How to shoot a zero budget film in 17 hours without a crew.

Being busy should never be an excuse for not par­tic­i­pat­ing in cre­ative chal­lenges. Not hav­ing a bud­get, crew, or even actors, are sim­ple excuses as well.

Let me explain. A cou­ple weeks ago we received an email from the “Win­ter Film Awards (WFA)” a volunteer-run and oper­ated non-profit organization.

In addi­tion to their annual Inde­pen­dent Film Fes­ti­val, they also host smaller film events in New York City. The email was specif­i­cally about their upcom­ing “48-Hour Film Chal­lenge.” The con­cept: par­tic­i­pants are ran­domly assigned a film genre, a tagline, and a prop, and they have up to 48 hours to write, pro­duce, and edit a four-to-seven-minute film.

Thirty teams entered the com­pe­ti­tion, includ­ing Half Brain Pro­duc­tions, a name I made up on the spot while sign­ing up. Our assets? Jos­mar Taveras, who is a multi-talented film­maker and edi­tor and myself. That’s it. We had no other crew mem­bers, no actors or spe­cial loca­tions, no bud­get and most impor­tantly, not a clue what to do.
To spice things up we were assigned the “sci­ence fic­tion” genre. I prob­a­bly know more about the sex­u­al­ity of sharks than sci-fi. Not a promis­ing start.

We spent two hours brain­storm­ing via Google Hang­outs, another hour at our favorite cof­fee shop writ­ing the story’s struc­ture, poten­tial loca­tions, and a basic shot list. Given our work sched­ules, we only had seven hours to shoot and about the same time to edit.

As a tech­ni­cal inspi­ra­tion we used “The Queen” by Stephen Frears. You might not know this but the scenes involv­ing the Queen were shot in 35mm film, and the scenes of Tony Blair were shot in 16mm film to enhance the con­trast of their per­son­al­i­ties and the worlds they lived in. We mixed a Canon 7D and a Nexus 4 cell­phone to mimic a sim­i­lar effect. For the time lapse scene we used a Pana­sonic GH3. As always, our trusted Rode mics worked well. All the music and sound effects were cre­ated in Apple’s Garage Band and the clip was edited on Adobe Pre­miere Pro CC.

This is what we cre­ated and sub­mit­ted to WFA’s Drop­box less than 10 min­utes before the deadline!

Is it a mas­ter­piece? Of course not! Could we con­tinue work­ing on it and per­haps reshoot it with more time? Yes. Did we have a lot of fun? Absolutely!

There are two awards we could poten­tially win: BEST PICTURE, which is awarded by the WFA Jury, and FAN FAVORITE, which we can win with YOUR help.
All you need to do is go here and click LIKE. Thank you in advance!

behind the scenes images