Sunset Road

Here’s the movie we made for this year’s V 48hours film competition: Sunset Road.

Our genre was Road Movie.

Mandatory elements:
Character: Bobby Young, an ex bully
Prop: Bent bit of wire
Line: What have you got?
Film: Freeze frame ending

I headed up the writing team with Hannah and Dale. I’d love to know what you thought of it…

Post 48 hours 2011

Our 7th year of making movies in just one weekend, and I feel like I have learned so much and at the same time, I know nothing at all.

Speaking of being deep and mysterious, I went through a lot of emotions this weekend, most of them random and uncalled for. I was able to ignore the negative stuff and focus on the good stuff. The way our team works together, the way that people pull through for each other and pitch in to make a tangible thing at the end of the weekend.

Friday night we got the call, just on 7pm. We had been given Road Movie for our genre. The character was Billy Young, an ex-bully, the prop was a bent bit of wire, the line of dialogue “What have you got?” and there was a required film effect: a freeze frame ending.

This year I was head writer again. My team was me, Hannah and Dale and we worked together in a new and very effective way. Hannah pitched a solid way to put the film together and between the whole group we came to a great approach to the story. We were able to leave the big team brainstorm at 8.30pm, and we settled into my spare room quickly. We talked through what we thought was *really* happening in the story and what we had to remember it. We collaborated on the first scenes and then fell into a routine: Dale and I talked through the beats and what should happen and when. Hannah, on the laptop, took care of the dialogue.

We read through it a number of times, edited back, sorted out the finer points and were more or less done by 12.20. I sent Dale and Hannah home, took a break on tumblr and did two more polishing passes on the script. It was pretty darn great. I headed into bed around 1am and got to sleep around 40 minutes later. I woke up again right at 4.44 for a while, then managed to sleep again until 6 when Lee’s alarm went off. I headed into Indigo City for the organisation and we decided to head out to Fraser’s Dad’s place to start filming. I managed to stay there for about half an hour before I started to feel a driving need to sleep and drove home.
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Writing for the 48

Last year’s thoughts on writing for the 48.

This year I was the head writer for Jenni’s Angels. I have come to realise that as a team, we take a couple of things much more seriously than some other teams. When my friends in another team told me that they had the script finished by 9.30 on Friday I knew that we are much more obsessive pedantic than that. I guess it stems from the way our team always want to try to write the Best Script Possible, because that will lead to the Best Short Movie possible and then hopefully, the Best Result Possible in the competition. (Results on this obviously, vary.)

As you can imagine from that last sentence, it’s quite a lot of pressure. You have the pressure to present the best possible script, plus the time constraints, plus you have to basically write to a prescription: you have to ensure your script fits the genre, and ideally is a clever twist on said genre. You have to include a character, a line and a prop again in the cleverest possible way, you have to write something that the actors you have available can pull off and that won’t be impossible for your team to film. You also have to ensure that you are telling a complete story with a beginning, middle and end and that it’s shorter than 7 minutes.

That’s a lot of boundaries. It makes for hard work.

On the other hand, it’s also a lot of fun. Sophie, Amphigori and I settled down in my spare room with blankies, cushions, snacks, tea and a couple of laptops and we had a blast.

Here are my rules for making sure your script is Best Script Possible:

Keep it short!

Well, duh, right? But this is something that as a team we’ve really struggled with. You have to write a short film, not a feature length story crammed into 6 minutes. The best trick for doing this is to start the story as late as possible. Our sports movie was about a hero who had made it through 7 rounds of tough fights, and was surprised in the final round. We started the movie when he went into the arena for the final round.

Cut the fat.

Just like writing a short story, you have to get rid of every scene, line and word that isn’t in some way moving the plot forward. If you can condense three lines into one, do it. You might have a whole interchange which is cool but not moving the story forward – cut it. Choose your words carefully to pack more meaning into them. Two things to bear in mind: make room for jokes if you’re making a comedy and make sure your story also has air/space/time to breathe. It’s no good having a movie that moves so quickly your audience feels stressed watching it.

Be clever.

Twist your genre, do something unexpected with the character you’re given, use the prop in a way that makes sense to the story.

Don’t be precious.

