Making A Film In 24 Hours (Part 2)

Submitted by Robert Alstead on Mon, 04/19/2004 - 16:00

Read last week's piece about Making A Film In 24 Hours

One advantage to taking part in a fast film contest is that you don't have to wait long for the public screening of your day-long labour. Over this past weekend, just two weeks after 235 filmmakers set off to make a film in a day, the 24-hour Film Contest held its screening and prize-giving gala.

The screening offers some feedback, albeit from a highly supportive audience comprising largely of fellow filmmakers, and a chance to see how other teams incorporated the various contest elements into their film. The DVD is also already out and in "a few weeks time" say the organisers you'll be able to watch the films on the web site.

Just to recap here's what each filmmaker had to include in their film: a music track from a local band (Young and Sexy, P:ano, Sparrow or Ashley Park) to use as their theme, the sub-theme "where words fail, music speaks", a "bale of hay" prop, the phrase "today, nothing is going to hold me back", the characters "the good, the bad and the melancholy", and the genre "narrative".

Twenty-seven of the original 35 teams delivered their film in the allotted time. From the point of view of watching the films that is probably a good thing - 175 minutes of raw shorts would have been too much to take in one go. Still, the quality and level of creativity was at times impressive. There were some that I could have done without, but usually there was an aspect about each film to admire. In some cases, filmmakers would have been pushed to improve greatly on the existing work.

As expected, many filmmakers struggled to incorporate the music track - in its entirety, linearly and audibly throughout, as the rules stipulated - with the soundtracks on some films veering wildly up and down at times. If you only have five minutes for a film then after you've incorporated the soundtrack there isn't a lot of scope for dialogue. The soundtrack to a great extent dictates pacing too. It was telling that a romantic comedy called Door Jam that broke the music rule, was voted third best by the judges.

A more successful film is Retrogression, which earned an Honourable Mention from the judges. It plays backwards in slomo to Ashley Park's tuneful "The Last Day in the Life of Grand". Both it and the second place award-winner The Space Between, which features some impressive time-lapse and video compositing, felt like music videos, but it's difficult to see how that could be avoided. They seemed more obvious choices for Best Use of Music award than the actual winner, a romantic comedy called Hay Fever.

It was interesting to see how many teams gave the theme "today, nothing is going to hold me back" a suicidal twist. I counted four suicide films including a witty, metaphysical comedy called Hay! That's Life where God and the Devil battle over a hay baron's soul.

The winner of both the audience award and the judges' first place award, Ponty Soup, also took the same tragic tack although in the quite different form of a sepia-tinted melodrama that had a kind of mythic quality to it. "It's the first film that I've ever edited," said Jenny McDonnell, accepting the prize for the all-women team.

Many of the films were comedies or had comedic elements but the ones that got the most laughs with the audience were passed over by the judges: Haytex-C, a spoof advertisement where a hay-fever sufferer wanders miserably with a bale of hay attached to her foot instead of a ball and chain; Unidentified Friend, about three women who are bedding the same, er, bale of hay; and Haymaker, about a wannabe serial-killer whose modus operandi is to bump his victim over the head with his bale.

As for our team, we didn't win anything for The Ugly City, but then we didn't expect to after speeding up our music track 20,000 times and including a spurious shot of the hay bale in the credit sequence. Ron did a great job of the before and after the Apocalypse cityscape shot - although it did take him 9 hours working through the night to create just three shots in PhotoShop.

The composite shot of our man Jack jumping off a high rise was reminiscent of King Kong falling off the Empire State building, but people seemed to appreciate that the mood and subject-matter of The Ugly City was quite different from anything else screened.

We didn't win, but we made a film and had a laugh doing it.

The 24 Hour Film Contest
Making A Film In 24 Hours
Read more Making It columns