105 Ways to Give a Book

They’ll Love It At Sundance

MachinationsThe first time you produce a short film, you’re so stoked. Afterwards, it’s all old hat.

Okay, not really.

This weekend, Tohubohu Productions participated in the National Film Challenge. Actually, I should say is participating, since we (we meaning my husband) will be tweaking the movie all day tomorrow. While the 48 Hour Film Project gives you, well, 48 hours, the National Film Challenge gives you one extra day. Imagine the luxury of writing, filming, editing, and scoring a movie in three days. I don’t know why we didn’t get two films done.

We got our genre and the group’s character/prop/line on Friday at 7:00. In the National Film Challenge, the required character/prop/line is divided by area (at least I assume that is still the case). Our genre was Science Fiction. The required elements for the East Coast were Bobbie Soxer (Candidate)/oil/“If it doesn’t work, give it a shake.”

Bill and I worked with the other producer and our writer to brainstorm the plot. When we felt like we had a good start with Act 1, our writer worked it up while we took care of other movie-making business. Then we talked about the changes we wanted, and he wrote out the next parts. More changes, finishing up at 3:30 in the morning. Bill added the scene headings and some other notes to the script at home and went to bed after 4:00.

Alarm goes off at 7:00. That was a lovely three hours of sleep we had. Or didn’t have, since we were both too worked up to sleep well. We gathered our supplies, loaded the car with equipment, and headed for the creative team’s call at 8:00. Or 8:00ish, since we, along with our camera guy, represented 3 out of 5 of the creative team — and one was at the Metro. We went over the script in general and then met the crew at 9:00 at the location.

A good friend of ours had volunteered the use of his shop for the filming. Since they design upscale kitchens, we had some great places to film to keep the background interesting. There was the showroom, with several different mock kitchens, and a warehouse with high ceilings. We also used the front, side, and back of the building. We would probably have gone under the building if we could have figured out how to do it.

The filming went great. A little rocky in the beginning, with the combination of a tough camera setup and some missing cast members. Next time we will stagger the call times and start with a simpler shot, so lesson learned in any case. But other than getting a slow start, everything went extremely well. The actors were all fantastic in the characters we had assigned them. They had a lot to contribute to the dialogue and to the charaterization. Excellent cast. Our crew was totally on the ball, getting things done quickly and accurately. I worked mostly with the Assistant Director, preparing actors for the next scene while Bill was filming the current scene. Our prep work saved a lot of time, since Bill didn’t have to rehearse the actors, but still could change things that didn’t work for him. We finished filming about 8:30 and were packed up and out by 9:00.

Today I’ve been home while Bill edits the film and adds the music and graphics (we had people working on both as we were filming). I’ve seen the rough cut, and it looks pretty good. There are some shots we could have done better if we had more time, but that’s the “challenge” part of the National Film Challenge.

I’ll let you know when it’s up on our site, in case anyone is interested. I think we did a good job with it, but most importantly — clichéd as it is — we had a great time.

By the way, if any of you writers are interested in putting together a short film script, we’d be happy to give it a look. We’ve wanted to do a non-competition film (i.e., a film not thrown together in one weekend), but don’t have any script ideas. We won’t, y’know, pay you for it, but it could hit it big in the indie market. You never know.

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