Last weekend my esteemed friend and fellow Pink Bear the filmmaker Bill Rodgers decided we should enter the 48-Hour Sci Fi Film Challenge, which meant once again we were making a film with little time for preparation and making the best of what was available in terms of actors, props, and locations (which, if you hadn’t already worked out, is just how we like it). Of all the films the Pink Bear Club has made since forming last summer, this would turn out to be the most challenging yet.
While Billy is a veteran of these kind of crazy shenanigans, I’m still pretty new to this sort of thing, although we had all been involved in another film competition entry of Billy’s a couple of weeks before.
This one started with the PBC’s resident arsekicker, the lovely Ruth Harper, getting a train up to London for the launch on Saturday. While there she had to pick a title, prop, and line from a hat, all of which had to be used in the film. We got the following:-
- Title: Kromwell’s Theory
- Prop: Boiling kettle
- Line: “Slow down sugar! Now, you see that hole…”
Yikes! Nothing could be prepared beforehand, of course, so as soon as these snippets of information were relayed to HQ Billy and the rest of us put our addled minds to work. I’m not going to go over the entire plot here, suffice to say one was come up with, mostly by Billy and his talented nephew Al (who did our fantastic title animation). So Bill had just under two days to ‘script’, shoot, and edit a 3-5 minute sci-fi film.
Of course, we needed some actor, mostly to play militaristic bounty hunters wearing gas masks and carrying obviously fake guns made of plastic shell carriers with barrels glued on them (we didn’t want to get arrested as terrorists, after all). We were already one down as Pete was in Northern Ireland visiting family. As is normal when you do things at the last minute, most people were busy or couldn’t commit much time, so I put messages up on Twitter and Facebook asking for help. Within minutes, I had a response from someone on Twitter who lived locally and kindly volunteered the services of her husband for the evening’s shooting (the main scene occurs at night). Alistair and another of Billy’s nephews, Joe, were also on board.
We couldn’t have asked for a better class of ‘volunteer’. From the moment he turnd up, Andy was helpful, patient, and willing to throw himself into whatever mad nonsense we were letting him in for. He also looked far more like a soldier than myself and Joe, both of whom were rather scrawny in comparison (at least Joe has the excuse of being a growing teenager). After a few hours’ faffing we made it up to the same bit of scrubland where we had shot the Gertchin sketches about 6 months ago, only this time it was much darker…
…and noisier. When we got there we found there was some sort of mini-festival going on – or at least there was a large number of space cadets with dogs on strings dancing round a big fire to the Dub that was coming out of their massive sound system. Once they’d established we weren’t police (our uniforms nearly set off a riot) they pretty much left us alone.
We managed to get the night stuff shot in about an hour and a half, with Ruth and Jen on hand with sausage rolls and flasks of tea and coffee. The rushes looked suitably eerie and atmospheric, even if they were soundtracked by Prince Far I. We needed some day footage in the same location, using a different character (Kromwell himself, in fact), and as my face hadn’t been seen behind the gas mask billy and I agreed to meet up first thing next morning to shoot it. Which meant we managed to get in a few hours of sleep!
We shot the Kromwell scenes at about 8:30 Sunday morning. The party was still going strong, and we got slightly more attention from giggling crusties than we had the night before. They were all very friendly though so that was cool – when they saw me turn up in a silver suit and gas mask they probably thought the aliens had finally come to take them away.
Simon Plotkin then turned up and joined myself, Joe, Al and Billy for some more filming at Shoreham Harbour, while Ruth sorted out soundtrack and sound effects. I managed to play a third character in this film as I had my back to the camera at all times. Simon added his usual mix of mania and gravitas to a small but pivotal role. It was then all back to Brighton to record a bit of dialogue with Ruth.
That evening Jen popped over for the final bit of filming (which had been scheduled for that morning but Billy and I had faffed around in the bushes for too long), which included the mandatory line. We were then able to leave and go home to bed, while poor Billy stayed up all night editing the whole thing together. By all accounts he and Ruth then had a bit of a nightmare getting it on to disc and submitting it to the competition, but got it done with a full 10 minutes to spare. Eek!
Having now seen it I can say I’m pretty proud of what Bill and the rest of us managed to achieve in 48 hours. It’s also Pink Bear Productions’ first stab at something that isn’t intentionally funny, and it’s nice to be able to say we’re branching out, although most of our comedy is like bizarre sci-fi anyway. Thanks to everyone involved for giving up their time and being up for it. Whatever the result of the competition, we’ve definitely made something interesting.
Update: Take a look at Will Howell’s blog for the story of another team’s entry.