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.
Continue reading

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