The 48 Hour Film Project rolled into Shanghai again last month, with a record number of teams participating in latest installment of the annual movie-making race. In addition to a randomly assigned genre, the 2019 contest required participants to feature a chef named John/Jen Fields, a mirror and the line, “That’s rather superstitious,” into their work. Now that the awards have been handed out, we check in with some of the filmmakers from this year’s competition to get the lowdown on what went on behind the scenes and who emerged victorious.
She by Matchbox – Best Film (Second Runner-up), Best Actress, Cinematography (Special Mention), Technical Lighting (Special Mention) and Best Editing
Matchbox’s She delivered a touching romance about a pair of former high school classmates reunited for the first time ten years after graduating. Despite the simplicity of the story, director and editor Jedecen explains that the film is intended to have a deeper meaning.
“It’s a story about ordinary people who pursue beauty in urban life. They dare to have a positive outlook about the future and aren’t afraid to express love,” he says. “[The characters] have one night to confront their life and it shows that they value life more than love and share happiness more than possessions.”
In assembling the team, Jedecen pulled together a 10-person crew composed of film students and other friends with a shared interest in promoting an honest, artistic atmosphere both on set and on screen. And, while the group ultimately worked well together, it wasn’t always easy.
Accepting that things were less-than-perfect, but maintaining a positive mindset was the most memorable reward.
“It is very difficult to complete a film in just 48 hours and our biggest issue was that our team was very inexperienced,” he admits. “Only four people had any prior experience in the film industry, so communicating and coordinating problems in both the early and later stages was a big challenge.”
At the same time, Jedecen states that one of the group’s goals was to promote a people-oriented production environment and create space for members to learn and grow as a team. In the end, he says that one of the biggest highlights of the experience was the learning process itself.
“The most interesting part of the process was trying to make decisions in line with the competition requirements, while also continuing to adhere to an artistic vision,” he says. “Accepting that things were less-than-perfect, but maintaining a positive mindset was the most memorable reward.”
Watch it here (VPN required if you’re in the PRC).
Wheel Power by By A Long Shot – Best Film (Runner-up), Best Screenplay, Sound Design (Special Mention), Best Use of Prop and Best Use of Genre
By A Long Shot’s Wheel Power provided some laughs to go with a comedy road movie about a wheelchair-using restaurateur who hits the somewhat-less-than-barrier-free streets of Shanghai en route to making a special meal delivery. As director and co-producer Alejandro Scott explains, a key ingredient in the team’s award-winning recipe was the ability to retain most of its core members from the 2018 contest.
“I work with people I can trust and who put story and the film before anything else,” he says. “When I find people like that, I do my best to keep them happy with the team and the work they’re putting their time and talent into.”
For Scott, the 2019 competition also offered a chance at a bit of redemption. Despite big expectations last year, his team was left disappointed after being disqualified for unauthorized use of ads and extras. As a result, he says, heading into this year’s event, they were keen to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
“The ghost of disqualification was ever-present this time because we knew we could have placed high last year and we didn’t want to have our efforts go to waste again,” he says. “So, we were extremely careful during production not to include anything that could be considered dangerous in that sense, and we watched and re-watched the film several times trying to spot anything that needed blurring.”
They were actually impressed that the actors did their own voices instead of having someone else cover that part of their performance.
Holding up traffic to shoot a wheelchair racing through city streets didn’t go unnoticed, however, and along the way the team attracted the curiosity of more than a few bystanders. Unfortunately, it also led to a minor misunderstanding with the local authorities and a brief side trip to their neighborhood precinct.
“At the police station, we showed them the footage, gave our IDs and phone numbers, talked about the story and even joked about shooting for Cannes,” Scott recalls. “They were actually impressed that the actors did their own voices instead of having someone else cover that part of their performance.”
Luckily, in the end, everyone was allowed to walk. And, after considering their options – and despite the lost time – they decided to push through. Given the outcome, he says, “I’m very proud of us for doing so.”
Watch it here (VPN required).
The Amazing Adventures of Captain Cuisine by WMF – Best Film, Direction (Special Mention), Best Acting (Ensemble), Best Sound Design and Audience Award
WMF’s The Amazing Adventures of Captain Cuisine served up a healthy combo of live action and animation, slicing and dicing its way to the prize for Best Film. The film tells the tale of a short order cook who longs for love (and fresher ingredients) and sets off to save a princess from the evil villain Stale Taste and his henchmen Hot Dog and MSG.