If your team is like mine and you’re still writing script at one in the morning, tensions can run high and egos can show themselves. Bear in mind that this isn’t about you. This is about your team. If you love love love a line but it’s not gelling then get rid of it. Even if it’s your favourite line in the whole damn movie. Remember that if the director has a problem with some line or story point, it’s your job to make a better alternative, not to throw your toys and demand that your script is perfection. It’s not. Of course it’s not, you wrote it in a couple of hours!

Consider the strengths and weaknesses of your actors.

Obviously you’re not going to give a five minute aria to someone who can’t sing. Have your actors got experience with physical fighting? Do they have comic timing? Can they connect emotionally with the audience and pull on the heartstrings to really rope people in?

And the number one absolute most important tip? Have fun!

Like I said above, it’s really easy to let the pressure get to you. You have to keep in mind that your team wants to do this because it’s fun. Have fun writing the script, but also bear in mind that it has to be something that they can film without too much trouble and within the time frame.

Wow. This got long. Not sure if it’s any use to anyone, but there you have it. Jenni’s guide to writing a 48 hour film.

UMF: Showdown

Tune in for the finale of Ultimate Monster Fighter. Can Max defeat the last monster and win the champion title?

Genre: sports movie

Compulsory elements:
Prop – Broken toy
Line – When you look at it that way
Character – Sydney Manson, a fabricator

Mad props to: Norm, Lee, Fraser, Debbie and of course, Kerina and Jon.

Lemme know what you think, we all love feedback!

(Tomorrow, my thoughts on writing for the 48…)

48 hours film comp happened again

I am in shock.

I keep forgetting how hard it is to do this thing where you write and shoot and edit a film in 48 hours. It’s awesome fun, and I love collaborating with my friends in such a creative way, but it really is very hard. Or maybe I’m getting older? Hard to say.

This year our genre was sport movie, which I was pretty happy with. The character was Sydney Manson: a fabricator, a broken toy for the prop and the line “When you look at it that way…”

We ended up playing to our strengths and made an American Gladiators/RAW style TV show in which ordinary humans fight supernatural creatures. It was the season finale and had Jon fighting Kerina. There were two commentators who got voice overs and cutaways and overall…yeah, it was a very Jenni’s Angels film.

I stayed up writing with Sophie and Amphigori til 3am on Saturday. I got up again when Lee did, having pretty much failed to really sleep. I lay in bed, but I was tense and nervous and I basically kept falling asleep and then waking right up again. Like the opposite of that nightmare where you keep thinking you’ve woken up but you haven’t.

Saturday morning I was at the big meet up to work through Norm’s concerns with the script, add some stuff, alter some other stuff. People kept asking if I was ok and I had to honestly say that I didn’t know. I did know that my hands were shaking and some concepts were difficult to understand…the read through was great, it was awesome to see everyone and I was really happy with how things were shaping up. I drove to the location (The Rock), dropped off all the lunch and snack foods, left my video and still cameras with Debs and came back home to crash. I managed just over an hour of awesome deep sleep.

After that I was awake again for sure. I tried to sleep again, oh how I tried, but I just kept wondering what was happening on set, how far through they’d got, if I should be there to help out…I drove back up around 3.30 and hung around until after dinner, helping out in small ways, making sure people had juice boxes, taking photos and laughing with Prodney.

Lee and I had made lasagnes the day before and we were able to heat them up on location. People helped themselves to meat or vege lasagne and we all ate together in the cafeteria. It was really good. Real, home cooked food is so much more comforting than junk food and at 6.30 after a hard day’s filming everyone needed comfort. Plus, it’s good filling food that gives you lasting energy so all round a winner.

Once dinner was done and cleaned up I drove Norm home to sleep (he ended up editing until 3am), and then came home to sleep myself. I had a lovely hot bath to get rid of the lack-of-sleep aches and took myself to bed. I was asleep around 9pm. Woke up at midnight when Lee got home, then a couple of other times but overall a lovely deep sleep. I wanted to continue sleeping when the alarm went off but went with Lee back to Norm’s to help film the last scenes: the commentators speaking to camera. That was all wrapped up by about midday.

