It took us 47hours 38 seconds to write, cast, location scout, shoot, edit, grade and hand deliver our film ‘Paradise Falls’.
The 48hour film project opened it doors to Dubai for the first time this year and our team ‘The Turtles’ took part.
Filmmakers were given one line of dialouge ‘you can’t leave without making a decision‘, a prop a clock, a character trait which was a human encolopedia, a genera Mockumentary and to use a local landmark we choose Dubai Metro.
We received this info at 7pm on Thursday (which is eqvelevent to Friday in Dubai) and had to physically hand-in the finished film at exactly 7pm on Saturday (which is like Sunday in Dubai – get it?).
Quite a MISSION!
For me it all started after receiving an email from a friend on Tuesday and straight away I knew that I had to take part so on Wednesday I put my Producers hat on and made a few phone calls. Fortunetely a Director friend Nizar Sfair was interested to get involved as well as Acting coach Miranda Davidson. The team then steadily grew with experienced and enthused professionals including Sound Recordist David Thirion and Make Up Artist Marcia Santos, it was so cool these professionals were willing to volunteer and help out, I can not thank everybody enough!
On the Thursday at 7pm Nizar collected the info and we set about brainstorming an idea for the genera we were just given – Mockumentary. The idea grew and took shape in a few hours then copy writer Michael Fillon and Nizar went off to bring these ideas together and write an original script.
On Friday morning with 37 hours remaining and even before the script was finished myself and second camera operator Michael McKelvie (who is actually a professional photographer) were up at the crack of dawn to get some establishing shots of the location in the beautiful fresh morning light. I love early morning light so much, I guess it’s lucky I am a morning person…
Our story was about Karim Mushtak played by Assem Kroma. Karim is a writer who had a best selling book ‘The Bridge of Time‘.
Ten years on nobody has seen him, we found him as the last remaining resident in a dilapidated housing compound, refusing to leave until completing his second novel ‘The Time Travelers Diary‘.
The film took on the style of a Louis Theroux documentary with Michael McKelvie being the voice behind the lens (everyone was multi skilling).
As the film’s budget was coming out of my and Nizar pockets we needed to keep it cheap – I really do sound like a Producer now… As both Michael a I own Canon 5D MKII we decided that was the best choice of format, even though I was offered a RED EPIC I knew post time would be incredibly tight and final delivery requirements were to be SD (yer SD?) so I wanted to keep the work flow as simple as possible.
I shot the film 80% hand held with three lenses Canon 24-70mm, 70-200mm both F2.8 and a 17mm Tilt Shift lens which I borrowed from Katarina Premfors a Photographer friend of mine. I absolutely love Tilt Shift!
When people try to impersonate a documentary especially in Hollywood movies they tend to use very shaky hand held shots with lots of zooms, this is something I really dislike. Having grown up shooting docos I know from years of sweating behind the camera that you try your very very best in the unprecitable locations and senerios you find yourself in, so when brefing Michael who is completely new to video about the shooting style I simply told him to try and keep the camera as steady as possible and avoid doing lots of zooms unless to fit the action in the frame.
We didn’t use any shoulder supports or follow focus systems instead we went old school and just focused off the barrel. I did try and use an EVF viewfinder from Cineroid, but to be honest I stopped using it after a couple of hours as I found it too hard to judge focus from. The main benefit with the Cineroid is that you can feed a HDMI monitor from it, but having worked with Nizar so many times he trusted me to shoot and instead he concentrated on directing the talent. I went back to my tried and trusted Z-Finder. The Z-Finder is what makes a 5D MKII usable for such a simple device it really does make a HUGE difference. Add a fader filter to your kit and shooting is not only quick, but F Stop selection is very controllable. (If you want to get hold of any of this simple yet super effective kit, please click on B&H or Amazon ads here on DOP BLOG).
‘Paradise Falls’ isn’t without it’s faults, but for a film made in 48hours I and ‘The Turtles’ are incredibly proud of it!
Ray Haddad did such an amazing job of scoring the film in less than 8 hours… Insane! Editor An Nguyen and edit assistant Neda Ahmed from Optix Post Production did an incredible job editing the film they actually went 24hours with no sleep… Optix even let us grade the film in their DaVinci suit. Optix you and your team ABSOLUTELY ROCK! Great job colourist Diane Kuo.
As soon as the 48hour restrictions are lifted I will post the film here on DOP BLOG, in the meantime here’s our trailer
So what are my tips to making a film in 48 hours:
1) Read the rules, there are quite a few and you don’t want to get disqualified for something simple or avoidable
2) Scout your locations and get permissions ahead of time – It’s one thing you can do before the 48hours as well as preselect some actors and make sure your kit is all set
3) Keep the crew small and simple, have clear leaders just like in regular production work
4) Only take on people who 100% want to be involved
5) Remember everyone is a volunteer so look after them, buy lots of water, juice, fruit, and a decent lunch
6) Try not to take the pi*s with time, even though you only have 48hours try and schedule your film as best as possible
7) Once your script is written read it through with a stopwatch and estimate timings of your finished product – 48hour films should be 4-7mins excluding end credits which can be 1min
8) Work out scenes that you can live without
9) Don’t be afraid to try new stuff on location
10) Get the coverage you need, but avoid over shooting
11) Make sure you have some form of narrative, leave the audience feeling something
12) Deliver batches of rushes whilst shooting so your post can transcode them and start the offline
13) Keep an eye on the clock you only have 48hours, put a strict deadline for exporting your film
14) Make 2 copies on two separate USB’s or DVD’s it’s in the rules
15) Leave enough time to safely get to your location and deliver the film – I watched about 10 teams arrive late missing the deadline, what a waste…
16) Avoid on set politics as much as possible. For some reason short films/ working for free does breed then more than normal
17) ENJOY IT! Remember why you got into this industry!
The premier for our film was last night, in total there was probably around 14 films screened yesterday with two additional screenings. Some were very good and to be honest some made me feel a little sick… A short film should have some form of narrative, be interesting, intriguing and slightly entertaining doesn’t hurt either…
Some films were clearly made with great passion, but shot on FULL AUTO – which is especially a crime when the content/ idea is not great either… If you want to record purposeful images then you need to use everything on Manual – that’s PAGE 1. Learn How to Become a Cameraman there’s even a Christmas Special on + 100% money back guarantee if your not satisfied with the info I share. Take a look and download the Free Tips
PS BIG SPECIAL THANKS TO IMAD ABOU-CHALHA GM from Optix who made Post production and finishing the film a reality. Imad is now off to follow his dream and go to Culinary School in NYC – Imad you are a legend and I wish you all the best of luck in your new career! Keep a sofa free for me as no doubt I will come and visit especially if you cook!