It is wholly possible to craft a fine work of cinematic art in the span of 48 hours. Sleep will suffer, but the enthusiasm of an involved team carries you through. The adrenaline rush from my first 48Hour FilmFest has dissipated. But from kick-off on Friday evening till the end of editing the following Sunday, I felt as comfortable as an animal in its natural habitat.
Know Your Limits
The writing aspect of the competition started off rough. Simply, there were too many cooks in the kitchen. Regardless, it was immediately clear to me that, as an aspiring screenwriter, time spent on actual sets is a valuable experience.
Hollywood-budgeters aside, location and the availability of certain props/equipment dominates all else. As writers, we have a certain vision in our minds as we type out the words to a story. But stories evolve when translated to screen.
I imagine this gives the fast-response of writing for TV a certain advantage. They formulate a rough draft, maybe give it a quick tweak or two before passing it on as a shooting script.
That’s when the real revisions happen. Crews rig up sets, decide how to align lighting, where to place actors, basing everything on what will feasibly work with the available gear. That takes priority over the vision of the original screenplay.
If you take issue with collaborative revisions, stick to novel writing. Film revisions happen on-set, and continue throughout production and post-production.
Perhaps the second lesson I learnt over the weekend is how crucial it is to be organized—have a plan, and stick to those restraints. Our team was one of several who got a bit side-tracked late into the first night of the weekend. Once the energy of the evening wore off, we received our genre. Then chaos reigned till early Saturday morning.
Anyone considering this event should consider locking their writing team in a room before kick-off. Have them make a list of all possible genres and toss out a few general ideas for each. The less specific, the better, because if it’s general enough, chances are stronger that those ideas could work their way into the genre you get stuck with.
Once you get your genre, throw out the ideas that don’t fit. Let the writing team decide which will be easiest to write well. Take notes, vote for the best plan-of-action, and figure out how to use what you have.
Follow a schedule where writing dominates Friday, production dominates Saturday, and editing dominates Sunday, leaving room for any necessary pick-ups.
When working with deadlines, time management is the best skill you can bring aboard. The moment you veer from the schedule, you’ll lose control of the situation and waste time getting back on track.
With the right team, miracles will be made.
Passion Begets Teamwork
Understandably, thrusting a group of strangers together and expecting everyone to get along is a lot to ask. But if your team is dedicated, the job becomes less of a hassle and things will get done. Passionate folks who come ready to make a fantastic project know how to and have fun with the whole process.
Though I’m sure it’s different on unionized blockbusters, one thing this competition taught me is how not to fear pitching ideas as they come to you. Working as a team with a tight deadline, it’s important to share solutions to otherwise unachievable problems.
My final observation from last weekend’s project: however the final product appears, nothing is more fulfilling than seeing it screen in a theater venue, accompanied by your teammates, friends, and family.