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Filmmaking (Actually) Ep. 13 "What More Should You (Actually) Know About the 48 Hour Film Project??"

Updated: Dec 13, 2023

Please note that we 1000% stand by the value that comes from speedy practice and moving through the full filmmaking process in 48 hours. We do not endorse the 48 Hour Film Project brand as such.

It has been an honor to be heavily acknowledged by the 48 Hour Film Project with multiple winning films and runners-ups over the years, and we will always support and cheer on those teams who truly produce a film from start to finish within only 48 hours! We have seen some absolutely amazing films and support everyone who plays by the rules and levels up their skills each year.

Space Dream Productions encourages filmmakers to practice and practice and work to make films in a short period of time for all the reasons listed in the episode transcribed below!


Join Koura in this follow-up episode, regarding the 48 Hour Film Project, about what MORE you should know about that wild and sleepless weekend in which you and a team make a movie - write, shoot and edit it - in just 48 hours!! COVID Quarantine Blues got you down? Going a little stir crazy while stuck at home? Why not channel that excess energy into a creative endeavor... like making a short film? No matter your level of experience, it's good to know a few MORE things before you are assigned your genre, character, prop, and line of dialogue... so listen now! If you want to ask a question or just want to say hello, write to filmmakingactually(at)gmail(dot)com! And check out for the latest projects that Koura is working on.

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Below please find a transcript of this episode. Episodes are also available as audio-only podcasts Here or with subtitles in this video:

What More Should You (Actually) Know About the 48 Hour Film Project??

Hello. Welcome back to our podcast “Filmmaking, Actually.” We're really excited about the new lineup of episodes that we have being recorded over the next week, and we look forward to sharing them with you. First up, our last episode was about the 48 hour film project, and you may want to check out that one as I give a full outline of how to produce a 48 hour film project. And this is really just supplementary to that one. I will say that some of the tips in both of these episodes I personally find useful for any type of filmmaking, but the 48 hour film project is its own beast like without question. If you haven't heard the other episode and you don't want to listen to it, which is totally cool just to recap, the 48 hour film project is a film challenge competition where filmmakers are given a genre, a line of dialogue, a prop and a character, and they have to write, produce, edit and submit a full short film project within a 48 hour window. Coming up with a potential storyline or any sort of plot before the 48 hour window starts is actually cheating. And, you know, people have their own kind of gray areas on that. But I will say when you're sitting in the audience and you're watching a film that clearly cheated and yes, more often than not, it is totally obvious. If you don't care as a filmmaker, that's fine, but just know that your fellow filmmakers are going to know and yeah, they're going to totally judge you.

And for what it's worth, it takes away the glory of having made that film in that time, and it makes other filmmakers kind of like just shake their heads because they're like, you didn't play by the rules. So whatever. Congratulations for making a film. Anyway, whether or not you're doing it for the approval of other people or just for yourself, I will strongly suggest to just keep your own honor intact and play by the rules because it's more fun that way. I personally think it's a lot more fun to actually do it in 48 hours. So in this episode and the last episode, I wanted to help give as many tools as possible to help you prep, plan and execute an entire film project in 48 hours. This one in specific is to help with the upcoming 48 hour stay at home film project. So, yes, these tips can help for doing any film project on a deadline. The main difference being that for most projects, you have your script ahead of time. You can cast and plan and do all of that with more than like a couple of hours notice, but I found myself using things personally that I've learned doing 48 hour film projects when I do other films that aren't restricted to a 48 hour deadline. So in our last episode, we laid out just some basic general tips.

I wanted to add in a few things I forgot and also make it specific to doing a 48 hour film project at home. So with the current state of the world, the 48 hour film project is about to do a special stay at home film challenge. And they've done a couple of these stay at home film projects. Before that, we're just for fun, but this upcoming weekend is an actual competition, so why not get as many tools in your tool belt before going ahead with that project? Personally, I think these projects are fun. They're a great way to be creative and productive. If that's your jam. Just for what it's worth, I've personally found that I feel better when I'm making stuff, so I do support attempts towards productivity while being isolated and quarantined and all of that. But, you know, do what's best for you. If you found that not stressing over stuff helps you, then don't stress. If you found that making stuff helps you, then make stuff. So the first few tips I have here are kind of general, but I've also got some specific stay at home ones coming up. Anyway, here goes.

