Recently, our small film making team entered the Edinburgh 48hfp and went about making a short film. Be warned though, these weekends are very addictive and as soon as it’s over, you’ll want to quit your job and do nothing but make films, this was our fifth 48hfp.

What can you really achieve in 48 hours?

What plans do you have over the weekend? You could wash the car, go for a hike, catch up on some chores? Nah, that doesn’t sound like fun at all. Especially when you’ve been waiting all week for the weekend to roll around. The majority of us will have a nice cup of tea, a 12 hour Netflix binge and wait for the whole thing to blow over.

There are some among us though, that choose to forfeit the right to sit in front of the TV all day to do something amazing, to do something that will be stressful and emotional, something that will test even the best of friendships at times and something that, if done right, will be one of the greatest weekends of your life. That something, is making a film in 48hrs.

Nearly every weekend around the globe, something magical happens. Hundreds upon hundreds of filmmakers and film making teams get together and begin making a short film, filmmakers from all walks of life. From film students to the 60 year old guy down the road who just bought a new dslr, from industry professionals to a group of friends who, let’s be honest, have no idea what they are doing. The thing is though, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do, the challenge of making a film in 48hrs evens the playing field, it puts everyone in the same situation, you have 48hrs to write, film and edit your film. There’s barely even time to add in some Spielberg esque lens flair and then after all of that, you still have to render your film and get the thing submitted on time!

48 hours really isn’t a long time, there’s no clever editing trick in real life. That 30 minutes you spent in the KFC drive through, it’s gone, that hour you spent arguing about who forget to pick up the tripod…gone. You better be able to think on your feet if you’re making a film in 48hrs, because there isn’t time for anything other than film making, sometimes sleep even comes second, we’ve even slept in the woods, a decision filled with regret.

When Making a Short Film, Grow A Moustache.

The Meetup, Let’s Start Making a Short Film

Friday night, 7pm, the meetup. This is when the excitement starts, when the heroes among us that have decided to forfeit sanity for 48hrs meet up to get the elements that will mold their film. There are four elements, adherence to these elements make up 25% of the overall judges score, technical merit counts for 30% and artistic merit the other 45%. If you want to win the competition, you’ll need to fully embrace the spirit of the 48hfp and create your film around these elements.

So what are they? Well, every team will be given a line of dialogue, a character (name, profession) and a prop. These could be absolutely anything and the organisers usually have a lot of fun with this part of the competition. Sure, they could be nice and make it easy but why would they do that? Where’s the fun in giving you a character named John Smith who is a spy and the prop happens to be a gun? That would be too easy.

Then of course comes the all important genre. Up to this point, everyone has the same elements, now though, things start to get interesting, put on your lucky gloves and go pick your genre. There are loads of genres to choose, from Martial Arts, Western or Adventure to Musical, Rom-Com or Mockumentory and many more. If you don’t like what you draw, you can choose to select a wildcard genre, these genres can be great, they can also leave you wishing you stuck with your original choice. You can of course combine genres too, if you were to draw Western as your genre, you could make a Dark Comedy Western but the more you adhere to your elements, the more chance you have of winning.

You can already see how this method means that you really can’t have any ideas for your film before the weekend and that’s a good thing. Suddenly the Sci-Fi-Rom-Com you wanted to make isn’t really going to work with Margaret, the baker who has a fondness for chairs. Or maybe it will, but the point is, embrace the film project and you’ll have an awesome film at the end of it. If you want to make your film, go and make it!

Night of the Living Bread – Behind the Movie

Picture the scene. It’s 3am, we’ve put two couches together in our work office to fashion some kind of a bed slathered in white linen, lots of ‘flattering’ light, several bagels and an array of toppings lay on the bed. Our actor, Deece, is stood on the bed mostly naked (mostly, we’re going for classy here, not filth) with a camera ready to subtly slide through his legs to reveal the bagels and condiments. Suddenly, we look over to our neighbouring building, which happens to be the local police HQ and we see several officers looking over. They must have been slightly confused and definitely worried, I don’t think they thought we were making a short film. “Can I get down” Deece says. Absolutely not, we need this shot.

Last year, we took part in the Edinburgh 48hfp. It was actually the fifth 48hfp we had taken part in, because we’ve caught the bug, big time. We’ve made many styles of short films, each have had varying success and some have undoubtedly been better received than others, some have been more fun than others too, but as amateur filmmakers who hope to one day have a budget to make one of the many films we talk about making, 48hfp’s are perfect because they teach us so much through making a short film. One thing is for sure, with each subsequent film, we get better at the process.

We lucked out, we drew the genre ‘Mockumentory’. We were so happy we got this genre, it’s one of those genres that lends itself well to any idea and more importantly, to the required elements. We spent Friday night coming up with a few ideas (and ordering pizza) and we eventually settled on a behind the movie style film. We are huge fans of comedy TV, we have been brought up on shows like Bottom, Red Dwarf, Fast Show, Garth Merenghi and the like. So we knew what kind of short film we wanted to make and as it was a mockumentory, we would be making a spoof, we sat down to write as many spoof titles as we could. The one that jumped out at us? Night of the Living Bread – Behind the movie.

Let’s Make a Film!

