48-hour film challenge: how it happened

The Orphan Factory

Here’s the finished film:

Monday, 4.20pm

I have absolutely no idea what day it is or what the time is, despite the title I wrote just above. My body clock is backwards, upside down and inside out. That’s because we just made a short film in under 48 hours! My efforts to live blog during the film’s creation didn’t go entirely according to plan, due to the inevitability of me being incredibly busy, so I thought I’d take this opportunity (having caught a few hours sleep this morning) to recap stuff that I missed in earlier updates.

The schedule, in the end, worked out something like this:

  • Saturday, 10.30am: Brief arrives unexpectedly early.
  • Saturday, 11am: Team assembles at Chris B’s house. Chris is writing the script, so we wanted to be near his stuff.
  • Saturday, 11am – 3pm: Intense brainstorming and writing sessions to wrangle the (incredible difficult) brief into some kind of story.
  • Saturday, 3pm – 11.30pm: Pete heads off to buy and make props and set dressing. He’s joined by Nigel late afternoon, who has only just flown back from Houston.
  • Saturday, 3pm – 5.30pm: Costumes are wrangled and locations sorted. Chris and Wayne hammer out the script.
  • Saturday, 5.30pm – 9pm: Shoot study, TV and envelope flashback sequences.
  • Saturday, 9pm – 10pm: Food break. (thanks Slava!!) Bill delivers the music.
  • Sunday, Midnight – 6.30am: The main shoot takes place in a warehouse unit at the Henderson Business Centre.
  • Sunday, 7.30am – 9.15am: An hour and a half of sleep.
  • Sunday, 10am – 12 noon: Fight sequence in the marshes. Many dog walkers perplexed.
  • Sunday, 12 noon – 3pm: Award flashback and pickups. Set dismantled, unit cleared out.
  • Sunday, 4pm – 8pm: The edit begins. Footage transferred, assessed, catalogued, rough edit started.
  • Sunday, 8pm – 9pm: Food break. (thanks Nadia!!)
  • Sunday, 9pm – Monday 6.30am: Cut tightened and locked, sound editing, music editing, titles.
  • Sunday, 6.30am – 8am: Exporting, compressing, uploading, burning, posting.

That’s what I call a tight schedule.

There were three times when I didn’t know if we were going to make it:

  1. When the creative session at the start dragged out for half the afternoon I began to wonder if we’d ever start filming. Our brief was incredibly challenging.
  2. As the sun began to come up and filter down through the skylights of our industrial unit, ruining our lighting setup. Now I know how vampires feel.
  3. In the hour of the wolf, deep in Sunday night, when both me and Chris began to lose our sanity and spent a good 10 minutes simply laughing in uncontrollable hysterics at one particular shot.

Creating The Orphan Factory is one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done, certainly in such a compressed time period. I’m hugely proud that we finished the film to a generally high standard, and fairly overwhelmed by the generosity, skill and dedication of our team. I’d like to focus in on everybody that had a hand in this production and made it possible. In no particular order:

  • Christopher Puttock – my co-director and producer. Chris assembled the team and got us organised. Chris and I seem to meld perfectly on set and in the editing room, always able to find a common ground. We didn’t once have a major disagreement, and where we had conflicting opinions we always reached a compromise (that was often better than both of our individual ideas). A please to work with a true collaborator.
  • Chris Burdett – our go-to writer, Chris managed to take an insanely difficult brief and turn it into something intriguing and satisfying. Chris managed to craft a script that enabled the fluidity required by the compressed shooting schedule, enabling us to start shooting before the script was completed and leaving room for Tom to improvise and adjust his lines to fit his performances. Chris also stayed during the shoot, always nearby if we needed a best boy.
  • Wayne Bolt – working alongside Chris B, Wayne sculpted the story and brought his problem-solving chutzpah to the mix, keeping everything moving forwards and contributing several key concepts. Once we were on set, Wayne took up the mantle of sound recordist, doing a superb job – the sound quality is something I’m hugely proud of, given our schedule and our collective lack of training.
  • Tom Butterworth – having worked with Tom in a post-production situation for several years, it was exciting to finally get to direct him and see him perform a serious role. Or, rather, roles. Tom managed to bring individual characteristics to each of the clones and I love his performance throughout the film – he really carries the short on his shoulders. Most importantly, though, Tom was with us for the entire shoot and coped with the pressure and workload with total professionalism, never flagging or complaining and always understanding the shifting needs of the production.
  • Pete Ayre, Nigel Clegg & Liz McSweeney – our art department managed to create an effective set and custom built props within a ridiculously short period of time and on a pretty much zero budget. Without the production team’s efforts we wouldn’t have had a film, as we wouldn’t have had anywhere to film. I hope they’re pleased with how their work looks on camera – we tried to make the most of it!
  • Myroslava Puttock – I’m entirely serious when I say that the most important part of a film production is the catering. The quality of the film and the relationships of the crew hang entirely around the prospect of when the next meal is arriving. Slava kept us continually fed throughout, revealing a new smorgasbord every few hours. I know for certain that I simply wouldn’t have made it through without her – I’m very tired right now, but I don’t feel ill, and that’s entirely due to Slava’s hard work.
  • Bill McSweeney – Liz’s dad stepped in to provide us with some custom music, which he managed to deliver in double-quick time. This was a real help, giving us something to edit to and speeding up post-production hugely. Bill even provided us with a genius theme song, which unfortunately we weren’t able to include in the movie itself. We wouldn’t want you guys to miss out, so you can download the song here.
  • Bennet Maples – Ben wasn’t able to help out on the film directly but he did provide us with all of our sound equipment, which performed brilliantly. As I mentioned earlier, I’m really pleased with the quality of our sound and Bennet’s kind lending of his gear is what made it possible.
  • Lucy Harvey – thanks for the last minute lending of your make-up arsensal! It proved extremely useful in differentiating our different clone characters.
  • FXhome & Joshua Davies – as always, thanks for providing the awesome equipment, from cameras to tripods to the use of the editing machine. Again, couldn’t have been done without your help. It was great to finally use the 550D in the field!