I saw a rough cut of the film first thing in the morning (just the fight) and then at around 3pm when Norm needed help with the edit. There was too much commentating to go over the fight footage. We had to cut one of my favourite jokes (Viennese style) but hey, that’s what deleted scenes are for. The first safety cut had some problems with it and they had to re-render twice or three times before we had something to hand in. Me and Paul (Team Safety Cut rocks!) drove it down and got to the hand-in point at 6.30. One important special effect was added and a non-essential, but funny sound effect as well and the final cut started rendering.

I had a text from Jon at 6.50 saying that the final cut was being driven down and it arrived with 2 minutes to spare. We very carefully took the safety out of the envelope, Norm put in the final and we were celebrating.

Another awesome weekend. Last night I slept for 11 hours. It was so worth it.

Soon, an update on what I learned about writing for the 48 this year. I just have to get my thoughts in some sort of non-sleep deprived order.

Wellington 48 hours finals

Team Testies “Race to the Top” Nature Run Amok

This film didn’t actually make the finals, but it was included and given a prize for the best worst film. Similar to Aborgeddon but not as high concept, this was a bit more Shaun of the Dead in excecution. Three slacker friends realise that trees have come alive and are killing people. None of their cellphones have coverage so they run for higher ground…up Mt Vic…through the forests. Hilarious baby-in-peril stuff, great genre tropes and clever evil tree stuff. I enjoyed it very much. I actually really loved how their use of “it doesn’t fit” was completely unrelated to anything. I’m strange like that.

2RhAB (Two Redheads and a Blonde) – “Lost and Found” – Parallel World

Triple split screen about three different choices our hero makes in regards to the lost wallet outside his house. I thought this one was really strong and had a hell of a payoff. On the other hand I kind of forgot about it after I saw it, so it didn’t have sticking power.

A Trick With A Knife – “Call Me Al” – Musical

A really charming and simple musical with no normal talking at all, everything was sung. A man and a woman agree to meet after chatting online and hopes are high…then disappointment. The songs were clever, the camerawork was suitably cheesy but well done and the performances outstanding. My second favourite 48 hour film ever after “Shooting Star” and my second favourite film of the night.

Chain Gang – “Chip: an Actor’s Actor” – Nature Run Amok

Creepy but awesome make up turned a man into a tree. Good twist on the genre having a plant going off the rails, drinking too much, etc. Fun times. I kind of liked the stuff over the end credits better than any of the rest of it, so I’m not sure what that says about the film. Or about me.

Chess Club – “Alex, His Kids and Miracle World” – Family

This movie was awesome! Totally nailed the heartwarming family movie. The premise was a bit familiar: adult telling the kids a story which is then acted out, but they kept it fresh with the great performances and the weirdness in the story. The left out son being made a zebra in the story make me laugh so hard. Also the noise that zebras make. (Fnneeerrr fnnneeeerrr.) I also enjoyed the next door neighbour who you never saw the face off. He was hilarious. Best film of the night for me. Or was it? Yeah, it totally was.

Dog Films – “Extraction” – Revenge

Eh. Gore-nography. I just don’t like it. The movie was nicely shot and at least it wasn’t a man torturing a woman. Good acting etc, but I just can’t enjoy this kind of thing.

Eat Kitteo – “Poultry Pounder 3” – Parallel World

This was so good. The whole audience was roaring with laughter. A guy buys a forbidden, banned and cursed video game, brings it home and the chicken from it steals his baby! He follows the chicken into the game for an amazing sequence and a great pay off. I really enjoyed seeing something so short and to the point as well, I also love this team’s name animation and the easter egg at the end of the credits. Great time was had by all.

Killah Walz/Orca – “Otack Otack Otack Fall” – Religious

A very different kind of 48 hour film, this was a strange arty movie set in a mental institution. One of the inmates begins to wonder what is going on. The whole thing was very beautiful and strange. Loved the music, loved the design, loved the weirdness. I also understood what was going on, which I think is a bonus. A couple of the people I saw it with didn’t understand and perhaps because of that, didn’t appreciate it. I thought it was very daring and will stick in my memory for ages. They also won the grand prize, so it’ll be on TV for the National Finals.

