Sunday, October 2, 2011

Make a movie. Make some chinas. Make it across town in 11 minutes


Kurt guns the Aston Martin, and they fly through their fifth consecutive red robot. Just the ones on Empire left now and they’ll be on the highway. Then they’ll be able to open it up proper.

Francis is desperately burning a copy on his laptop. Just in case. But the USB is in the bag, ready for the handover.

Five minutes till deadline.

The brainstorming went relatively well, largely because Kurt insisted his idea was the best. And he was paying for the movie, so we went with that.

It helped that it was as good an idea as any of us were likely to come up with.
It was about a dude who steals someone’s scratchcard and then becomes a millionaire, but karma fucks him over and he ends up with no friends.

The way Kurt tells it, the story should have six locations and three parallel timelines, plus a Jacuzzi scene.

Kurt runs an IT company and has never made a movie in his life, so the idea needs a little tweaking. Luckily there are twenty people on this project, and lots of them look like they know what they’re doing.

It’s Friday evening on the 48 Hour Film project. And we need to get something together fast. I pull out my laptop and type something.

Francis the director points out that moving locations will add several hours to the project and pretty much torpedo our chances of finishing a flick in two days.

So we write it so it all happens in the lounge.
And scratchcards no longer exist, so we make it about a lotto ticket.

An oke steals his mate’s lottery ticket but the maid sees him do it and she blackmails him.

Actually that’s the whole story, in one sentence. But I type it into a lengthy five pages, so it looks official. It’s gotta be four minutes long after all.

We scratch together some kind of script and agree to reconvene for the shooting at 5am next morning.

When we do so, we spend a couple hours queuing to read the script off the screen of the lappie, because we have no way of printing out the, er, “screenplay”.

Most people’s read-throughs end with the kind of verbal shrug you give after hearing that Argentina beat Wales at rugby. “Hm.”

The director can smell shit before he reads it, and during the weekend maintains a proud record of not reading the script once.

At that point, the people who know what they’re doing take over, and myself and a cute Greek girl named Marianthe go shopping for props.

They’re for the big party scene. The rich-dude character throws himself a big 40th and no one comes, except his old mate who he schnaaied back in the day.

Marianthe and I pick up some cheesy sequinned polystyrene wall hangings, some streamers and a gold plastic hat. They look so crap, I’m embarrassed to hand them over to the Anel, props lady. But somehow she makes the lounge look like an upscale millionaire’s soiree, with R189’s worth of streamers and some balloons.

Meanwhile the people who know what they’re doing, do what they do – including three people who act the hell out of our shocker of a script and the director, who is also cameraman and announces “roll sound… camera speed… action” while shooting everything from several angles and generally working himself to a standstill.

At this point, people start hitting the exhaustion wall. Roxy the AD and co-producer shows the first signs of sense-of-humour failure somewhere between takes 12 and 13 of the big drinking scene. “I’m a bit tired,” she understates in a blank deadpan, while gradually turning the colour of a Chuckles packet.

By now, the first tapes have reached the editing team – a mellow couple called Sean and Tanya, but they’re soon back. Apparently the sound hasn’t been synched and the two of them are now set for an ludicrous editing process to have any chance of making tomorrow night’s 7.30pm deadline for hand-in.

Tanya reckons “Lucky” would be a good title, and she should know. She’s looked at every scene of this sucker twenty times.

I cruise into their home-editing suite just before lunch on Sunday to find our editors frazzled to the point of nonsensicalness, but loving every minute of it.

As the afternoon progresses, we sit downstairs in their lounge skulling Pepsis. Every hour or so someone ventures upstairs into the edit suite to take the temperature. In the course of the day, I daresay it drops a couple of degrees. Whether we’re gonna get this fucker done is now seriously touch and go.

By 5pm, commenting in any way is an emotional minefield, as Tanya and Sean have now invested a solid thirty hours of their lives in it, and are poised on an emotional knife edge.

Our lofty editing ambitions have been trimmed to a straightforward “start–flashback–end” concept that is unlikely to challenge audiences’ conceptual faculties.

That is, if anyone gets to see it. At 6pm, with 90 minutes till submission time, no one has actually watched the movie right through. We do have a fair idea what it’s gonna look like, though. Thanks to the acting abilities of Jason and Tom, our male leads, and the dedication of the team, we may have conspired to create a fairly entertaining movie.

But first, rendering! From where I’m sitting, rendering seems to be the process whereby the grades, effects and transitions are generated. But of course, I know nothing. I’m just standing there, wired to the tip of my brain stem on Pepsi Max, watching a dialog box.

By this point, we’re all in the edit suite, staring at the progress bar, as the rendering process inches toward completion. “It’s coming down,” remarks Greg the sound guy. “29 minutes… It should be done at 7.03pm.”

We’re in Greymont. Hand-in is at 7.30pm. At Sandown High. Google Maps says that’s 36 minutes away. There no way we’ll make it.


Except, we have an ace up the collective sleeve of The Chancers. (I should’ve mentioned that. Our group is called The Chancers.)

This is our ace: Kurt drives an Aston Martin.
It’s revving out in the street as the status bar completes its final update. We plot a route. Some way where there aren’t any road humps. And some freeway. I’m calling M1.

It’s 7.02 when the render update finishes. Another 90 seconds are spent saving it to USB. Then the memory stick is torn from the port, dropped on the floor, lost for a couple of seconds, retrieved, handed to Greg, rushed out to the Aston and screechingly taken on its way.

It is 7.15pm.

We Chancers sit huddled in the lounge watching the enormous gothic wall clock count down the too-few minutes to deadline. And we wait for the phone call from Sandown.

“They made it!”

Sean gets the call. Kurt and Francis have made it from beyond deepest Northcliff to the heart of Sandton in 13 minutes.


Sean starts setting up the DVD player. Let’s see if this movie’s any good.

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