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Notes from the 48 Hour Film Project

Priya posted on 4th October

By Priya Bhattacharji

“Psyched out, hungry and mind boggling”- that’s how the winners of The 48 Hour Film Project - Delhi 2013 {Petromax Productions} describe their creative sprint at the 2 day filmmaking competition.

For the uninitiated, the 48 Hour Film Project is a global filmmaking event that invites teams of filmmakers to write, produce, shoot and edit a short film in the span of 48 hours. Three elements are pre-assigned -main character’s name, a prop and a line of dialogue. All must be included in the film in order for it to be eligible. In its 3rd year of running, the 48 Hour Film Project Delhi is a truly anticipated event. This year, the name of the character was Jaganal/Jyoti Khurana who had to be a Business Man/Woman. The prop was a passport, the line of dialogue to included - "There must be another side to the story”.

Team Names

{Participants this year}

One might wonder - why sign up for a competition with such embedded restrictions. What exactly is the appeal of a contest which sounds more of an endurance test and less of a movie-making competition? Given the overwhelming response the project has received {77 teams with the zaniest names in Delhi registered this year}, we decided to catch up with four award-winning participants to make sense of this 48 Hour Film Project Madness. We squeezed out some ‘behind the scenes’ experiences, survival strategies and afterthoughts from them. Moumita Pal and Arko {of Petromax Productions – Winner Of Best Film, Best Actress “Rejected”}, Ankur Kapoor {of Q – Best Use of Character “237”}, Varoon Anand {of Kaivalya – Best Direction “Games of Soul”}, and Prashant Sehgal {of Phaltu Phillums - Best Writing}.

LBBD | A little introduction to you and your team … How did you get the film team together? Did you have to ‘lure’ anyone
to be part of the team/film?

Ankur Kapoor | I’ve been making films for the past 7 years now. For the 48 hour film project, I always like to involve friends and some talented professionals who are team players. Luckily, I have never had any problems gathering a team, and this time was no different.

Petromax Productions | Our team comprises advertising and theatre professionals. It was our 48 Hour Film Project debut, we were all excited about it as we didn’t know what to expect .

Prashant Sehgal | I’ve been making films for almost 5 years now, usually under the banner of “Phaltu Phillums”, which is also our team name. I always like having small teams for the 48 Hour Film Project. This year, most of the actors were my friends from theatre, and a film student assisted me in most aspects.

Varoon P Anand | Last year we had missed out on the 48 Hour Film Project as my theatre company, Kaivalya Plays, was busy with a play. This year, most of the core team from that production took part. We were concurrently handling the production for another play. We had set ourselves up for a logistical nightmare. As for luring, I had to entice everyone but I took some pride in the fact that these people WANTED to work with me now, instead of me having to beg people to work for me.

LBBD | Talk me through your shooting process, how long was the shoot, what kind of equipment did you use?

PP | We had a harrowing time shooting. While shooting at a team member’s place, The Resident Welfare Association came to know of it {the team member nearly got thrown out of the society}. We lost 3 hours of shooting time. An angel-of-a-friend {Pooja} came to our rescue. She plays the mom of the main character. She ended up playing host too!

PS | We shot the film during the day on Saturday. We shot on a Canon 5D Mark II DSLR with about 5 different lenses for the various looks, and a couple of external mics for sound. We shot the whole film in a single location to save on time. We didn’t have any major issues except scheduling conflicts with a couple of the actors, which made us change the shooting order.

VA | We used two Canon DSLRs, a 550D and a 600D. We like to shoot on 50 mm lenses to get that cinematic depth of field. The toughest part was agreeing on the script. The constant debating made us lose the light during the shoot. Fortunately, since the movie was a fantasy, we could allow the audience to believe that day had shifted into night in the span of just 3 minutes. We managed to submit our film with 15 minutes to spare. Keeping everything in one location was a big boon.

Ankur Kapoor{Still from Ankur Kapoor's submission}

LBBD | When did the actual ‘brainstorming’ happen - Was it a one-time session or continuous process during the production? How do you balance ideation-execution in such a limited time period?

AK |In a 48 hour project, scripts always evolve. One thing I stress on while executing 48 hour projects is - be decisive and don’t linger on decisions for too long. That is the only way you can finish your film on time.

PP | After we got the prop and other mandatories, everyone got together. We voted for the best script. And then we started shooting. Every half an hour, someone would come up with a spark and that would only make things better.

