Our 2008 48 Hour Film

Posted by PhillyFilmmaker 
Our 2008 48 Hour Film
April 29, 2008 11:02AM
Hello Again!

Here's our entry to the 2008 48 Hour Film Project in Philadelphia.

Submissions were due at 7:30pm on Sunday the 27th.
At 6:45pm we were still Printing to Video because for some reason no sound was going through to the miniDV tape.
But! We finally got it done and got there to hand it in with 10 minutes to spare.

Looking back on it, it looks like there were a few things that need to be fixed or done better but we'll wait to hear your guyz thoughts. I forwrd your suggestions and stuff to the others who worked on it bc they want to be better filmmakers too!

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this one. Everyone really worked hard on this one with the few people we had and the little time we had to do it.

Re: Our 2008 48 Hour Film
April 29, 2008 11:43AM
One of the strongest pieces I've seen from you guys yet.

- The music in the beginning could have used a bit more processing to mask that MIDI piano. Reverb, for example.
- Your cut points can still be raggedy. You chased the line slavishly in the beginning for no particular reason. A good "chasing the line" edit will somehow mask the fact that it's chasing the line, by slightly delaying the cut, or stepping on the end of the last line, or varying the rhythm. If I notice it, that means I'm thinking about the editing and not the film.
- The acting is far improved. It's still broad comedy, but the two actors don't look nearly as self-conscious as your other ones. I think it's because they aren't trying as hard as your old actors. "Trying too hard" makes an actor seem like he's performing, and when that's out there, the actor fails to be the character. I don't see that here, so kudos on having made a great step forward. There was one bad beat, when the cap guy gets up from the chess table.
- The film opens well, but some of the writing is still on the nose. "I don't trust you...what if you..." -- you're telling us what we can already infer from the situation. A good rule of thumb about writing dialogue: When trying to get across exposition through dialogue, make sure it's something the character would actually say in that situation. If you're sitting across somebody you don't trust, why would he actually say "I don't trust you"? What's his real beat -- his strategy for figuring out the other guy? The screenwriting maxim I've held all these years is "Show Don't Tell". The chessboard, the devil's horns and the actors' beats will tell us what we need to know; limit your dialogue to only the dramatic interest, don't try to make it do all the exposition work.
- The superimpose technique is interesting and the music (MIDI piano aside) is intriguing, but it looks a bit rough. I'm not one of those people who insist that superimposed images have to fade in rather than cut in, but I think the rhythm is off. Also, it's just a series of images with little drama. Did you get shots on their faces? What exactly was the progression of the game? What's the tension? How did it go, step by step? Like a good martial-arts scene, a good chess/poker/competitive game scene has to have an arc. For example, the opening fight in Kill Bill Vol. 1 was marvelous, as was the trailer fight in Kill Bill Vol. 2, but the ending fight of Kill Bill Vol. 2 was a massive anticlimax because it didn't have beats, the push-pull of the two opponents. When the guy in your film says "It's a draw", once again it's expository dialogue. I didn't see the draw; I didn't see who was in the lead, who was losing, at any given point. Which means all that's telling me what happened is the dialogue -- which means it's pure exposition with no drama.
- What's the point of view of this story? You seem to be watching everything from a neutral perspective. The obvious guess is that it's the guy in the cap's story, but we don't know what the central quest is. I personally think it would have been more interesting if it were the devil's story, and his life/scene need is to try to get the guy's soul. Right now, there isn't a point of view, so you have neither a protagonist nor an antagonist for half the film. You needed to set that point of view early.
- The mark on the girl's arm is supposed to be a big reveal. Not only does the actor need to work up to that beat, but the film has to make it a big deal. This was a classic case where overly flat shooting, cutting and building of the sequence made the climax of the scene feel inconsequential. Forget trying to use the music to do this -- if the scene doesn't build enough, music won't do the trick. Try cutting this scene without music, and slow down the rhythm of the scene in the beginning while intensifying to the climax point. This is as much screenwriting as shooting and editing.
- Finally, another screenwriting point: The central conceit is supposed to be that he becomes immortal, but this immortality is worse than death. The journey towards that point was not clear. You needed to map out the beats you had to hit so that there would be an emotional (comedic is also emotional) journey. I might have written something like this -- quick beatsheet:

