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