The month of November kicked off with a wild weekend of movie-making from the 3rd to the 5th as more than twenty teams raced to complete their films as part of the 2018 Shanghai 48-Hour Film Project. This was followed by a pair of packed-house screenings at Central Studios on Sunday, November 12th, plus an official awards ceremony on Sunday, November 19th as part of a special showcase at the European Union Film Festival.
Now that the dust has finally settled, we take a look at some of the award-winners from the 2018 competition and hear from some of the people who were involved in bringing nearly two dozen short films to the screen.
Life of a Hunter — Best Production Design, Best Use of Prop
Life of a Hunter bit into a pair of awards with a story about a writer (played by Liu Donglin) who moonlights as a vampire killer and a journalist (played by Sun Mantong) who interviews him in hopes of uncovering the secret behind his success.
In order to get the project off the ground, producer Zhang Chuyi pulled together a cast and crew of nearly twenty film students from six different schools around Shanghai.
“It’s such a coincidence that we participated in the 48-Hour Film Project as we only happened to find out about it on the competition’s website,” Zhang says. “We were nervous about the project because, as students, we don’t have a lot of experience. But, there was still a mentality that we just wanted to have fun.”
Added to the many challenges the team faced, Zhang’s team wanted to make something entirely unique, even going so far as to assemble an original soundtrack for the film.
“For this competition, we spared no effort in composing music to go along with our film,” he states. “But, it was also the most challenging part. We completed the whole film at 1PM on the due date after which I transferred it to our composer—the whole process was breathtaking.”
We all shared the experience producing a film and it was such an enormous surprise for us to get a couple of prizes.
Making the film with such a limited amount of time also forced Zhang’s team to work together as a unit to solve problems—including ensuring they were able to submit their film on time.
“At 6:30PM [on the due date] our film was eventually completed, but we had to hand it in before 7PM,” Zhang recalls. “We tried to take a taxi to the drop-off location, but there was a huge traffic jam, so our director had to take a bicycle to get there on time.”
Ultimately, Zhang says competing in the 48HFP gave him the chance to expand his own network and he hopes more people will have the opportunity to watch their film.
“I met a couple of directors and made friends with them,” says Zhang. “We all shared the experience producing a film and it was such an enormous surprise for us to get a couple of prizes.”
The Exhibition — Audience Award, Best Acting, Best Cinematography, Best Editing
The Exhibition packed in some big laughs with a fish-out-of-water tale about a self-absorbed artist who brings his latest show to China in hopes that it will solve all of his problems (it doesn’t). For writer-director Nicholas Z. Scott, 2017 marked the third time he has participated in the 48HFP and he says it has been the people who have encouraged him to keep coming back.
“The best thing is just working with our super talented friends,” Scott says. “We’ve been making shorts long enough now that we’ve got a good network of people who are always down to make good work. We’re really lucky in that regard.”
The Exhibition is also a case of sorts of art poking fun at real-life art and Arran Hawkins—who, in addition to starring in the film, is himself an experienced painter—provided the space and the artwork from one of his own on-going shows for the production.
“We actually lost about thirty minutes of shooting at one point because an art buyer walked in and wanted to look around,” recalls Scott. “It was frustrating, but the guy ended up buying a painting which was the only one we’d taken off the walls. He obviously had better taste than we did and Arran was in a great mood for the rest of the day.”
I found the best takes were usually the early takes—before I got in there and screwed things up.
In addition, the project gave Scott the opportunity to collaborate with a tight-knit group of locally-based actors and he admits that the type of comedy they were going for taught him a few important lessons about his role as a director.
“A lot of the short films we’ve shot recently have had a more dramatic bend where you can really get in there and help shape a performance,” he says. “But, in a film like this one with physical comedy, I found the best takes were usually the early takes—before I got in there and screwed things up.”
The film is also part of a challenge Scott and his producing partner Jud Willmont set down for themselves to shoot ten shorts in twelve months—The Exhibition is number seven—and the pair plan to host their own screening in Shanghai once everything is done (hopefully sometime in 2018). In the meantime, the director says he hopes people enjoy what they’ve seen so far.
“I just hope people were entertained—which I think should be the goal for any storyteller,” Scott states. “We made an absurd comedy and if people laughed—or cringed!—then we accomplished our goal.”
I Have Never Done This Before — Best Film, Best Directing, Best Musical Score, Best Costume & Make-Up
Best Film award-winner I Have Never Done This Before tells the story of a drag queen who learns to accept his true identity. As producer Olivia Yang explains, her team’s decision to get involved with the 48HFP similarly started with embracing their own role as film industry outsiders.
“We’re all relatively new to the industry, but we believed we could make something very different as new filmmakers,” Yang says. “Also, we had the resources, equipment, and key talent ready, so there was really no reason not to participate.”
Despite a lack of prior experience, Yang says that it was her team’s intention from the outset to make a film not just for fun, but to try to win the competition. Moreover, that objective was at the forefront of her recruitment pitch when it came to convincing others to join them.
“The most challenging part was how to put the team together or how to balance the talent,” Yang states. “Our team members were very creative and full of ideas, but you need to be very smart and respectful of each other. Good listening is really necessary.”
What you can’t remove is unchangeable truth and it is that which will finally empower you.
And, while she says the screening earlier this month was full of conflicted emotions, the response they received from the audience provided a big confidence boost. Nevertheless, Yang admits that when the time came to announce the winners it was impossible not to be caught off guard.
“To be honest, I had rehearsed everything in my mind, but it was completely different at the awards,” she says. “I was so nervous and I had cold sweaty hands and had no idea what to say or how to behave on stage when accepting the awards.”
As the Best Film award-winner, I Have Never Done This Before will now represent Shanghai at the 2018 Filmapalooza in Paris, France. In addition, Yang says her team is working on making further improvements to the film in hopes of getting it out to more festivals around the world so it can reach an even larger audience.
“I hope people feel a connection with different aspects of the film,” she concludes. “But, what we want to deliver the most is to encourage people to be brave—what you can’t remove is unchangeable truth and it is that which will finally empower you.”
The films will be released online in early December, but if you’re in Beijing on Saturday, December 2nd, 2017 you can catch all of the films from the competition screening at Camera Stylo (details about that here).
Check out EastIndie’s behind-the-scenes look at some of the other teams which competed in this year’s competition here or get the full rundown on all of the winners on China Indie Film’s website here (English version) and here (Chinese version).
Finally, if you would like to get involved in the 2018 Shanghai 48HFP, please contact organizer Richard Trombly at 13818837641 (mobile and WeChat).