Artistic Mania – or How to Make a Movie in a Weekend

I love deadlines.

I really do.

A while back, my friend April decided that for her birthday this year, she wanted to bring together everyone she knew to help her make a movie for the 48 Hour Film Project. I, of course, happily signed on to help out with the writing bit. As this weekend approached, a flurry of e-mails went around confirming who was going to be on board, and what everyone was going to be doing. April went out and rented a bunch of equipment and got a centralized hotel room in Mission Valley to use as the base of operations.

So Friday at 5PM, I got to the hotel with my laptop, ready and waiting to get word on what genre we wound up drawing. The other writers showed up. We waited, joking about what we would do if we drew one genre or another. We’d thrown around some ideas beforehand, but nothing really stuck.

[Actually, a few weeks ago, I’d dredged up a character that I’d started sketching out for a now-abandoned story about a thief, and brought her up as a possibility as a main character for this project. And in thinking about her, and in finishing reading Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and in listening to Alt-J’s album on a loop, I wound up vomiting out an entirely new story a few weeks back that wouldn’t have existed if it hadn’t been for that brainstorm session.]

Anyway, we waited, getting periodic texts from April at the kickoff event that we had won the use of some studio space up in Mira Mesa for the weekend, until we got THE text:

SUPERHERO

And of course, we were stoked. We’d been joking around not ten minutes earlier about how if we got Superhero, we’d do a supervillain origin story. With that in mind, we were off.

Five hours after the clock started running we had a finished seven page script about two superhero lovers who had grown apart, and how one of them becomes the villain she was destined to become.

24 hours after that, we had filmed all five scenes at four different locations around the city.

48 hours after that, the entire movie had been assembled by our post-production team.

It was manic. It was fueled by sugar and caffeine and baking and the love of April’s friends for getting together and just making things. It was both easier and harder than we thought it would be.

I loved it. Even the collaborative bits for the writing. When we hit a wall, we argued until we found a solution, then we moved on. If we got stuck in details, someone would scream at us about the time, and we would move on. “We’ll fix it in post!” became our mantra.

I didn’t love the fact that we had to move forward with what was, essentially, a first draft. But with a 48 hour deadline, we’re not looking for Fellini-level shit here. And considering none of us have ever made a movie before, I think we did pretty damn well, considering. We’re having a screening for all the cast and crew tonight after April runs the finished movie over to the 48HFP offices.

But the best part? April’s got the bug now, and there’s already talk of doing this again for shits and giggles at some point in the future.

I’ll embed the finished movie (called From Grace) on here next month after the festival’s over so we can all marvel in the ad hoc special effects (and my brief cameo in the movie as a stunt-neck).

Thanks to the 48HFP, I can now say I helped write a short film. And the bonus of getting an entirely unexpected new short story out of it that I’ll be fiddling with over the next few months.

Because there’s no deadline on that.

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