Liquid Chicken
– “No Warrant” – Twist

This movie had Keisha Castle-Hughes in it. Someone at the back of the theatre yelled out ‘no fair!’ when she was revealed, which I thought was funny. This was well acted and very prettily shot but it didn’t really have an M Night big twist. They did include a photo of M Night and I thought they were going to go one way with it, which would have been awesome. Instead they just had a little twist and then a reveal and I was disappointed. I kind of feel like none of the movies of this genre have really got it. It makes me want to write one.

mrs e movies – “Bienvenidos A Nueva Zelanda” – Educational

Another hilarious film. This was a travel show for Spanish people settling in Wellington. Due to cut backs they had to cut out actors and use little wooden dolls which were very cute. Nice use of the exaggerator as the voice over, saying how wonderful Wellington is while showing crappy houses, road works, etc. Me and Chelle giggled all the way through. Plus, bonus points for the rock being an engagement ring like we had.

The Official V 48 Hour Team – “Behind the Scenes: One Flu Over the Bees Nest” – Conspiracy

Ok, so it was a film about people making a 48 hour film, and there was gratuitous placement of V…but somehow they won me over. Maybe it was the dedicated performance of the director who kept taking his clothes off. Maybe it was the long haired skateboarder being cast as John Key. I don’t know, but it was better than I had expected it to be.

Sauce-Era – “The Perfect Fit” – Politically Incorrect

A very politically incorrect film set at a job interview. The interviewee relates all the terrible things he’s done at past jobs; being perverted, creepy, rude to customers, homophobic, etc. Some of which was appropriately hard to watch and you were laughing despite yourself. Had a Hell of a payoff. Good work on the concept.

Traces of Nut – “Free Range” – Religious

Rowan from The Winding City is in this one as the head of a religious cult that worships eggs. On their last day on this Earth before ascending to the albumen one member of the cult begins to have misgivings. Beautifully acted, fantastic overall look with the costumes and some nice jokes as well. I liked the ending as well. Praise Gupa!

Overall I think it was a much stronger group than last years’ finals. I felt a little weird about the Official V team winning prizes, but their movie was pretty darn good. I’m also a little weirded out that Traces of Nut filmed in the war memorial without permission with no apparent repercussions but whatevs. The judges’ decision is final and all that.

Winners here, although you probably have to join the forums to see the list.
Also see the 48 hours heat our film was in

Writing for the 48

Some thoughts on what to keep in mind when writing a script for a 48 hour film and how to do it well.
Because I am a huge expert on this now that I have done it once for real and once for practice. My other credits are directing, acting, editing and watching a whole lot of 48 hour films.

The first thing to keep in mind is that you are making a short film, not a 7 minute feature film. This is actually a very difficult thing to do, because most people have more experience with the long format. Many of the genres handed out suggest a long feature length story as well. You have to narrow your focus down, right down to a small story.

First you have to get your basic concept through whatever means your team chooses. ( I recommend brain storming with as much of the team as can make it in Friday night, so that everyone is invested in the project). Then you can sort out the basic plot, choose characters and figure out how to use the three elements in the best way. Then casting, location decisions and costumes choices can happen.

After that your writer or team of writers should remove themselves from the rest of the team and get down to business. Our team has always had a team of writers working together, this is because you get more fresh ideas, you can take turns napping if you need to and you have tie breakers.

Our writing team worked just by talking through the plot, inventing dialogue as we went and then refining everything. If one of us had a problem with a line or the way something went down we had be honestly voice it and be willing to be shot down. “Kill your darlings” was one of our other watch-phrases. Don’t get precious about something you’ve written and insist it stay just because you like it. Write your own things in your own time and be precious about them. The 48 hour film competition is all about time and the lack of it. Don’t waste it on something you thought up an hour ago.

The writing team’s job is to keep it as simple as they can for the rest of the team to shoot. This doesn’t have to mean two characters, one location, if your team wants to push themselves with special effects, multiple locations and zombie make up then by all means include all that in the script, but you can still make it easier on them.

Important question to keep in mind 1: How late can you start the story?
I’ve seen a bunch of 48 hour movies who start the story too early. Say you’re telling the story of some monster hunters tracking down a monster who may be acting in self defence. Do you need to show how the hunter team was formed? Do you need to show the team being asked by the authorities to step in? Do you need to show them driving all the way to the area the monster is terrorising? In a feature film, sure. In a 7 minute short? You can start as late as the hunters turning up with their armoury. Maybe you can even start later depending on what your film is about.

