This past weekend, Ningen Manga Productions participated in the Washington DC 48 Hour Film Project, a competition where filmmaking teams are given a genre, prop, character, and line of dialogue and have to make a film containing those elements in a 48 hour period. Sounds like madness? It is.
Because of Women's Studies, I hadn't intended on NMP doing the 48HFP this year. However, Cindy convinced me that a) It would be a good chance to field test the Women's Studies gear and crew in a time sensitive situation and b) that it would be a good creative outlet that would be a hell of a lot of fun, and notch up our enthusiasm for Women's Studies. I'm happy to report she was correct on both counts.
I have to say, it really is a fantastic crew of creative individuals Cindy and I have assembled. This weekend wasn't easy by any means, but it was never problematic. The personalities mix well and any obstacle was met head on and dealt with quickly and smoothly. We all seem to communicate well and are on the way to building the kind of trust that's integral to a project the size of Women's Studies.
Anyway, the 48 Hour Film Project . . . So our genre was drama, which is good because it's really open ended, but also bad because, well, it's really open ended. The night before when brainstorming more difficult genres like sci-fi, I had come up with this idea about a guy who buys a robot and wants it to love him. I told Cindy about it and she really liked it. The next night after we drew drama, she was like, "We should do that robot thing."
So, I did. Friday night, I wrote a thirteen page script which was great, the problem being, your 48HFP film can be no longer than seven minutes long. Following the "one page of script = one minute of film" rule, we were six minutes over. So, we chopped. A group of mass murderers (Aaron Shirley, Kurt Gustafson, Jim Housell, and my own wife) proceeded to kill my darlings and got the script down to a leaner eight-and-a-half pages.
Deadline was 7:30pm, Sunday evening. The clock was ticking. We slept for about four hours. The next morning, we got up bright and early, caffeinated heavily, and drove to our first location, an office building.
A quick word about the the Ningen Manga gremlins. They like to make their presence felt. It's not a Ningen Manga Production unless there's some weird unexplainable technical snafu during the first set-up. This time, it was a weird audio issue with the DV Rack monitoring system we were using. We worked it out, but I'm getting gremlin repellent before the first Women's Studies shoot.
After we finished the office shoot, we headed back to our second location, the basement of my house, shoveled down some pizza, and began to shoot the core of the movie. Around this time, we hit a strange sort of serenity that was magical. For whatever reason, any pressure from the time crunch I felt disappeared and we started moving at a steady pace yet still had time to explore the ideas we wanted as well as get the shots and sound right. It was pretty cool.
Around 1:00am we wrapped inside and headed outside to shoot our big emotional climax. It was chilly, even with the lights, but we got the best shots we could considering how dog tired we were. At 4:00am, we headed over to my brother-in-law's house, woke him up. (He had no idea we were coming.), and shot our final scene.
If you think we then started editing, you're crazy. We had BEEN editing since we started shooting. Aaron Shirley had been working in tandem with us. We'd shoot some footage, dump it to him to edit, and then shoot some more. The rough cut of the film was finished about thirty minutes after we shot the last scene.
Aaron and I spent the next four hours tweaking and shaving, as well as finding the right rhythms and tone. It was a lot of ideas we were trying to shove into a short film, maybe too much, but it was too late for such considerations now. We were less than twelve hours away from the deadline.
Around 11:00am, we got the final picture lock FTPed to the sound and music guys. (Our Composer, Ryan Sayward Whittier, had been working on music since Friday.) They scrambled to match up the recorded sound, put in sound FX, sweeten the mix, and set it all down.
At 5:00pm, we left with the sound mix, raced back to the editor and slapped it together. There was a moment of panic when we had trouble burning out the whole thing to DVD. It worked out, finally, and Cindy drove us into DC at a speed of roughly a trillion miles per hour.
Thankfully we got our film in on time, with eighteen minutes to spare.
The film is called Posi+ive. It takes place in a not-so-distant future where a ban on sex and marriage is placed on HIV positive individuals. In response, a biotech industry selling life-like robot "Companions" has arisen. The story follows Ian, a positive, who purchases a Companion and tries to love her, hoping she will have the capability to love him back. We'll have it online to view after the official screenings.
It was a fun weekend. I'm still recovering from the effects of sleep deprivation, but I wouldn't think of taking it back for a second. Otherwise, I wouldn't have this picture of Women Studies's own "Judith," Tara Garwood, pinching the mystical nipple of Venus.
(A big thanks to Kirk Lambert for not only being part of our 48HFP team this year, but taking all the great pictures you see in this blog.)