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I love the 48 hours challenge. For the last few years I have really wanted to be involved, but time and work often got in the way until last year when I finally got the opportunity to work with Gino and his team to create a movie.

As I noted back then, it was an enjoyable and exciting experience that cemented in me the knowledge that creating films was what I wanted to do – and was something I had a knack for.

This year due to Gino and Viv’s new bundle of joy, Rebel Faction was not able to make a return appearance, but Margie was entering the competition again and I was keen to sign up.

A couple of my friends entered this year, but the benefit of Margie’s team was that it was a small crew. While larger teams can be a bit more sophisticated with their films, I feel that individuals involved miss out on benefiting from the full experience.

We went with the name Tuk Tuk Inferno for our team after Margie suggested it (inspired by a truly bizarre chase sequence in Ong Bak) and both Ming and I (who were given the roles of Producers) loved it.

I feel that our key goal this year was to keep everything simple. We wanted to enjoy the weekend, learn new skills and give everyone an opportunity to provide positive input into our production.

Following the experience last year with Rebel Faction, it was important to me to keep everyone focused and organised. Fortunately, all of our team members were on the same page with this.

To this end, I had secretly decided that I would ensure that everyone got at least six hours sleep each night. This was vital to me, as a good night’s sleep produces better results the following day.

Friday

Unfortunately a serious anxiety based illness from work had me laid up on the couch at home on the Friday – and I was worried I would be too ill to do the challenge. Fortunately my new work is very understanding and let me take the day off to rest up.

About 7:03pm I got the word – our genre was Time Travel, the character was Kerry Post, a perfectionist, the prop was a brush and the line was “wait a minute…”

I was initially panicked. Time Travel? That’s not really a genre at all. Worst, it’s possibly the crappest genre for a short film because you don’t really have a lot of screen time to tell a story without risking being too obtuse. I immediately started wracking my brain for ideas to suggest.

I txted Lynn and Kent – who had agreed to help out with acting in the film – and they were almost about to not come over. But when I informed them of the genre – they were in the car and on their way.

Once Ming, Margie and her Dad arrived we sat down and began brainstorming. We ran a gamut of ideas and initially closed in on a concept that was challenging but viable. When Lynn and Kent showed up we shared our ideas and kept working away.

It was at this point that I felt it was important to keep everyone focused – A lot of good ideas were coming out, but I wanted us to have a script written by midnight at the latest. To this end, Margie and I reiterated that we wanted to keep the story simple. We had a maximum of seven minutes. I pointed out that a 48 hour film should be like a short story – it doesn’t need complex layers, it just needs to focus on one or maybe two key ideas and stick with those. We chose to focus on a romance story and a theme of a day-in-the-life.

Margie noted down scenes as we hashed out a quasi-treatment of the film, noting down amusing dialogue that people came up with and such. Then while Margie and Ming worked on setting things up for the next day, I wrote the script in the next forty-five minutes.

Once the initial script was written, I read it out to Margie and Ming, making changes as they suggested them – by the way Celtx is a brilliant piece of software for scriptwriters.

We went to bed around 11:30pm pleased with our script and having arranged for everyone to meet at our place by 8:30am.

Saturday

Again, organisation came to the fore. We knew we wanted to have all the principle photography and rough edit done on the Saturday. Keeping to our motto of keeping things simple, the plan was to make a kind of Sapphire and Steel/Doctor Who kind of show where most of the effects were editing cuts and sound effects – along with some lighting.

People started gathering in the morning, and we took stock of our equipment, planned our locations – wisely sticking to two locations. Once all the cast and crew were assembled, we ran the team through the script again taking notes when people suggested alterations.

It was cool how, with such a small team of 10 or so people, everyone had the opportunity to suggest ideas and give input on the film.

We all piled into cars and headed over to the restaurant where a good portion of our story was going to take place.

This was when we came across a hiccup – the restaurant was not laid out the way any of us remembered it. Whoops!

We started shooting, after replanning scenes to suit the location, when it quickly became apparent that something wasn’t working for Margie, who was the director. It was time for me to step up to the producer role and we went away to talk in private about her concerns.

It turned out that Margie was having trouble linking the scenes we had shot together. While I, who was thinking like an editor, was piecing everything together, Margie needed to have things link a little more closely. We talked about this and I stressed that it was important to me that Margie makes the film her way – and that we could just go back and reshoot if we needed to. It was my job to remind her of how much time we had the restaurant for, but she should just choose how to shoot the film.

We came back and Margie went back to the script and replanned the shoots to suit how she envisioned the film. I pointed out where I could edit in footage we had already shot – meaning that we were able to get moving.

