In case you missed it, November brought to a close the 2018 installment of the Shanghai 48-Hour Film Project. Now in its eighth year, the event has continued to evolve and the latest edition saw nearly thirty teams enter the competition. As organizer Richard Trombly explains, it has also begun to attract an even broader cross-section of talent from around the local community.
“In the early years, it was hard to find enough people to be involved and many of those were from within the foreign expat set,” Trombly recalls. “It’s great to see that over the past two years, the contest has reached an increasing number of Chinese working in film or other creative industries as well as eager amateurs.”
With a weekend of filmmaking, two packed-house screenings, and an awards ceremony now in the books, Trombly says he finally has the opportunity to look back on some of the stand-out moments from the whole experience.
“I think the high point was the spirit and support of all of the people involved. The weekend challenge is not easy, so it’s a great thing to have so many people come together,” he says. “And the overall quality of the Shanghai films this year was definitely on par with works from other participating cities around the world.”
On that note, let’s take a look at some of the winners from this year’s Shanghai 48-Hour Film Project.
The Duel by Filmiacs – Special Mention, Best Technical Lighting, and Best Sound Design
Filmiacs racked up a trio of 48HFP awards for The Duel—a tale about an introverted office worker whose fantasizes about being a cowboy. When the girl he secretly loves is attacked by one of their colleagues, he finally decides to step in and take action. As producer Fei Luo explains, although the team employed a broad mix of members, they were united as a group by a common goal.
“I asked about twenty friends to help us during the filming weekend,” she says. “Most of them are not from the film industry. Even our main actor was not a professional actor. But our love for film and friendship brought us together.”
Still, she admits that one of the most challenging aspects of working under the competition’s time restraint was getting everyone pointed and moving in the same direction. In addition, with three main actors and four locations, a lot of work was required just to get the project off the ground.
“I had planned to join the 48-Hour Film Project for a long time, but I hadn’t prepared anything in advance,” she recalls. “We didn’t have a script, actors, locations, props, costumes, or anything else prior to the kick-off. Everything needed to be organized in a very short time. I enjoyed it, but only afterwards.”
Despite the ups and down, however, Luo says the secret of the Filmiacs’ success was the ability of everyone who worked on the project to come together and get things done, especially when it mattered the most.
“I really appreciated that we had two amazing DOPs, a good director, and my friends,” she says. “We invited lots of non-professionals to be on the team. But I had faith in them and I already knew that even if we didn’t win any awards, we had already been awarded with friendship.”
The Awakening by A Bunch of Strangers – Best Film (Third Place), Best Cinematography, Best Use of Line of Dialogue, and Best Directing
A Bunch of Strangers grabbed a handful of awards at this year’s ceremony for their short, The Awakening. The film tells the story of a mysterious man who wakes from a thirty-year sleep to find himself struggling to comprehend a world void of genuine human interaction.
For co-directors Maarten van der Meer, Stanislav Semeniuk, and the rest of the team, the lead-up to the 48HFP presented numerous obstacles, including scheduling issues and a few last-minute drop-outs. Nevertheless, just when it seemed like everything might fall apart, fate decided to step in.
“We actually met our main actors at the kick-off event. They were looking for a team to join, feeling a bit lost and ignored,” van der Meer says. “But, I just had this gut feeling. It was like we had to take them even though I didn’t have any clue how to write them into a story.”
Of course, working with a whole new team meant dealing with added unknowns and the potential for some unpredictable turns. Nevertheless, as Semeniuk points out, despite the inexperience of some of the team’s members, their collective passion helped them succeed.
“All of our guys did the best they could. I’ve never seen so much patience through such stressful work,” he says. “At the same time, everyone was fully reliable and there was lots of positive energy.”
In addition, van der Meer emphasizes the magic, the learning opportunities, and the excitement of being able to experiment as the highlights of the entire process.
“There was definitely a willingness to listen to each other’s ideas, accept them, and believe in them, or at least try them,” he says. “This all seemed to exist naturally and wasn’t forced out of social awareness. The same goes for the synergy of ideas we had—it all connected and added up instead of blocking or subtracting from proposed ideas.”
Ultimately, van der Meer and Semeniuk say they agree that the people they had the opportunity to work with on the project provided perhaps the biggest inspiration.
“All these beautiful people showed each other and themselves that there are no limits, there are no barriers,” Semeniuk concludes. “Whoever you are, whether you’re a pro or an amateur, you’re a dreamer—this is power and success!”
The Seed of Success by How Team So Film Very Yes – Best Film (Runner-Up), Best Acting (Male), Best Use of Character, and Best Use of Prop
How Team So Film Very Yes harvested a crop of awards with the story of a charismatic pumpkin farmer whose passionate presentation about his prized growing methods ends up falling on some rather confused ears.
In putting the production together, the team embraced a truly international approach. While filming and editing took place in Shanghai, writing and scoring duties were handled by team members based in the UK. As director T.J. Gilbert explains, although the strategy meant they were—amongst other things—able to have a solid script in hand just twelve hours from kick-off, they still had to find a way to make it work when the camera started rolling.
“Looking at it on paper, it was an incredibly easy shoot, but we only confirmed the location by chance on Friday night on very late notice,” he says. “It was the only place that we could get in time that would make sense for the story, but what we didn’t realize was that the room was entirely white and practically featureless.”
As a result, not only did the team have to work extra hard to nail the lighting, they also had to rely largely on the music and reactions of the actors in order to get the tone—and humor—of the story across to the audience. Despite having doubts during shooting, Gilbert admits the challenge ultimately set up what was perhaps the most exciting part of the entire process.
“The highlight was how the edit came together so easily and how we put the pieces together to create what we had only developed as an idea just over a day before,” Gilbert says. “In the cases where continuity wasn’t perfect, or there was a lack of a better take, it was exciting taking what we had and using the magic of editing to cover them up—however, I don’t think you’ll really notice unless you’re looking for them!”
And, while collaborating across multiple regions made a big difference, Gilbert emphasizes that the real secret of the team’s success was in the people who worked on the film.
“I think our secret was the collaborative effort of everyone here in Shanghai working with our friends in the UK,” he says. “There’s an element of responsibility in not letting the team down and plenty of organization involved in working on the same project across such a vast distance, especially in such a condensed time frame, but when both sides pull it off it’s a great feeling of accomplishment.”
Expect to see some of the winners from this year’s competition screening at events around China in the coming weeks and months. For more details about screenings and other indie film events, connect with China Indie Film here. Finally, here is the complete list of award winners from the 2018 Shanghai 48-Hour Film Project:
Best Film: Double Happiness
Best Film (Runner-Up): The Seed of Success
Best Film (Third Place): The Awakening
Special Mention: The Duel and The Cell
Best Directing: The Awakening
Best Screenplay: Double Happiness
Best Acting (Ensemble): The Road
Best Acting (Male): Ling Shilong (The Seed of Success)
Best Acting (Female): Cheng Huining (The Cell)
Best Cinematography: The Awakening
Best Production Design: The New Singularity
Best Costume / Makeup: The Cell
Best Technical Lighting: The Duel
Best Editing: The New Singularity
Best Original Music: The Cell
Best Sound Design: The Duel
Best Use of Music: Secret
Best Special Effects: Love, Lies, and Liquids
Best End Credits: A Bullet, a Blank, and a Piggy Bank
Best Use of Character: The Seed of Success
Best Use of Line of Dialogue: The Awakening
Best Use of Prop: The Seed of Success
Best Use of Genre: The Night Before Halloween
Emerging Talent: Ela (Secret)
Audience Award: Bruises