PS | My simple mantra for this project is “Write on Friday, Shoot on Saturday, Edit on Sunday”! We had the script ready before we started shooting on Saturday morning. As always, we did make a few minor improvements as we shot along.

VA | We began with writing exercises, which enabled us to ideate. I picked up all the ideas and drew the outline of a story using the strongest visual elements within the limitations of shooting in an apartment and on a roof. As a director, you have to be able to put your ego aside and listen to your team to see how an idea can be communicated more simply.

LBBD | Give us some ‘behind the scenes’ gossip – Angst-ridden moments, Creative conflicts, Romantic inclinations…

AK | Haha, no for time romantic inclinations! Creative conflicts do occur - especially when you factor in the lack of sleep - but my team worked well together as we were generally all on the same page.

PP | We had many angst-ridden moments, but the crew’s enthusiasm was overpowering. The lead was exhausted. The DOP and close friend fell ill post that marathon shoot. I will make it up to him someday by booking him a hospital bed next time. 

PS | While we’ve had a few of these in the past projects, this was as smooth as butter, since all the roles were already delegated ahead of time. This is one of the reasons I like a small team!

VA | While shooting, we realized we didn’t have a passport {the required prop}, so we fashioned one out of blue cardboard paper and painted the word 'passport' and the Indian Lion emblem using liquid foundation.

Prashantsehgal.Jaganlalgoesdown{Still from Prashant Sehgal's submission}

LBBD | A week later, you were sitting and watching all the films made as part of this project. Which ones did you like in particular? {If you are daring enough, you could also mention the ones you disliked}. How did you feel about your film in comparison to the other films?

AK | I really liked JEP2 Man. It was very funny, and I liked how they used music and built up characters. I also liked that martial arts film, whose name I do not remember. I wish both of these had won more awards!

PP | Bhabhi Leone, Kachda mohabbat {disqualified}, Can you see, Jep2 man were phenomenal films. The one film shot inside an airplane was weird. As far as our film is concerned, we did have a few technical glitches but I guess that happens. And should never happen again.

PS | The screenings are always an exciting time - it’s a full-fledged short film festival in itself! This year, the overall quality was quite disappointing! There were a lot of first-time time filmmakers, who just didn’t understand what was needed to make a complete package, and submitted films which were quite crappy! Last year, there was a great filmmaking workshop held for the participants. I think it should be a regular feature of the project.

VA | I really liked Q’s 237 and JEP2 Man and Lost and Won. Prashant Sehgal and Zorian Cross are two of my best friends, but I didn’t like their movie Jagan Lal Goes Down, though I really enjoyed Kriti Vij’s performance in the film.

LBBD | What new doors has this award/s opened for you?

AK | Nothing actually, life goes on after living in fantasy for 2 days.

PF | I don’t know. Everyone is pouring in with ideas they think we should execute. I am amazed at the amount of trust people showed in me. Too much pressure I say!

VA | The night the award was announced, I was sitting with Anurag Kashyap {supporting his wife Kalki in Hamlet} and Vinay Pathak at dinner. I felt immensely stupid bragging about having won an award to people like Rajat and Anurag, but they were supportive. What I could see is that being anointed with an award does give you the respect of your peers.

rejected1{Still from Petromax Films' submission}

LBBD | As a part of this project, you are expected to make a movie from scratch in just 48 hours.
What is the single best and worst thing about this? How would you describe this year’s 48 Hour Film Project weekend?

AK | The best thing has to be that you get a finished short film, with your name on it, in 2 days. It is a good opportunity to play with different genres, as you never know what you’ll get! The worst thing has to be the lack of sleep, or rather the complete absence of it for 48 hours! It is really wild and sleepless. The kind of fluctuating emotions that you experience while making a film in this competition are really unmatched.

PP | Best thing - No time to think. Worst thing - No time to think. By the end of the weekend, we could have made a zombie film starring ourselves in it.

PS | The best thing about the project is that at the end of these 2 days, you have a brand-new short film in your hands - a feat that can usually take days to weeks otherwise! The worst thing is that sometimes you look back and think that you could have done a few things differently… that’s a trade-off you must be willing to make.

VA | The single best thing is the looming deadline which creates a pressure to make quick decisions and communicate clearly. The single worst thing is coming to terms with mistakes you know you will make because of the limited time. The joy of having a final product is very satisfying… We finally got drunk on Sunday night at dinner and never felt more like we had earned it.