1. Abstract images in the room, slowly reveal chessboard, then reveal Guy in Cap, uncomfortable. Now give details of the Devil, leaving his identity (tail or horns) at the end, and then finally show the Devil's face.
2. Start in medias res -- the deal has already been offered. The question is whether Guy in Cap accepts. Devil tempts him: "If you win, you get to go back to life, riches, immortality, etc, etc." Work in the Devil's Mark. Guy accepts.
3. The chess game. Guy in Cap starts off well, then makes a wrong move and devil gains the advantage. Guy in Cap sweats. Devil gets distracted by something, Guy in Cap cheats and moves a piece on the board. Devil doesn't notice. Guy in Cap wins the game.
4. Devil is not pleased: Suspicious because he thought he was winning. Guy in Cap argues his way out. Grudgingly Devil gives him the immortality.
5. Really work the "bling" beat here. We have to believe that Guy in Cap really got away with it. When he finds the Girl, she's all over him -- the perfect sexy trophy, almost unbelievably desireable, and all his. They go to his dazzling, palatial bedroom and go to bed (go black).
6. In the morning, Guy in Cap wakes up and she's gone. He's groggy from the sex and the sleep and he goes to the bathroom to wash his face. As he does...he finds the Mark on his arm. Flashback to the Girl tattooing the Mark onto his arm last night, while he was sleeping. Cross-cut/dissolve with their sex scene.
7. He panics, runs out of the bathroom...and finds that his entire bedroom, house etc. is now empty. He looks out the window onto the street, it's also empty. "Immortality." He takes the gun from his safe and fires into his own head, but he doesn't die. Now he's really screwed. As he sits down on the floor of his empty house, he finds that the only thing left in his possession is...the piece he moved to win the game. Devil's image appears to mock him.

Re: Our 2008 48 Hour Film
May 01, 2008 07:27AM
On the plus side - the lighting was much improved and very nice in the chess scene. Obviously you had put a lot of thought into it, and the costumes and props. It showed.

And yeah, acting also a lot better overall.

Music was pretty good themically. Only one or two places did it knock me out of the story.

I didn't much like the long lingering slow mos in the 'hero has a cool car and everyone loves him and he has a hot girl' scene. Could have been said in a much shorter and less ... mmmm.. overstated. For eg - you could have had the hero with his hot car, one beat, then in the bar being greeted by cool dudes, two beats, then the girl, another beat, who welcomes him, final beat. That's about 10 seconds max. Also, the framing here could have had more interest. It pretty much seemed to be lots of wides or mids. CUs make it easier to catch expesssions. And a big CU on the tattoo would have helped the drama of it a bit as well.

Anyway - like I said, a lot better, and certainly cool for a 48 hour job. Well done!

Re: Our 2008 48 Hour Film
May 01, 2008 10:01AM
I agree with Jude's notes, but with a slightly different take. It's not that you shouldn't have used the slow-mos. It's that you didn't have enough shots that expressed different aspects of the "bling". After the third dissolve within the same shot, not only is the "cool factor" of the car shot completely depleted, but you're just repeating the same thing over and over because you like the technique. It looks like you were just cutting dead to music. Again, when you do that, you often just destroy the visual rhythm of the piece -- unless you had music playback on set, it's very rare that a shot fits right into the rhythm of the music you've put on top. When technique trumps expression, your film isn't working.

It's not that this section needs to be shorter -- I disagree with the "10 seconds max" note. The section needs to be longer. However, you needed more details of the extravagance, not to make your wides last longer. This is a rare occasion when I'll refer to Federico Fellini. Fellini, Ridley Scott, James Cameron, Bernardo Bertolucci, Akira Kurosawa, Zhang Yimou -- these are all filmmakers who know how to make a location and a lifestyle stand out. You needed to insinuate us into the debauchery with more shots, more details, more beats. And to let us see exactly how your character is behaving within this bubble.

Re: Our 2008 48 Hour Film
May 03, 2008 10:32PM
I'm not saying it has to be less than ten seconds, I'm saying the setup I spoke about was ten seconds. But in a short film I think lingering anywhere is boring.

Give me punches - make every frame push the story forward, not lie about making the same point over and over. Especially when it's a really obvious one like this, since everyone knows what the result of making a deal with the devil is. If the result had been that he grew tentacles, I might need to see more in order to understand that.

Re: Our 2008 48 Hour Film
May 10, 2008 10:30AM
The story telling is too expository, too linear, a little flat... Is that the best way to bring the story out? Can you introduce more dramatic moments? More tension? More conflict?

So the story is about a guy who is a lonely dishwasher. He longs for this girl, and so plays a chess match with the devil. He walks away from the chess match, and later learns that the girl of his dreams has played a chess match with the devil, and he loses everything (money, girl).

