Genre: Dark Comedy
Logline: We're all on the same page...right?
Premise: An anxious and socially awkward young man challenges himself by going to a co-worker's birthday party, but ends up getting into much more than he bargained for when his hosts turn out to have ulterior motives.
Winner: Audience Choice Award & Best Ensemble Acting at the 48 Hour Film Project Edinburgh 2017.
"Stiff" was created by a team of 9 brave individuals in just two days for the Edinburgh 48 Hour Film Project, 2017. The genre we drew was 'Fish Out Of Water' and none of us were too keen on revisiting any of the tired storylines, like Freaky Friday or city girl in farm. So, we took the genre and turned it kinky, 'cus let's face it, kinky is always better. So, the required elements were:
Character: Bobby Roberts, filmmaker.
Line: "That was 10 years ago, this is now."
Prop: birthday card
Have a look at how we weaved these into our story below and then keep reading for some tips and all the behind-the-scenes hilarity.
The entire script is improvised by the unpredictable minds of Liam Wilson and Callum Black of A LemonadeCake Production (YouTube link coming soon). This gave their performance realism and helped with pacing, as these guys really know how to work off each other. The downside was that we needed cutaways or jumpcuts in order to be able to condense the action to the 7 minute limit. Luckily the jump cuts actually worked for the whole story, so we used them throughout, taking it from gimmick to style.
Anelia, our starring lady, had never acted before - in fact she's just finished a law degree - but was definitely a dark horse and a natural on camera. It also helped that she had to hit on her own boyfriend.
We were learning to use Premiere Pro as we edited the film on Sunday. 7.30pm was the drop-off deadline; at 6 o'clock I was watching a YouTube tutorial on how to do scrolling credits in After Effects.
All of the music was created within the span of 90 minutes on Sunday by BlackLemonade Ltd, tapping away on his mini-moog.
We didn't have to do any colour-correction - our brilliant DoP, Cal Hallows, filmed and lit it all to perfection on his FS7 (a great piece of kit) and all we did was apply the correct LUT. He also managed to pull off quite a cinematographical feat - a handheld shot at 100fps with a successful focus pull!
Our Producer, Sheena, actually had to wait outside Ann Summers for it to open - she must have looked very desperate for her fetish fix!
Have a running shot list because in the pressure of the challenge, it's the little things, like cutaways, that you will forget to capture.
Always get at least two takes of a shot. You never know what might have gone wrong on that seemingly perfect take - a blip in sound, a weird shadow, a dip in focus - so have a backup.
Keep your crew fed - have a person just for this because it is so important. Our Producer was brilliant at this in addition to all the rest of her jobs.
Keep the story simple - one location, max two. Keep the actors to a minimum and focus on hitting the genre and keeping the film interesting.
As a director, there's nothing I hate more than wrong pacing. Those moments when an actor jumps in with a reaction unrealistically quick, as if they've just been waiting for their cue, rather than reacting to the moment or what their co-stars were saying. A scene composition isn't just a cinematographical consideration, it is the choreography of the actors and the unfolding of the story, so make sure all your actors are doing something that is natural to their character in that moment, even if they have no lines. Like how Katia is flirting with Peter while Bobby is monologuing about his fitness.
If this has inspired you to take part in your own 48 Hour Film Project, then learn more here. It goes through loads of different cities, or be a trailblazer and start it in yours!