For directors Nicholas Z. Scott and Jud Willmont, the adventure began when they sat down with Shanghai-based animator Tim Giovanni to discuss the possibility of trying something new for this year’s competition (for a more in-depth look at the making of the film, check out Tim’s post here).
“We’d been talking with Tim for a while about trying rotoscoping, and a few months before the 48, we just decided to go for it,” Scott says. “Once we’d made that decision, we knew we’d need a lot of artists, so we recruited friends, partners, graphic artists and recent graduates from local film schools – anyone who felt up to drawing for 12 hours straight.”
Not surprisingly, the most ambitious aspect of the project also proved to be the most challenging. Moreover, having never done a rotoscoped project before, the team was faced with a very steep learning curve.
“We did a bunch of tests beforehand to see what kind of special effects we could pull off and what different aesthetics choices looked like – crayon versus marker, ink versus full color, etc.,” Willmont explains. “But even with all the planning, it was still a chaotic process.”
Our goal from the very beginning was to surprise people and show them something different. Hopefully we did.
On top of managing the more than two dozen volunteers they enlisted to help out, the team also had to cope with the enormous technical demands of printing, inking, coloring, scanning in and reassembling over a thousand frames of action.
“We brought six scanners to our location, but only one ended up working in the end,” Scott recalls. “So, we had to scramble on Sunday to find a print shop that could take over because we knew our one scanner wouldn’t be able to finish before the deadline. Those types of issues don’t happen on a live action film.”
In classic 48HFP style, however, they were still able to pull the project from the production oven and deliver it to the drop-off point on time, beating the buzzer by just two minutes. Ultimately, looking back, they say it was all worth it just to get to watch the finished film on the big screen.
“The team put in so much work inking and coloring each individual frame, it was great to see the animation come alive and to feel the room’s reaction,” Willmont says. “Our goal from the very beginning was to surprise people and show them something different. Hopefully we did.”
See below for a complete list of the award winners from the 2019 Shanghai 48 Hour Film Project:
Best Film (First Place): The Amazing Adventures of Captain Cuisine (WMF)
Best Film (Second Place): Wheel Power (By A Long Shot)
Best Film (Third Place): She (Matchbox)
Special Mention: Namaste (The Wild Chicken)
Best Direction: Ostinato (RGB)
Direction (Special Mention): The Amazing Adventures of Captain Cuisine (WMF)
Best Screenplay: Wheel Power (By A Long Shot)
Best Acting (Ensemble): The Amazing Adventures of Captain Cuisine (WMF)
Best Actor: Boris Orgogozo, Butcher’s Guide (Plan C)
Actor (Special Mention): Zhi Shi, Life of the Party (Anymate) and Jean Michel Sinisterra, Off Meter (Fyre)
Best Actress: Du Zhichen, She (Matchbox)
Best Cinematography: Ostinato (RGB)
Cinematography (Special Mention): She (Matchbox)
Best Production Design: Ostinato (RGB)
Production Design (Special Mention): Namaste (The Wild Chicken)
Best Costume: The Board (A Bunch of Strangers)
Costume (Special Mention): Drama (Drama) and The Spectre of Shanghai Forest (Mystical Magical Time Force Go!)
Best Makeup: The Good, the Bad and the Middle-aged (Majestic Rooftop Sofa)
Makeup (Special Mention): Life of the Party (Anymate)
Best Technical Lighting: Butcher’s Guide (Plan C)
Technical Lighting (Special Mention): She (Matchbox)
Best Editing: She (Matchbox)
Editing (Special Mention): Ostinato (RGB) and Off Meter (Fyre)
Best Original Score: Butcher’s Guide (Plan C)
Best Sound Design: The Amazing Adventures of Captain Cuisine (WMF)
Sound Design (Special Mention): Wheel Power (By A Long Shot)
Best Music: Butcher’s Guide (Plan C)
Best Special Effects: Ostinato (RGB)
Best Use of Character: Ostinato (RGB)
Use of Character (Special Mention): She (Matchbox)
Best Use of Line: Cannibalism Age (42)
Use of Line (Special Mention): Drama (Drama)
Best Use of Prop: Wheel Power (By A Long Shot)
Use of Prop (Special Mention): The Spectre of Shanghai Forest (Mystical Magical Time Force Go!)
Best Use of Genre: Wheel Power (By A Long Shot)
Audience Awards: The Amazing Adventures of Captain Cuisine (WMF) and Ostinato (RGB)