Furious Filmmaking

by / 23/04/12

Every year, thousands of eager filmmakers compete in what is arguably the most hectic film production contest known to mankind. Many sacrifice sleep, hygiene and sanity in an effort to produce truly innovative pieces of film within the miniscule timeframe of 48 hours. Some will fail to meet the looming 7pm deadline, but for most, it is an exceedingly enjoyable experience which gives them a firm grounding in the ordeals of the filmmaker.

THE ORIGINS

The competition traces its origins back to the Becks Incredible Film Festival. It began in 2003 as a sidebar to the main festival, with 44 teams around Auckland taking part. Nowadays it is a nationwide event, with thousands of teams taking part every year.

THE KEY DATES

Perhaps you are considering registering for this filmmaking Mecca? In that case you need to be register for the event by Tuesday 1st May, and have paid the required registration fee for your team. This is in just over one week, so pause that re-released version of Taxi Driver and get onto it! As its name suggests, the competition itself takes place over a 48 hour period, from Friday 18th May to Sunday 20th May, during which you plan, shoot, edit and submit your film.

WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT

Maybe you’re thinking that “I don’t know how to make a film.” Don’t be absurd. The V 48 Hour Furious Filmmaking competition caters to people of all skill levels. It makes no difference if you’ve never held a camera before, or if you consider yourself a Peter Jackson- type filmmaker; V 48 is the ideal environment for all aspiring filmmakers to hone their craft, rather than merely theorising about it in FILM101 (or in a magazine’s film section).

SALIENT TALKS TO THE COUCH KUMARAS    

Need more encouragement? Salient was fortunate enough to secure an interview with an award winning team from the 2011 competition, the Couch Kumaras. Their film Sketch won multiple awards and was selected as a national finalist. I sat down with Finn O’Connor (director, editor, and cinematographer) and Conor Cameron (composer), to get a sense of what the V 48 Hour experience involves.

Coming into the 2011 competition, the Couch Kumaras were relatively inexperienced, although enthusiastic, filmmakers. Their previous works consisted of an earlier entry in the competition and a couple of experimental videos. However, the competition changed that. After V 48, the team spent most of 2011 producing a series of short films. When asked whether the contest spurred them to make more films, Finn responded “Definitely. In the space between now and 2011, we’ve done quite a few films thanks to V 48.”

Part of the impetus for continuing to make movies was the recognition and acclaim that they garnered. Through V 48, they went from being an unknown group of Whanganui boys to winners of prestigious national awards. Sketch picked up two awards in the national final: Best Cinematography and Best Musical Score. Ant Timpson, founder of the V 48 Furious Filmmaking Festival, even said he “expects big things from [these] guys down the line.” Indeed, their success has also seen them branch out into commercial filmmaking; during 2011, they made a few films for the Whanganui Council in order to “make some money and come to uni.”

Like any film, shooting provided its fair share of trials and tribulations. The entire shoot took place near Makara, just outside of Wellington. As an outdoor environment, it was naturally difficult to control filming conditions, something the team quickly realised. By the time they reached the location, the incessant New Zealand rain had already begun to fall. Worse still, the day was growing late and only a few hours of light remained. “We are really bad at starting filming early,” Finn pointed out; “we film quite late and it ends up pushing into night- time.” To complicate matters, they had left a crucial boom pole behind, meaning that they faced a delay of one hour before they could even start. The team’s advice for filming: be organised and get to your location early so you have time to deal with any issues that arise.

Much praise was given to the film’s rich and evocative score, which was especially impressive in light of the team’s limited resources. Initially, Conor had compiled a number of pieces to fit different tones.

Unfortunately, none of these fitted the musical direction he was after, which meant starting again from scratch – “not a good feeling.”

Thankfully, he was able to work quickly with his software to create a variety of piano pieces inspired by a minimalist composer. Lacking a sound department and an immense budget didn’t preclude these filmmakers from producing an accomplished soundtrack.

Whilst many see the competition’s rules as limiting, the Couch Kumaras found it helped focus their creative efforts. Certain criteria have to be met by teams when constructing their films, such as inserting a certain line of dialogue, a particular prop and a specific camera technique. Conor pointed out that “many people see it as limiting your choices, but I don’t.” The restrictions forced them to adapt to elements of filmmaking that they might not necessarily be comfortable with, encouraging innovative thinking in the group. Far from feeling overwhelmed, the Couch Kumaras relished and embraced the challenges the rules present.

For anybody looking to enter the competition, the team has some simple, yet important, advice—no matter how hopeless the situation seems, don’t give up. At one stage, the team got to a point where they felt their concept simply wasn’t working. According to Conor, they “were questioning the quality of our idea.” However, out of that intense pressure, they were able to create a film that exceeded their creative aspirations; despair acted as a motivational tool. Moreover, despite all the stress, they both saw the experience as incredibly exciting, as opposed to daunting. You may need strong friendships that can endure the strain the contest invariably creates, but in the end, what you achieve is worth the pain.

They plan on having another crack at V 48 this year, and with their considerable experience, they will make formidable opponents. Beyond that they aim to keep making films within their tight-knit group, a group that looks to have bright prospects within the realm of film.

Check out the Couch Kumara’s myriad videos at YouTube: www.youtube.com/user/ CouchKumaras?feature=watch 

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