We conducted this interview with the organisers of KL 48 Hour Film Project in 2010. The links are updated, so click on to find out more.
Coming up a lot sooner than you might think is a nifty little competition called the 48 Hours Film Project. It’s a long-running competition, having started earlier this millennium (sounds like a long time, doesn’t it?), somewhat rather predictably in the US of A. Nevertheless, just like the virus that is an idea, it has grown rapidly, encompassing countries and continents across the world in a short span of time.
But what is it? In short, you have to make a short film within 48 hours. 2 days. Ask any film professional about the possibility of this, and they will laugh. Mention that you have to come up with the script, plan, shoot and edit within those same 48 hours, and they will laugh even harder. Pre-, production and post- has never been more compressed into a short space of time…well, not on this level anyway.
This year, Kuala Lumpur will finally join the capitals of the world in having our own leg of the competition. For that, we can thank Shahril Fahazmi Musa & Elly Marlina Zainalabiden, the producers for the competition here.
By way of an introduction, tell us a little bit about yourself/yourselves.
Shahril: I’ve dreamed and studied to become a filmmaker, and gained my experience with Grand Brilliance and TV3.
Elly: On the other hand, I joined the industry accidentally, starting at the bottom with an event management company AVXS with the late Jalil Ngah, before dabbling in television production with Cyberbang Sdn Bhd.
In your own words, what is the 48 Hour Film Project all about?
Elly: Generally, it’s about teamwork and being creative under pressure. It’s also about creating opportunities: for the amateur filmmakers to showcase their talents, for the professionals to kick back from jobs and experiment or do it for the glory, and even for those who sit in front of the television screen or in the cinema, moaning, “Apa laa, it should be bla bla bla.”
Shahril: For Kuala Lumpur and Malaysia specifically, it’s about creating a bigger platform for the industry. We want to expose our existing creative talents to a global audience, while encouraging the younger generation to get into the creative industry.
What inspired you to take the lead on such a project?
Elly: Shahril was surfing the net one day and came across the 48 Hour Film website. He told me about it and how cool it was, saying that we need to create new projects instead of chasing existing ones. Being a bit of a dreamer, he contacted the competition’s main organisers.
Out of the blue, days after the usual routine of my half listening to him, he tells me the HQ have replied his request and they would be delighted to have 48 Hour Film Project in Malaysia of course. It was too late for me to run away and save myself since then.
It has been going on for quite a while (since 2001, in fact), but this is the first year Kuala Lumpur is taking part. What can you learn from the competition’s previous years to help you run this?
Shahril: We should be learning a lot. For instance, we need to be realistic and not to get too far ahead of ourselves with bombastic ideas and instead cover the basics first. It’s the first time this will be done in Kuala Lumpur, so it’ll take a while for people to embrace the idea and feel that it’s worth supporting. Apart from that, hopefully we’ll be able to overcome common screening problems to ensure that the event runs smoothly on the day itself.
What kind of links do you have with other producers in other cities?
Shahril: Nada. We wanted to get a feel of Singapore’s Kick Off in April and maybe meet the producers but unfortunately we were involved and busy with a different project and couldn’t get away for the weekend. Bummer.
What kind of support or supervision is undertaken by the ‘big guys’ of the project? Will we, for example, have Mark Ruppert or Liz Langston (the project’s co-founders) dropping by KL to oversee certain things?
Elly: They are supportive in terms of advising us the best way to go about the events since they have many years of experience. We have discussed getting them to come over to Kuala Lumpur, especially since it’s our very first year. While they would love to be here, a lot still depends on the funding our side can secure, and whether their schedule would be favourable.
Each city will have their own winners, with judges in the past made up of filmmakers, producers and actors, amongst others. Who will be the judges for the KL leg?
Shahril: We’ve got a list of who we want to be judges, but of course it still remains to be known and finalised.
Winning films from all over the world, including Malaysia, will be shown at Filmapalooza 2011. Will filmmakers be allowed to modify their entry for Filmapalooza?
Elly: No. Films will be sent as it is directly after the Kick-Off & Drop-Off weekend.
It is also said that 10 of the best films will be screened in Cannes during the film festival. Will participants be able to submit their films on their own to other festivals before Cannes, or will it only be allowed after the festivals stipulated, like Filmapalooza and Cannes?
