“Controlled chaos” is Tohubohu Productions director Bill Coughlan’s term for what we’re about to do, and I can’t disagree. Even though my part of it isn’t so much chaos as just nerve-wracking fun.
Tonight is the beginning of another 48 Hour Film Project. And it is just what the name says: our team will have exactly 48 hours from tonight until Sunday to conceive, write, act, film, edit, and put a musical score to a complete 8-minute film.
The tricky part is we won’t know what the movie is supposed to be about until Bill goes to the designated location tonight and picks slips of paper out of bins. Those slips of paper will tell us: the genre of the film we have to produce, a prop we have to use, a line of dialogue we need to include, and a character we need feature. Then once we have all that, we’re off to the races.
I’m the screenwriter for the team, so my job is to write my fingers off tonight, as quickly as possible, and spit out a script that Bill and his team can film all day Saturday. Then Bill and his editor and composer will spend Sunday slicking up the film and making it shine, all in time for Bill to get in his car and race back to the designated location to turn it in just under the deadline. Then next Friday night there will be a screening of all the competing films for our particular city, and the panel of judges and audience members will vote on their favorites.
Winning awards–especially audience awards–is always fun, but what I love most about the whole process is the immediate gratification of it. A movie that didn’t exist Friday afternoon comes out fully-fledged two days later. Can’t ask for more than that.
Plus Bill always brings such high production value to it (did you see J.J. Abrams’s Super 8? Then you know what I mean by production value), it’s a true pleasure to watch the finished product.
Okay, it’s time for me to lay in snacks, plan my nap schedule, do a few mental calisthenics, and prepare for the phone call tonight. During which I’ll have a mild, minor freakout, just like every year, because at first I won’t know how on earth I’m going to write what I need to write. But then a sick sort of calm will come over me, and I’ll power through it and punch something out, and meet my personal deadline of sending a finished script to Bill by midnight so he can cast it and start filming at 8:00 the next morning. By then my part will be done, and it’s Bill and the team’s turn to revel in the madness. I just have to sit back and wait to see what they’ve done.
I’ll update this tonight to let you know what elements we ended up with. Will we draw Western? Musical? Horror? Buddy film? Will the prop be a feather duster? A flute? A glass of juice? Will the character be an astronaut, a storekeeper, a junior high principal? And will the line be something like, “I knew I couldn’t count on you” or “That’s why we can’t use that anymore” or “Sorry, I’m taking something for it”?
See what I mean? FUN!!
Character: Denny or Denise Murray, recruiter
Line: “I have just one question.”
I’ve just seen the film! It’s a special secret sneak preview, so I can’t share it here, but I will post the short trailer for it when it’s ready.
Bill and the team did a GREAT JOB!!! That film actually made me cry! I have to say, as a writer, one of the most exciting things for me is to see actors taking what I’ve written and bringing it to life. When I write novels, I’m the actor of all the parts–saying my dialogue, feeling the characters’ feelings, all of it. I really enjoy that part of my own process, but there’s something truly wonderful about watching other people perform the simple words I’ve put on a page. And the way Bill frames the story with his direction and his choices about how to film it–I’m really in awe of the whole movie-making process. I love having a role in all that. So thank you, Bill and Pam Coughlan, for including me once again! So rewarding!
And good luck to the team in this weekend’s unveiling to the public!
Here’s the trailer!