Quiet on the Set! Cameras rolling. Scene 1, Take 1. Action!
If you’re an avid movie fan like me, you might harbor a secret desire to utter those lines on an actual film set. I got to be just that lucky recently as part of a team competing in the 48 Hour Film Project, a nationwide contest challenging amateur filmmakers across the country to write, film, edit and complete a short (five- to seven-minute) movie. All of it–from concept to execution–has to take place within 48 hours. Each team is randomly assigned a genre, ranging from buddy pic to horror flick, and all teams have certain elements (a character, line of dialogue and prop) that are required in the final film.
Friends in the illustrious (and award-winning) team Fighting With Forks invited me to be a part of the Nashville competition July 17-19. I didn’t even ask what they wanted me to do, that’s how fast I said yes.
The 48 hours we spent getting to know each other and working hard to tell a compelling story were intense but great fun. Our two days together roughly went like this: Around 6 p.m. on Friday, the entire team gathered to hear our chosen genre (fantasy) and the required elements chosen randomly for our city’s competition (an actor named Charles or Charlene Little, a still camera as a prop and the line of dialogue, “I’m trying to decide.”) We spend a few hours brainstorming possible storylines, ranging from the ridiculous (foreshadowing!!) to the sublime.
Around 10 p.m., the four writers got down to business, magically churning out a script by the wee hours of the morning (around 3:30–ouch). Here’s the story they concocted: “A man has an epiphany where he thinks that he’s Death. He goes to a therapist to hash out his recent revelation, telling stories from his youth and recent events. He lives with his goth girlfriend, Charlene Little, who is an actress/photographer also obsessed with death. In the end, after sharing several fantastical stories about people and animals dying in his presence, he realizes that his therapist, too, has keeled over.”
The director of photography and his production assistant took the script and drew storyboards until the sun came up to prepare for the next day’s filming. The entire team was due on set at 7 a.m., and everyone (director, DOP, actors, lighting director, cameraman, audio guy, boom mic operator, et. al) spent the entire day–until 11 p.m.–filming. We ate lunch and dinner standing up, with one hand on a slice of pizza while the other hand jotted down notes, set up the next scene or put on makeup. While we filmed, three prodigiously talented musicians wrote original music to go with the script, ending up with an entire album’s worth of songs.
Next, our editor took the miles of raw materials and, along with the director, DOP and a writer, spent hours upon hours shaping the film. (Sleep is for sissies had to be their motto.) The film’s title–“Now You’re Being Ridiculous”–didn’t come until sometime mid-afternoon. By 6 p.m. (an hour early!), the finished product was dropped off.
Satisfied with the ridiculous story told, all the players slept happily ever after.
Postscript: We won best overall film! Watch it here.