Most cities have a film festival of some sort, even the small ones. Usually a 48 hour film challenge. 2 days to make a movie, not bad. Some up the ante and do a 24 hour festival. But only Kansas City does a 10 hour festival. Put on by the Independent Filmmakers Coalition (IFC-KC), this is the 9th Annual Event, and they call it the “One Night Stand” (ONS).
Works like this. 9am – Big meeting: They announce a time limit ,theme, a line of dialogue and a prop. All films must contain all items and be under the time limit in order to qualify for competition. 9:30am ’til 7:30pm – shoot, edit, export a minute movie and be back at the theatre to turn it in. Anything past the deadline will still be shown, but isn’t eligible for prizes. 8pm – show starts.
It’s balls to the wall. If you’re not done shooting by 3pm or so at the latest, you aren’t going to get done. With so many chances to fatally blow it, it’s is a test of endurance as much as anything else. It asks, can a good movie emerge from under extreme pressure? Will the films be “good for being done in a day” or just good? It’s also a test of coordination and time management. Can you get the footage you need in 4 hours of shooting? It’s a festival in which the distance between 2 locations, even the distance between the theatre and the location becomes a very important factor. There are groups every year that don’t finish.
Without further ado, here is our creation. It’s called “Worth Noting.” The theme was Unrequited Love. Prop was Paper. Line of Dialogue was from “Frankenstein” – “It’s Alive…It’s Alive!!!” All were drawn randomly from a hat, from 10-20 options each.
- When Jason tells you to make sure to charge the battery, (a) do it, (b) have the back-up battery ready, (c) find the expensive charger that I entrusted to you, Adam! (Time Lost – 15 minutes)
- When you’re only doing 3 takes, make sure the boom mic is out of frame. Otherwise you have to work around it in editing (Time Lost – oh, 5-10 minutes)
- Always make sure when you are “importing” footage, the camera is actually importing it. (Time Lost – 30 minutes)
- Even if your editing program is set to auto-save, save it after nearly everything. We didn’t and the program crashed. We had to redo some of our work, luckily it didn’t kill the whole project. (Time Lost – 20 minutes)
- After aforementioned program crash, you do not have time to throw a fit and be angry (finger pointed directly at self). This wastes even more time. (Time Lost – 10 minutes, in spurts of rage)
- If you are being overly-complicated and using voiceover, it would behoove you to edit that material ahead of time (which is in keeping with the One Night Stand Official Rules). (Time Lost – 15 minutes-ish)
- Leave yourself time to export the film in a high quality. For a 5 minute film like this, that can mean about an hour. If not, you’ll be forced to dial down the resolution so you can make it on time. (Additional Time Needed – 45 minutes-60 minutes)
- Total Time Lost – 95 – 100 minutes
One of the best pieces of writing advice I’ve ever heard was to write a spec script based on a show I liked. So, Adam and I chose “Arrested Development.” We wanted to challenge ourselves and see if we could pull off the tone and style and pacing. Narration sets up joke, dialogue delivers the punch-line (or the opposite). Nothing pays off more when you’re filming than the planning you did before that day. We spent at least 4 or 5 hours talking through ideas and bits and planning wardrobes and deciding on shooting locations, so that when it came time to do it, we weren’t worried about any of that while filming. Spontaneity is vital when filming, but some things need to be written in stone if you want to get anything done.
The biggest benefit of this experience was it proved that shooting quickly and shooting effectively aren’t mutually exclusive. We’re prone to doing double-digit takes, spending longer than needed just to have one more. One of the jokes on the set of “Trailer: The Movie” was that I would say, “That was perfect. Let’s do it again.” Part of it is, I really enjoy the filming itself, and I like tweaking performances. The day after this, we were up before 6am to go to Warrensburg for the final day of filming on “Trailer: …” It was our hospital day, and we’d planned on a 10-hour day.
We got all our scenes done (without feeling rushed), added 3 shots, and we were finished and loaded up in under 6 hours. If not for the ONS., that level of productivity and efficiency would never have happened. If you have a chance to make be in a festival like this, do it. Write, direct, act, be on the crew. We had a blast, got a great response, didn’t win a damn thing, but did have people seek us out afterwards and congratulate us. If you can get that, you’re on to something.