48 Hour Film Recap – 2011

Just reading a 48 hour film project recap from a Twitter follower in another city, I realized I never posted about ours. I guess I was too wiped out from the weekend. Yeesh. Here’s a brief summary of ours. It took place July 29th-31st.

We met up at Jeremiah’s cute house on the south side of Indy where we would be shooting our film the next Saturday. He lives only a jump from the kick off so it was nice to meet there and carpool, and that’s what we did. I had been dreading this weekend for a while. I know the kind of physical and mental commitment it is, and I hadn’t prepared myself very well for it. Plus it was breaking my brain to think that we would again have a movie that isn’t even a thought in the air totally created by Sunday night. Ugh. Like last year, we got to the kick off at the recommended time and waited around for forever until the draw happened. The kick-off takes place at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art which is actually a TINY art space in a cool neighborhood. It gets loud and hot in there very fast. Not an awesome place for this kind of thing, but whatever. We were in the last screening group so we had to wait until almost all of the 42 teams had drawn their genres. I was sweating bullets that we would draw something like musical/western or period piece and just be so screwed. We drew dark comedy. I was relieved and terrified. Our group’s collective humor is very dark, but sometimes crosses the line to TOO dark. Dark comedies are also very reliant on dialogue I think. Yikes.

We went back to Jeremiah’s and sat around throwing around ideas for a long time. We settled on the idea of a support group with terminally ill people, but it’s an anti-support group so they all bet on each other’s deaths. It was dark and had subtle humor, but also a few chances to be over the top. Plus, we all agreed we wanted to do something dialogue heavy. None of us had ever shot a fictional short that had much talking in it. We had a hard time developing the idea and went back and forth between a couple other ideas before we came back to this one. I think leaving the writing to a smaller group of people would be a better idea for future 48’s. Writing is just not that collaborative, especially if you have someone that keeps trying to push one very specific idea that won’t let it go even if it isn’t working.

We went from having nothing much written down at 9pm to having a full outline by midnight. We decided we’d lead our actors the way we wanted the story to go, but it would mostly be improv. A huge risk, but I felt it was worth it to let them just go with it instead of memorizing lines. Our story wasn’t a super traditional narrative, it was closer to the dark comedy television shows we watch where the beginning, middle, and end exist but aren’t so much the point of the story.

We were back the next morning at 8am, our actors arrived at 9, and we were shooting by 10:30 after briefing them on the story. It was nice that we were able to shoot entirely inside, as it was about 95 degrees outside. It kept the equipment movement to a minimum and our actors had access to snacks. It was a pretty good strategy for a 48hourfilm. I wish now we could have been riskier with it, but you could beat yourself up over a film made in 2 days for the rest of your life, better to let it go, be happy you did it, and go make something else right? We progressed quickly through the shoot. Our prop we had to use was an orange, so my idea was that the main character would be the only one with a defined illness – testicular cancer that spread to his prostate. He would reveal that the orange was a testicular replacement since his were removed. I wondered if everyone would get it, because I certainly didn’t want to make it overly heavy handed, but I think it worked. Plus, it was super funny to shoot. In fact, this was my favorite moment of the weekend:

Somebody: OK guys, we’re shooting to shot where Chris pulls the orange out of his underwear.
Somebody else: (jokingly) Maybe we should clear nonessentials from the set so he doesn’t have to open his pants in front of everyone.
Person at door: Hi I’m the photographer with the Indianapolis Star (newspaper) covering the 48 Hour Film Project, can I take some photos while you work?

So now there are photos of us directing Chris on how to remove an orange from his unbuttoned pants and underwear in the newspaper. As a bonus, the photographer totally gave us a line of dialogue we used.

We wrapped around 5pm and our amazing actors asked us many times if we still needed them, but we were done.

The rough part: we needed a final cut by about midnight/1AM to pass to the composer/sound designer. I didn’t know we’d have to do this when we brought him on for another year. He had another engagement in the morning he had to be a part of. If I had known this, I probably wouldn’t have included him on this project as amazing as he is. It’s just not conducive to the 48 hour film project to have an entire final cut done before Sunday, and then do almost nothing on Sunday. Sigh. The edit was rough and I don’t really want to write about it, lots of arguing and nonsense. Not great. But then it was done. We missed some things and didn’t get to experiment with the pacing, but it worked out. I locked it and sent it off to the composer who worked overnight on the score and sound.

Josh and I met up at a coffee shop the next day around 11 to review the color correction and finish the credits, and wait for the final file from the composer. We finished up and waited and waited (I think he was continuing to mix) and finally around 4, I got a file in my dropbox. It took a while to download and by the time I had it in the timeline, it was closer to 5:15. We realized there were 3 random sync issues for some reason, and I attempted to fix them. We put band aids on them basically – they weren’t perfect but most people wouldn’t notice. As I looked at the film, I was proud that we had accomplished all this way faster than we needed to. If we had been able to edit longer, work together with the composer, and have someone write an actual script, it may have improved, or it may have been overdone. I know that finishing the edit so quickly was not a good move just mentally – we couldn’t really do any minor edits on Sunday that we wanted to fix because we had picture locked it and the workflow didn’t allow for us to move things around. As another bonus, we ended up editing in Premiere which I’m not even familiar with anymore, and my Media Encoder link is broken, so I had to send everything through After Effects to be rendered out. Basically my entire workflow plans were completely blown away by a technical glitch at the beginning. Any less tech savvy teams would have been fucked.

I assembled everything, exported a ref, and dropped it in Compressor. It was 6pm and it was due at 7:30. After about 15 minutes I realized that when I had dropped things into the timeline, I had forgotten to disable the scratch audio track on half of the film. SHIT. Cancel Compressor, export another ref, drop in Compressor. 6:25pm. FUCK. I knew it would finish on time and we’d be able to review and burn and turn it in without any issue, but a small part of me was like this: OMGOMGOMGOMGOMGOMG WHAT IF IT DOESNT. I know when I render H264s that it always takes FOREVER for that status bar to move across, but it always hits about 50%, gets to the audio track, and soars to 100% within a minute. BUT WHAT IF IT DIDNT OMGOMGOMGOGOMG. We decided to drive to the drop off while my laptop was crunching it. I felt like I was being taken to the hospital to have a baby. It was wild.

But it finished at 6:55, I watched it and it was as good as I could have expected a 2 day film to be. I burned it and copied to a thumb drive and dropped it off at 7:10pm. I didn’t expect things to be so crazy at the end because I thought our composer would be getting us the files around noon, not 4. If I do this again, I will never do THAT again and I wouldn’t have done it to begin with if I had known.

I’m really happy with our film. We pushed past the boundaries of what we’ve done as a group. The screening went really well. We got the first big reaction, people laughed and laughed and we were relieved. I knew we wouldn’t win anything. Our film isn’t the type that wins, at least not here, it doesn’t have zombies or appeal to the lowest common denominator, and it has some pretty rough humor. But we fuckin’ did it, yo and I’m glad we did. We pulled it together, incorporated the necessary elements well, and our film was one of the better ones.

In the future if I participate again (and I don’t know that I will, I don’t like the stress of this), I would just like to edit. I didn’t like directing. I don’t mind leading a group at all, I just don’t care for the production side of things. I hope if I get with a group in the future, I can just be the editor/VFX/colorist and leave the shoot to someone who likes that part. I also know that I have some very talented friends and I can’t wait to see where the next year takes them.

Also one of our crew got a quick PA gig on a reality shoot and ended up showing Howie Mandel our film. How crazy is that?

Anyway, here’s our film, “support group”: