How to survive the 48 Hours Film Festival

By Paul Barlow/Hamilton News

48 Hours Film Festival director Ant Timpson. Photo / Amos Chapple
48 Hours Film Festival director Ant Timpson. Photo / Amos Chapple

This weekend, hundreds of teams of budding filmmakers around the country will write, shoot, cut and hopefully survive making a short film - all within the space of 48 hours.

Paul Barlow is the Hamilton city manager for the V48 hours film festival.

Here's his guide to surviving 48 hours of furious filmmaking:

Right - you've signed on to do this years V48 Hours. Well done, congratulations. You've just joined the most elite, sexiest, intelligent bunch of people in New Zealand - and that's why I love you.

I'm Paul - Hamilton Manager and someone you should start bribing now or at least sucking up to. I've been managing Hamilton's competition for seven years now - longer than John Key has been Prime Minister yet he gets paid more than I do.

In fairness though it is my job to actually keep information from you until the very last minute.

But I am here to impart wisdom and make suggestions to help you get your film into the finals.

So onto this thing: Here's what seven years of watching other people has taught me, and I impart it on to you almost free of charge.

Be Prepared

So many teams come in going "woohoo lets make this all up as we go" and while that might work in small jobs like building bridges or stopping wars, in this you need to know at least who is involved. You won't know your genre or the random elements before you start but you can control stuff like your actors, your crew, who does what, where your food is coming from, where you want to film, who will be the best defensive driver for your last minute rush to the hand-in point...

Be even more prepared

Yeah take what I said above and double it and add a side of extra preparedness. The key to success here is controlling what you can.

Don't bitch about your genre

There are twelve of them and they are randomly selected - everyone has the same chance of getting 'musical' as you. Part of the fun is rising to the challenge and finding great, innovative creative ways to work within your genre. Don't know what your genre is (well at this point no one does but I mean you don't actually understand what a sci-fi rom-com-gorno is)? Well there'll be some examples at the launch, and online or Google. Google is your friend...

Manage your time

You have 48 Hours, not 48 Hours and 2 seconds. Use that time wisely. Plan lots and know when you're writing and filming and cutting and doing everything else. Plan, and build in contingency plans for when your editing program inevitably crashes, you get stuck in traffic behind a red light, an alien invasion fleet needs to be stopped with technology from 1997 - these things could all happen after all and you don't want to let them make you late.

All Hail Glorious Leader

I hate to say it but sometimes you need to have someone in charge, someone who stops the buck here, someone who says "yes - good idea, have a level up" or "This is the worst idea in a long history of bad ideas and it can't end well". Respect them, fear them a little and support them: That leadership is what you will generally find helps keep your team ticking, helps get people motivated (if done right) and helps you guys get in on time.

Check your gear

The No. 1 reason things go horribly horribly wrong is because of gear failure. Cameras stop working, file types don't match or convert and nothing will save (we don't accept laptops as giant USB cases). Technology can make our life easier - but not when you're in a race to win the best competition ever. So make sure you plan for it's eventual sentience and plan to destroy you - by making you fail at this competition - and kick technology in the robotic nuts.

Check your Ego

At the door that is. Unless you're making this by yourself - and it can be done (Academy Award nominated film maker Taika Waititi did a couple of these by himself) - you need to work with a team. And after a couple of days (or minutes in some cases) people can get irritating and annoying and deserve to be Hulk Smashed. Here's where you need the restraint of a god - your team mates may be suggesting things so retarded only Michael Bay would agree to them but at the end of this you will still want them to be your mate. So don't get all uppity when someone suggests something you feel is inferior, and don't get all upset when someone shoots down the idea you had that would obviously win you every accolade ever.

Watch that clock

This is a race against the clock and has more tension than the end of Goldfinger. As the clock ticks down as Auric Goldfinger plans on radiating America's gold reserve is what you'll feel as you get going and as the inevitable flashing numbers get closer to zero you will see your stress levels increase. Don't forget that timer though because one second late is one second too late and this is one flashing timer that won't stop at the aesthetically pleasing 007 seconds remaining.

Music - the Final front ear

Okay terrible pun that underplays how often sound screws up the films. In the process of film making sound mixes are left till near the end because it's really hard to do them first when you have no film to put sound on. So as time runs out and people panic, sound is where the shortcuts happen and guess what - we judges notice these things. Missing sound, stolen music, terrible audio - all common problems that will cost you points.

Learn to tell a story

While audio is a headache when not done properly, the big thing that let down our local films last year was story. These films need a story, a beginning, middle and end - I don't care what order you put them just have them in there. Some great films have an odd way of looking at those three parts (Pulp Fiction, for example). Others are great at things like the hero's journey type of story - like Star Wars. Avoid trying to emulate film makers whose films lack substance in lieu of style, examples like Twilight or Transformers are films where the look of the film is more important than the story and unless you're making fun of them, trying to copy them makes you look retarded.

Finally

Have fun. It is a competition where there's more than $100000 worth of prizes on the line but if you go into to trying to win and prove to your old high school guidance counselor that you weren't wasting time by skipping class to watch movies then you'll have issues. Go into it for fun, and it will be fun, stressful, fun but fun, none the less.

Good luck and I'll see you at the launch.

* For more information, visit the 48 Hours official website.

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