So the first thing is, the biggest thing I've had to learn as a filmmaker is that film sets and film projects are basically living, breathing things. That means that what worked one time isn't always going to work the next time, and that is a hard life lesson to learn. Humans are often creatures of habit, and we like the familiar, but sometimes you need to push yourself beyond what worked last time. Nothing in filmmaking can be done on automatic. I mean, technically, nothing in life can be done on automatic, but it really applies to filmmaking. One thing that I found is sometimes it helps to ask yourself why you don't want to try something new. If the answer is, “I can't”, take that a step further and ask yourself why you can't. Can you actually not? Or are you holding yourself in place with gossamer ties and shadows? You'd be amazed at what you can actually accomplish when you give yourself permission to try. I know that sounds super generic and like motivational speaker-y-ish, but it's actually true. You know, I can't film a space movie in my house. Do you have white walls and can you get some plastic sheeting? Maybe you can make a room in your house look like a space station under construction? Could you film in a tight corner of your house that you can set dress? Do you have a green screen if you're willing to think outside the box the possibilities of what you can accomplish with time? Granted, you don't have a lot of that in 48 hour projects, but with some time. If you're willing to put in the effort and you're willing to put in even just a couple of moments of trying to figure it out, if you're willing to think outside the box, the possibilities of what you can accomplish are truly endless.

Another general tip for 48 hour film projects in general, or even just on set with newer actors or an actor having a rough day. But I've specifically found this to help with 48 hour film projects when starting the film, oftentimes, the actors haven't had a ton of time to learn their lines, but you can focus on the one who knows their lines first. So like if you have a scene being shot between, say, Frank and Michelle, and Michelle has her lines down and Frank is still learning film the coverage of Michelle first. So you're getting those shots and let Frank read from the script off camera. This way, Frank is reading his lines, but you're also still moving forward. You're getting shots in the can, etc. There are also tons of ways to hide a script in the props or set, and it just takes careful editing to make sure you're not filming your actor reading off the page. Sometimes you can just give direction to the actor to make sure that they're not reading off the script directly, but maybe they look at their lines and then they take a beat, and then they say the lines to their scene partner. You can also do things like moving around the schedule. Maybe one actor knows their lines and another actor doesn't, move the other actors scenes further in the day and put up the first actor who does know their lines and get their shots in the can. It basically is a lot of juggling of “how can we get this all done within a limited amount of time” and sometimes giving that other actor a few extra moments to learn their lines will actually help your overall shoot process go a lot faster?

All right, so now some stay at home tips for stay at home projects, you are more limited. That is true. But you can also use that limitation to spark your creativity instead of limiting it. If you look past everything you can't do at home, you'll find there are endless things that you can do again thinking outside the box. Depending on your technical skills, you can do a split screen and use one actor in more than one role to increase your cast size. You can also use elements like phones, radios, webcams, characters like ghosts, pets with voices, stuffed animals that can talk, invisible friends, invisible people visions, inanimate objects that can talk basically any way that uses voiceover freely to add more characters to your story. You can also use one sided conversations to economize on talent needed. You can have someone talk on the phone, but the audience only hears their side of the conversation so you don't need another actor. You can also use internal monologues to add depth and dimension to a limited cast.

Now there actually is a 48 hour stay at home Facebook group that you can join if you're on Facebook, and I asked a few of the other filmmakers there for some tips as well. I don't know these people personally, so I'm going to apologize in advance if I pronounce any of their names wrong. One tip came in from Joe Mora, and he suggested using your space. He noted that Stanley Kubrick was notorious for always using every part of a set, and I have to say this is totally true for a stay at home project where your locations are limited. Not only can you use different places in your house, the bathroom, the laundry room, garage, a kitchen, a closet, whatever. You can also use places around your house, like maybe inside your car, in the driveway, or just in a driveway space or in your backyard. I will say be careful with sound and exterior locations, especially if you're planning to film like around, sunset in the summer and you live somewhere that has major crickets or frogs that like to, oh, I don't know, come out and sing you the song of their people at night. Best bet is when you're making that spreadsheet I talked about in the last episode, checking locations at different times of day is really, really, really important because you don't want to plan a shoot at night, but you never scouted it at night and then you go there and you're totally screwed.

