5 Tips & Tricks to Surviving A Tight Deadline from the 48 Hour Film Project
Last year, I had the pleasure and responsibility of competing as a team leader in the 48 Hour Film Project. For those unfamiliar with the concept, the 48HFP brings multiple teams of filmmakers together to create a short film over the course of just 48 hours. Teams are given a random genre, required piece of dialogue, prop, and character name to incorporate into their story. Based on my experience, these five tips and tricks set my team and I up for success during the 48HFP, and can be applied to any project with a dauntingly tight deadline.
With any sort of team-based competition or project, communication is king. Misunderstandings are often what cause conflict in collaborative situations. Be sensitive to the fact that nobody is a mind reader, and everyone has their own strengths, weaknesses, and contributions to add to the proceedings. Delegating based around those strengths and weaknesses will help your team become a well-oiled machine and get into a rhythm. Lead with confidence, not arrogance, and make decisive, informed decisions. Above all else, don’t panic! Problems will arise, as they always do under stringent deadlines such as this, and they can be solved quickly when everyone has a level head.
Pushing Personal Boundaries
The 48HFP give filmmakers the grounds to make whatever they want within a limited set of parameters. The structure of a chosen genre and required elements keep the project from feeling too nebulous to achieve, while still allowing for the creative juices to flow freely. Explore ideas beyond your comfort zone. Try something you’ve never tried, even if it sounds crazy. If something doesn’t work, scrap it, and move on. Additionally, allow the cast and crew to improv and play to their strengths. This can add some much needed flavor and personality to the film overall.
As with any production, a good producer can make or break your weekend. I was lucky enough to have a fabulous producer alongside me, and the two of us were practically attached at the hip for the extent of the weekend. You and your producer should collaborate on an organized shooting and post-production schedule. Be sure everyone understands their roles prior to project kick-off. A cohesive shot list and dedicated media manager can ensure that your files are collected and organized, and ready for edit so that no valuable shooting time is lost. A little structure can help keep the ship from sinking if you fall behind, so there is no need to worry.
Food and Downtime
The 48HFP is no joke when it comes to long hours, and that strain can wear on people. A way to combat that is to always have snacks on hand. (Our chosen delicacies were bananas, apples, and PB&Js.) Schedule in a lunch break for everyone, including yourself. The morale boost among your cast and crew will more than compensate for the time lost. Make sure everyone gets at least three hours of sleep, and be sensitive to your cast and crew’s needs throughout the weekend. Remember, they are working just as hard as you are!
Don’t Take it Too Seriously
Other desired outcomes for the 48HFP may differ from my own, but if I could impart one piece of advice, it would be to not take everything too seriously. The goal for the 48HFP should extend beyond just the final product. Having a positive experience collaborating with a bunch of talented people who are as crazy and willing as you are to create something you are all proud of should be the goal. Let the piece you create, the laughs you share on set, and the friendships you make speak for themselves.
There is a definitive sense of accomplishment walking away from that arduous weekend knowing that you created a new and wholly unique film in just 48 short hours. This can be said for any project created under strict parameters and a tight deadline. Having these five tips and tricks in your back pocket prior to a project that, at first, might seem daunting can help you too achieve your goals without the excess stress.
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