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Posts Tagged ‘The 48 Hour film project’

Tonight the film, The Masks We Wear, which I produced, shot, and co-directed (with Josh McCabe) for River Run Productions will be one of films shown tonight at  The Best of the City screening in Des Moines as part of The 48 Hour Film Project. But there is a little more real life drama happening in Iowa right now.

Tuesday night I was returning from a trip to Florida and my connecting flight from Minneapolis to Des Moines was delayed in taking off because of lightning. We were told that all flights were delayed from taking off until lightning had not been spotted for 15 minutes. Eventually we took off and were told the ride made take a little longer than 45 minutes as they were trying to fly around a big storm. Somewhere over Iowa around 9PM the sun was setting and casting a golden glow on the storm clouds below us.

For about 15 minutes the view from seat 16A was the one of the most glorious views I’ve ever had in all my years of flying. (I took the above picture with my iPhone with a slight enhancement using the Chase Jarvis iPhone app The Best Camera.) By the time I landed, got to my vehicle, and made a Starbucks stop to prepare for my two-hour drive to Cedar Falls it was 10 PM. I was about 15 miles north of Des Moines and about 15 minutes south of Ames on I-35 when I saw a storm in front of me that looked like the kind you see in the end of the world movies. A dark and foreboding wall with a lot of lightning.  As the rain started to fall I actually made the decision to re-route my trip and turned around, back-tracked where I just came from and headed  east on I-80.

The storm eventually caught up with me and I had to pull over twice because visibility was so limited. It made a two-hour trip take three and a half hours. It wasn’t until Wednesday afternoon and this morning when I saw how bad the damage was in Ames and Des Moines. Currently I-35 (the major trucking road between Minneapolis and Des Moines) is closed, Ames is experiencing one of their worse flooding ever —leaving residents without drinking water, and tragically a 16-year old girl was killed outside Des Moines when her car was sweep away by flood waters just a mile away from I-80.

Kinda of puts things in perspective. While I was in Florida I showed a video I produced for my high school reunion. Among the fun songs and pictures I had a segment where I used Don Henley’s song The End of the Innocence (co-written by Bruce Hornsby) to recap things that had happened since we had graduated. It’s a bittersweet song that has always been one of my favorites. And the perfect song to evoke emotions for a group of people who had collectively witnessed the Challenger exploding and events surrounding 911.

Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneth a deep blue sky
Didn’t have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standin’ by
But “happily ever after” fails
And we’ve been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers dwell in small details
Since daddy had to fly

So tonight when I’m walking the red carpet Hollywood-style in Des Moines I’ll enjoy the moment. But I’ll also be aware of the people suffering nearby from the recent storms and my prayers go out to the friends and family of the 16-year-old who was killed.

Keep in mind while you’re writing that death and suffering are never far from your door. May you create stories that that not only entertain, but those that engage and enlighten the world we live in. (Aren’t those the kinds that last through the years?) To borrow writer Flannery O’Connor’s phrase, we need a few “prophetic poets.” They help us through the storms of life.

P.S. And if you happen to be at the screening tonight or the Des Moines Social Club afterwards stop by and say hello. I’ll be the one in a tux jacket, jeans, and black Converse high-tops.

Scott W. Smith


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So here’s our little 48 hour experimental film we produced a week ago for The 48 Hour Film Project (Des Moines). The genre we had to make a film in was “Ghost Story” and we had to include a character named Greg or Greta Calhoun, a can opener, and the line “I have three words for you.” The film had to be between four and seven minutes and from start to finish everything had to be done in 48 hours. (We delivered the video in Des Moines.)

 

Dominique Wooten had seen the film we made last year and was game for being our star this year. He’s a voice major at the University Northern Iowa so I knew we would feature him singing and just kind of back the story in from there. I figure if the film did nothing else it would highlight his voice. Dom is originally from New Jersey and while this is his first film he has performed on stage in musicals and operas.

