Tuesday, May 12, 2009

2009 48 Hour Film Challenge - Philly Edition

Update: Apparently we won some awards last night.

Best acting. Audience award.

Oh yeah, and best movie of the competition.

What that means for us is still a little hazy, but as of right now it might mean a Las Vegas screening sometime in the near future. I wanted to take this space to thank everyone involved for making it the best it could be, and check back for updates. I'll certainly be making them.

“So what’s the ETA on seeing a cut of the movie, J-Hawk?” Shane asked, using one of the numerous “J-“ nicknames we had for our crack editor. We all sat around the computer as he worked, hoping to catch a glimpse of our movie. J-Hawk looked up at all of us, gave a subtle snarl, and returned his attention back toward the editing process.

“I’d say that’s about 15 minutes,” Shane said, trying an ill-timed joke, something we all fancied ourselves masters of. No one engaged with it. It was 5:00. If we were to have a finished entry in the 2009 48 hour film fest, we needed to deliver a tape no later than 7:30 that night.

It was going to be close.

* * * * * *

The 48 Hour Film Fest is a movie competition in which participants have to write, direct, edit, produce and do whatever else is needed to complete a short film in obviously, 48 hours. Each team is given a prop, a character, a line of dialog and a genre on Friday night, and have to submit a finished product (tape/dvd) Sunday evening.

The governing body of the competition uses the prop, line of dialog and character as a way to insure movies are created in the allotted weekend. Nothing special, they can be either crucial or incidental to the plot.

The genre is another story...

Examples of some of genres teams can get are:
  • Sci-fi
  • Action/Adventure
  • Mockumentary
  • Drama
  • Fantasy
  • Buddy film
  • Musical/Western
  • Stoner/kung fu movie
  • Fable
  • Holiday movie
Obviously some of these genres, at first glance seem almost impossible to handle in one 48 hour period. After all, a western really looks like a western with horses. A science-fiction movie begs for special effects. And if you can get your hands on these things during the weekend, that’s fantastic. Unfortunately, many teams don’t have the ability to do that, and so they get creative.

Or, at least that's what Nectar of the Gods does.

Nectar of the Gods is the name my friends and I enter these movie competitions. Over the past five years, we have entered seven of these competitions, with varying degrees of success. We traveled to the San Jose Film Festival in 2006, (you can read an edited version of my potential acceptance speech here; sadly I didn't have a chance to use it) and won the audience award at our screening last year for our film. We enter these competitions strictly because we enjoy it; while other teams might have professional ambitions in the field of cinema and are looking to advance their careers or stretch their artistic vision, we do it mostly to stroke our ego and entertain. Accolades outside our friends make it all the better.

The craziness of creating a film in 48 hours.
It's difficult to explain how difficult/stupid it is to make a movie in 48 hours. The creative process (writing, directing, editing, etc.), mixed with the technical process (color correction, sound level adjustment, etc.) is not a Paul Newman/Joanne Woodward union. There's no easy recipe or anything that can be cut. Everything still needs to be done, just in a compressed timeframe.

And Nectar of the Gods does it a little differently. Whereas other teams have clearly defined roles (the writer, the director, the cameraman) we figure it's good to allow everyone to dip their hands in any/all of the filmmaking proficiencies. We also spend an inordinate amount of time on creating the story, trying very hard to develop a coherent outline that people can follow. Possibly because we lack the experience behind the camera that so many others have, we try to make up for it by creating a story everyone would enjoy. And that's why the genre holds a lot of significance for us...

The paradox of the Musical/Western genre.
Every year, looking at the list of genres, we placed one at the top of the “Most Difficult” page. Perhaps we were naïve, maybe we were cocky, probably we were stupid, but whatever the reason a few of us wanted the challenge of musical/western. None of us had much singing/songwriting ability, and none of us had access to cowboy hats, let alone horses. Yet year after year, when action/adventure, and holiday film reared their ugly heads, we wistfully looked up at the dirty lights of the bar we usually congregated in to kick off the weekend and asked ourselves “what if?”

Until this year of course.

This year, 2009, made it a reality. And it was a reality that didn’t sink in until probably around midnight on Friday, the moment when our feelings went from, “yes, a musical!” to “Shit, a musical!”

Because none of us know the first thing about writing a song, we were left to depend on friends/family/anyone we hadn’t recently offended. That list was short. Luckily we found someone not only with enough talent to eclipse our non-talent, but also enough tolerance to deal with us for many of the 48 hours. While I won’t reveal her identity for professional reasons, I will say we wouldn’t have been able to make half as good a movie without her participation.

She wasn’t the only one that made this movie great though. Friends not only chipped in as actors/helpers, they also willingly sacrificed personal time and space to allow us to shoot in different/unique locations.

So what went right with the weekend?

The music.
First and foremost. It did all it could to mask our horrible singing. It sacrificed itself and took the bullet. While it couldn’t work miracles, it certainly stretched far beyond what we could have asked of it.

