A Journey through the West in the 48 Hour Film Project

As you may have already read about, over the weekend I chose to lead a team through this year’s 48 Hour Film Project for Cincinnati, Ohio. The premise is simple – on Friday you’re given a genre, a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue, and on Sunday you have to turn in a completed 4 to 7 minute original film, following all of the guidelines.

Now that the (both metaphorical and real) dust has settled, here’s a general recap of the weekend, as best as caffeine and confusion will allow. 🙂

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The Timeline

Friday

  • 6:30 PM – The Kickoff event begins.
    • Genres are assigned by random draw from a literal hat. To my initial disappointment, we drew “Musical or Western” – what a combination.
    • We are given three components to include:
      • Seth or Sarabeth Kapurski – A hypochondriac character that must appear in some way, shape, or form.
      • A bicycle part – our prop that has to appear somewhere in the film.
      • “How did you do that?” – Required dialogue for a character.
    • At this point, we were given the option to redraw for a genre from a wildcard pool – a gamble I wasn’t willing to take. Bolting out of there, we went immediately to get our most important resource.
  • 7:30 PM – We arrive at Party Source. A variety of liquor and beer is procured, specifically a few bottles of theme-fitting tequila. Cowfolks gotta drink.
  • 8:00 PM – We arrive at the writing HQ and have some dinner, getting to know each other before we start writing.
  • 9:00 PM – We start to write.
    • Initial ideas actually include musical elements in a fun, Blazing Saddles-style take on the genre, but are pretty quickly dismissed as a darker, somber story floated up.
    • We unanimously embraced it, and writing the story arc in full began.
Collaboration, y'all.
Collaboration, y’all.

Saturday

  • 1:30 AM – Storyline writing finishes, and the group breaks for the night. By morning, we agree to have a rough outline that we’ll use as a script – due to necessity, dialogue would have to be improvised.
  • 3:30 AM – The plot breakdown is posted in our discussion chat room, with a rough idea of shooting schedule. Time to hit the hay so we can be on our A-Game for shooting.
  • 10:00 AMGod dammit, Alexa, get it together. The Amazon Echo fails to wake me up as planned, and we get a late start.
  • 12:00 PM – The crew meets for brunch (really lunch at this point) to plan the next move. Roles are divided up, and a list of costumes and props are formed.
  • 1:00 PM – The group scatters to find costumes, props, and decorations. We spend a ridiculous amount on rustic props which for some reason are abundant in Hobby Lobby, but I’ll take it. Costumes for all main characters are gathered.
  • 3:00 PM – I fulfill my lifelong dream of owning a cowboy hat.

    I'm bringing cowboy back.
    I’m bringing cowboy back.
  • 4:00 PM – Regroup at shooting HQ. We get into costumes and head out to Mason, where we find a fantastic shooting location (and the opportunity to confuse the hell out of some hikers).

    Location
    If this is the west, I’ll take it.
  • 6:00 PM – 1/3rd of the film has been shot. We head back to HQ to recharge batteries, dry out gear, and re-suit up for the next shot.
  • 8:00 PM – Unfortunate delays (and the dying sun) cut our second shoot short, and we miss an angle. This eventually wound up cut from the submitted version (see notes at the bottom).
  • 9:30 PM – Setup for the third scene begins. A crew had already begun clearing out the cabin location, and we start decorating in earnest.

    props
    Period Pieces
  • 10:00 PM – Dialogue issues slow us down. The most conversation-heavy scene is next, and improvisation proves difficult for me, a definite non-actor. Really could have used you this time, Harrison Ford. The role was meant for you.

Sunday

  • 1:30 AM – Primary dialogue is finished. Most of the cast disbands to get some much-deserved rest.