Jack Ackerman who played the minister also had never been in a film or been a minister, but he is a lawyer and a Toastmaster so I knew he could speak. In fact, Jack will be competing next month against nine other people to be the top Toastmaster of 2009. One of the things Toastmasters does is prepare you to give 1-2 minute talks off the cuff. I knew Jack would come through.

And while the film was made in 48 hours the budget was probably only $48.

Related post: 2008 48 Hour Film

 

Scott W. Smith

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So last weekend for The 48 Hour Film Project/ Des Moines our team drew “Ghost Story” as the genre in which we had to make a short film.  We quickly started connecting the dots and Ghost was the first movie we tossed out as fitting the genre. That lead to jokes about getting a pottery wheel. 

Other movies with ghosts were mentioned; Field of Dreams, A Christmas Carol, and of course, Ghostbusters. We had discussions about the difference between angels and ghosts. We agreed in general (right or wrong) that in pop culture that angels helped other people while ghosts tend to resolve issues they have before they can move on.

We again pointed to the movie Ghost as having bad ghosts that went to the bad place while Pat Swazye’s got to go upward. We pounded out a story concept in about 5 hours and then shot for 12 hours on Saturday, turned in the finished film on Sunday, and it screened tonight in Des Moines. I’ll post a link of our efforts for this Sunday.

So it seemed fitting to find a quote today from Ghost screenwriter Bruce Joel Rubin who won an Oscar for writing the 1990 film. 

“As a writer, I’m trying to promote some alternatives to nihilism. Art, I think, has a larger purpose than just diversion. Art is a transcendent view of the mundane, So much of what we look at has no transcendence in it. The brackets are in the wrong place. It doesn’t leave us complete. It doesn’t leave us with a vision that allows us to see life from another angle…the end of the film (Ghost) was was about spirit, about the fact that our lives are embued with spirit. It’s really about trying to affirm that spirit in man—though in  very quiet way. I said something about that when I accepted my Oscar, and I could hear everybody laughing in the auditorium, like, Oh, come on, this is just entertainment. I think one of the reasons the film enjoyed such acceptance was because it addressed this issue that somehow there is a higher aspect to man.”
                                                          Bruce Joel Rubin
                                                          Screenwriters on Screenwriting 

 

Scott W. Smith


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48HrFilm

A friend of mine from film school who has made over a dozen feature films says forget whether or not a film is any good or not, he’s just amazed that a film simply makes sense after you’ve finish editing it. Anyone who’s made even a short film knows there is a lot of truth in that thought. It’s a messy process.

This weekend I made another short film with a handful of people for The 48 Hour Film Project (Des Moines). 

That’s where you have 48 Hours to make a 4 to 7 minute film from start to finish. This was my fourth year of taking part in the process. In the past three years the short films I’ve made have won best cinematography in the competition that usually attracts about 35-40 teams of filmmakers here in Iowa. 

One of the reasons my films have won in the cinematography category is I started out back in the day as a photographer and am drawn to strong visuals. This year was no different as you can see from the above photo that feature a beautiful stained glass window in the background. And one of the fun parts for me is to work with talented people who have never made a film before. 

This year was no exception. This year’s film stars Dom Wooten a voice major at the University of Northern Iowa (standing in suit) and Jack Ackerman who is a retired lawyer who next month will compete with nine other people to be the top Toastmaster in the world for 2009. So I had a gifted tenor and a gifted public speaker and just needed to figure out a way to write a story around them. (The process of which is really not all that different than writing a script to fit a particular Hollywood actor. Embrace your strengths and limitations.)

You’ll see the results in the coming days as I’ll post a link and tell you how our team did in the competition. In the meantime if you’ve never had a film made this is an excellent way to not only put some rubber to the road but to also meet a lot of like-mined people (crazy creative types that don’t care if they get much sleep and work for no pay). The 48 Hour Film Project is done around the world so there is a good chance there is one near you. (Even if it’s two hours away like Des Moines is for our team.)