If you're totally stuck, you can't change location and the sound is terrible. There is a sort of hack you can use to get around it, which is not the best. But if you're able to shoot at least one master shot, so you have one continuous take where the sound is the same for the whole scene. If you can get that, you can use that audio to cut against and just use the master from that one master audio shot. Then if you do have things like crickets or traffic or whatever, at least the sound is going to be consistent throughout the scene. But that can still get tricky. So it is better to just have clean audio if you can.

As far as thinking outside the box and using locations goes, you can also address areas of your house to look like other places. Maybe you can make a patio into an outdoor cafe. You can turn a home office into just an office or use lighting to make a corner into a dark cave. For one film, I made a sheet for it and we filmed the entire thing inside the fort. So don't let yourself be limited by like, what's obviously in front of you. Part of filmmaking is creating the spaces that you use to tell the stories.

Next up, Laurie Fowley pointed out how important communication is among collaborators, and I have to say this is even more important when you're collaborating with people over a long distance. For those who know Spacey and me, you know that we met through an online, open collaborative platform called hitRECord. So long distance collaborating is how we roll, but we didn't realize how uncommon that is in filmmaking until we started connecting with more and more non hitRECord filmmakers. The first film we ever made, Names on the Wall, was created across the world, literally with a network of filmmakers and musicians and VFX and everything. It was all coordinated through the internet. I once did a short film with a filmmaker in Texas, and we needed a voiceover and we had a friend who I think lived in Florida at the time do it, and he sent us the files. Several of our 48 hour film projects have had the sound design done by a friend in San Francisco. Our VFX work is usually done by a guy who used to live in Canada. If you have access to fast internet, don't limit yourself to the people in your house. Depending on how big of a task you want to take on. You can literally create a story that is told all over the world. You can have people film themselves within the 48 hour window and have them send the footage in to you. Again, this is where using that spreadsheet comes into play because you're able to find who's going to be willing to help you, what resources they have, and you can take that all into account when you write the script.

You can use voiceover, animation, whatever you want to collaborate with among friends around the world. Next up, Anna van Hainey suggested to make sure that the microphone is turned on. As silly as that sounds, especially in a smaller set where you're filming yourself, or where there's very few people kind of keeping track of everything going on. It really is extra important to make sure things like the camera is actually rolling. The microphone is actually turned on the most silly things. And here's the thing real professionals pay attention to what they're doing. They don't operate on automatic, so never be ashamed to take that moment to make sure that something is correct because that's what a professional would do. Also, for what it's worth, if you can avoid it, don't use brand new gear on set that you've never used before. Always, always, always test new gear! Also test gear that you've never used together, like if you have a microphone that you've never used with that specific camera, test them together. Make sure they plug in correctly. Make sure they work. Maybe the microphone works in a different camera or, you know, the camera works with a different microphone, but you want to make sure that that microphone and that camera work together, if that's what you're going to be using on set that day.

Also, if you're using new lights, make sure the camera is set to accommodate that. We learned this one the hard way when we had to reshoot our first day at home challenge because we use these random LED twinkle lights that I had and they made these lines across the screen and we had to shift the shutter speed and the frame rate to fix it. But it would have been good to know that before we had shot half of our film. With that, I will also add be careful with the autofocus as it can shift randomly while you're filming. I mean, that goes for anything, but it's even more important to watch out for if you're filming yourself. Sometimes it helps, even just have one person to help you set the focus and then just turn it off autofocus. This may mean that you're limited in how much you can move around on set and how much you can change the depth of field. But it's better to have a film in focus with an actor not moving, then have the actor moving all over the place and the focus is just off. And again, this is where producers come into play because a producer's job is to mitigate not like the technical stuff, but to mitigate the balance between real world possibility and creative desire. That is to say that maybe you want to do something creatively, but you don't have the technical capacity for doing it. So a producer's job is to figure out what the best way is to maintain the highest technical integrity of the film, while enabling the creatives to be as creative as possible. And sometimes you have to make accommodations in other directions and then you have to give up a little bit of creativity for technical. Sometimes you have to give up some technical for some creativity. So yeah.

All right. So next up to Totear Veder, asked about the best editing software and what microphones to use with a cell phone. Now I'm just going to say it. I personally have a big problem with gear snobs. Totally cool, if that's what makes you happy and you love the name brand stuff and you love the big fancy everything. But I have seen photos taken on cell phones that would blow your mind and photos taken on several thousand dollar cameras that were totally amateur. It has never been more true that the Gear does not make the artist, then today, and I say that because there's so many kind of like prosumer, if you will, level gear options. And there's so many consumer level gear options that enable you to make professional looking things because of the way they're made and calibrated, and it really helps facilitate professional looking products. Yes, shooting on an Aria Alexa mini in a night shoot with a small lighting kit, totally, the footage looks gorgeous.