The editing.
If any of us have an actual, professional skill that helps us make these movies, it’s our editor. Not just an actual editor, his knack for taking the marginal material we shoot and turning it into something enjoyable is nothing short of an art form. It’s why we loosen the leash during the editing process and let him get away with not showing us the movie until roughly an hour before its due. Seriously seriously though, we have made movies without him and they have suffered. This year we raced against the clock, and J-Man aloofly lounged on a loveseat with his laptop, piecing together our raw footage into a viewable finished product.

The “chief” scene.
Going to 11 on the cliched “police chief hates his rogue detective” didn’t have to work. But it did. In spades.

Bob Seger Live at the TLA ’79.
A joke so inside there’s no way anyone who watches gets it. But it’s the small, subtle details that make the movie that much more special.

The end.
Turning the end into a walk-down-the-street singalong was an eleventh hour addition. I’m glad we decided to do it.

The closing credits song.
I’m not sure we could have dissuaded Mikey (a new father who pitched in much more than we could have expected) anymore about the closing song. Quick summary. Mikey, on his way somewhere to do something family-related and not movie-related on Sunday, text-messaged a few of us with a semi-coherent thought about writing a song to go over the credits at the end. At first we dismissed it, thinking nothing would materialize. Then Mikey showed up, asking to do this. We humored him as we scrambled to get the rest of the paperwork and other necessities finished for the film. We even openly told him it was doubtful we would even have time to add the song in. Short of gagging him, we made it perfectly clear his work was most likely going to end up on the clichéd “cutting room floor.”

The camaraderie.
Every year at one point during the weekend I ask myself why I’m attempting to make a movie in such a short period of time (usually during the screening of the other movies – Jesus, I mean c’mon. It’s called a beginning, a middle and an end. I respect everyone that completes a final product, but would it kill anyone to spend a little more time on a story that makes sense?). And yet there I am, back for more. Why? It’s not a fun weekend. There’s not a lot of sleep, nerves get stretched, and the stench is definitely noticeable on Sunday. It’s because of the people and the fun we can have during these extreme conditions. This film was no exception.

Whether he thought we were kidding, mean, dumb, whatever, he continued to tweak, write and sing what can only be described as a beautiful tribute to not only our film, but also to Bjork. You really have to listen. But there’s no way we could have constructed a better exclamation point to our film.

I hope you not only enjoy “Get ‘em McGettigan,” but also understand at least a little the process behind making one a film like this. Please let me know in the comments whether you enjoyed this write up as I can easily go through more detail about our general process as well as how our other movies got made.


Cline said...

Since Goose didn't link to our acceptance speeches, I'll help out. And we technically did deliver them. It just happened to be on the sidewalk outside the reception well within earshot of several other attendees including the guy who couldn't do a good robot. Which led to him coming up to us later thinking he could joke about that fact. He was wrong and we were drunk.

Cline said...

Cline's Speech:<I stumble up to the mike, half-empty bottle of Jeremiah Weed in one hand, and a bowling pin in the other.>

First, I'd like to congratulate 3 Second Rule Productions for winning the Grand Prize. That... That was truly a brave piece of filmmaking. I mean, who here would have the guts to make a mockumentary about the First Robot... especially... especially when the main character COULDN'T DO A FUCKING PROPER ROBOT?!? COME ON!

<turn head and ask someone offstage in a stage-whisper>
Wait, was that supposed to be the point? that he couldn't do a the robot?
No? Yeah, I didn't think so either.
<resume speech>

Then there's the runner-up, Exigence. Now there's a light-hearted romp. I would have slashed my wrists, but luckily I had already passed out from boredom before I could start slicing through the scar tissue leftover from last year's competition.

I can't believe we lost to this crap. I've seen more interesting blood clots in my girlfriend's toilet.

Get it? She miscarried. After I threw her down the stairs. Allegedly.

Finally, I'd like to say this...

If you don't want the owner of your label on your album or in your video or on your tour, come sign with Death Row.

Much love.

mndleftbod said...

that was thoroughly entertaining...I was cracking up at my desk and my co-worker had me send it to him.

Good work fellas..

hendge said...

Awesome, guys. Congrats on the much-deserved awards. I love observing your creative process whether that's just being around the shoot, being an extra, or reading the blog. Already looking forward to the next one ...

Goose said...

Don't be so modest Steve - you were definitely a huge part of the weekend, not only with the acting but also the writing. I'm still not 100% sure how we won. But we did, unless Cline's pulling a long con (so brilliant if he is) and so it looks like we're going to Vegas.

Vegas bender. I mean - those are words that go so well together, but that should never go together.

Cline said...

My definition of a long con is a minimum of 20 years, so you won't know for a while.

I'm just happy Steve's eyes eventually de-bugged.

I was serious when I said at the screening that my favorite part was coming back to the house and hearing the awesome songs. That made our life so much easier and the movie so much better.

I'm calling the Doubledown to stock up on bacon. And the Gold Coast to stock up on doughnuts.

Goose said...

I smiled and smacked my leg (unironically I'm almost afraid to admit) reading about the Doubledown and Gold Coast.

What a glorious mistake for us to have won.

FAPORT International said...

Good work, i love the movie Getém
nice post...

Anonymous said...

"Nectar of the Gods" was my name for Iced Tea Cooler. Enjoyed your movie also the stories on Hidden Hollow Files.