Thursday, 16 April 2015

48 Hours

I directed my first film in 1996. And 1997. It took a year to edit. I directed my second film this weekend for the London Sci-Fi Festival's 48-hour film challenge - "The Healing Room". Like the first, it consists of performances I could watch for ever and decisions I'm pretty pleased with, all foolishly compromised by my total lack of technical know-how, equipment and crew. I won't lie though, I like it an awful lot. Enjoy:

So thank you Craig. Thank you Katy. Thank you Lanna and your work laptop and camera. An hour-by-hour account of the making of this follows in the comments.

I'm going to do more of these.


  1. Hour 1: Receive mandatory title, line of dialogue ("Failure's not an option" etc. up to "bottom of the list") and mandatory shot (batteries being replaced)... wonder if a corridor in my flat might make a better "Healing Room" than the original location I'd planned on using: the Nightmare Room from my old Nunhead home, currently the residence of Katy and Craig who have beautifully agreed to star in the film, friends from the Dungeon and the Ghost Bus whose production of Faust upstairs at the Etc. Theatre last Horror Fest confirmed them as friends of the cosmically ambitious.

  2. Hours 2-3: Stroll over to Nunhead to check, realise the Nightmare Room is obviously more interesting than my corridor, check out the Secret Police costumes sourced by Katy (bags from the flower shop she works in) head back home to pick up equipment (extension cord, lamps, camera), buy pizza and juice, call Craig with rewrites to the script (essentially a retelling of this... originally the videos were Craig's character's own, but in the rewrite they're videos he's shown "in that room" - yeah I know, get me, I don't even say the title of the film, I know how to play this! So yeah, now it's a police state or something. Cool), suggest that we might be able to see the shot of the batteries being replaced in a flashback from these videos since we still have my Christmas tree, head back to Nunhead with Lanna Meggy, consider how many other entries are going to have flashbacks in them, realise how much a flashback might cock up the rhythm/look/claustrophobia etc, recall how eighteen years ago I kept "opening up" my first film and how in the end I didn't use any of that, realise also that I don't have yet have a time machine prop, and that watching Katy and Craig wrap fairy lights around themselves might be fun.

  3. Hour 4: Learn how to use Lanna's camera, realise we don't need lamps, watch Craig and Katy run lines (they know them, they already know them, they're amazing) and don shirt, ties and dressing gowns - a look we'd already decided on even before I knew the film was called "The Healing Room" simply because I didn't want lab coats, take the burned mannequins out of the Nightmare Room.

  4. Hours 5-6: Heat pizza. Lamps, camera, action, shoot while my arm dies. Otherwise this is a very happy hour for me because they're incredible, recall how much of my first film also consisted of shoving brilliant physical performers into grubby spaces they could barely move in - it was "the Tempest", Craig leaves for work, shoot Katy and self with boxes on head in case I want to cut to these at any point, remember the "opening out" that I never used in the first film and think I probably won't want do that, eat cold pizza.

    Hours 7-12: Head, home, upload footage, call it a day, go to pub, watch Wreck-It-Ralph.

    Hours 13-19: Decide to have a go at using imovie.

  5. Hour 20: Have a listen to some of the tracks made available to us. "Slap" suddenly provides the sense of pursuit that my scanty recordings of noises off couldn't, and also halts before slipping into something spookier at EXACTLY the right point: "You can't fall up." I get excited. Then there's a sweet music-box track "Forgive Forget" whose transition into thrash metal is so hilariously Fuck Yeah I just have to use it at the end. Also: "Forgive Forget"? "Healing Room"? It's perfect. It's not at all the kind of ambient snot I'd planned on using though. I'm making a genre piece now. I'd never done that before and am very, very excited about my utterly mainstream musical choices.

    Hours 21-24: Sleep.

  6. Hour 25-27: Breakfast, look at edit so far, wonder why some of it's missing. The deadline is still 24 hours away though. It's mainly there.

    Hour 28: Head to work.

    Hour 29: Noone turned up for tour, head home.

  7. Hour 30-40: Who knows? Bits of imovie I'm becoming more familiar with, but it's not until hour 40 that I work out how to stop captions floating about. Terror and guilt, guilt that I didn't work out how to use all this stuff before this weekend, guilt at how much I put off. And terror at letting my performers down. Sorry. Soppy. True.

    Hour 41: Every click I make might risk losing the entire film. How is this working? I don't know what I'm doing. Should I just save it now? That's the thing though, the new imovie's so advanced it doesn't give you the option to save anything. You just trust it's all still there. Also, the resolution I made at hour 35 not to worry about continuity errors because it's all about reliving time or something is clearly duff - Craig and Katy's performances are too engaging for me to disrupt with sloppy jolts, I've got enough footage, just edit it better.

  8. Hour 42: But the credits. Oh, the credits. All the time I was wondering whether I should write stuff on tiles or underwater or something - then it turns out you can tell a whole story with just white words on black. That door slam tells you exactly what the Healing Room is. I love the credits. And it means I get to use the box footage. The credits rock. I've been wearing headphones for ten straight hours now.

    Hour 43: Save. Oh, that's right. It doesn't save. Send to... "file". "Theatre"? What? Send to... vimeo. Is it sending to vimeo?

    Hour 44: Well, is it? Turn machine off and on again. It's very hot. I take the headphones off and I'm deaf in one ear. Everything's out of sync. No. Wait. Suddenly it's fine again. It's all fine. It's fine. Save to... stick. Good old stick. Lovely stick. Stick friend. Put stick in other machine, my machine, this machine. Upload to youtube.

    Hour 46: Upload complete. Post link to competition. I have no idea if it makes sense now, but that's the script's fault. Otherwise I really think I haven't cocked this up.

  9. Hour 120: Still deaf in one ear.

  10. "48 Hours" Friends for Life (TV Episode 2012) HD