Shahril: Participants are encouraged to put themselves out there, so they can submit to film festivals whenever they want. A full list of what they can do with their film is available here.
The KL dates are expected to be somewhere in October, but as yet, there has been no official dates. Is this a part of the tactic to reduce the amount of preparation time that filmmakers might try to ‘sneak in’?
Elly: Well, we have the official dates in mind, but have yet to announce it [note: for 2015 it will be on the weekend of 13th November]. It will be done during the official launch. It is not a tactic to reduce sneaking in preparation time. In fact, filmmakers are free to prepare their teams and locations as of now. However, their genre will be determined by fate! (see below)
What kind of promotions and marketing have you put in place for the KL project? Will there be screenings of the short films from yesteryear, for example?
Shahril: We are planning a few Meet & Greet sessions after Hari Raya in some universities to encourage student involvement [the Meet & Greet this year will be held at TGV Encorp Strand Mall on 31st October 2015]. A number of writers and directors will be there to give a short talk about filmmaking. Both of us will also be there in person to answer further questions on KL48HFP. We will not be screening any short films from previous years as all of them can be found on the website.
One of the Twitter questions you posed recently was, “Would you want to screen your KL 48 Hour project films under the stars?” That made me wonder: going beyond the actual 48 hours, where else would these films be shown, apart from the Internet?
Elly: We will screen all of them at a local cinema [note: TGV Encorp Strand Mall on 28th November 2015]. Internationally, they may be compiled in DVD. We are also trying to work out with IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) companies for more exposure locally.
On the official website, it is written that the script, rehearsal, set design, shooting, editing and sound design must be done within the 48 hours stipulated. How do you make sure that this rule is adhered to? What if, for example, notes for the script are prepared beforehand?
Elly: Control mechanism for this competition will be… tada….. random drawings of genre during the Kick Off on Friday evening. We will also announce 1 character, 1 prop and 1 line of dialogue that MUST be included in the film. So any notes beforehand will definitely be rewritten once the team receives their genre, character, prop and dialogue.
OK, but elements like set design can be created beforehand, and modified only slightly to match the criteria given. After all, it is said that locations can be scouted and secured before the shooting period.
Shahril: Based on official filmmaking rules, any creative work beforehand is prohibited, and that includes the set design.
Can a music piece be prepared specifically for the film or project prior to the shooting period?
Shahril: You may use a pre-recorded music, but a signed release from the composition’s rights holder must be submitted.
One of the primary sponsors of the project is Panasonic. According to the regulations, Panasonic will loan each team a Panasonic HPX300 HD camera. If a team has a multi-camera approach to their film, are they permitted to have more than one camera?
Elly: Teams are permitted to have a maximum of 3 cameras only to shoot footage. A camera used as props is not considered under this limitation. The loan from Panasonic was only for a particular Post Season Competition, the Panasonic HD Showdown. It is an additional competition extended only to top filmmakers after the 48 Hour Film Project Tour wraps up.
So the teams wouldn’t be provided with a Panasonic camera for this competition? They would have to come up with their own?
“We highly recommend that you shoot in either DVCPro720p24PN or DVCPro720p30PN.” From my experience, footage shot through 720p can be quite large in hard disk space, but the required form of submission is through a DVD. Burning it onto the DVD can also take a longer time. Are there any alternative submission methods, in lieu of or in addition to DVDs?
Shahril: We’ve heard and are expecting some participants to sprint towards the drop off whilst burning their DVD. Yes, you can submit using a USB thumbdrive (not returnable) or miniDV. Submitting using a DVD disc does not require you to burn in DVD format, you must submit in Quicktime format for both DVD disc and USB thumbdrive.
Is there a limit set for the budget that can be spent by a team?
Elly: We do not set a budget limit, expenses to produce the film is at your own cost and depends on the team’s willingness to contribute to their production. Keep note, that all team members including actors and actresses must not be paid. Everyone should only volunteer.
“All footage must be shot within the 48 hour time-period of the project. No stock footage or footage shot or created at another time be used.” I can imagine a scenario where a team would record a footage that was shot or made earlier e.g. a movie shown through a TV. What would happen in this situation?
Shahril: The film would be disqualified. We were informed that this has happened in Atlanta a few years back.
“Photos do not need to be created during the 48 hour time period.” I have seen films that extensively use still photographs as a part of its narrative. What kind of limit would be in place for the usage of photographs? Could a team theoretically make a whole film out of still photos?