Remember that you want to tell the smallest version of your story as you can. If this means cutting out the montage of the main character getting up in the morning and having breakfast, then I say do it. Writing a short film is very much like writing a short story. A piece of advice I got from the Morgue our head writer, in regards to a short story is relevant here: “In a story this short, anything that isn’t 100% part of *this* story
is clutter.” In other words, if you have a scene, a shot or a character that isn’t moving the plot forward then you can cut them.

Important question to keep in mind 2: What is the heart of your story?
Why do you want to tell this particular story? Is it about the nature of human suffering? Is it a story about a dog who just wants his breakfast? Or do you just want to show a man torturing a woman? Whatever it is you have a reason to tell this story. Figure it out. With our film “Dedication” we wanted to show the real emotional core of the revenge story. The fact that someone is hurting bad enough to lash out at the person who hurt them. The writing team kept this in mind as we nutted out the story beats.

Remember to keep it simple when it comes to dialogue as well. Your film will look more polished in the heats if you have your characters saying loaded sentences full of meaning rather than chatting away with a lot of filler. Bonus points if you can pack double meaning into the words you choose. I watched a few films this year and previous years where some of the lines clunked. This is a problem because it can jar your audience, throwing them out of the film and reminding them that there’s a world outside your story. Try to make your dialogue flow like it’s real people talking, but write it better than actual conversation.

One of the things we did to try and achieve this is we read through a late version of the script at around 2am, line by line. If anyone on the team thought there could be a better phrasing or felt meh about the line we talked it through. You might not be able to fix it, but we got a lot of better stuff by doing this.

Extra reading: Helpful questions to ask from Deb-onair

Another 48 hours heat

Monday night Lee and I attended another 48 hour heat, to support some friends. Heat 15 had more newbies in it than Heat 8 I think, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

* Slapstick Surgery Love Burns
An animated revenge film with a simple premise and a cohesive story. Nice smooth animation and a nasty twist. I liked the way the gangster mooks looked.

* Slice of Fried Gold Production Grand Finale
Musical or dance film about a 48 hour team having trouble writing a 48 hour movie. They all argue about the ending which we see a bunch of times with different twists. I might be getting old and cynical but I don’t really appreciate 48 hour films about making 48 hour films.

* Team Slowhand Back to the Past
Mockumentary parallel universe film about a missing person who has possibly gone back in time. This film was a bit disjointed, there were some internal inconsistencies that bugged me and the way the interviewed people were often shown in profile was kind of jarring.

* The Soft Chewy Centers The Incredible Journey
A horror film closely parodying The Amazing Race, this film was great fun. There was the standard lazy wife/angry husband team, a brother and sister team and two zombies. I especially liked the special effects shots, the reality TV in jokes and the inevitability of the conclusion.

* SPEKTRONE Twin Set
A sweet little religious film about a boy who worships the Queen. It was perhaps a little slow to start but I thought they really nailed the emotions of the lead character in this one. Nice to see a twist on the religious film as well, and great use of ‘it doesn’t fit’.

* Stage Philangees The Brain Drain
Another mockumentary, this one was a conspiracy film about the recent immigrants to New Zealand. Our presenter was convinced that the zombies were dangerous. An interview with a Robert Muldoon type politician denying it and a talk with a neighbour who’d been to a re-education class were very nicely done. I loved when the presenter stopped a zombie eating someone’s head only to be told off by the man with a fresh hole in his head for being racist.

* Stinky Murphy How to Avoid Charity
An educational film showing an adult education class on how to avoid charity collectors. It was filmed very nicely and it the sound, etc was very professional. I just kind of didn’t enjoy the premise. I feel bad for the charity collectors!

* Struck By Lightning The Hardened Heart
Family film from Napier about a brother and a sister. They drive around and visit their Grandmother’s grave. The sister was obsessed with animals and had a very vivid imagination. I thought the story dragged a little but there were some whizzy special effects.

* Team Stunge Job Satisfaction
Romance set in an office and kind of based on The Office, this might have been mostly improv-ed. That meant there wasn’t all that much of a narrative, but there were some good moments. The end twist of who the romance was *really* between was clever and appropriately upsetting.

* Sunday Night Dinner Club Rattled
Nature Run Amok film shot in a very avant-garde style with entirely original music. I found it hard to hear what the actors were saying at times. Bold move to not include any actual nature-run-amok, just implied in dialogue and sound effects. The film focussed instead on the possibly-not-ethical reactions of two people.

