This week’s episode of the podcast is all about the 48 Hour Film Project. I’ve only been a participant once, the experience of which I covered extensively here, but since I first learned of it, I’ve been a huge fan. Having to write, shoot, edit, and score a short film in two days is where art meets panic. As a result, you tend to get some weird stuff flowing through the participants. I like to think of it as a microcosm of what the South Park guys do, as documented in 6 Days to Air, which is a great fucking movie in its own right.
Also, pretty much every single emotion you can experience manifests at one point or another during the process. Let’s talk about those.
Anticipation: I can’t remember when I stopped getting excited for Christmas morning. That’s probably unfair. I mean, you always get excited for Christmas morning no matter how old you are, but there comes a point where that feeling of barely being able to contain yourself and lay wide-eyed in bed sort of dissipates and you’re able to handle your shit better. It’s hard to remember where the shift happened.
When I worked the 48 the first time, I couldn’t wait to find out what genre we got and what the required elements were. I. Couldn’t. Fucking. Wait. I thought about it all day. The minutes crawled by. It was like the unreal sexual frustration I remember feeling as a 14 year-old with no outlet, but (thankfully) without feeling horny at all. Finally – FINALLY – our director called shortly after 7 pm with the news.
Sharon or Sherman Woods – Administrative Assistant
“He told me not to tell anyone.”
LET’S MAKE A MOVIE!!!! (fires imaginary guns in the air, and shouts yeehaw! again and again) What’s our genre?
Existential Despair: Fuck… drama? I don’t have the sensibility for this. We’re comedy writers. Throw it back, let’s get a wild card genre.
Foreign film???? Are you fucking kidding me?!?! Fuuuuuuuuuuuck.
I’ve been groping for the appropriate analogy to capture the exquisite emotional sucker punch of going from exuberant excitement to absolute paralyzing dread that this experience entailed. I was so excited, and, in a second, I was fucked and dead. And I think this is the analogy: It felt like what I imagine it feels like to get left at the altar unexpectedly. Excitement, joy, anticipation >>>> horror, fear, depression.
Resolve: But like anything else, you just start putting one foot in front of the other – or, in this case, one word after another – grit your teeth, and start banging away on the task in front of you. Eventually, you’ve got a scene, then a page, then an outline, then an interesting twist, and after a little while, a whole fucking movie. Lorne Michaels says about Saturday Night Live, “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready. It goes on because it’s 11:30.”
That deadline ain’t gonna move. Better start writing, princess.
Exhaustion: Squeezing that much creativity out of yourself in such a condensed time period comes at a price, however. And frequently that price is your own health. The night of my 48 Hour Film experience, I slept for maybe two hours, and then drove to Boulder at 4:30 in the morning and proceeded to pound energy drinks and chainsmoke cigarettes. My heart pounded in my face, and I’d felt like I had enough stimulants flowing through me to re-animate, and subsequently kill again, John Belushi.
Food helps. Don’t forget to eat during the 48. I turned back into a human after some food, rather than the sentient bag of cocaine I felt like after staying up all night and trying to get blood from a stone in terms of writing a fucking samurai movie featuring a bunch of white actors.
Relief: At some point, whether it’s at the end of filming (like in my case, when a writer isn’t going to contribute much to post-production), or when you hand the thing in, you will feel relief. Your movie may suck, it may be brilliant, it may make people laugh in ways you want them to, it may make people laugh in ways you don’t want them to… but goddammit, you made a movie.
It’s over and you can breathe. I happened to go to the Rockies/Cubs game that night, and Carlos Gonzalez hit for the cycle, concluding with a walk-off homerun.
Having hit for the emotional cycle during the previous 24 hours, it was a cathartic way to end my time with the 48 Hour Film Project.
Tune in tomorrow, and we’ll talk to a woman who gets to experience it every single year vicariously through every team that participates. And maybe you’ll get a snapshot of some teams who had successfully handed in their projects as well. This was one of the more fun episodes I’ve ever done. See you tomorrow.
And, if you’re interested, here’s the Director’s Cut of our movie. Enjoy!