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Filmmaking As A Race - An Interview with 48 Hour Film Project Dubai

Filmmaking As A Race – An Interview with 48 Hour Film Project Dubai

Defying Filmmaking Logic

We all know that making a film takes time. Lots and lots of it. That’s what we’ve been told in countless filmmaking books, seminars and even practical experience for most people would dictate the same. Spending enough time in pre-production is paramount to a quality film. Spending weeks writing and then rewriting the perfect screenplay to your short film is even more important.

But what if there’s a filmmaking competition with a particular set of rules that fly in the face of filmmaking logic? What if I tell you that you not only need to write, shoot, edit and score a film in 48 hours but you’ll no prep time since the elements you need to have in your film will be given at random a few hours before? What if I tell you that this project is already a long running and globally popular one embraced by filmmakers worldwide?

48 Hours To Make A Film

Enter 48 Hour Film Project – a film competition already known to filmmakers around the world for a long time, but only appeared in Dubai in its first edition last year in 2011. The idea is simple – you register as a team to take part and appear at the launch event a day before it begins. There, you’ll be asked to handpick four things – a genre, a prop, a line of dialogue, and a characters name. Based on that, you now have exactly 48 hours to go and write, shoot and edit a film with that criteria in mind which is between 4 to 7 minutes long. And by 48 hours, they mean exactly that. Even if you’re a minute late, you’re disqualified. But no matter, the eligible films as well as the late films will all be screened in public and there will be an award ceremony covering achievements like acting, directing and promising filmmaker among others. And the winning film goes forward to win prizes, a trip to Hollywood with his film at Filmapalooza, and the best films go to Cannes Short Film Corner next year (where my film ‘Perfect Living’ played last year).

Challenge or limitation?

But let’s look at that for a second. 48 hours. Writing, shooting and editing an entire short film. It’s a scary prospect when you think about it, knowing nothing about the film you’re going to make until hours before you begin shooting it. But you’d be lying to yourself if you didn’t also believe that it’s a very exciting prospect because of that very challenge. I always believe that it’s under limitations that your creativity truly breaks out and the fact that you’ll have two days and not many resources or locations to make a film is possibly the best example of that. Who knows? Maybe the resulting film might be something so offbeat and interesting that it would be nothing you’d normally make if you had free reign. Imagine having an office and a villa to shoot in, and on the kickoff day you get to find out that you have to make a silent film with a character of a clown, a paperweight as a prop, and the line ‘We’ve got company!’ as the dialogue. Will you be disappointed or will be take it as a challenge to make something original out of it? Just go watch some of the global 48 Hour films on Youtube to see how a bizarre mix of elements can lead to some excellent films.

And even if your film turns out to be compromised or not as good as you would have thought because of the crippling time limitations, you at least have a short film to show for your efforts that will have a guaranteed public screening and a chance to network with dozens of other like-minded filmmakers at the event. Not a bad deal, if you ask me. Most of my films are a result of some film competition or a deadline or both, so I personally believe that a competition like this could be the push you need to finally get off your butt and go make a movie. And the fact that something like this is now in Dubai is a blessing that UAE filmmakers need to fulfill their creative juices. Plus, unlike some other film competitions that I don’t need to mention, it’s open to people of all races and nationalities as long as you’re residing in the UAE.

Will I take part in it? I still haven’t made up my mind, to be honest. All depends on whether I’m able to make a competent team in time and some other factors based on the date it’s happening. But you’re soon to see a 48 Hour Film Project film from my end, whatever the year.

To conclude, I’ve conducted an interview with Mo Rida, the producer responsible for bringing the 48 Hour Film Project to Dubai and the Middle East. I’ve asked him some of the questions that you may have in mind about the project and more.

You can register your team here, with the kickoff being at November 1st.

How did you go about bringing 48 Hour Film Project to Dubai?

I started by producing the first 48 Hour Film Project in the Middle East with Beirut in the summer of 2011. As you know, the competition is international, visiting over 100 cities around the world, so my plan from the beginning was to introduce this fresh and fun filmmaking concept to a part of the world that can really make the best of it. Dubai and Cairo were second on my list after my hometown base Beirut, but I felt like I would take it to Dubai first since things were more stable, and just as it was a huge success in Beirut, the film-making community in Dubai responded and welcomed us with open arms, and we ended up with 37 teams, and sold out screenings.

Are you a film-maker? Would you ever consider taking part in the 48 Hour Film Project yourself?

