Thursday, June 28, 2012

24-Hour Film Race and resulting zombie mockumentary

One of a Kind: a Zorg story is a short film that myself and a team of folks worked on as part of the 24-Hour Film Race.

The short plug is- if you'd like to come see it, it will be playing with 26 other of the NY 24-Hour Film Festival films (all 4 minutes or less) at the Loews on Third Avenue at 11th Street on Thursday, June 28th. Tickets can be bought in advance, all the info is linked here.

If you want to know more about what our team did and how the whole thing worked, read on!


The 24-Hour Film Race is pretty much exactly what it says it is.

On Friday at 10:00 p.m., your team receives an e-mail with a list of things that you have to include in your movie. This is to help make sure that you didn't just write, shoot and edit the film ahead of time, and it helps get the ideas flowing, too. Then, you have to write, shoot, edit and start uploading your film by 10:00 p.m. the following evening.

So- 24 hours. And it's a race against the clock pretty much the whole way.

If I remember correctly, the stuff we needed to include were:

(1) Action: listening to music
(2) Theme: one
(3) Prop: something with the numeral "1" or word "one" on it.

So you had to have all three, though some to varying degrees of centrality to the film. So the theme had to be definitely there throughout, but listening to music didn't have to be the focus of the story.

Coming into it, everyone on our team had a lot of projects going on at the same time, but when it came down to it, it was a great excuse to get together and shoot a film. After all, the time commitment required has a very hard line on it- 24 hours or bust. You knew you would be completely done by 10:00 p.m. Saturday, no ifs/ands/buts about it.

Probably one of the funnest parts of the experience for me was seeing how it's possible to make decent creative decisions when driven under the force of a time crunch. I never had the experience of writing in a room together with other folks, or trying to "break" a story, and the time constraint made it a lot easier to take conversations that would have otherwise gone like this:

"How about, if you guys are cool with this and just tell me if you aren't- there are two guys in an apartment, and one of them has to go get something from the outside. I'm just brainstorming here, if you like it, cool, if not, we can try something else."

Into something like this:

"Two guys in an apartment, one has to go get something outside, could be whatever, someone stops him on the way. Ok, this doesn't seem to be going anywhere. Next?"

I'm kind of exaggerating, but not unlike the "cut to" on the fly editing in long form improv, the time constraint created an environment in which it was much easier to kill something if it didn't seem like it was going to get anywhere. But at the same time, it also made it easier to just say ideas, without as much of the polite and qualifying language baggage surrounding them as I might otherwise use.

So out of that process, plus sleep deprivation, by probably about 2:30 to 3:00 a.m. we had landed on a central premise that we were pretty happy to move forward on.

What we came up with was:

Mockumentary interview with the last surviving zombie left after the failed zombie apocalypse.

I really dig this premise, but I can't for the life of me outline out the logical processes that led us there.

The execution of this was kind of a grind. We sort of worked and slept in shifts, though some of us just pushed through with minor naps here and there. For my part, I was up through most of the writing process (10:00 p.m. - 5:00 a.m.), slept while the interview shooting was going on (5:00 a.m. - 9:20 a.m.), and then edited from about 10:00 a.m. up until the point where we had to export and upload the film. We of course had food, coffee, etc. in between as needed.

So ultimately we made it. I had most of the interview chunks cut together by the time the team got back, then we downloaded and transcoded what they'd shot, and incorporated those elements into the film.

Anyway, that's the short version of the story. If you are in NYC, I hope we'll see you at the screening, and if not, at some point in the future, we'll probably be putting this online for you to check out.