* SquidWig Productions Dead Time
Real Time film about an emo who had killed his girlfriend. Leaving aside the whole men killing women thing, this was a pretty good short. The lead was fantastically creepy and cold towards the dead body, and had a good line in creepy stares.

Our 48 hours heat

Heat 8, Wellington 48 hours furious filmmaking competition 2009. I’m making special mention of how the prop was used in each review since I was impressed with the diversity of interpretation.

*By Another Verified Idiot Murder 101
An educational film set in an educational institution. Some good laughs in this one, and generally the format of the classroom final exam in murdering worked well. I thought some shoddy editing let them down. Spooky implied reality with the cloned victims though. Rock used to kill someone by a Goth after voodoo didn’t work.

* He who likes boats You Are My Rock
This was a real time movie that was both confused and confusing. They made some funny jokes with time ticking past and nothing much happening but then it seemed to be trying to tell quite a sad story. Just at first I thought it was going to be a Memento homage, but it wasn’t. I don’t think. The flashbacks didn’t give us any extra story. The rock in this one….well, there was a rock on top of Mt Vic. Or it might have been the girl. Not too sure.

* Head on a Stick Arborgeddon
A freaking fantastic nature run amok film which totally nailed the genre. Our hero is creeping through the office the suspense is racked up as a body is dragged away. Evil plants are attacking! So many good moments….so many awesome bits. Plus a jump scare right at the end. Loved it to bits. The rock was a game of rock, paper, scissors and quite nicely used.

* Helen and the Cockroaches Pun’s Labyrinth
I found myself thinking while I watched this, that I could have tightened up the script some. Overall a sweet comedy about too shy guy going to pun world to learn to be funnier. Terrible puns all the way through, looks like the team had a heap of fun making it. The rock started out as a paperweight and then turned into Duane Johnson The Rock wrestling action figure. Someone had to do it. Awesome.

* Hi-Deaf Blink: and You’ll Miss
A conspiracy film that hit its beats well, showing the conspiracy to be true and then how those in power can manipulate the naysayers. Lee found it difficult to follow, but I got the whole story. I wasn’t sure there needed to be quite that much drug use or swearing in it. Didn’t add that much. The rock was drugs though, which is a clever use.

* HMS Awesome The Brothers Cage
Nice twist on the family movie genre, this was about a man who is told that Nicholas Cage is his brother. It was a bit weird and stalkerish but good acting and script fully had me on side by the end. It was lovely. The rock was thrown into the ocean at an emo moment.

* icwProductions Notes
I loved this movie, and was gutted that they were disqualified. A romance film about an awkward writer trying to find love. Mostly by being set up by ‘Pud the bud’ Alex Puddle. His next door neighbour leaves him notes, that he corrects the spelling on. It was very honest and sweet and well acted. The notes were wrapped around rocks, apparently cute girls next door have an endless supply of rocks in their handbags.

* ID TEN Ts So Many Reasons
A one man team animated film of the M. Night Shyamalan Big Twist genre. A quiet, clever little film with a nice twist. I believe the rock was right at the end….

* Jato unit Faith in a Recession
Horror Film, starts with a dead body in a bathtub. The man in the apartment doesn’t answer the phone. A hippy walks in, he’s an angel. The other guy is a devil and they’re going to fight over who gets the soul of the dead guy. Devil: “He’s a suicide, he goes to Hell.” Angel “Hey, it’s a recession, we have to diversify.” These guys really lifted their game this year, I thought this was a very clever and nicely shot film. I especially loved how they turned the required line into a ‘yo mama’ joke. There were rocks when the Devil switched locations to a more hellish landscape than the botanic gardens.

* Jenni’s Angels Dedication
I’m still too close to this to watch it objectively. Some sound issues meant a couple of Jon’s important lines weren’t too clear and I noticed the gladwrap but otherwise I found it very moving. Again, pretty much biased here. The rest of the audience laughed at our one or two little jokes, but once it got serious there was respectful silence. I was pleased with how it went down. It’s so much harder to judge than a comedy audience reaction though! We had a diamond ring being a rock.

All in all, I feel like it was a really high standard over the whole heat.