It ended up that this worked to our advantage – because we had shot two scenes with a key character facing the wrong way for our story to work!

We took a break for Nandos, then went back to shooting – with everyone putting in an incredible amount of effort and energy to deliver. Special mention has to go to Sharon – an actress I sourced through advertising on the 48 hours forums – she was a real trooper, providing lighting help and make-up, and willingly having a door slammed in her face about six to eight times. (It ended up that her father had used to play the same prank by pretending he had been hit in the face by a door when she was a kid, so she was very skilled at making it look convincing.) Also, Sharon was amazing when it came to direction. When Margie told her what needed to be done in a scene, Sharon would deliver it first hit!

I should also credit Anton for being amazingly still in a shot when we needed it to look like time had frozen. He was impressive.

We finally wrapped up that location with about thirty minutes before the restaurant was due to open. Everyone piled into cars and headed back to our place for the rest of the shoot.

Once again, planning was our friend. While the team sorted out gear, some pick-up shots and dinner, I was transferring all the restaurant footage onto computer and began the early stages of our rough cut.

After dinner, we shot the final scenes – where all our cast showed that they could be genuine and convincing actors. There is a scene with Sharon and Kent that is genuinely touching and felt *real* – Margie and I are both really proud of the work those two did in that scene.

Once everyone had left, I finished transferring footage and built a rough timeline of the scenes we wanted. Margie, Ming and I then sat down and cut the hour and half of footage down to a more manageable length and decided to head to bed around midnight.

Sunday

When I got up at 7:30ish, I immediately went online to hunt out sound effects and check up on the legality of using music loops from Garageband.

I then started working on the editing.

I had decided early on that I wanted to show that while iMovie is a basic commercial editing suite for home use, it could be used to make genuinely good films. After all, the Cannes Film Festival 2004 hit, Tarnation, was made for $218 and edited with iMovie…

In regards to that, iMovie is an incredibly easy tool to use, and I soon had a good cut of the film with music and sound effects all ready by around 10:30pm. Jon came around to shoot a short pick up sequence, which we slipped into the edit, I tweaked a few scenes and added some sound effects for our time-stop white-outs – then it was time to render the film and transfer it back to tape.

We finally had a complete movie ready by 2:30pm. I was surprised. It wasn’t an ambitious piece, but it was something I was proud of.

Around 4-4:30pm, Margie and Ming departed to hand in the tape, and I chilled out for the rest of the day – pleased as punch.

Afterthoughts and Thanks

Ultimately, I learned a lot over the 48 hour experience this year. The first thing is to have trust in your team, and make sure that you make them just as passionate as you are about your project.

I think everyone in our team felt like they were integral to the creative process. We were fairly fluid in how we handled roles – really focusing on the film itself.

Time Management is central – but it isn’t just about time spent making the film, it is also about making sure a good amount of time is spent *not* on making the film. When our team was working on the film, they were putting everything into it. By ensuring that they had some down time, we ended up making sure that the time spent filming, editing and planning was used efficiently and productively.

Pick an idea, stick with it and make sure everyone is satisfied – I hear about so many teams who brainstorm and compromise in a hurry to get done, and some teams who spend forever throwing ideas around. It clearly helps to have a producer/director sitting with the script-writers and telling them when it is time to just start writing the story. Both years I have worked on we have had producers step in and say to the writers when they should start just sticking to an idea. Part of this is about spotting when an idea is just going to go bad before it goes bad.

Keep it simple. There are some impressive and complex films made during 48 hours – but these tend to come from experienced professionals. And sometimes they don’t win. Looking at what has won in the past, I knew that simple concepts work best. You only have seven minutes at the most – You can either explore a single concept and do it well, or try to show all your ideas and kind of lose the audience. I hope that our film this year was simple enough, but interesting enough.

Remember that it is about having fun as much as being in a competition. I think this is where our team really shone. Everyone was kept involved with the process and free to provide input. We all just wanted to have a great weekend – and I believe we did. 🙂

I want to thank everyone who worked on our team and helped us out. It was a really enjoyable experience this year and has further influenced me to ensure that I get off my tush and get TWC made! 🙂

Love and Huggles

Conan

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Charles Ryder! Was he just an innocent painter twisted by hedonism, or a calculating sociopath looking to shag his way into gentry!

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Amazingly enough, this ploy is likely to work though – getting people to talk about the film. I think I will definitely be checking it out – if only because I love Emma Thompson as an actress, and it looks like she is at the top of her game in this film. 🙂

Love and Huggles

Conan

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