Before you start with the plot or the edit, you need to ask yourself. Is the part of him being a lonely dishwasher inculcated sufficiently into the story? Is there a relationship between him as a lonely dishwasher and the girl and the devil and the bar? What are the elements you can use to push the story further? Can the set up be improved and told with more impact?

I think the biggest mistake is to tell it in an expository manner- wide tracking shot of main character and the devil playing chess, then a dialogue edit, cut to flashbacks, etc... In fact, you should avoid the dialogue edit as much as possible in this story, as it really doesn't add. Notice how flat it feels through every dialogue scene here.

The first flashback shot is a wide backshot of a guy doing dishes? I'd go for a close up from behind the dishes on his face, he reaches out for a dish, cut to wide shot, action match... Then again, do you really even need this scene? It really isn't much of set-up. Your main character's goal is the girl, not the dishes, not his job... Unless you can tie it down to the story.

Is the introduction of the girl good enough to establish the main character's desire?

Why not end with a cross cut of the chess match, cutting between both chess matches the devil plays with the main character as well as the girl?

I like the chess motif. You could even start the edit right with the close up of the chess pieces (maybe 1:38). Then cut to a flashback, or even better if you can portray the character's desire with more impact (any tracking shot that reveals the girl at the table?).

You don't necessarily have to introduce every scene with a wide shot. They could be close ups of action (eg. The pub: CU of a guy cueing at the pool table, girls dancing, bartender serving drinks, etc).

Lemme break down the pub scene:

Nice shot at 02:55.

The back shot of the guy and girl walking to the table doesn't cut it for me at all. Do you have a solitary shot of him at the couch? You could cut from him in the carpark, to him seated alone at the table, cut to his POV shots to show his interests/character, cut to the girl seeing main character at 03:20 walking up, cut to both of them seated. This would be another editing possibility to set up the scene. Then the rest seems to have to follow the linear route...

There's a double action on 03:58 and the shot before. That might be a bit of a tough edit point, as he's talking on both takes. Any reverse shots on the waitress/messenger? You might want to establish the waitress/messenger more.

"At least I have you, right?" That shot might just be a bit too far from the action. I might actually choose to cut to a close up reaction shot of the girl as the guy is talking, before cutting to a close up of the guy, then cut to a wide shot of him holding the girl's hand, and seeing the tattoo, cut to a close up of the tattoo.. Maybe that, but that might need to be reworked, depending on which sequence brings out the most from that scene, which apparently is actually your turning point and currently seems a bit flat.

The opening music needs to be tweaked. They're playing behind the beat, causing it to sound a little hesitant. The music later on is okay. The recurring melody is a good motif.

The recorded sound at the bar is a little off... The walla is only apparent when they start talking. The music cuts off when they're talking. The pub doesn't play music?

Overall, some nice shots- i like the low angle wide shot of the carpark. The costumes work overall, with the exception of the devil's horns (which is a little comical), but the chess set is nice. The music motif is also pretty well done (need to touch up the midi piano).

Re: Our 2008 48 Hour Film
May 10, 2008 11:31AM
We actually had a scene between the girl and the dishwasher where he asks her out and she rejects him and tells him he'd be more attractive if he ran the place. When we started cutting things down tht scene was taken out to make the whole thing shorter.

That's an interesting point about having the devil play chess with the girl. But, in terms of the time we had to make this and the availability of our actors, the girl was not around when we shot the chess scenes. But that would be an interesting cut.

The pub scenes with those folks was a last second idea. Those people happened to be there making a music video and we'd asked them if they wanted to be part of our movie. We shot that fast and didnt give any pre-thought on the diff shots to take. I suppose if we had more time to sit down and think about it we'd get more variety of shots to use.

The idea we had when he enters the pub/club was for him to be seen as the "man" getting props from the folks in the club then seeing the girl, and knowing she was his. Then, they'd walk over to the table and sit down. Visually we kept seeing slo-mo like a music video especially with the music that was playing.

Ahhhh Close ups! That, I wish we had more time to take. Again we were pressed for time, we only had until about 4:30-5pm to get done in the restaurant. Now I wish we had planned out more shots to take faster. now I understand how storyboarding would have helped.

LOLOLOL the midi piano isn't actually a midi at all. I was using a Korg Triton Extreme and recording it right into Soundtrack Pro. (Combo 05 - Orchestra - M065 Piano Concerto)

Originally I wanted the beginning to start off like a Hitchcock movie (Scorcese's Reservas was in my head for weeks! LOL) but, i had no idea where to go with that and that's how the music was made the way it was. Except for the ending music.

