48 HOUR CHALLENGES: PRESSURE IS GOOD
I’m a firm believer in putting yourself under pressure as much as possible as a filmmaker. It’s fine knocking up detailed storyboards in your own time, shooting tests at weekends, in your own time, endlessly tweaking color correction, in your own time. But production just isn’t like that most of the time. It’s pressured, changeable and you ned to be able to adapt to whatever gets thrown at you, quickly and efficiently. For aspiring filmmakers the biggest lesson I can give you is not to be precious about your early work. It’s highly unlikely that it’s going to be as good as you want and the trick is to take the lessons from these first projects and use them to inform your later ones. It takes time to develop a style and until you’ve been faced with shots that just don’t work on set, actors who can’t act, ugly backgrounds and all the other unpredictable incidents that jump up in your face, you’re really still just a hobbyist. It used to be incredibly difficult to gain this experience. Now, not so much. This is a pity. Pressure focuses all the mistakes you make and gives them consequence. You won’t repeat them. Again, I tell kids I’m mentoring to get out there and shoot, regularly and often. Not to be precious about the work early on but to try things, see what works, what they like, and keep practising.
48 hour film challenges are a great way to get some focussed, pressured experience of filmmaking. The idea is simple: the organisers give you a title, a genre, a key prop and a line of dialogue and you then have 48 hours to complete and deliver a film. It’s really really really hard. There are four key stages: idea conception, pre-production, the shoot, the post. Most teams do really well at one of them, and okay at two others with the fourth proving their downfall. I’ve never managed to do all four brilliantly. However, here’s an example of someone who came very close, and won his particular competition, the Sci Fi London 48 hour challenge. His name might be familiar because he’s just released his first feature film, Monsters to much acclaim and has now been brought on board to direct the reboot of Godzilla. That should tell you something. His name is Gareth Edwards. And if you’re wondering what he shot this on, it was an EX3 with a Letus and Nikon lenses. No DSLRs here. Same thing for his feature film. Looks great doesn’t it? The embed isn’t working for some reason but click through the link to watch the film.
I first did a 48 hour film challenge in 2001 when they were very very new. We ended up shooting a crazy action thriller with car and bike chases and it was somewhat silly. And yes, you can see some of it here if you’re interested. I’ve never truly nailed it but it’s such a great experience and, because you have to do it so fast you end up with a piece of work that ought to be nearly complete. We’ve often reshot sequences of ours and sent them to festivals. It can take forever to get a short off the ground sometimes, but with these kinds of challenges it’s done and dusted before you know it. I highly recommend seeing if there’s one near you and trying to get a team together. You learn so so so much.