Sunday, June 15, 2008

48 Hour Film Project 2008 - Final Thoughts

Okay... it's been a week since we turned in our film nine minutes late. I wish I could say I feel better about the whole experience, but I don't. And it doesn't have anything to do with turning the film in nine minutes late. I think if we'd have gotten it in on time I'd actually feel worse.

While our film is 'okay', by no means is it a good film. We did the best we could with the time we had. The fact that we even wound up with something that had a semi-coherent narrative was a miracle in itself. On THAT level, this year was a resounding success.

Here's a slightly altered version of the film (I'll post the official version that we turned into the festival in the next day or so.)

I'm still intending on doing the Director's Cut, and it will be a massively different take. I played around with it a bit last Friday and there are some entire scenes I've already removed. I think it might be able to be turned into a film I feel better about...eventually.

There were a variety of reasons why we didn't get the film in on time, notably audio problems and lack of a dedicated editor, but neither of those were reasons why the film didn't live up to my expectations.

For starters, unless all elements line up perfectly, producing a GOOD 48 Hour Film is a losing proposition. The weekend is filled with nothing but compromises and cutting corners and having to settle for whatever you happen to have at that moment. Not one of the decisions we made this year were good, outside of the selection of our acting talent. We were blessed with that this year, and if not for them, our film would have been much less successful.

While I feel like I'm done with this contest (and other time-limited filmmaking contests), there's still a hint of a groundswell among other team members that we give this one more try. While I'm not going to push for it, if someone else steps up and takes on most of the back end stuff, I'm not opposed to participating again, with some major changes in how we operate.

For one, the need for a dedicated editor is a top priority. We need someone capturing footage and piecing together scenes BEFORE Sunday morning rolls around. Not just for getting the film in on time, but for really putting together the best film we can, with the least amount of scrambling as possible. We had a dedicated editor this year, but he bailed out at the last moment, leaving us in a bind that we never really recovered from. If we can't get a dedicated editor next year, and if we can't get a real commitment from him/her, then I won't even consider participating.

Secondly, the creative team/writing team has to be limited to two, maybe three people, including me. For three years now, we've had a writing team of five or six or more, and while everyone on that team is very creative and had great ideas, they all ultimately didn't mesh. Too many disparate ideas and visions that had no chance of coming together in one whole. The first two years we managed to work through it, mostly because the initial idea we came up with had fewer directions it could go, but this year, the idea we had was so cerebral and so open-ended that all the various ideas we had pulled this film in too many directions. At the first call, we didn't even have a full script, just a couple of scenes that kind of could be turned into something later (we were assuming we'd come up with a script for the rest of the film throughout the day, which we kind of did... kind of).

It's a testament to everyone there that we actually managed to salvage it this year, as we had almost nothing as late as noon on Saturday.

But back to the scripting- For good or ill, the writing team has to be no more than three people. The problem is, there are way more than three people that want to be on the creative team. How do you pick? Who do you tell, "Thanks, but we won't need your help on the writing team this year" ? I have to be on it, because one, for a project like this, I trust my own instincts, and two, I know what I can shoot and edit in a two day span.

Something else that probably won't sill well with some people is that I have no interest in attempting a 'serious' film again, or one with a 'message'. Not for this contest, anyway. It just doesn't work. People want to laugh. People want the film to be straightforward and to make clear sense every step of the way. Message films are great, and I'm totally in favor of making them, but to do them right, they need to be really massaged and refined every step of the way. Slamming together a message film just creates a mess.

In all honesty, the person I feel would be most helpful in the writing room on Friday night would be my brother, Guy. He's not a filmmaker or a writer, but he and I bounce ideas off of each other better than anyone else I know. Collaboration is such a delicate, fragile thing, especially when time is of the essence. With some people, on commercials and other projects, I work fantastically with them, but when it comes to something like a film, it's a total clash of sensibilities. I can't put a value on collaborating with someone that shares your mindset. I've been fortunate enough to work with many people over the years who fit that description, but only a couple where the collaboration turns into something magical or inspired.

It's not an easy thing to balance.

Over the past couple of weeks, I've joked with some people that the 48 Hour Film needs to be run like a benevolent dictatorship, not a democracy. These things need one singular vision to work right. That singular vision can come from one or two or three people, but it has to be rock solid. We didn't have that this year by ANY stretch of the imagination. Everyone, myself included, had a different vision of what this film was going to be.

This becomes more pronounced when I compare our films (this year's, and the previous two) to the one I think is the best this year. In fact, I think it's the most successful 48 Hour Film I've seen, period, any city, any year. It's called "Rushin'" and I thought it was absolutely fantastic. Take a gander here.

This film had a very clear vision, and everything in the film contributed to that vision. As far as I'm concerned, this film didn't make one false step.

What's interesting (to me) is the conversations I had with them after the film, and the answers they gave during the post-screening Q&A. They talked a lot about problems they faced previous years, such as too many cooks/writers, attempting to do something serious, attempting to deliver a message, attempting too many locations, etc. In fact, based on their previous films, I wouldn't have thought they had this film in them. Having spoken with them, I see that their previous films had failed for the same reasons I think our films have failed. But this year, they went into it with a totally different plan. Everything they talked about is exactly what I wanted to do this year, but let it get away from me again, and their success only underscores how the 'Reduce and Simplify' plan is the best one.

And while my ideas may very well turn out to be crap, at least the failure will be one that I can own. It really just doesn't sit well with me that this film I directed has no connection to something I would have wanted to do if I had done this entirely on my own. I know it sounds arrogant, but I know that if I had done it all by myself (writing and directing, that is), the film would have had a beginning, middle and ending, and would have had a cohesive and filmable story.

I guess we'll see if I'm right when I attempt to produce "Zombie Wrangler" later this summer. That will be a script I write and direct entirely on my own. If I have any idea what I'm doing, I guess we'll find out then.

So I apologize if you're still reading all the way to here. I know I've drifted over into ranting, but I kind of have to in order to put this experience to bed. It's just been a very frustrating and enlightening experience. Creative democracies just don't work on films. One vision, and everyone else can help round out that vision as much as the visioneer allows them. But in the end, it has to be one person's vision. That's how it has to work.

Okay... I'm still a bit burned out, but I think I'm about ready to get back to full creative steam.

No comments: