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24-Hour Arty People

29 December 08 words: Nathan Miller

BritFilms gathered 30 film crews and set them the task of creating and delivering a short film in just 24 hours. LeftLion were there to follow one plucky team throughout
the process, blogging live via mobile phone. Here’s what happened...

Most short films never get made. Or at least, never get finished. Whilst the cost of digital film-making equipment has plummeted even faster than its quality has risen, one fact remains: time is still money. When you're putting together your magnum opus at weekends, having to wait on the availability of family and friends to provide you with favours, and fiddling with the edit until you've got all those cross-fades, whip-pans and reverse dolly shots slotting together like a well-oiled jigsaw, it's easy to let things to drag on to the point where you forget why you wanted to make the thing in the first place. And then not bother.  

But what if you didn't have time? What if whatever you started had to be finished by exactly the same time tomorrow, or else?

Paul – Director/Editor 
Amir – Suicidal Office Worker
Owen – Cameraman 
Jeanne – Sound 
Rupert - Tramp

I've forgotten my sandwiches, but other than that I'm prepared: pens, jumper, phone charger, and a jar of coffee. God knows if I'll end up anywhere near a kettle though. All I've been told is that filming is taking place all day at a secret location...

Receive instructions and head to the location. The shoot is proper old-school guerrilla style - we don't have permission to film here, and need to keep an eye out for authority figures.

All crews have been given a prop - a T-shirt - which must appear in every scene to prove that all filming took place on the day. The crew get it dirtied up and add it to Rupert's costume. He's playing a tramp.

Owen has arrived, and is already busy setting up his first shot. Meanwhile, Jeanne is strapping a boom mike together. Things are starting to happen...

”Ready to shoot in about a minute,” calls Paul, the director. And then, a minute later… “Action!”

First shot is in the can. We're quickly on to the next. One Giant Leap is about an office worker (Amir) wondering whether to jump off a roof, before being surprised by a homeless guy (Rupert) who helps him decide. I've never met any of these people before, but Nottingham being what it is, it turns out Amir and I have a mutual friend and Rupert is a previous LeftLion interviewee. It's a small world, but an even smaller town.

He's already an experienced director, but this is Amir's first proper acting role. “I usually stay on the safe side of the camera,” he says. He's doing a good job, though. 

Rupert, on the other hand, is a bit of a veteran (Check him out in Chris Cooke's fantastic One For The Road). He comes to Notts at least once a year to work, so impressed is he with the quality of talent here. 

The sky has darkened, but there's little danger of rain stopping play. In fact, it's starting to look like this might not be the caffeine-crazed dash to the finish I was expecting. Still, we haven't filmed any stunts yet, and there's an extremely important shot of a bird in flight which needs to be snatched at some point...

Things are going so well we've broken for lunch! The only thing that would really throw a spanner in the works now would be getting turfed off the secret location. And it would be a massive spanner. Even if we could find a back-up location, there wouldn’t be enough time to start again from the beginning. The only option would be to bribe whoever found us...

Filming restarts. Owen is concentrating on getting shots of Rupert being weird. There's a pigeon sat right on the ledge of the secret location, but it flies off in the wrong direction.

Three birds fly low, directly overhead. Owen's concentrating on something else though, and just misses them. Right this minute, somewhere in this city, 29 other different films are being made.
Things are moving very quickly, which is surprising, considering the heat. The cloud's cleared and it’s swelteringly hot. The biggest threat to production now appears to be sunstroke.

The script requires a bottle-smashing shot. Luckily, Rupert's a first-take professional and nails it in one. Which is fortunate; there's no back-up bottle.

We've got the pigeon! Owen has been scouring the rooftops with his camera when one swoops slowly overhead for a good three or four seconds. Then another turns and hovers above, and we've got what we need. It's officially a wrap, and in less than a normal office working day. Maybe next time this should be a 12-hour film challenge?

The film's in the can, and we’re are en route to an edit suite, somewhere in the beating heart of Derby.

In the edit suite, going through the rushes. The sound is OK, which is a huge relief. The crew are trying to put down a basic edit, but keep getting distracted by the comedy of the actors’ performances. 

Rough edit completed. We’re one minute and 47 seconds over the time limit. After shooting outdoors all day, Paul's suffering for his art: his face and arms look redder than a lobster. 

Picture edit completed! Feelings are a mixture of satisfaction and tiredness. Sound levels need sorting, which shouldn't take too long. Paul's arms are on fire.


We’re done! Everyone's pleased with the finished result, but is the T-shirt visible enough? As Amir says, “not even an apocalyptic war will wake me up tonight.” 

I’m at the Cornerhouse – location of the judging and screening - to see the films being handed in, but nowhere's open.

Johnny Oddball, one of the judges, arrives, and mans the submission desk. Izzy and Harry are first to hand in their film, Dawn and the Dead. “We're known for blood and cheese,” Izzy says.
There's a queue of finished filmmakers building up now, but no-one from our crew's here yet.

There's a steady stream of bleary-eyed filmmakers rocking up with their completed pieces, but still no sign of our boys. Deadline is 11am. It'd be heartbreaking if they got stuck in traffic on the way from Derby or something. 

People are piling in to the desk now. Apparently Paul set off with the finished film over an hour ago, but there's been no sign of him since. This really is cutting it fine.

He's made it! After missing his only bus and having to walk here, Paul's just managed to get the film in on time. And he's happy. “I don't think we could have done better if we'd had weeks to film it,” he says, while another team desperately attempt to master their film to tape right on the submissions desk.
And now we wait until 6.30 to find out who's won...

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