Jun 8 2011

48 hour film project in Albuquerque

This last weekend starting June 3, I participated as the Director of Photography for one of the three dozen Albuquerque teams in the 48 hour film project. This is a friendly competition where local teams create a short movie within 48 hours from the time they receive a required line of dialogue (“I can’t get it out of my head”), a required prop (a mask), and a character (Lee or Laura Stevens, electrical company worker), and each team draws a random genre (Romance, in our case). At that point, it’s a whirlwind to create a script, learn the lines, create the set and costumes, and do all the filming. And then it must be edited and handed in under the deadline! The bulk of the competition is mostly within one’s own team, each member challenging himself and teammates, to complete the project and create the best movie they can in the extremely limited time.

As the DP for this movie, I was not only responsible for setting the lights and overall “feeling” of each shot, but also had tremendous creative input to the entire movie. Every pan, jib, and dolly movement was my decision. Every focus error is my fault. I designed and shot the entire first scene, setting the feel of the movie. I handled the raw footage for each scene transition. Although I worked a movie camera for a music video recently (randomly getting called in when they were short on crew), this was my first experience in such a creative decision-making role in this field.

Our director, Javier, was indispensable with the help he gave, suggesting camera positions and describing how he wanted the final shot to look, and it was up to me to make it happen. The screenwriter and talent man, Jerry Angelo of Fire Born Films, had a script to us in about an hour after the genre was drawn, and the actors he had selected had their considerable dialogue learned by the time the set and lights were ready. I can’t even fathom the difficulty our editor had with the raw footage, putting it all together into a full movie.

Lastly, I was amazed at the behind-the-scenes activity and support when making a movie. When I needed a light moved, the grips immediately had it where it needed to be with their experienced, gloved hands (those hot lights really do get hot). The dolly grip moved the camera and me around the room at the precise speed and direction I indicated. The Make-up Artists did an amazing job of getting exactly the look we needed for the actors and randomly brought a prop which I made into a central element for the movie. For every person in front of the camera, there were at least two behind the camera. The actors were simply amazing, including the two mute “creeps” which were masked the entire time. Our soundman, an very experienced DP himself, switched roles to handling sound in order to provide professional results and left me with the heavy responsibility of the look. This was simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. I have come away from this project with an awe at the team effort required for production of a movie, from gathering talent to final cut. It’s certainly possible to do it with less, but having the jobs filled makes for an amazing experience. It allowed me a lot of extra time for creativity, which was exactly what I needed.

Screenings will be held all this weekend at the Kimo, starting Friday evening at 6:30 PM. Our screening will be Saturday at 6:30. Come cheer for Destiny’s Caller by 48HFP Team Fire Born Films.

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