48hrs: Where chaos is catharsis

There isn’t really any experience that is quite like making a film. The frantic energy of creativity burns through your being as you pour your heart and mind into creating another world out of pieces of the ones that we live in everyday. The 48hr film festival however, takes this process and extends it into a film making experience that one can never ever forget.

After a full Friday of final pre-production guess work and endless phone calls to make sure everybody we could possibly need was on standby, myself and my team members gathered at the Cape Town meeting point to receive the information we needed for our project to finally start. 6pm rolled by, and over the next hour all the rules were confirmed and then the moment we had spent the last two weeks waiting for finally arrived.

A detective named Amy Stemment, a wet sponge, the line “I thought it was you” in a romance film is what our weekend was going to be about.
It was 8pm as we settled down as a group and began to tease out our story, shots, dialogue and editing plans for the weekend. Hours went by, coffee and cigarettes were never far away and our vision began to unfurl on paper. Around 3am, we finally completed our structure and settled down for a quick nap before our 6.30am call time.

Call time came, and after setting up our location, lighting rigs, camera tracks and production design, we were ready to roll. 14 hours of solid shooting in 4 different locations ensued, during which no single person was functioning as an individual titled unit – rather, we all just did everything as a team. The producer was also a sound recorder, the editor was also involved in production design and the director was a grip. Despite the chaos, conflicts, misunderstandings, musings, on the spot decisions and general anxiety about time, every single person on the team was there because they wanted to make a film. And it showed.

Man… was it wonderful.

After a quick sleep interlude after our day of shooting on Saturday, a full day of editing began. Time went slowly in the morning but was an ever increasing exponential as the deadline approached, and soon every 3 minutes were noted as they ticked by as we raced to make the film we had in our minds. It was 40 minutes until the hand in time, and our director was furiously doing final grading so that we could export and render the film in order to submit it. And then we got locked underground. And then the power went out, because this is South Africa and electricity is nothing more than a temperamental luxury.

Frantic phone calls followed, as we ripped the computer from the wall and sped to the closest friend we had with electricity in their houses. Panicked seconds were tracked and footsteps were paced as the ever growing tension in our shoulders threatened to implement the reality that we may not get this film in on time. 13 minutes until the deadline saw three of us racing down the road, clutching the tiny insignificant flash drive that contained the parts of ourselves we’d given to this movie over the last 48 hours.

We arrived with 6 minutes to spare, sprinting across parking lots, down passageways and through crowds of smug faces with submitted films. Relief spread over the team. We knew the film wasn’t perfect, but it was in on time and that was all that mattered.

We were all smiles and fading adrenaline as one of the 48hrs co-ordinators called all the teams together and made the announcement that due to the powercuts and the subsequent circumstances, the LA office had granted the Cape Town teams a 2 hour extension.

There were no goodbyes as the crowd parted into small groups of sprinting figures running in opposite directions and toward cars; once again chasing down each second that could lend itself to the pursuit of film making perfection. Our little group began by settling down and watching the export of the film we had just submitted, to see what we wanted to tweak before handing it in again. A stunned silence followed, and the director merely put on headphones and settled down for a calm but fast paced final edit.

Like a dream, we repeated the exact same car trip time pattern of two hours prior as we raced with our film in hand, not having watched it, in order to submit our now final product to the 48hr organisers. We got there, we handed it over and that was it. Our film was done.

I’d had 9 hours sleep since Wednesday and couldn’t even remember what food looked like, but I’d made a film. In a single weekend. With the most wonderful friends.

The exhaustion may be real, but I’ve never felt this inspired and invigorated in my life. Catharsis through chaos. The Companion was screened at Ster Kenikor cinema’s in Cape Town for the festival screenings in 2014.

Behind the Scenes – The Companion
Photographs: Jamie Dimitra Ashton
Starring: Daniel Pluke, Maggie Gericke and Yoda
With an appearance by: Sihle Mnqwazana
Crew: Kelly Grobler, Desmond Bowles, Roxanne Dalton, Ashleigh Da Silva, Aliki Saragas and Jamie Dimitra Ashton

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