Put 10 people and a pineapple in a room and give them the ultimate creative challenge. It’s a guaranteed adrenaline rush made for the big screen.
It’s 11:55 a.m. on October 20th, a Friday, and I’m about to get almost no sleep for the next two days. That’s because I’m participating in a mad-dash filmmaking project called Film 48, where you have two days to create and edit a three-to-six-minute movie. But it’s harder than that, because there are mandates to portions of how you make this film, and the rules for the nationwide Broadcast Education Association Collegiate Media Chapter Film 48 Competition are about to get released at noon.
For that reason, and since it is my first time participating, I keep refreshing my email waiting to hear what the guidelines for the film are, since you are not allowed to find out prior to. As someone who prides herself on being extra prepared for any event, the countless ideas of possible film plots were rushing through my anxiety-riddled head all week.
12:00 p.m. I get a text from Sydney Dahl, with the rules. She’s the event leader and my team’s captain.
Huh. Interesting. I definitely wasn’t expecting the pineapple to be a prop, but it is a creative choice, to say the least. I am very excited to see that the genre is a mystery, as Halloween is just around the corner.
But just to pause for a second, you should understand that beyond the time and length constraints, and that pineapple business, students can work in teams with a minimum of five people and a maximum of 10 people, but only five of them can be actors with dialogue.
Students must figure out a script, costume, set design, shooting, editing, rendering, and exporting media. The only preparation allowed beforehand is gathering equipment and team assembly.
All the elements that must be included in the film for our entry to be considered eligible for judging such as the film’s genre, prop, character, and a specific line of dialogue (which interestingly enough can be said in any language, as long as it’s verbalized), gets emailed to the team captain when the clock strikes noon, so everyone gets the same amount of time to plan and work on the film.
3:30 p.m. Our team, “Crazy Dais,” meets at Dahl’s house to discuss ideas. It takes us about four hours to solidify the idea. I am just excited to start filming, but I definitely underestimated how well thought-out the entire movie needs to be for it to make sense, even if it can only be up to six minutes long.
I am trying so hard not to think of a sequel to the classic, Pineapple Express.
One of my favorite ideas is that we set the scene as a dinner party, and the host throws a ridiculous, over-the-top pineapple themed party for his first time trying a pineapple, only to later find out he’s actually allergic to it and dies. It’s amazing what craziness people can come up with when bouncing ideas off each other in such pressured time.
For our flick, “Dinner With Phillip,” we’ve woven a tale of wealth, secrets, and pineapples that’s as sharp and mysterious as a well-cut fruit. As the unexpected tragedy unfolds, it leaves our characters in a web of intrigue and suspicion. Stay tuned for our juicy film, where secrets are sliced, and motives are diced, because in this dinner, pineapples are more than just a fruit; they’re the key to unraveling the mystery.
Two of our actresses, Sam Salerno and Xenia Szycer, had run to the local Salvation Army store in town and miraculously found great props such as a candleholder, a cake cutter, and a maid’s apron. I am impressed by the sheer luck we’re having to get this ball rolling.
At 9 p.m. We finally started shooting. Everyone’s costumes look great, given we’ve put it together spontaneously.
One thing I realize is that improv actors deserve more credit. As someone who used to do theater, the art of improvising often gets overlooked, especially when filming without a structured script. Ad-libbing is a lot of pressure since you have to come up with something on the spot and run with it for however long and remember the essentials of what you say, since you have to keep reshooting the same scenes but at different angles for reactions.
11 p.m. It was inevitable. We’ve hit a drawback. Our camera batteries died and Dahl and I had to rush over to campus in the midst of a heavy rainstorm to get a new charger while she’s still in her chef costume.
9 p.m. No, you didn’t enter a time warp, but I feel like I have. It’s now a day later, Saturday, and we finally finished shooting and now it’s time to head over to the production room on campus to edit and create some magic.
After going through all of our footage and outtakes with laughter, we select the best clips. Dahl and director Amelia DeCoursy collaborate on editing and choosing the best camera angles for each character. Szyche and I work on finding sound effects, music, and special effects. Implementing audio work is a new experience for me, but I strangely have lots of fun layering in spooky Halloween music, random gunshot and blood splatter effects at 1 a.m.
2:30 a.m. I’m just going to have a small nap, here on the fourth floor of the Student Union Building. At least the floor’s carpeted.
10 a.m. I rise to find Dahl finishing up the editing. I asked her how she slept and she tells me she didn’t. She is a team leader and a trooper to her core. She also tells me that she loves working both desks; behind the scenes and in front, as this is her first time with speaking lines.
11 a.m. Putting a cryptic and mysterious blue filter over our film (think Twilight vibes), we gather to watch it one last time before submission at noon, proudly, in our Burger King crowns from our midnight meal. Our cinematic masterpiece, “Dinner With Phillip” is sent to be judged by the BEA Film 48 board, with results of the competition to be announced in December.
I still haven’t even processed the last two days of my life. It was a whirlwind, for sure. The only thing that will probably keep me sane for the rest of the week is the smell of the pineapple cake Szyche baked for one of the scenes.