When we tell people about the 48hfp, the reaction is usually the same, something along the lines of “It must be tough to make a short film with those elements in 48hrs”. It is, but we find the elements help, it confines the writing process. Graham Linehan, who wrote Father Ted among many other great sitcoms, said when he and Arthur Mathews sat down to write the first series, they had one rule, that rule was that they would never show any character doing what we would expect, for example, we would never see Father Ted in confession or running mass. It seems like an odd rule to have, given that it was a sitcom that would lend itself well to these scenarios but they felt these would be the easy and expected jokes. The result of that rule was using these rules to get jokes they would never have thought of. Does anyone remember the scene where Father Ted runs into the church to perform mass? The shot is from the outside of the church, Ted runs in and before the door swings shut, he’s out again. Embrace the rules, see them as a challenge and you’ll find story you would never have thought of.

The Post-it and Pizza Structure, it's important when Making a Short Film

We actually managed to write the entire short film on Friday night. After laying out a hell of a lot (too many, probably) of post-it notes and trying to order them into some sort of structure, the writing part was easy, it was connecting the dots, interspersed with bad bread puns. We even had time to think about logistics, what props we would need and locations we’d need to get to, I’d urge you to keep locations to a minimum! There’s nothing worse than spending hours in traffic trying to get to a location for one shot. This is very different to how we approached our first film, we just went for it, no script, no structure and really, no idea. How we managed to get a film made the first time we did this is beyond me, but we did and now, with that experience, we are a well oiled 48hfp machine…or at least, we try to avoid the same mistakes whenever we make a film.

The next couple of days are kind of a blur, lack of sleep and hectic schedules merged 48 hours into one long day. We ran around to get props in the morning and then get to our locations, fueled on nothing but coffee and doughnuts.

It’s actually quite difficult to explain to a family walking their dog in the woods why we’re sticking a bin bag full of various bread products to ourselves, at 10am. I don’t think they understood, unless slowly backing away nodding their heads is in some way, a sign of understanding. It doesn’t matter, on with the filming!

Deece in full costume while Making a Short Film

Everything except the interviews were filmed on Saturday and as usual, we tried to get way more footage than we needed, we were once again way too adventurous with our story, it’s hard not to be, even with the experience of previous projects we still find it hard to rein ourselves in, but we would rather have too much footage than not enough.

Saturday rolls into Sunday and before we know it, we’ve edited the film. We even had a couple of hours spare to polish the film a little but first, we need to get a render done, so we at least have something to submit if the inevitable happens and the rendering takes longer than we expect. When I say polish the film, I’m not talking about colour grading, fine edits or anything fancy like that, we would never have time for that. We worked on sound and tried a couple of great adobe after effects plugins to give us a nice retro movie look. Now, render!

The Drop Off

The drop off is a strange occasion, you go from your movie making bubble to this place where hundreds of fellow filmmakers are gathered, some have their laptops on their knees shouting at Adobe Premier as if it will make it render faster. No matter how hard you scream, a 20 minute render will not speed up, if anything, it will slow down out of spite.

Everyone at the drop off is in the same situation as you, tired, happy, tired, confused, tired, content. They have just created a film in 48 hours. Think about that, an entire film, it might be a short film, but it’s still something which would normally take weeks or months of planning, made in 48 hours. Well done, you. Everyone has stories to tell, some funny and some sad but you’ll want to listen to all of them, because you will relate to all of them. You’ll meet new friends over that well earned beer your team are having to celebrate the 48 hour short film daze, you’ll talk about the mistakes you’ve made, the scenes that fell into place. Some actors will say how hard it was to work in these conditions and some directors will talk about how hard it was to work with those actors. Then, time for some well earned sleep.

The Screening

For us, the weekend making this short film was the best 48hfp weekend we’d had, we were proud of our film, no-one can take that away from us and yet, we were still stupidly excited to see what people thought of it.

Depending on the amount of short films submitted – which is usually a few less than teams that entered – the showings of the films are over a few nights, each showing is usually around 10 films. When you arrive at the cinema, back into the film making buzz, we get to see the running order of the night and the titles of the other short films, we are on last. Is that good? Is that bad? We have no idea. Maybe the comedy films are on last? Can ours be classed as comedy? Is it funny? We think it is, but we made it, so we would. We’re nervous.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusion about what the audience thought of our film, we filmed our film!

And here’s the submitted film!

We ended up winning the audience award! The coveted audience award, the one that we convinced ourselves matters the most, to us at least.

After all the films have been screened, it’s time for a quick Q&A with a member of each team and then, back to the bar to talk film making. Only this time, we can have coherent conversation after getting some rest.

So there it is, a recap of the Edinburgh 48hfp. It was a tough, long and stressful weekend but as amateur filmmakers, the amount we learn from these projects to take into a more professional process is priceless. On top of that, the amazing feeling of pride we had at the screening when we got some laughs, is a great feeling.

Would we do it again? Absolutely. We would thoroughly recommend anyone and everyone enters at least one 48hfp, you can film on your phone, you can create your team from friends and family, you can do it on your own or you can join someone else’s team, there’s no excuse. If you want to make it in the film industry then this is a great place to start and if you do enter, always remember, embrace the spirit of the 48hfp.

If you want to enter into the next Edinburgh 48hfp, it is scheduled for May 2016. To find out where your nearest competition is, check out the official 48 Hour Film Project. You don’t need to wait though, start making a short film today!