I hope I haven’t missed anybody off. If so, it’ll be because my mind is utterly shagged out, rather than anything deliberate. :)

Thanks again everyone – great achievement.

There’s a whole bunch of behind-the-scenes photographs on Facebook, which you can view here.

Sunday, 1.35pm

It’s a wrap! After the mammoth overnight filming session we wrapped about 40 minutes ago having shot the fight sequence out in the countryside and a few pickups shots and dialogue takes back here at the ‘studio’. Everybody else has now departed, presumably to find beds, pubs or similar, while me and Chris have ensconced ourselves in the editing room to work through the footage and wrangle it into some kind of short film.

We were shooting with two cameras, a Panasonic HVX-200 and a Canon 550D. Both superb cameras, both with annoying quirks and limitations that you have to work around, but used in conjunction they’re fantastic. The only problem when working with good quality HD footage is that it’s BIG. So we now have about a 45 minute wait while the files transfer over to the PC. Frustrating, especially when you’re working on a 48 hour limited schedule, but we knew this would be the case.

Once again, massive thanks to our entire team: actors, art team, sound and camera crew, catering, music – brilliant job.

Will update again once we’re into post proper.

Sunday, 6.45am

OK, sorry about the slightly screwed headings styles earlier. That’s what happens when you try to update WordPress on an iPhone in the middle of a shoot, when the iPhone is a major prop.

Yes, it is 6.45am. No, I’m not entirely ecstatic about that fact. What I am pleased about, though, is our cast and crew. They are, all of them, utterly amazing. They worked all through Saturday and all through Saturnight, all the way through the dawn of Sunday. They found costumes and props, built sets, organised stellar catering, became sound recordists despite having never done it before, acted as body doubles, wrangled wires and lights and performed well above and beyond the call of duty. Amazing stuff.

This meant that the night shoot went well, we got good stuff and, most importantly, everyone seemed to enjoy it. Incredible. I really have no idea how we managed that one.

It’s not over yet – there’s still a fight scene to shoot and some pickups, then Chris and I will be piling into the editing room around midday to get this thing through post and out the other end looking all shiny.

I would rather be in bed right now, but priority has to be to backup the footage so that we can wipe the cards in the morning (er, in a few hours, anyway) and keep on shooting.

Exhilerating stuff. Hopefully all the other SFL48HR teams are having a great time as well.

(yes, I know I kind skipped over Saturday afternoon’s creative process – I’ll get back to that later)

3.50pm

The writers are writing.

The directors are planning shots and locations.

Pete and slava are sorting props and supplies.

Tom, actor, is finding costumes.

All systems are go.

Assemble

The team should now all be heading to Chris B’s to await the brief and Get Creative!

Saturday, 8.45am

So here we are, Saturday 10th April, starting the first day of the 48-hour challenge. Proceedings don’t properly begin until midday, which is when we’ll be receiving our brief from the Sci-Fi London chaps. This is the first year the challenge has gone national, with it previously requiring you to collect your brief and deliver your short in London. Thanks to the Powers of Technology, we’ll be receiving our brief by SMS, and will be uploaderising the finished piece early Monday.

The brief will consist of a title, a line of dialogue and possibly a prop. It’s then up to us to mix that into a viable short film.

The plan today is to meet at Chris B’s house, as he is the designated writer. Having received the brief we’ll pool our ideas, hopefully hit on what we’re going to do, and then leave Chris to write out the fine details while the rest of us sort locations, props, actors, and whatever else. Whether we’ll get any shooting done today remains to be seen – the bulk of the shoot is planned for Sunday morning, before heading into post in the afternoon and into the night.

I’ll be attempting to blog throughout the day, as well as send updates through my Twitter feed.

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One response to “48-hour film challenge: how it happened

  1. Pingback: 48 Hour Film Challenge « There and Back Again

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