Filmmaking can be a long, arduous process. Writing a script, scouting locations, filming scene, editing, sound; all these can take time and often require a meticulous attention to detail.
During the weekend of Aug. 16-18, I participated in the Central Florida's 48 Hour Film Project, a national film contest throughout various cities in which a group of filmmakers are required to write, shoot and edit a movie in 48 hours.
When I was asked to take on the role of screenwriter for our group, Fix it In Post, I wanted to utilize the knowledge I gained from several screenwriting courses in college. More importantly, I wanted to see if I could come up with a good story in one night. It's something wildly out of my norm as a fiction writer; preferring to let my stories gestate for months while I nitpick every idea over and over.
Writing the script required me to utilize three rules that were assigned according to part of the contest: we had to use a character, a prop and a line of dialogue.
I hate restrictions, but one of my main goals became to utilize those ingredients into my plot without seeming obligatory. The end result was "Stolen Vacation," a dark comedy about a small group of friends who inadvertently find themselves trying to make the best of a vacation in Titusville with dangerously hilarious results.
"Stolen Vacation" was written throughout Friday night and into the wee hours of Saturday morning. Many of the ideas were tossed around with Alicia Marie Bullard, lead actress and director for the film.
Without sounding pretentious, I wrote the film in a way writer/directors like Joel and Ethan Coen Brothers or Martin Scorsese write or direct films; with specific actors in mind for parts.
After having worked with Mrs. Marie Bullard on a previous film, “Agent Em,” I knew what her strengths were as an actress and what characteristics she could bring to life in Kara Diaz, the sardonic skeptic of the four friends.
"As I was reading it, even before it was completely done, I could see the whole thing," Mrs. Marie Bullard said. "It was so easy for me to see. The words were coming to life in my head and I knew where I wanted people and how it was going to look. I thought the way it was written, it looked like a film."
Mrs. Marie Bullard initially had no plans to direct the film. When it came time to assigning the task, a previous director from last year's film was unavailable and, after encouragement from cinematographer Ryan King, Mrs. Marie Bullard stepped up to the plate.
"Looking back on it, I don't know why I haven't tried directing before this. Because when I think about my high school theater and choir experiences, going to college and getting my music education degree, I have always seen the big picture." Mrs. Marie Bullard said.
"I've put on these different ensembles and live shows which is basically directing," she continued. “So, seeing as how detail oriented I am, I don't know why I didn't try this sooner because I really fell in love with it."
The most obvious challenge for us was the time restraints. Because we didn't have an extended time to map out scenes, Mr. King improvised around a tight schedule.
"It was very hard, we couldn’t do all the normal pre-production steps so for my part all I did to get the shots was scribble down a rough shot list at 4 a.m. with Alicia to give us an idea about what we needed for each scene," Mr. King said. "With Alicia as the director, I was able to focus on the cinematography and use her direction with my technical knowledge and create her vision for her."
Her efficient use of time was challenged when a pivotal location for the ending had to be rethought both in scripting and shooting.
The original script had our characters browsing a jewelry shop when a sudden robbery occurs. At the last minute, the jewelry shop declined us filming there and we were forced to scurry for a new location.
"I don't think we would have had the product we ended up with if I hadn't hammered out those scenes the way we did at Main Street Philly," Mrs. Marie Bullard said.
Main Street Philly invited us to utilize their location for the rest of the day. We spent nearly six to seven hours filming the ending.
I ended up changing some of the dialogue to fit the context within Main Street Philly, which ultimately left some of the comedic elements of the original robbery landing differently with the audience than what was intended.
Nevertheless, we regrouped throughout that evening and, with Mrs. Marie Bullard's initiative, completed filming around 10 p.m. Saturday night.
The film went through the editing process with Kelli Mondshein, owner of JellyBean Media Productions, LLC, and was ready for submitting the next day well before deadline.
Since then, "Stolen Vacation" has been nominated for "Best Use of Prop" by the judges.
"Josh and I threw around the idea with the nail clippers a couple of times and I think the way that it written came out great," Mrs. Marie Bullard said. "If you knew that we had to use nail clippers it would seem predictable, but if you don't know that and you're just watching it - it's hilarious."
During the Aug. 25 screening, certain scenes played well with the audience.
"They loved, loved, loved the comic shop scene. People were crying laughing at that scene," Mrs. Marie Bullard said."I'm so proud of that scene, so proud of Josh and Rick and the chemistry between those two and I was really lucky as a director to see that was what was in front of me. I didn't have a hand in planning that at all."
A great deal of how the scene was received was crediting to the cinematography and editing.
"Knowing the story we wanted to have it be a very clear contrast between the robbery and the comic book scene for comedic affect," Mr. King said. "I approached this idea by lighting more evenly in 'high key' for the comic book shop and more of a dramatic 'low key' shadowy, darker style to give that visual contrast too match what the actors were performing."
The comic book store scene was filmed with Rick Schreiber, owner of The Infinite Mushroom Comic & Game Shoppe in downtown Titusville.
"I'm so proud of Ryan in how he shot that and Kelli editing it. It was so beautiful and the perfect amount of awkwardness," Mrs. Marie Bullard said.
Creating a film in 48 hours is tough, but not impossible. As a writer, the most difficult thing was to create characters who already had personalities and traits; establishing them as believable in only a handful of pages.
Luckily, I was able to work with a great group of creators who helped bring those characters to life on screen.
For more information about the 48 Hour Film Festival, visit www.48hourfilm.com/orlando
To watch "Stolen Vacation", visit www.youtube.com/watch?v=8okB74TRut8.