48 hours to burn
A filmmaker's diary of the National Film Challenge
Special for CinemATL.com
Don't you just hate it when everyone's going in the same
direction, full of unstoppable momentum, and suddenly you have to make
a complete 180-degree turn?
On Friday, October 21st, I joined the fine filmmaking team of Sasquatch-B in beautiful Rome, Georgia, to make a movie
for this year's National Film Challenge.
What a wild and wonderful ride it was.
|Daniel Maloney shoots a scene from Stealing Babbette in Rome, Ga. (photo: Tracy Page)|
For those of you familiar with the 48 Hour Film Project, the National
Film Challenge is functionally identical except, like the title indicates,
it's national, not regional. Briefly, the rules are: you sign up, assemble
your filmmaking team, and at 7:00 on the designated Friday night start
date, your team is given the four necessary elements that must be included
in your four-to-eight minute movie: genre, line of dialogue, prop and
character. Now all you have to do is write, film, and edit a movie—and
drop it in the mail—by Monday in order qualify.
This is my story.
Our base of operations: the glamorous Senior Citizens' Center in
Rome, Georgia, arranged for us by our Rome Location Queen, Tracy Page.
Promptly at 7 p.m., the information comes in via e-mail:
Character: T.J. Heinschwartz, Rock star
Prop: A funnel
Line of dialogue: "Oh wow, can I touch it?"
And so it begins.
A group of us gather in a room behind closed doors. We sit in a circle
and pitch ideas. They come fast and furious. We have dozens of ideas that
coalesce into our story, Stealing Babbette. It's the story of
the illegitimate daughter of a legendary rock star; a girl the musician
doesn't even know about, who, with the help of her mother, develops an
addiction to stealing personal items belonging to the rock star. And now
she's stolen the rock star's pride and joy: Babette, his famous rock-and-roll-icon
I like it.
After spending hours wrangling over the plot, I sit at the computer
with co-director Jeremiah Adams and pound out the eight-page script. We
start with a scene from a talk show, Where Did They Go, and follow
with two parallel chase scenes. The first one is in the past—a little
girl stealing the rock star's funnel—and the second one is in the
present, the now-adult girl stealing his guitar. Both chases wind up in
the same place, the shrine to the rock star built by the girl's mother.
After a few hours, we're done and trying to print scripts on whatever
scraps of paper we can find (oops—forgot the paper). Co-director
Chris Tsambis casts the roles and we do a read-through.
|Michael Bay discusses a scene with actor Scott Hodges. (photo: Tracy Page)|
We start shooting at 1 a.m. By 4:30 we're wrapped and break for
a short nap before the main crew arrives at 7 a.m.
Ah, blessed sleep. Not enough, especially because of the hell (not uncommon
among filmmaking) that happens next.
It's 8 in the a.m. at the Senior Center and we're trying
to push people toward their cars. It's our first task, shooting
the chase scenes. We need to get those shots early, because they're
complex and we have to get them right, quickly.
Unfortunately, our longtime nemesis, the patented the Sasquatch-B curse,
Unbeknownst to us, the NFC people had sent not one, but TWO emails. The
second arrived soon after the first, but not soon enough. We were already
headed to the Senior "No Internet Service to be Found" Citizens' Center
so the second email isn't discovered until Saturday morning. In their
infinite wisdom, they have decided to change our genre from action/adventure
to its near antithesis, mockumentary.
Now let me digress for a moment and say that whoever's bright idea
it was at the NFC to switch our genre needs to have their head sasquashed
between Jeremiah's thighs after he's had a big Mexican lunch
(you get the picture). Why would they assume people would check their
e-mail a second time? Why?
I'm okay. Really. Back to the story.
Time for the immediate rewrite. A half-hour to regroup and rework the
story. We figure the key is to find something, anything, that the cast
and crew can start working on. We decide on the outlining scenes that
have little or no dialogue. Seems reasonable. With the Band-Aid in place,
Chris leads the team into Rome while Jeremiah and I get to work again.
Within a couple of hours, we meet up with the crew where the music video
scene is being set up. We distribute the new scripts and people get their
first whiff of the massive changes. Small parts become large ones, large
ones become small ones, and an action/adventure movie becomes a mockumentary.
Stealing Babbette is reborn.
So we shoot the music video scene and move on to Rome's amazing
hilltop cemetery for the ending scenes of the film. Night falls and…we're
not quite done. We split up to accomplish several things at once, seeing
as how we're running out of time. 11 p.m., we're headed back
to the Days Inn for the pivotal arrest scene.
Energy running low, I manage to keep it together for the final shots.
Well, almost. I have to admit, I collapsed at midnight and the rest of
the crew wraps at 4 a.m. Hey man, I had to work the next morning, in Atlanta.
Cut me some slack.
My work here is done. Now it's up to the Sasquatch-B editors to
take the rest of the time to assemble the movie.
And they do. You can been see it for yourself on their Web site: http://www.sasquatch-b.com.
I love film.
Michael Wesley Bay is a local filmmaker, not to be confused with that "other" Michael Bay. His films include "The Last Hour" and "Rabbit Hunt" for his production company, Primal Trot Trot.