Not too recently, I went out to London and made a film with one of my friends. Cue obligatory ‘what did you do on your weekend?’ aggressively implying that your weekend plans are inferior… and stuff.
Specifically, we did it for this 48 hour challenge. It does what it says on the tin – get a bunch of briefs: title, some dialogue, a prop or action, plus an optional theme – and off you go! 48 hours to finish it. We had literally no budget other than our own pockets, no experience in film production – I was the only one who knew anything about writing a script! Somehow we made it work, however, though a lot of things seemed to conspire against it.
It doesn’t help that this was such a spontaneous decision that I had to juggle it with a couple shifts at work, meaning I had to travel for about an hour. My time management screwed me up there and I was late both times, damn it. Next time I’m giving myself enough time to get those days off. Still, this was a learning experience and that’s what I want to talk about. Specifically about what I’m capable of.
Over these 48 hours, me and my friend Leo sat in her dorm room, growing steadily more addled by caffeine as we planned and wrote the screenplay from only a smattering of prompts. People have done more with less. By morning, the script was typed up and I had formatted it into Celtx, an online screenplay program which was pretty fantastic to use. Before, I had only used Scrivener for my screenplay needs, but this was equally as good and a bit more versatile since I could also use it on my chromebook. Scrivener is, alas, restricted to my desktop. Good for large projects, though!
While I was formatting, Leo went down to the common room which, due to lack of any other choices, was to be our set, and transformed a corner of it into a small office. She did a pretty good job of it, too! A bookcase and one of her throws walled it off from the rest of the room and she used bits of her dorm room to add a little more life to it.
We commandeered that common room for the whole day, it turned out – much to the chagrin of a few people. I felt guilty at the time, but not anymore. I just wish the filming hadn’t taken so long – it was nearly 11 by the time we’d finished, and we had to be quick so our actors could get home.
Eventually, we did start filming, but after several issues involving sound, wasting time going back and forth (this was my fault, alas, I faffed around a bit), it turned out the microphone needed batteries to work – something we hadn’t known beforehand.
Ugh. Cue more wasted time because hardly any shops seem to sell 9V batteries. It was past 3pm by the time we’d finished the first scene. Things picked up pace after that, at least.
When I wasn’t taking charge of the sound part of filming, I was experimenting with the lights we had available, trying to see what effects we could pull off – I actually managed to help set up some kind of bokeh using the backs of one of the lights already in the common room, which was interesting. It was particularly funny since I know next to nothing about this stuff – but I love to experiment!
I took charge of setting up the human elements of the main scenes. I’m really happy with how those bits went, though, because I understand how awesome blocking can be to communicate subtext in a scene – this was stuff I’d remembered from my Drama A Level. Plus, knowing exactly what emotions I wanted them to communicate made it a lot easier to direct the scene, and the main scene in the film was pretty much entirely directed by me, which felt amazing.
It also took bloody ages, since we had to do several takes and I had to actually communicate what I wanted to our actors. Not my strong suit, but we managed.
I loved the result, though it was silly, overdramatic and daft, and it was easy to see how inexperienced me and Leo were with this whole thing. For all its faults, I was proud. All the same, we should’ve have done everything quicker. I didn’t know how long editing could take.
I’d wanted to bring other crew in, but no-one had been able to make it. We spent so long writing and filming that we had only the night and the morning to finish editing it. It would have been wise to call in sick so I could help, and not have to dart off as dawn arrived.
As a result of our mis-steps we missed the deadline. We failed the challenge. It’s a shame.
I’m not unhappy, though. For all its faults, I’m pretty proud of the film. The actors did fantastic jobs and even if I think it looks daft, the film has its own charm. Like I said earlier, it was a learning experience. If I did this again, and I do want to, I’d plan ahead so that it didn’t screw with my job, I’d get a location, sort out actors and crew beforehand. Hell, I’d even do how I managed food differently.
I want to try getting more experience making films, perhaps working on sound or lighting – but given that I know next to nothing about those, I’m not sure how that would work. For now, I might try being a runner where I can, and see where it goes from there. While I don’t see how that would help me learn how to do sound or lighting, it might help me get experience with those things by talking to the people in charge of them. Or something. I don’t really know.
At least I had fun.