    Some of our fantastic cast, totally in character.
    Some of our fantastic cast, totally in character.
  • 2:30 AM – Dialogue is finished. The production wraps for the night, and we all pack it in for tomorrow.
  • 8:00 AM – Migraine! The dust kicked up didn’t do good things for me, so I stay out of commission (second time in two shoots) for a couple hours.
  • 10:00 AM – Editing begins in earnest.
  • 4:00 PM – Pickup shots are grabbed to replace the intended third scene temporarily.
  • 5:00 PM – Music is placed and SFX are added.
  • 6:00 PM – An hour until we have to leave, at the absolute latest. We still have to integrate shots to our intro, which we work furiously fast to do.
  • 6:25 PM – The main editing computer crashes. A half hour of work is lost, due to a random memory error.
  • 7:00 PM – We’re back where we were at 6:30, a half hour of work left and zero minutes to do it. Quick thinking on behalf of our crew gives a middle ground, and we begin rendering to media.
  • 7:15 PM – We’re out the door – my laptop and a fistful of flashdrives trying to copy as fast as they can on the way there.
  • 7:25 PM – Both USB flash drives fail simultaneously. We won’t copy in time.
  • 7:35 PM – Five minutes past deadline, I scrounge up a USB 3.0 stick and copy. Traffic is heavy. You could cut the tension with a knife.
  • 8:00 PM – Chinese fire drill to park the car outside of the event drop-off.
  • 8:08 PM – Our film changes hands, and the weekend comes to a close.

The Outcome

Really, it was just a chance to dress up and pretend again (without the weird looks).
Really, it was just a chance to dress up and pretend again (without the weird looks).

Thirty-eight minutes. From the deadline to when our film was officially received, thirty-eight agonizing minutes had passed, and we were disqualified from the competition that would allow our film to carry on to national competition. In an attempt to console us, the woman informs that we can always enter the film in other contests, which brought me about two inches from turning into the Hulk.

Those 38 minutes were a disappointment – a momentous burden of failure that I still feel as I type this summary, and a weight I know I’ll carry for a long time. It stings, and it hurts, and I couldn’t sleep a solid minute last night… But that gave me time to think, and time to consider the following words, which are meant for the cast and crew of Stranger, our short film submission.

To the Cast and Crew

I’ll start off by saying that I’m so incredibly proud of each and every one of you. Not only did you give 100%, but you all went way above and beyond. Staying late, helping in everything, keeping it fun… All of that was you guys, and I couldn’t have possibly asked for a better team, because I didn’t know a team could work so well. Despite the time crunch, despite the errors, and despite me aging a few years prematurely, you all kept it together and put out an excellent performance that added to our clever little script. Instantly, you understood the vision and all proactively took steps to see it come to fruition… Without you, this wouldn’t have been possible, and words can’t describe how grateful I am.

The fact that we came in late shows no reflection on you. Murphy’s law caught us by surprise – what can go wrong will go wrong, and it was just a random factor we couldn’t have accounted for. As at least one of you will appreciate the language, the French phrase c’est la vie comes to mind – such is life.

We learned together. We grew together. Most importantly, we had fun together. That fun and that collaboration created one of the best shorts that I’ve been honored to be a part of, and one that I promise will continue to be retouched until it’s truly a masterpiece – The Stranger will keep walking and changing until we’ve won that film festival award we all deserve… That’s my promise to you. Much like our character, it’s going to take way more than a single blow to bring us down.

I hope this collaboration continues – I hope it never stops, and I hope that ideas will constantly stream in so that next time we can do something even greater… Because there will be a next time, and I want you all there.


The Premiere

Gushiness and reminiscing aside, it’s time to celebrate and spread the word! The Stranger will have it’s rootin-tootin’ premiere next Sunday, where we’re still eligible for the Audience Choice Award! That means it’s up to you to spread the word and get as many people as you can to buy their tickets early – information below (event on the 48HRFP site here).

Event Information

When:Sunday, June 7th, 2015 3:00 PM – 5:00 PM
Where:Thompson House
24 E 3rd St, Newport, KY 41071
Tickets:$10 per Person
Student Discounts Available at Door
NOTE: Tickets may be limited – it’s much safer to go ahead and buy them online to reserve your spot.

If for some reason the entry cost is an issue to the cast, crew, friends, or family, then let me know and I’ll see if I can do some charming. 🙂

The End!

Go! Hurry and buy your ticket, share the news, and get as many people to come as possible – we’ve got a Facebook event set up for the occasion.

I’ll see you all at the premiere, but until then check out this selection of some of my favorite pictures we snapped – many more to come.

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