Elly: There is no limit – a team could make a film using only photos they shot before the 48 hours. However, if they did any writing before the 48 hours, or if they took the photos with the intention of using them for their 48HFP film, then they would be disqualified.
In some parts of the rules, it says that a film must be a minimum of 3 minutes in duration and maximum of 5 minutes in duration. However, clicking around the main website it says that a film may be 7 minutes long (excluding the credits). Which one will it be for the KL leg of the project?
Elly: 7 minutes is the maximum length excluding credits.
According to the rules, the submission must meet the criteria set by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) of G, PG, or PG-13. Who would be the one regulating this? Is it at the discretion of the filmmakers, or are the organisers the ones who decide?
Shahril: It is at the discretion of the filmmakers and we the organisers will also decide.
In America, filmmakers can use actors involved with the Screen Actors Guild. Would our filmmakers be able to tap into such professional local networks?
Elly: They would be able to, should these professionals actors or actresses enlist themselves to Join A Team through the website. We have also promoted this project to the association, but we have yet to determine the response from the professional actors or actresses. Furthermore it might be difficult to obtain their participation if they are already involved with certain production jobs.
What kind of support would the 48 Hour KL organisers be giving to each team? If, for example, someone needs an editor or composer, would you be permitted give guidance or contacts?
Shahril: We have an online system where people who are without a team can register and inform of their availability and expertise. This database will be available to all Team Leaders registered to compete soon. We will also organise a Meet and Greet session where everyone interested can meet up with each other and mingle. This is a good opportunity to get contacts and information.
For First Time Cities, teams must include a landmark. What kind of landmark are we talking about here? Must it have some sort of historical value, or can something like Midvalley Megamall be considered a landmark?
Elly: Landmarks could be anything to that relates to Kuala Lumpur such as a building or monument. i.e KLCC, Bangunan Sultan Abdul Samad, or Tugu Negara, for example. It could even be identifying characteristics such as the LRT.
Speaking of which, the landmarks must be within the city limits. It makes me wonder whether teams are allowed to shoot outside of the official city limits. After all, the lines between Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, for example, have always been rather ambiguous. Further research revealed that a team from Boston even uploaded footage from Panama for their film.
Shahril: They are allowed to shoot out of the city limits especially since we’re so close to Selangor and anywhere else they have time to go to within that 48 hours limit. However, they must at least insert landmarks of Kuala Lumpur within the city limits just for the first year.
Teams have to make films according to a certain genre. Must they stick within this single genre alone, or can they include elements from other genres e.g. a romantic comedy instead of merely a comedy.
Elly: The film must be true to the genre they randomly draw, but it is fine to combine genres as you’ve stated.
Do they choose their own genres, or is it given to them randomly?
Shahril: They don’t get to choose. It will be drawn out of a hat randomly from the list of budy film, comedy, film de femme, drama and others. The full list can be found on the website.
What’s a wild card genre?
Elly: You will be given an option to relinquish your genre that you randomly draw with the genres below: However, once choose for a wild card genre, you may not revert to the original genre drawn. An example would be the heist, mystery or time travel genre.
The registration fees for first year cities within the United States is $125. How much would our filmmakers have to pay in order to register?
Shahril: The normal rate for registration would be RM400 and early bird registration at RM350 [note: the registration fee for 2015 is RM600]. This is to ensure that the teams register and commit themselves to it.
Is there a minimum or maximum age with regards to this competition?
Elly: There is no minimum or maximum age to enter, but should you be below 18, parental approval is a must.
How are you personally preparing for this competition? If it’s just the two of you, I imagine it’ll be very hectic very soon.
Shahril: We were definitely unprepared for the chaos despite the warnings. It is already hectic enough as it is. Luckily now we’ve got a team who are diligent, supportive and very enthusiastic about this project. Hopefully we get several sponsors who are supportive and enthusiastic about this project too!
Finally, a word of advice for potential participants out there?
Elly: Understand all the genres, because you never know what you might get. Study previous films from the official website and see how they implemented the genre, character, prop and line given. Above all else, be your creative self and get a good team to go crazy with for 48 hours!
You can find out more about the competition from the official website. Alternatively, you can also check out its Facebook page, connect with their Twitter account, or even check out some past films on their official YouTube channel.
Featured image credit: Medical Media Training