48 Hour Film Project – 2009 – PART 1 (Friday)

Greetings! (echo, echo…)

Well, it’s hard to believe it’s already been a year since High School Drifter was shot and shown at the Riverview Theater, but it’s true! I’ve been busy this last month getting ready for this year’s showdown and last night with about 4 minutes to spare, we got our newest film completed and turned in to compete with the 90+ other teams in Minneapolis/St. Paul.

This year, we ended up pulling Buddy Film out of the hat. I wasn’t entirely pleased. We were hoping for horror, sci-fi, comedy…something other than a sort of pigeon-holed genre like Buddy Film.


When I think of Buddy Films, the movie Lethal Weapon immediately pops into my head. The idea that two guys hate each other in the beginning of the flick and end up pals by the end. Jason (my producer) and I figured out the buddy angle, but I sort of wanted to flip the idea on its end. So, when I post the film up here (hopefully later this week) you’ll see what I did with it.

In the interest of keeping this somewhat brief, I’ll give you some details about what was required to appear in our film and in every other Minneapolis/St. Paul 48 Hour Film.

Character: Kevin or Kathleen Schnabel – Expert
Prop: A sandwich.
Line of dialogue: “I hope they decide soon.”

The title of our film is FutureSand. It’s got kind of a sci-fi ring to it, but we wanted to utilize some of the resources we had access to. A fellow by the name of Michael Heagle was good enough to help us with costumes and some visual effects that brought our movie to a whole new level.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself…

Friday night was the night we pulled our genre out of the hat. On the 30 minute ride back to the Music Box Theater (which was our location for the shoot) Jason and I concocted an idea of what we could do with the ‘buddy’ thing. We tossed ideas back and forth and literally, by the time we turned the corner to our destination, it was pretty well planned out.

The hard part? Standing in front of crew and most of our cast and letting them know what our plan of attack was. Let me get this out: As a writer/director I’m really open to ideas, but it’s really difficult to present an idea that is about 10 minutes old to a group. It’s not their fault, but it’s almost like being a stand-up comedian and getting on stage for the first time. You feel like you’re bombing. Maybe it’s the way I pitched it, I don’t know. But both years, I’ve gone up there and explained what I wanted to do and I swear you could hear crickets and see a tumbleweed blow by. You sort of get this feeling that the actors are thinking: Great. What have I signed on to?

Then, I say: “Any questions or comments on that?”

It never fails, but the floor is opened up and the ideas from our cast n’ crew start coming. Which is good. But I think the hard thing is, immediately after this meeting, I’m going to sit in front of my laptop and pound out a 7 page script within a couple hours. That’s all the time I’ve got.

People throw out ideas (some good, some bad) and I listen to every one. Though it may not seem like it, I internalize that stuff and sort of sift it around in my headspace. One actor thought our ‘buddies’ didn’t seem likable enough the way I described them, another was concerned that the women in the film would seem weak or whatever, someone else thought the sandwich could actually be a sand witch.

Like I said, I listened to them all but I know that we only have 48 hours and I’ve only got 2 hours to basically write out the blueprint of what we’ll be doing. All the equipment and all the gear and everything is sort of hinging on the words I put on a page. It’s one part unnerving and one part exhilarating.

Long story short? I was down in the basement of this theater, sitting in a dressing room by myself pounding out the words like it was the last thing I’d ever write. I kept watch of the page count.

FUN FACT: Did you know 1 page of a script = 1 minute of a movie?

When I got to page 3, I got worried. How was I going to get things moving to plan? I had characters to kill off, backstories to fill in, etc, etc… Friends, 7 minutes is not a lot of time to tell a story, especially formatted like a script. 7 pages of straight up prose? No problem. 7 pages of script? Challenging.

I ended up hammering out the script and I wasn’t in love with it. I hadn’t seen any of our actors (besides Riki Robinson, who played Perk in High School Drifter) act before. I didn’t know what they’d bring to the role.

We had an ex-wrestler, 2 renaissance festival actors, and 2 theater/stage actresses, one of which used to date my brother back in the day. I thought FutureSand was going to be my Waterworld. As in…BOMB. Who knows, it still might be…

The script was done and it was time for unnerving part number 2. Having Jason (my friend and producer) read it. Last year, he read HSD with me right there. This time, I left the room and got a delicious soft drink. It’s hard for any writer (I don’t care who you are) to sit and watch someone read your work without having a chance to fine-tune it or anything. Again, time is money. The clock is always ticking…

As it turns out, Jason though the script was ‘good.’ Last year, it was ‘alright.’ Improvement? Maybe!

Another crazy thing about this year? We had an old photographer friend of mine come and shoot pictures of us during various stages of the project. Just about anywhere I went, Greg was cracking off shots. Thankfully, he took pictures of the other folks, too. But dang. The dude’s camera was like a machine gun. It took some getting used to, no doubt.

We sent everyone else home, made copies of the script and planned out a rough shooting schedule (breaking down the script set-up by set-up). It was around 2am when I was on my way home to grab a few hours of sleep.

The problem? I got home at 2:30-ish and couldn’t sleep. Call it nervous energy, anxiety or a sense of oh-my-god-what-have-I-got-myself-into but I didn’t end up falling asleep until close to 4:00am. I needed to be up by 5:30am. I beat my alarm and was up at 5:20.

Apparently, I was ready to go.