Logan Must Make Star Wars

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Our new short film, “Logan Must Make Star Wars”, is now on the YouTubes!  (well, actually, it’s been up for a week or so, I’m just a lazy blogger).

It was a hell of an experience, as all these 48 hour movies are.  We were honored to win Best Story, Best Directing, and Best Comedy at the 10th Anniversary Almost Famous Film Challenge.

It’s probably our last 48 hour movie, as we’re moving forward into features (fingers crossed), but as both Sean Connery and Justin Bieber say … Never say never.

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Photo courtesy of Almost Famous Film Festival

Photo courtesy of Almost Famous Film Festival

Thoughts On 48 Hour Challenges

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Forty-eight hour film challenges are competitive movie making competitions where you’re given just forty-eight hours to write, shoot, and edit a short film.  It’s exhausting but fun.  And, to add even more craziness to the process, but really to make sure you didn’t cheat by filming before the competition, you’re also given a list of necessary elements you have to incorporate into your movie.  Elements like a specific line of dialogue (“I have a bad feeling about this”), a prop (a vase of flowers), and sometimes a character you have to incorporate (a farmer).

Almost Famous Film Challenge - http://www.thea3f.net

Most of these challenges even give you a random genre.  Sure, it’s a wonderful challenge if you get a genre outside of your comfort zone, blah blah blah.  But what I find instead is that you end up with a collection of imbalanced, surly and mutated films where very few people were particularly pleased with their inherited fate.

I’ve always liked the Almost Famous Film Challenges best because they don’t do that.  Instead they have a “theme” that all the movies have to use, like “Heroism” or “Miscalculation.”  This lets the teams do what they do best.  The horror guys let their freak flags fly … the drama people have a whole bunch of crying and screaming … and we aim our target for as many silly laughs as we can get.  As a participant, and an audience member, I find the results more rewarding.

So my first 48 hour challenge was a complete disaster.

It was in Los Angeles.  An all SAG shoot (that was pretty cool), and I was invited to be the director by my good friends Brandy and Grady.  And it wasn’t the random genre that did us in … although we did get kinda boned there … we got mockumentary.  No, what did us in was “movie by committee.”  As the director I had virtually no say over the script and I wasn’t involved in the editing.  And with no real “vision” guiding the end result, like a normal movie, the final product lacked a comedic edge or any real teeth to it.  It just wasn’t funny.

"The Lords of Dragonhoth"

Two years go by and I get the itch again.  I always felt like it was the process, and not the actual nature of the challenge, that did us in.  The timed nature throws a lot of chaos into the experience, and on a film shoot chaos is death.  You need a “benevolent leader” to make sure everyone’s efforts are unified.

The solution, in my mind, was to make a 48 hour movie just like you’d normally make a normal movie … just, you know, really quickly.  In 2007 I gave the 48 hour challenge thing another go and we made “The Lords of Dragonhoth”, about a melodramatic night of role-playing (the theme was “Heroism”).  The result was a movie that we were quite proud of, and we felt represented our “squishy” sensibilities.

"The Hand You're Dealt"

“The Hand You’re Dealt” was our effort the next year, and in many ways it was a reaction to figuring out what the judges were looking for (more stylization, more energy, better camera work, etc.).

“The Lords of Dragonhoth” and “The Hand You’re Dealt” were completely invented on the night of the challenge.  With “Zombie Team Building”, we knew we wanted to make a zombie film no matter what, so we assembled the necessary props and crew, but we hadn’t written a single line of dialogue or character to honor the spirit of the challenge.

Brian's clever easter egg on "Zombie Team Building"

 

The great thing about these challenges is that it forces you to make movies.  Our goal has always been to not just make a good movie in 48 hours, but make a good movie.  Something that we’d be proud to have in our filmography.

So here’s some quick and scattered thoughts to end on:

– Have these challenges changed the way I shoot?  Did I shoot as fast as I do now?  We shot 46 setups in one day with “The Hand You’re Dealt”, but we topped that with an insane 81 setups for “Masters of Daring.” I’m not sure.  Probably.