There's no way around it, but very few situations call for super expensive gear. And honestly, being limited in your gear makes you kind of up your creative levels and what you can accomplish with what you have. So never use your gear to prove that you're better than someone else creatively and never let your limited gear make you feel less than someone else. Because in the end, some people can do more with a cell phone than other people could do with an entire Aria Alexa package and unlimited glass and a 50 ton lighting kit! Sorry, so that said, sorry for the little bit of a rant there, but I do feel, especially for independent filmmakers, it's really important to not feel like if you don't have a fifty thousand dollar camera, you're not going to be able to make a movie. The same thing goes for editing software . When you're first starting out with editing, especially as like a new editor, you literally just need something that you can use to cut scenes. Maybe add in some transitions between cuts, add in titles do very basic color correction. You don't need a super fancy editing software to cut your first film. You can totally dive in with a fancy schmancy program, but it's going to have so many bells and whistles. It may feel a little overwhelming. And honestly, until you really find your rhythm as an editor, all of those bells and whistles, it's almost like distracting you really.

Starting with the basics is a really good place to start. That said, there's a free program called DaVinci Resolve that is really great to use. You can download it for free. Don't let anyone laugh at you for using da Vinci. You have to start somewhere. And again, it's free. I highly recommend using it. Very, very, very few people step right into Adobe Premiere Pro. Use every single feature of the program for their very first film. It's OK to learn, and it's OK to have a learning curve. Yes, less complicated programs have less creative flexibility, but a lot of that flexibility you're not going to need when you're just getting started. It's OK to start in the shallow end. Get familiar with the rhythm of cutting a scene, learn about L cuts and J cuts, which basically are just ways of cutting audio and visuals together. So you either hear a scene before you see it or you see a scene before you hear it. Learn when you should stay on a character or an object or an action, or when to cut away from it. Play with pacing and the speed of your cuts. Use transitions. You're not going to learn unless you do it, and anyone who shames you for your learning curve is literally shaming you for learning. So shame on them and just keep learning.

As far as the microphone goes. There are so many things I can say about Mics on set, and I actually have an upcoming episode about audio specifically. But I will say this there are portable recording devices that you can use USB plug-in mics that go right into your camera or into your phone. I personally started recording when I was doing just audio recording using a microphone called a blue snowflake, and it just plugged right into my laptop with a little USB. You can get things like a Sony MVR that's “M” as in Mary “V” as in Victor “R” as in Roger, and that's an older piece of equipment, but it works really well. You can use a voice recorder on your cell phone. I will say ideally not the same one you're filming with because you want the microphone to be closer to the actor. Then the camera is. Also if the actor is moving around in the scene, you don't want the audio levels to rise and fall as they move closer and further from the camera, so you want the microphone to be as close to the actor as possible. Do be careful with where you put it. Like, let's say you have a scene where there's actors eating dinner. You could totally use a voice recorder from a cell phone, and you can even have the phones in camera because it just looks like there's phones sitting on the table. The only problem is if the actors are eating dinner and there's cell phones every time they pick up a cup or a fork, or they scrape a knife across a plate, if the phone is sitting on the table, it's going to pick up those sounds. So again, this comes into like being creative. You have to find a place where you can put the microphone, where it will best receive the actors and won't pick up as much background noise as possible.

Again, you can also hide a bad mic with a good edit. Like I said earlier, where you like film one master and then you cut to that. You can't hide it fully, but it can help. Also, when you're mixing the sound on your film, don't give your audio a hard cut between clips. That's to say, let's say there's room tone that's really loud. Room tone is just like the empty sound of the room, so it could be like a white, a white noise or like a like a slight hiss or something like that. Or if there's an AC that was turned on. I mean, first, if you're filming, turn off the air conditioning. As best as you can, but if you can't and if there is a noise or if one microphone is a little louder than another, you can fade the audio clips in and out slightly and basically like sort of feather the audio in and out just so it isn't so jarring to the audience. I mean, we've all heard that "shhhhh shhhh" every time an actor talks, and it's really annoying and it's distracting. But if it comes in and out on a gradient, sometimes you can kind of fade it. You also can also work with a good audio mixer who can try and get rid of some of that soun d. You also can use a better microphone. There's lots of things, but if you're in post, if you're doing a 48 hour film project and one of your microphones just wasn't so great, fading it can really help.

