Jul 21, 2007

Making a film in 48 hours

I have a confession to make:

I've taken on a mistress -- a video camera. I think I'm falling for filmmaking. At the start of the summer I took a week-long course on laptop filmmaking and had such a good time that I immediately signed up for a course on digital video and audio. You know how the story goes ... one thing lead to another ... and soon I found myself immersed in the world of making films and feeling like I had a new lease on life.

I'm still holding on to my first true loves, writing and photography, but there's something about video that's captured and inspired me.

This past weekend my filmmaking team drove to Seattle to participate in the 48-hour Film Project . We pulled a genre out of a hat and had to produce a film from it in 48 hours. The final film had to incorporate a character named Lenora (or Lenny) Chavez, who is a veternarian, and a helmet and the following line of dialog: "Everything is going to change, starting now."

It was a fitting line and I'm starting to wonder if it's going to apply to my career focus, making such a big switch makes me nervous. But when I think about it, it's really not that big of a switch at all. It's still all about telling stories. It's just a different medium. And telling stories is at the core of what I'm all about.

Our 48 hour Film Project weekend was intense. We were disappointed with what we came up with for a film at the end of the 48 hours because we ran out of time to really futz with the editing, sound and special effects. But the film premeired in Seattle on Wednesday and Thursday and while we didn't attend a few of our actors did and I heard from them that compared to the other films shown, ours "kicked butt." We've spent the rest of this week re-cutting the film, boosting the effects, adding filters and writing a soundtrack for it.

If you're interested in seeing it, send me an email and I'll burn you a DVD.

Here's a story written about our team that ran yesterday in the University of Oregon's daily newspaper, The Emerald:

Horror finds students at film festival

(Michael Werner, the director, Katie Campbell, director of photography, and Sasha Rae, producer, set up a shot at a trailer park in Kent, Wash., the main set of the film)

The 7 students traveled to Seattle to attempt to create and edit a horror film in 48 hours for judges

By: Andrew Greif | Freelance Reporter

Posted: 7/20/07

What could you do in 48 hours? How about write, shoot and edit a short movie?

Didn't think so.

But for seven students in professor Jeff Goolsby's digital arts class, that's exactly what they did last weekend in Seattle.

Journalism graduate students Michael Werner, Katie Campbell and Sasha Rae, along with undergraduates James Skidmore and Nathan Arbuckle from Lane Community College, Sander Gusinow from Lewis & Clark College and Jeffrey Borrowdale, a professor of philosophy and religion at LCC, teamed up to make the Seattle 48 Hour Film Festival their final class project.

"It's a real intense course for the summer, so this fits in perfectly," said Goolsby the day before the group traveled to Seattle. "I wouldn't say all of the students could pull it off right now, but this group can."

Intense is one word many used to describe the experience, but two more seem to fit even better: Sleep depriving. Campbell reported that in 65 hours, she was asleep for only one.

The University filmmakers, dubbed Unconventional Minds Media, applied for the competition on a whim. Because they were added to the festival's roster only a week before the July 13 start, the filmmakers found themselves scrambling to match the months of preparation the 41 other teams had.

The Seattle festival is but one stop on the 24-city national festival tour. What makes the festival so difficult is that teams must integrate a chosen name of a character, prop and line of dialogue into a film, whose genre is also chosen at random.

Once in Seattle, the group met with volunteer actors and actresses who had replied to the group's Craigslist post from earlier in the week. At 7 p.m., Skidmore and Rae relayed the genre to the rest: Horror.

"Of all the genres out there, it's probably one of the hardest to do well. I mean, think of all the horrible horror movies you've seen," said Campbell, the film's producer. "We had thought up basic storylines for every single other genre except for horror and sci fi so we were like 'Oh no!'"

The work to produce "The Neighbor" - about a couple who encounter disturbing events while searching for their lost dog - was a nonstop race until Sunday evening.

"We were all so exhausted that by the time Sunday came people were just delirious," said Campbell. "I know I didn't eat anything off of a plate for the entire time I was there."

Shooting began at midnight at the chosen locations, one of which was an eerie mobile home park in suburban Kent, Wash. Once the filming began, so did the editing, which the team quickly realized would be a much more complicated task than they previously realized.

With the 7:30 p.m. Sunday deadline looming, the final steps to finish the movie resembled, appropriately, a movie scene. One team member grabbed the DVD out of the burner, handed it to Rae who ran it out to the team's car, which, with its passenger door already open, was pointed north toward the drop-off site. In the end, however, the film was turned in five minutes late, nullifying the film's inclusion for judge's awards. The film is still eligible for audience awards.

"I think how we envisioned the film and how it came out are two different things. We just ran out of time," said Campbell, who termed the feeling of the result as "disappointed." Local screening ended Thursday, but the team won't know how it placed until the coming weeks.

The time crunch left the team with several regrets, notably not being able to include sound and special effects, video filters and a soundtrack.

Despite the technical and unforeseen setbacks, Werner came away from his first filmmaking experience with a positive feeling, and if he didn't know it before, Werner certainly understands one other reality about filmmaking now.

"Movies are not meant to be made in 48 hours," he said.

1 comment:

Isaac Viel said...

I can't get away from you people. Haha. I was just looking up some things about the Laptop Filmmaking class, and low and behold I come across your blog. Such a small world the UO J-school is. I can't wait for the class to start; though, I'm not too creative at 8 a.m. Looks like I should prepare to be bitten 100 per cent by the filmmaking bug after zero week.


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