Yes I am, I am a filmmaker, I studied film in NYC and I worked in the industry there for five years in writing, lighting, producing and camera before moving to the Middle East.  While I was in NY, I would habitually register in the NY 48 Hour Film Project, and based on my own positive experience, I have decided to bring the fun and opportunities to the filmmakers of the Middle East.

How was the response to last year’s edition? Is there anything you learnt in the process that you’re applying this time around?

Last years’ experience was extremely successful in all Dubai and Amman, and this year we added Cairo and Amman to the project.  I would say the biggest lesson I learned is that it is important to let filmmakers known that while it is the competition and there is a chance to win awards and prizes and get international exposure, its also key to inform them that there are no losers in this project, The films are the property of the filmmaker after the weekend, and they are free to enter them into other festivals, and use them to learn and build upon. I try to encourage them as much as possible to have fun and be safe.

What do you think is so appealing about the idea of filmmaking as a race and the whole concept behind 48 Hour Film Project?

I would say that the most appealing part if the fact that  filmmakers are challenging others while at the same time challenging themselves, that fact that they only have a weekend when people are generally off, and that fact the they will have a short film once the weekend is over that will automatically be screened a week later regardless of budget, experience, and technical prowess makes for a very fun and exciting event where local filmmakers have a chance to network, and learn from each other in addition to the opportunity for a Hollywood screening and a Cannes visit if they should win. 

The filmmakers select their genres at random on the evening of Nov 1st in Dubai, and then we give them a prop, a line of dialogue, and a characters name. They have exactly 48 hours to turn that into a short film between 4 and 7 minutes long, and we will screen all the films , including the late films at The Fridge in Al Quoz, a week later on Nov. 8-9-10, All films will be eligible for the Audience awards.  And one week after that on Nov. 15, we screen the “best” on-time films and follow that screening with an awards ceremony  The winners will be awarded by our sponsors Advanced Media, and AM Studio. 

The Winners will also go up against 120 countries from around the world in an annual screening we call Filmmapalooza, This years filmmapalooza will take place in Hollywood California, and the 15 best films will be screened at the Cannes short film corner.

Do you believe that having such a limited timeframe to write, shoot, and edit a short film leads to unexpected creativity and level of quality or is it the reverse?

Have you faced any challenges in translating the idea behind the project to Middle Eastern audiences?

Not really, the Idea is pretty straight forward.  “Do you have what it takes to make a short film in 48 hours?” I also think that the idea of a strict deadline has translated well for the most part. Once they realize that I’m serious about it in the fist year, they take is as incentive to be more focused, and do what is needed to make it happen. One minute late is still late, and they all know that after the first year.

Do you believe that having such a limited timeframe to write, shoot, and edit a short film leads to unexpected creativity and level of quality or is it the reverse?

It really works both ways, it all depends on circumstances, the chemistry of the team, and how people handle the pressure, The time constraints will either lead to untapped creativity they never knew they had, and translate into an amazing film, they may find that they have only have time to go with gut-instant decisions, and it will be purely unique and original or the pressure might hover over them and create a rushed project that is a compromise to get it done it time, they will in any case learn from experience, and hopefully build on what it takes to meet strict deadlines. 

What are you aiming to do differently this time around with the project?

I dont think we will change anything from last years project, the only modification we made was to our facebook page which couldnt be updated because last years dates where etched into, so this year we’re inviting people to like the new page’ The Dubai 48 Hour film Project: http://www.facebook.com/TheDubai48HFP

What advice do you have for filmmakers taking part this year?

The most important thing is to have fun really, prepare by securing equipment, cast, and crew, but the rest is all about time management. No one knows what their genre will be until Nov. 3rd, so its a matter of where they meet, how much time they spend on the script, and how they divide the work between writing, shooting, editing, and scoring.  I like to encourage them to work as a team, and not as individuals, since filmmaking is all about time management, problem solving, and collaborative effort. 

Where can filmmakers learn more about the project or contact you if they have further questions?

There are two main ways to find out more and get involved, the website has all the information inducing the registration form for people to sign up, we are accepting only 60 teams this year and there is no age, experience, ethnicity, gender, or size of team limitation , the link to register a team is :www.48hourfilm.com/dubai Another way to follow if through facebook: http://www.facebook.com/TheDubai48HFP and twitter: https://twitter.com/48HFP_Mid_East  — @48HFP_Mid_East
 
 
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