Next up, Sylvie Wolf brought up a really good point, which is don't be afraid to kill your darlings. And I know that's like general filmmaking note, but sometimes it really comes into play even more with a 48 hour film project or specifically a 48 hour stay at home project. Because you're available, resources are even more limited. So you may totally love an idea, but you need to be true to the story and what you're able to make with what you have. Also being true to the story means being true to your characters. So, for example, it might look really cool for your character to slam a bottle across the room. But if your character is timid and quiet and they aren't changing from that character type as part of the plot, it doesn't really fit who they are or what they would do.

So that action might not be believable to the audience, but you may have a super cool shot of a bottle crashing, or you may have a VFX person at the ready who's all excited to make a super cool, slo-mo VFX shot of a bottle breaking. But if it doesn't serve the story, or if you don't have time, or if it's getting too complicated, don't do it. You're already working in such a tight box of a 48 hour window. And then within the parameters of what you can do at home, don't further limit yourself by forcing yourself to stick with decisions again. Films are living and breathing, you got to make live decisions. I can't say it enough. It is so important that you allow yourself to think outside the box and you don't stay stuck on a certain point to the detriment of getting the film made. Also, as I said in the last episode, when you're working on the tight time frame of a 48 hour film project, you're going to want to not spend forever deliberating on creative choices. So let's say you need to cut a scene for time or you need to change a story direction because you forgot to check location sound and you can't film in your backyard, and I need to do a rewrite, whatever. Don't mope about it. Just do it. Just make a new decision. You'd be amazed at how freeing and empowering deliberate decision making can be in a creative process and just owning a decision and going with it. I will add as someone with crushing anxiety about certain things. I do hear you when you say it's really hard and it's terrifying to make those choices. But sometimes you just have to play pretend for a moment and pretend you're able to make that choice and just go ahead and do it.

On that note, Ryan Runyon brought up a good point, which is don't stress. It's a 48 hour film project. You know, it's meant to be fun and a creative experience. Roll with the punches. Relax, enjoy the creative process, and you may surprise yourself by making a choice you wouldn't have made if you had 20 years to stare at your computer screen while writing that screenplay. The whole point of a 48 hour film project for me and my husband, anyway, is to run through the entire creative process of making a film from start to finish and basically to be run through the drill of it all while being creative, exploring things we probably would never otherwise do. Trust me, if you said I'd be making a romantic horror film, I would have said you were nuts. But the last major 48 hour film project I directed was literally a romantic horror, so you never know.

Maybe you will make the next Academy Award winning film. Maybe you'll totally bomb out, but the odds are in your favor that you're going to end up making a fun, short film that doesn't actually turn out half bad. In the end, if you learn something from it, and more importantly, if you had a fun experience and you did something creative with the weekend, that's really what matters. I know that's really controversial to say, but come on, staying busy actually is important. Sitting in front of your computer on social media isn't good for anyone's mental health, even on a good day, but especially not now. There's nothing shameful in wanting to be productive, to make stuff or to speak your truth and share your stories through film. A 48 hour film blitz allows you to do exactly that without turning it into a lifelong procrastination, because after the 48 hours are up, it's over. You have to make choices that you might not otherwise make if you were given more time, and sometimes that's actually really healthy for the creative process.

All right, that's it. Let me know if you have any questions on anything we've covered so far. You can always email us at filmmakingactually(at)gmail(dot)com or comment or tweet or whatever. Send a pigeon. Be sure to like, subscribe, share. Tell your friends all that great stuff because the world needs art right now. And if this can help people keep making films during this crazy, crazy time we're currently living in. We are absolutely for it. Ok, that's it. Bye


You've been listening to filmmaking actually with Koura Linda, a Space Dream Productions podcast. Subscribe to us on any or all the podcast platforms, but we especially recommend our sponsor anchor if you like what you hear. Leave us five star ratings and positive reviews on iTunes and Stitcher. It helps more listeners like you discover the show, but the best thing you can do if you really like the show, please tell a friend. Want to leave a comment or ask a question? Email at filmmakingactually(at)gmail(dot)com. This is Spacey speaking and remember, I don't know how to end this episode, so I'm not. It's just going to go on forever and we'll see you next time.


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