This article could be kinda short. The secret to winning awards is… Luck. No, wait a minute. I really should explain further.
The 48 Hour Film Project (48HFP) is a contest in which teams of filmmakers are assigned a genre, a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue, and have 48 hours to create a short film containing those elements. Shortly after the 48 hours of filmmaking, the films from each city are then screened at a theatre in that city. A panel of industry professionals watch the films and prizes are awarded based on their votes.
In 2011 and again in 2013 I entered the 48HFP in Glasgow. My teams won 8 awards in total, and I was lucky enough to bag Best Director both times. With 30 to 40 other competitors and only 20 awards up for grabs it’s not that easy to win, but it should be possible to stand out from the crowd.
In 2011 myself and friend Bryan Larkin randomly picked “Cop” genre out of the hat and wrote, shot and edited Dead Ringer over the following 48 hours. The film’s premise came together in the three hours following the drawing of the genre. We jumped in my car, drove (Bryan even shot some driving footage which ended up in the film), and talked over story ideas. We saw a location, an old multi story car park, stopped, went in and talked the owner into letting us use it. That night the script was written based on what we had discussed, and we got in touch with a few folk who we invited on board to help. These included actors Derek Munn, Richard Rankin and Simon Donaldson and a few choice crew including Naysun Alea-Carew and his now wife Charlotte Walsh. Alex Martin from Set Company wrangled cars for us.
Dead Ringer HD from Bryan Larkin on Vimeo.
It takes about a year to recover from shooting a 48HFP and for me up to 2 years to forget just how much of a nightmare it was to shoot the last one. For this reason and others it wasn’t until November 2013 that we entered again and drew “Spy” Genre out of the hat. This next film was devised in much the same time frame as the 2011 one. Dead Drop was definitely tougher to do, and not just because Bryan ended up both in front of and behind the camera. Lindsey Lee Wilson was cast as our female lead and Bryan played a dark memory from her past. Pals Tam Hetherton and Patrick O’Brien played the other roles. My friend Ross Gerryrecorded sound. Former 48HFP actor Derek Munn provided our main location at his production office and put up with us running over by a couple of hours – that’s the true nature of 48HFP film making btw. Despite the pressures of time, despite forgetting to bring the main prop to the location furthest away from base (The fantastic wind farm), despite us getting particularly stressed out as I re-wrote the film in my head to accommodate the forgotten prop (it required that an additional scene be included) and despite Bryan being so tired by the end of it that he literally forgot how to export the finished film: We walked away with 3 of the key awards including a well-deserved best editor for Mr Larkin.
DEAD DROP – A 48 hour film project from Bryan Larkin on Vimeo.
So there you have it. 8 awards and two short films later we’ve done alright. But what have I learned from the experience? Well, doing the 48 Hour Film Project is a pain in the ass; that’s the first thing. You can stand out from the crowd if you’ve got a good eye and can work fast but the secret to winning awards? Well that’s twofold. 1/ Turn bad luck into good. Things won’t go well on your 48HFP. Things will go wrong. Just roll with the punches. Keep shooting and turn that bad luck in to good fortune… and 2/ There’s a bigger reason and its why I’ve named so many people in this article. There were several others involved too. The big secret to winning awards is to only work with brilliant people. I worked with very brilliant people. You should too.