The 48 Hour Film Project Denver begins again the 31st of July, so I thought I'd take a look back at our first entry into the 48HFP.
Our first experience with the 48HFP gave us a wealth of experience that we had, up until that point, been lacking. While making films in Greeley Colorado, it sometimes feels like you're operating inside a vacuum. Having no other reason to be creative other than passion can be a lonely experience. When working apart from other creatives, an artist must impose his/her own deadlines (Which has been a major struggle for us) as well as keep moving forward in other areas (i.e. lighting, visual FX and writing) When you don't have other people pushing you to do these things and you only have yourself to bounce off of, it's easy to let things slide and remain in a comfort zone or never finish a project at all.
The 48 Hour Film Project gave us the opportunity to operate inside this world. We got to rub elbows with other like-minded people and the knowledge that we weren't the only ones who loved to make films gave us fuel to carry on. We also benefited from the format of the competition- They provide the line of dialogue, prop, character and genre as well as a time limit. Up until this point in our filmmaking careers, our working environment and style had been amorphous at best. These guide lines and a definitive deadline helped us sharpen our skills as filmmakers-something that we desperately needed as well as giving us an opportunity to better streamline and define the way we work. But before we fully accepted these wonderful lessons, we were to have one of the most frustrating creative experiences of our lives.
THE BEGINNING: We learned about The 48HFP from a former professor of mine, who sent me a link. We were in the middle of filming A Night Like Any Other, as well as our first (and last so far) paid gig: filming baseball games for two high school students to submit to colleges they wanted to attend the following year. Needless to say, we had a few irons in the fire. Fortunately we had the paid jobs, as we needed $150.00 for the entry fee. We decided it would be a valuable experience to finish a film (it was our first of three years on the now abandoned superhero film) as well as take a break from watching eight hours of baseball footage. We did some mild research to get ready for the project, looking at a few 48 Hour films on Youtube and reading articles on how to prepare. We came up with a small list of guidelines for ourselves to make the filming as easy as possible: No night shooting, try for indoor locations as much as possible, few characters, plan the first night and begin shooting the morning after. Keep the previous rules in mind as you continue reading as they come in handy later.
After we received our Genre (Road film), our Character (Kenny Colter-Tattoo Artist), Prop (Pie) and line of dialogue (I bet you think you're clever, huh?) we left the competition with such a charge of adrenaline we began writing our script on the drive home. In writing the script, we pulled from a previous riff Monty and I had created involving disposal of a dead body in a comedic fashion. The following is a short synopsis of what we came up with:
"Rob and Steve pick up casual acquaintance, Kenny Colter-Tattoo Artist, before attending a party. On the way to the party, Rob receives a call from his Sister, Kimberly, asking for their help. Soon Rob, Steve and Kenny arrive at an empty parking lot where Kimberly has apparently struck and killed a birthday clown with her car. Rob and Steve decide to dispose of the body across the Wyoming State line to prevent Kimberly from going back to jail."
This script was hilarious and played up the expectations of characters-James Monroe, who played Kenny, is a natural badass who is covered in tattoos- the rest of us look like meek folk. So the idea that the badass gets enlisted in this activity by regular people he barely knows and is horrified by it, provided endless comic opportunities for us. However, we became married to this script and didn't realize that it broke almost all of the rules we set for ourselves. With our lack of experience, this first mistep in the process would prove to be a major hurdle we would have to overcome in order to finish our film.
THE MIDDLE: After shooting most of the intro footage that first night, we retired at 10:30PM to get some rest and planned on shooting at 8:00AM the next morning in Monty's garage (We would do rear projection for the driving scenes) after a hearty breakfast. In trying to get all of our actors back, we ran into a snag. Kimberly was still onboard, but James had gotten hung up and remained unreachable. By noon, we had to make a decision. We could continue to wait for our actors since we didn't want to recast, having already filmed the entire intro -OR- we could scrap the first film and create new project with only 36 hours. Both would include starting from scratch...we chose the latter.
We tried coming up with a script that would use as much footage from the previous film as possible, but this new script proved difficult to come up with since we were all still attached to our original idea. We kept the addition of a clown and crafted a story where Kenny would be driving back from a tattoo convention. Along the way he starts to creep himself out using his fear of clowns. We weren't as happy with this new prospect, but we moved forward (When you're into something for $150.00, you try to see it through to the end)
We spent the day filming in Monty's sweltering garage. Steve had opted to stay in his clown make-up all day to maintain continuity (What a trooper). When night fell, we moved to shooting at Salvador Deli with Kimberly, who agreed to take on a different role as a barista. By 10:00PM, we had finished shooting and began editing and doing the visual effects. By 4:00AM we called it a night and decided to get some rest. The remainder of the third day included music composed and performed by Monty, recording voice over and paperwork (which now littered the basement floor). It was a race to the finish. We left Monty's house at 5:00PM with only an hour to get to the drop off point. Along the way, we ran into foul weather, and traffic. Not having a decent place to park, I was dropped off, running with our finished film to the Skylark Lounge (Think the opening to Trainspotting) We checked in 17 minutes before the contest ended.
THE END: We had done it. We completed our film, solved our problems and made the 48 Hour dealine. All three of us met at the bar and sat there, our hollowed eyes filled with the triumph and tragedy of the last 48 Hours. We barely spoke to each other. Our experience, as it was, is not uncommon in these competitions. When we returned to the 48HFP in 2009, we had a much more productive and enjoyable time and we got to see and talk to others who had the same experience that we did in 2007. We know now how to create a good film in a short amount of time and this remains the basis for our working style to this day. I wouldn't give up this film/experience for the world.
Our first 48 Hour Film Project taught us a great deal and eventually led to our 2009 48HF featuring Gov't. Tit. We made a series of video diaries during our last 48HFP, in which we detail every aspect of our production. I'm glad we did it-hopefully it helped others. It would have been interesting, however, to film behind the scenes of our first project for comparison. Anyway, we all want to do a complete version of our original idea someday (We still think it's great!), but for now Good Samaritan and the blog above are what remains of our first 48 Hour Film Project experience.
P.S. I know the quality is sketchy and we apolligize for that. This may be the only copy of this film still in existence, so we had to go with it. Also, This may be the last of the "OLD" CBP canon. From now on-ALL NEW STUFF!
If you are having trouble viewing the video click here.