Audiophile - Baltimore 48 Hour Film Project

posted Jun 13, 2011, 2:59 PM by Steve N Bradford   [ updated Jun 13, 2011, 10:00 PM ]
So this past weekend in Baltimore they held the 48 Hour Film Project (which is native to DC, but has spread like a film making plague over much of the world).  Of course, I produced it down here in the D of C.

This is the 5th 48HFP I have produced as Team Leader, but there is one in there that I wrote and edited and provided all of the equipment for.... so I count this as my 6th.  They have ranged in size and scope from a production team of just me and a second editor, to a crew of thirty where I didn't have to do anything the whole weekend but put out fires.  This year it was a total cast and crew of seven.

Here is how we broke it down this time:

I was head writer, director/DP, and worked on editing.
My friend Cyle (who you can find featured on my Promotional Video page) was my other writer.
Pete, a guy I knew from college and has worked on a few of these with me was my lead editor.
Boz, dude who went to school for film and audio design was my sound recordist and audio technician as well as editing.
Colleen, who appeared in Polite Company was one of my cast as well as doing Make Up (as she did for PC)
Justus, a member of Washington Improv Theater who I know through performance training sessions (also in PC) acted.
Graham, an old college friend / current housemate / all around actor guy took on the last cast position.

Friday night I went up to Baltimore to pull a genre out of a hat.... I got 'Thriller/Suspense' and then wait around to find out what my three required elements (prop, line of dialogue, and character) would be.  After having a great time talking to people at the Kickoff event (and handing out a few business cards so I looked legit) we all got our elements and ran to get started, here is what they were:

Wayne/Wanda Hooper, collector
A hula hoop
The line "That's not how I would have handled it"

For the first time in all of the films I have made for the 48HFP, as soon as I got those elements a story came to me right away. Suspense/Thriller with Wayne the 'collector'?  Come on, that just makes it easy.  But I went with it and had a car ride home to think about how that concept would inspire me and where I wanted to take it.  I would tell you... but I would rather you watch the film when it is posted here.

So Cyle and I stayed up for a bit working and reworking the script until he had to go to bed and I took another few hours hammering it out.  I managed to also have time to meet with two of my three cast to start preparing them for their roles and identify what props and costumes they should bring with them in the morning.  I got to bed at about 4:30am or so (which is also when I sent out the script and instructions for the morning in an e-mail to my cast and crew).

Unfortunately here we started to run into trouble.  One of my actors ended up being extraordinarily late, about two and a half hours.  So instead of meeting at 8am and having some time to prepare and get stuff moving for a 9am shoot, the first shot didn't start until 11am.  This might not have been a problem, except that I was going to lose my main character actor at 6:30pm for a show he had in town, and another actor from 1pm to 3:30pm for an audition he had out of town.  So we rapidly found ourselves behind an eight ball.

However, I failed to take into account in my planning how long makeup and costume alterations would take and setting some of the locations.  So 11am quickly became 11:30, and with some trouble getting the scene right from my Director's seat it took a little longer to shoot than I had planned.  But we got it in the can and moved on.  Sent the footage down to my editor who started working on running everything that needed to be done on it and putting it together.

Now to set the crawlspace inside my basement.... which required moving EVERYTHING that was stored in the basement into my bedroom, then hanging curtains, bringing in lights, all of that jazz.  Here is where having only a skeleton crew set us back some.  We didn't have enough people to just go down there and do it, the rest of the production had to stop to make it happen.  But massive points to my cast and crew for diving right into the work with no complaints.  We got it cleared out and broke for lunch while I continued to tweak the setting.

The second sequence was probably the highlight of the weekend for me.  Let me explain the crawl space in my basement. Its probably about three feet tall, eight feet deep and 5 feet wide, it has exposed insulation and pipes running through it and crossing through the space.  Its cinderblock-ed in and completely unfinished in every way.  It was a result of an addition being put on the house, so the access to it is more or less accidental and through a window.  Yes, a window in the basement that rather than looking outside, looks into this dark dirty cobweb-laden little pit that has no discernable purpose but to keep people trapped in between savagely beating them.  After I showed it to them everyone had this little bit of excited nervousness about doing some scenes in there.  We all know it would look and play great, but it gave us a great deal of challenges and plus it did not seem like a pleasant place to be in the least.  How do we get good sound in a little room with no access and no space, fitting a boom op in there during a wide angle shot would be impossible.  But once we got in there it was a ball.  Boz rigged it up with hidden mics for some of the scenes so we would not need to use a boom, we brought in lights and hid them in corners.  It was all quite a bit of fun.  Although there were a few shots where I was just looking in, after that I dove right in after my actors.  In fact, they made the comment that while we had spent time and effort trying to make them look dirty, by the end of the shoot in there I was far dirtier than either of them.  For some of the camera angles I needed I was just lying down in the grime and dirt to get what I wanted and was covered head to toe in dirt and cobwebs and sweat.  But some fantastic stuff came out of it... although.... it took more than twice as long as we had hoped.  Again... schedule pushed back, against a wall that was not moving.

We finally got out of there and prepared for our third sequence, the hypodermic needle was set, so were the pliers.  We were all ready.  But we had about an hour to shoot some of the most complex and most intense acting we had for the whole day.  Climax scenes will do that to you.  Justus and Graham did a great job really throwing themselves into it and we fortunately in that hour managed to snag the most important shots... even though we did not get all of them that I wanted we got all of them that HAD to happen for the scenes to work.  But in an effort to speed things up we did not capture sound on some of the scenes which had no dialogue.... this came back to bite us later when we had to foley it and things could not match up quite right (and we didn't have the time to fix it).

After not having gotten some of the shots I desperately wanted, I was bummed and exhausted after writing all night, shooting all day, and knowing I had to edit coming up.  I felt forced to cut a final sequence from the film right then and declared that we did not have enough time to shoot it before we had to let our final actor go and I called myself on a break.  Fortunately, Boz snagged the camera and the actor and had the energy to make the scene happen despite me.  And it came out beautifully.

So with filming concluded, and the first two sequences of the film already done in a rough cut, we were in good shape as it had only been 24 hours so far.  It was only 7pm Saturday night and Boz started collecting B roll while I chilled out and took a shower and a mini nap.  Everyone went home and we all got a good nights rest.  Although I again stayed up late sorting out some stuff with the editing so that when everyone came back in the morning we had a functional rough cut of the whole movie (given, Pete had gotten through the first two thirds of the movie already, I had very little to do and it was shot in an organized and planned fashion).

So 9am Sunday morning Pete, Boz, and myself are ready to edit, rough cut in hand and spend the whole day working at it.  There are not any really fun stories to tell in there.  We edited, we got .... most .... of what we wanted done on it and I didn't have the break the speed limit to get it in on time.  So I guess it was a success.  But... we will see.  Its still a week and a half until it shows and I am not looking at the film until that time.

But that was my weekend... in a VERY large and detailed nutshell.  I will toss some screen grabs and production photos from the film up here in the post as well so you can see my creepy little space and fawn over my actors.  Until then.... time to prepare for the next film shoot for Project Twenty1.