Waking up after making two films in 48 hours must be like waking up after partying after two days—execpt instead of a hangover, you have two films. (And just for the record, I don’t think in my wildest days I ever stayed awake for two days straight.)
You know there is much written about what it takes to make a film. People, cameras, lights, etc., but there isn’t much written about how to make two different films at the same time. So this seems like a fitting time to address that since our River Run team this past weekend just completed that task by creating two short films for the 48 Hour Film Project.
Before I tell you what you need to make two short films at the same time there is one little thing that you don’t need to make two films—sleep. I’m not sure what the average sleep was for the crew but for Josh McCabe, who co-directed and edited one of the films, we averaged two hours of sleep. (And we did it without a single Red Bull.) Really, it would have been easy to do three films by simply having somebody edit a behind the scene making of video. It would have made a good zombie movie as various people stumbled around in the dark.)
Hmmm, three films at one time? That sounds interesting. Actually, with all the people taking stills and videos during the making of the films I am confident that we will in fact have a fun little behind the scene video. That sounds like a fitting ending project for our intern Tara who hasn’t had too much actual hands on experience this summer.
If you want hands on advice on how to make two films in one weekend this is the best I can come up with: Have a crazy idea and just find a bunch of crazy talented people who are game for the adventure. And a couple crazy ideas is what we had. We started with the crazy idea to do two films at once which I had been kicking around for a couple years. Since part of the 48 Hour Film Project is you don’t learn what kind of film (or films) you have to make until Friday night we didn’t really have a script when we started shooting just a couple loose ideas of where we were heading.
But like a seed everything grew out of those ideas. Since foreign films was one of the films we had to make I called artist Paco Rosic who speaks Bosnian and German and he agreed to help. So we invaded his loft after 11PM and shoot footage until around 4AM. Josh and I went to the office and pounded out the idea of the second film which was a Femme da Film. (A strong female character.)
When the cast and crew arrived at 8AM on Saturday they thought they were coming together to make a film about four girls coming together in a hotel room to go to a funeral about a teacher they all had who had passed away. We ended up trashing that idea because we were told that was kind of the storyline of Grown-Ups that is currently in theaters. Plus we also thought it lacked conflict and strong visuals.
So what the cast and crew found out when they showed up was we were going to make a film about four girls who instead of having a spa weekend were going to make a film together. That was a natural for conflict and strong visuals. We broke the concept down just like a feature film script. (Not that we actually had a script.)
Act 1: Set up. In a conference room the leader of the group (played by Emily Stortz) laid out the goal to make a film in 48 hours. Of course, the three other girls (played by Tory Flack, Emily Rozinek, and Cassie Milbrandt) not being filmmakers, think this is a stupid idea.
Act 2: Making the film. The girls would have to learn how to use the equipment and shoot the film. We gave each of the girls roles. Emily S. was the director, Tory was the editor, Emily Rozinek the DP/camerawoman, and Cassie the writer. Of course, there are some tensions on the set and a few cat fights as they race to make a film in 48 hours. We also decided to do some sitdown interviews (“The Office”-style) of each of the girls alone as they answer questions about the process of making a film in 48 hours.
Act 3: Basically the girls all reflecting on the experience of having learned filmmaking skills and having a sense of accomplishment of having done something that they didn’t think they could do. The film is titled, “No Day at the Spa.”
That arc we had in place when we began shooting. So though it may have looked totally scriptless to someone on the outside, it actually had a solid story structure. The actresses did a super job of creating a believable neophyte crew. (Even if they had no idea what J-K-L and shallow depth of field meant.)
What we really wanted to do was find at least a hint that the two films were connected. That the film we shot Friday night was actually the film that the girls made on Saturday.
We finished shooting the filmmaking film around 5 PM on Saturday and then went back to the office to begin editing it. After about 12 hours of editing (with Josh leading the charge) it was at a place at 6 AM that I could put my attention on overseeing the editing of the first film. Paco was the hands-on editor of a film that at this point only had a bunch of nice visuals.
So from 8AM-3PM we worked on the edit, wrote the script, recorded the VO, shot one needed shot, and exported the film. A nice mythic moment in that process was when artist Gary Kelley walked in and and gave us six little words that actually help make “The Masks We Wear” work.
Then it was back to the office as there were a couple of complications that were threating both of the films being turned in on time since we still had a two hour drive to Des Moines to make the deadline. The last hour of editing had a little tension. Josh and Alex Welsh left the office after 5:30 to try to make the 2 hour plus drive in hopes of making the 7:30 deadline.
I don’t want to know how fast they were driving, but they made the drop with 10 minutes to spare. I don’t know if anyone in the history of the 48 Hour Film Project has ever tried to make two films at once, but I don’t think it’s ever happened in Des Moines. My goal from the start was to be free to create something that either failed big time or that would be amazing. Hot or cold.
I’ll let others decide the quality of what we created. But overall it was a fun shared experience and I again thank all the people who were working hard and staying up late to help make two films in 48 hours. Special thanks to DP Stephen Holm from driving down from Minneapolis way, Jon Van Allen, grip/lighting specialist, for the use of his grip truck (and doing double duty on make-up as seen in one of the above photos), and Calvin Johannsen for jumping in to provide green screen motion tracking surgery at the last minute.
(I’m not sure what the rules are but I hope we can post the films online soon. If not, I’ll post some of the outtakes.)
Making Two Films in 48 Hours (Part 5)
Scott W. Smith
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