48 hour film project – ‘builder’s brew’

Last night was a nerve-wracking one for myself and my fellow film-makers as we bundled into the Cameo Cinema to see the fruits of our labours from last weekend, up on the big screen.

The 48 hour film project returned to Edinburgh last Friday evening, with representatives from around 40 different film-making teams gathering in the Grassmarket to await further instructions as to the components of our films-to-be. Each team had to pick a genre out of a hat (with the option of returning it for a wild card genre if they really weren’t happy with it). Our team, ‘The Procrastinators’, picked dark comedy, which we were pretty happy with, having a collective twisted sense of humour.

Once every team had been assigned a genre, the common ingredients of all the films were unveiled: each film had to include –

the character: Willie or Wilma the Builder

the prop: a salt shaker

and the line of dialogue: ‘Quit your havering!’

These necessary ingredients helped to focus our ideas for the film in the very short time we had to come up with an idea and work out how we would execute it, but it was also quite a challenge to include them all without them looking totally shoehorned in!

We got to work straight away on Friday, brainstorming all of our ideas on a blackboard in Anita, our Director’s, kitchen. Because dark comedy is quite a broad genre, there were a lot of potential different stories we could have told and different ways to approach it. One of my ideas was to have the characters’ interior monologues at complete odds with what they were actually saying – Peep-Show inspired, I guess. This was incorporated into our film – ‘Builder’s Brew’ – which ended up being centred around a Narcotics Anonymous meeting, with a variety of characters with different issues sharing their stories with the group. We planned to layer the sound of the stories being told to the group with the interior thoughts of the other characters, who, instead of listening, were going off on a variety of tangents in their minds. That isn’t the whole story; but I don’t want to spoil the twist!

Zoe, our producer, managed to corral a number of friends into acting as our NA group members, plus found some fantastic actors on Gumtree. We also had our own sound guy and a dedicated composer, which was fantastic.

On Saturday, we spent about 12 hours shooting the film in an unlikely location – the Museum in the School of Geology at Kings Buildings! It took quite a bit of set dressing, but it just added to the surreal nature of the weekend that we were filming next to ancient fish fossils and huge crystallised hunks of quartz.

As we were filming we realised that what we were trying to do was actually quite complicated – with a large cast, filming in the round and trying to cover both interior and exterior monologues for every actor – without a proper script. If we were doing the 48 hour film project again, we would probably choose a slightly simpler idea! The actors were fantastic – especially considering that most had never really acted before – and threw themselves into improvising dialogue for the basic character outlines we had given them. They came up with some great lines and it was a shame that we couldn’t fit all of their stories in to the final edit as they were very funny.

Once we’d finished filming, a small group of us headed back to Anita’s kitchen to press on with the uploading of the footage. We then faced the first of our many technical problems! There were numerous issues with the editing process, partly due to shooting on two different types of camera; partly on tape and partly on memory card. We spent the majority of Sunday huddled over a computer, thrashing out the edit. We missed the 730pm deadline, which means that our film isn’t eligible for the judges’ awards, but it is eligible for the audience award, so we still have a hope of maybe winning something!

We all gathered to watch the ‘finished’ film last night – it was the first time that some of us, including me, had seen the final edit. It was nerve-wracking to watch it on the big screen and Anita, Zoe and myself all went into hyper-critical mode as we watched it, as the mistakes were obvious to us; but it got a lot of laughs and the audience seemed to respond well to the ending. A number of people came up to us afterwards to say that they’d enjoyed it, which was great to hear. It’s always really scary to put your work out there, especially when you know that there is so much more you would do to make it better if you only had a bit more time! But that was part of the point of the whole exercise; to see what you could do in a weekend; to see if you could tell a story; in our case to make people laugh, and to work together to create something in collaboration. It might not have been the most polished film that was shown last night (there were some amazing ones!)  but I’m proud of some of the ideas that went into it and that we actually made something, rather than just thinking about maybe doing it, sometime… We may have been The Procrastinators, but we made a film, and that’s something.

The final collection of films from the Edinburgh 48 hour film project 2011 will be shown at The Cameo tonight, from 6pm.

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