Thanks to everyone for the reviews!! I'm so glad that you've taken the time to give us constructive criticism of our stuff. Everyone in our group has been reading this and we're all in agreement that we're going to step it up even more to bring out better quality work.

I'm still miffed that the 48 Hour folks don't give this kind of info to make our works better.

Re: Our 2008 48 Hour Film
May 10, 2008 12:06PM
> The pub scenes with those folks was a last second idea.

Okay, this brings up the old issue -- writing. What would you have put in the place of this scene if there hadn't been a music video shooting here? What is the beat in the narrative arc? Whta would you have shot in place of this? Because if you didn't have this scene, you don't have an ending at all.

> Ahhhh Close ups! That, I wish we had more time to take.

When you're out of time, the shots to do aren't wides, and they aren't close-ups -- the shots to do are mediums. Now, I don't mean brain-dead, first-year-film-student mediums where the camera doesn't know where to be, so it tries to get everybody in the frame at a proscenium angle. I mean a responsive, alert medium that isn't afraid to leave some people out in order to express the actual overall scene.

One-takes with emphasis on mediums are usually a good way to do multiple tasks -- show the location (if necessary), show character relationships (by including multiple characters), and also to be close enough to capture some expressions. I used to be a cameraman for my director partner, and we once captured eight minutes of a two-person acting scene in two takes, 20 minutes of shoot time (the actress had to leave). All in-camera editing, with the director doing the boom (!). Of course, the actors had already been rehearsed to a T. I hadn't even seen the scene before this, but it all came down to the camera moving where it needed to be, made strong decisions without "hesitating", and not going too hog-wild with "handheld" techniques even though the camera was hand-held. Like good documentary shooting. You'd be surprised how long a single take can stay alive if the camera's not overly jittery, if the framing was varied enough, and if the in-camera editing was responsive enough to capture what's going on between the actors and within the story.

> LOLOLOL the midi piano isn't actually a midi at all. I was using a Korg Triton Extreme and
> recording it right into Soundtrack Pro. (Combo 05 - Orchestra - M065 Piano Concerto)

Point is, it sounded like MIDI. And there's little difference -- the point was that your keyboard preset sounded too digital and antiseptic. You needed much more space, especially for an instrument like piano.

Re: Our 2008 48 Hour Film
May 10, 2008 12:51PM
>We actually had a scene between the girl and the dishwasher where he asks her out and she
>rejects him and tells him he'd be more attractive if he ran the place. When we started cutting
>things down tht scene was taken out to make the whole thing shorter.

Not sure if that is a good idea, or a bad one. Sure, cutting out a weak plotline strengthens the plot. But notice how weak the relationship between the characters are. There isn't a motivation for the main character, the girl nor the devil, and whatever motivation there is, it isn't organic or something one can emote to.

>When you're out of time, the shots to do aren't wides, and they aren't close-ups -- the shots to do are mediums

Nice point, Derek. Wide shots are usually insufficient, and with close ups, you always need to cut to a wide to establish location and a sense of 3D space.

> Those people happened to be there making a music video and we'd asked them if they wanted
>to be part of our movie.

Did you have any idea what their contribution to the plot will be? Currently, they're just helping you rub in the jump cut, slo mo editing style from the previous scene. Does that contribute to the plot? Editing styles aren't something you use frivolously. They all need to contribute to the plot and character development, more than just using a flashframe or slow mo simply because they managed to find its way past Bruce the Wonder Yak.

>I was using a Korg Triton Extreme and recording it right into Soundtrack Pro. (Combo 05 -
>Orchestra - M065 Piano Concerto)

It doesn't matter what you used. It's what it sounds like. A quick word on synthesizers- when synth sounds used to substitute actual instruments, they tend to sound a little thin. Strings are the worst, as you smell them a mile away. I remember spending a full day eq-ing, adding reverb and fine pitch and amplitude changes to it back in school on a recording just to make it sound palatable. Pianos aren't too far off either- they tend to come off a little thin. Good samples are by far the best.

Re: Our 2008 48 Hour Film
May 10, 2008 06:07PM
I believe that we were going to just have the main character look like a successful business owner, and with him having the girl. The extra folks from the music video just made the club look populated. How we would have done it without those folks, I guess we would have had to figure tht out when it came to it. Maybe look for other extras to use?

LOL I hear ya about the piano sounds. I would have loved to tweak the music a lot more but time was running out. I'll do that now that I can just work on it. maybe add another instrument, give it more depth.

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