– The competitive nature of these film challenges really kick your butt into gear and force you to up your game.  It’s fun to go up against the same teams each year and to develop private and anonymous rivalries.  But also you support teams with similar sensibilities and find yourself rooting for them to succeed as well.

– The downside to these timed challenges is that you don’t have enough time to let the stories germinate before you make them.  Production isn’t too compromised by the rush, but usually the writing is.  Editing is a bit too, but that’s easy to fix afterwards.  With our 48 hour movies I felt like we never had truly solid endings; that the third acts were always a compromised.

– There’s always a point, right about a lunch, during a 48 hour shoot that I feel complete and total panic.  I feel like we haven’t gotten anything we’ve wanted to get, that the movie isn’t coming together, and that it’s all completely and utterly sucktacular.  On “Masters of Daring” I felt that hardcore, but knowing that I felt that on the two previous movies, and I was happy with their end results, I just had to punch through the feeling and keep going.

– With each challenge we felt like we had to top ourselves.  “The Lords of Dragonhoth” had a crew of three and a cast of five all sitting at a table.  Three years later, “Zombie Team Building” had a crew of nearly twenty and a cast of six characters shooting it out with twenty zombies.

Another 48 Hours

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Another installment of my old MySpace blogs, this one telling the tale of returning back to the 48 Hour challenge experience, a year after The Lords of Dragonhoth …

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Revenge:  Another 48 Hours

While we were happy with how “Dragonhoth” came out with last year’s 48 hour film challenge, the second time around we wanted to raise our game up a bit.  The judges of last year’s event seemed to react less to laughs and more to technical achievements.  Of course we didn’t want to sacrifice laughs or character, but we did want to make a faster paced, fullbore comedy, with bigger laughs and better cinematography.  And hopefully this time we’d make a comedy that was so obviously a comedy that the judges wouldn’t put it in catagory of drama like last year (seriously…  SERIOUSLY?!?).

Two downsides of ‘Dragonhoth’ was that the movie was basically “talking heads”, and that the audience for the film was a bit narrower than our other films.  On the upside, however (and in comparrison to this year’s effort), “The Lords of Dragonhoth” concept was more unique and there was more time taken for character.  And in a lot of ways it makes it much more memorable movie.

So we spent twice as much money (and when I say we of course I mean me), amped the energy up, made the comedy more outrageous and visual, and really put time (or atleast as much as a 48 hour movie challenge will allow) into the visuals.

Last year our Theme was “Heroism.”  This year it was “Miscalculation.”

Here are production stills from Squishy Studios “The Hand You’re Dealt”, a comedy about the world’s worst tarot card reading and the hilarity that ensues!

We feel pretty good about it, although it’s hard to get perspective on it at this point, but everyone did a great job.  I’m hoping for the best (but expecting the worst).  Come out and support Squishy Studios if you can make it!  Yay!


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Friday, February 29, 2008

“The Hand You’re Dealt” Wins Big At 48 Hour Film Challenge

It was crazy and nerve-wracking last night, but a big success for Squishy Studios at the 2008 Almost Famous 48 Film Challenge screening.  We fared much better than last year with out new movie “The Hand You’re Dealt.”

In the entire film festival of (I believe) 45 entries, from all the different judging catagories tallied together (of Story, Cinematography, Style, Use of Prop/Line, Use of Theme), we placed as the 4th highest movie in the challenge.  The three awards we recieved were:

* 2nd Place Comedy

* Award For Outstanding Story

* Outstanding Individual Performance:  Amanda Schaar

Man alive, it’s really nice to finally win a g-damn award.    🙂   Enjoy “The Hand You’re Dealt” and let me know what you think!  Thanks to everyone who helped make it and who showed up at the screening! Kudos also to the other filmmakers, especially to the ones that made kick ass movies but totally got hosed by the judges. “La Force avec toi!”