freight train approaching! This was brilliant we wanted a train, we needed shots of it for our story anyway. The train rumbled into the frame of the viewfinder, and blew it's horn as it passed it was glorious! We were delighted.
By 4:30am on the Saturday we had the story pretty much locked, we were making a detective show that was sort of a cross between CSI and NYPD Blue, so with our script in hand (or on a laptop, anyway) we made our final arrangements and got home for two or three hours sleep before the shooting began.
At 8:30am we were all back in the office, well-rested and ready to go. We just need our actors. We had most of the roles filled, we just didn't know quite how it was all going to work. So we set about refining our script and making a shooting schedule (which we would basically throw out later).
At 10am, pretty much everyone was there and we started getting shots for our opening titles. Then came my really bright idea, .come with me,. I said to the lead actor as I grabbed my motorbike helmet and jacket, .grab that camera,. I said to the camera assist (who later became the camera operator, for reasons that will become obvious). We all walked to one end of the building where a driveway come right off the road and up to the doors. .Put the camera there, I will get on my bike, ride it up and stop in front of the camera, then we'll get a shot of Andy with the jacket on, taking off the helmet, and it'll look like he rode it up!.
It seemed simple, everyone agreed, so I put my bike where I expected to stop, got the camera operator to frame up the end shot and then rode up the road, turned around and waited for my signal. Tim's hand went up, I gave him a thumbs up, and took off, toward the camera at about 50km/h. I decided I would brake late and slow quickly for dramatic effect. I did, and it was very dramatic. I started to slow but hit a wet patch and the front wheel locked up. I was skidding out of control toward a $30,000 camera, and it's operator. The bike started to tip to it's right and next thing I knew, I was on the ground, with my bike beside me. .How's the camera?. I asked. .It's okay, you hit it though,. Tim tells me, .are you okay?. I start to stand up and am unable to put too much weight on my right arm, .I'm alright, think I've hurt my arm a bit though.. We pick up the bike, move it out of the way, reposition the camera and get Andy in the jacket and helmet, .alright,. I say, still nursing my arm, .you stand up into frame, brush yourself off and take off the helmet.. He does, and it looks great. We are done there, and I decide I must immediately load that tape onto the Avid so we can watch it. I digitize it and cut the shots together, and it looks great! Everyone laughs, and agrees it should go in.
At this point, despite my sore arm, I am still the primary camera operator, so we do a little more shooting, but as I arm swells more and gets stiffer, operating the camera is getting harder and hard, so Tim steps in, I direct the shots and he shoots them, brilliantly.
I am still not finished though, during the shooting of the chase scene a couple of hours later I put the camera on my shoulder, ignore the pain from my arm and shoot a few vital hand-held shots of our two detectives chasing the perp. But after that I pretty much decide that my arm hurt too much to do much more shooting. Or carrying boxes, or setting up lights, but that's okay, I will direct others in how best to use their hands.
At 12:30am on Sunday morning, a little over 12 hours after we start shooting, we have wrapped our shooting. We are ahead of schedule! But my arm is pretty sore, so after we do a little clean up, Jame (the Director), Ryan (the Writer) and I all head to the local hospital to get me looked at. We arrive at 1:30am and immediately start waiting. And waiting. After an hour, I tell Ryan he should go, and he does . James drops him off and comes back, and we keep waiting. At 3:15am I am seen by a doctor. He feels my arm, bends it a little and tells me he thinks it might be broken, and orders x-rays. At 3:25am we start waiting for my x-rays. At 4:30am an orderly asks us to follow him and we begin waiting in the x-ray waiting room. At 4:45am I am taken though to the x-ray room and the technician makes me hold my arm in very uncomfortable ways. At 5am we are lead back to the other waiting room, to wait some more. At 5:45am the doctor comes and informs me that yes, it is broken, I have a small fracture of my right Radius, but no, I won't need a cast, just a sling. And I should be careful with it. At 6am with my sling, prescription and a copy of my x-rays, I am off home. That's four and a half valuable editing hours, gone.
At 10am I am up, and at 11am I am editing, with a broken arm. I have less than eight hours in which to edit the whole film (targeted at 10 minutes) as well as do the titles, credits and get the music in. The music, yes, who will do that? We have downloaded a demo copy of Acid, which looks like it will do what we want, but no-one really knows how to use it. Ryan is sent to another room to figure it out. About 6 hours into my editing shift, I suddenly start to feel sick. Maybe it's the fact I haven't really eaten anything since Friday, or maybe it's the lack of sleep, or even the medication. But I run off to the toilet, not wanting to throw up on the Avid. A little dry retching and a lot of deep breaths later and I am feeling okay again, sort of. I drink a glass of orange juice and get back to it.
It's 7pm, we are freaking out, we are finished, basically we'd like to polish, but there's no time! We render the effects, put a tape in the deck and roll it. A little while later, with the project of DV and VHS we rush it in to the Chinatown Cinema, where I was, just 48 hours ago, with no idea what I was making, and two good arms. We hand the tape over, and we are done. It's all over.
In the end, we made an eight and a half minute short film, with original music, a funny script, excellent actors and a really committed crew. I crashed my bike, broke my arm and got only 7 hours sleep the whole weekend, but it was one of the most gratifying projects I have ever taken on!
After a little tweaking, we finally polished our project a little more and put it on DVD and walked away with a feeling of accomplishment. Also, very tired and pretty hungry. Now I have to plan for next year's competition!
Dylan Reeve is an injured filmmaker.