Thanks again to the cast and crew for getting another film done—and turned in with 13 minutes to spare.

 

Scott W. Smith

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“I shoot video because it gives me freedom as a filmmaker to try new things.”
                                                                                                Mike Figgis
                                                                                                Writer/Director
                                                                                                Leaving Las Vegas  

“Montage is conflict.”
                                                                                              
Sergei Eisenstein 

 

 

Since my last post was on the six-word story, I thought it would be a fitting place to talk about the 48 hour film.

A couple weekends ago I made a film as part of The 48 Hour Film Project taking place in Des Moines, Iowa. Below the film titled “Heart Strings” I’ll talk a little about the process of making that film.

This is my third year doing The 48 Hour Film Project in Des Moines. The past two years my films have won best cinematography against the 35+ teams competing. This year I really wanted to take a shot at making the best film.

The first thing I noticed is in these sort of things comedy does very well so I had in mind that I’d make a film with a humorous angle. I also decided that I wanted to shoot in one location and be done shooting by Saturday morning. Local artist Paco Rosic (www.pacorosic.com) has a restaurant here and said we could shoot there after 10 PM. 

Then we had a handful of people that had agreed to be in the film if I needed them. My goal was to use only two or three people. I really was aiming for simplicity. On Friday night we drew romance as the genre we had to make and the idea of speed dating came to my mind in about ten seconds.

Which of course fit the talent pool I had gathered– a mix of men and one women. Paco ended up as one of the actors and not only gets the girl at the end of the movie, but he edited the film as well. He is a talented artist and who has a non-linear editing system in his loft near the restaurant.

You learn to go with the flow when you’re making a film in 48 hours. I had an editor and a DP both from Minneapolis who had to pull out of helping just days before the shoot so I was glad Paco wanted to take a stab at editing it. Local grip and lighting specialist Jon Van Allen decided he could help out and the film would not have been as good without him. He brought not only his talent, but his fully equipped grip trailer and an extra Panasonic HVX 200 camera.   

And then there is the lead actress Amy Anderson. This is a classic case of “do what you can, where you are, with what you have.” This was Amy’s first film, but I knew she could play the violin so that would play a part of the story. So she not only was on camera between midnight and 6AM talking to strangers, but she had to perform for the final scene after that. Thank you, Amy.

The entire cast and crew did a super job and it was an enjoyable and stress free shoot. I had written a loose outline of characters and some dialogue and then we just shot a lot of footage picking out the best performances that seemed to have the most conflict in the character Bridget’s search for Mr. Right. 

We turned in the film before the deadline and would have liked more time to tweak the audio–but it is a 48 hour film. Thanks to people lending their time, talent and equipment the total budget was less than 48 bucks. (Probably less than the average lunch for Matthew McConaughey on “Failure to Launch.”)

If you’re a screenwriter who’s never directed a film, events like this are perfect for you to try some new things. It’s also a good chance to let people who have little or no experience to get a glimpse into what it takes to make a film. Believe it or not, an all night shoot is a great introduction to the carnival of a life in the film business.

And if you’re ever driving through Iowa and looking for a unique restaurant check out  Galleria de Paco in Waterloo, Iowa. (The shooting location of Heart Strings.) How many places in the world can you eat shrimp and grits and look at a fantastic spray painted recreation of the Sistine Chapel?

Update: On August 14, The 48 Hour/Des Moines Awards were given out and my little film  “Heart Strings” won best cinematography and an honorable mention for best directing.  

Later that night US Olympic gymnast Shawn Johnson from West Des Moines snagged a silver metal in Beijing. In one of those quirky timing things I drove by Johnson’s high school on the way to the Fleur Cinema where the top 12 48 Hour Films were being shown.

Johnson is one more reminder that Iowa is full of surprises. Check out her website that is hosted by my buddies over at Spin-U-Tech.

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