Friday, 7pm This weekend, my son and his friends, all age fourteen, are participating in the Providence 48-hour film project. The challenge: make a complete 5 to 7-minute film in just 48 hours. They've done this before, through school, with a group of young, cool teachers writing the script. This time the kids are on their own. They've named their film company Release the Kraken.
8 pm Two members of the team return with the parameters they picked up from the project organizers in Providence. (These two had told everyone pickup would be at 8, so they've been brainstorming by themselves for 45 minutes. Everyone else is indignant that they didn't call at once when they knew the parameters. ) The team's assigned genre, romance, is perfect for a group of almost ninth graders. Their assigned character is Albert or Alice the advice columnist. Required prop: a car part. The required line: "We need to get going."
10:40 pm Pie break. Six kids (five boys, one girl) have been brainstorming plot lines for almost three hours.
Plot suggestions have included:
- a romance between two spark plugs;
- a guy writing for romantic advice because he's in love with his car;
- a guy impersonating a female advice columnist (and a lot of guys who write for advice fall in love with "her")
They've settled on a dweeby guy named Ogden taking bad (tongue-in-cheek) romantic advice and having it all turn out well in the end anyway. Scenes involve anaphylaxis and an interrupted robbery. The car part is a tire swing.
At this point they've planned the sequence of scenes. Owen sits at the keyboard with headphones on composing the score. The others are splitting into teams to work on the script of individual scenes.
11:30 pm Four of the kids are typing on their laptops on a shared google doc. Damian is now composing while Owen bounces around. Much concern: is the script too short? Too cheesy? Their current plan is to finish the script and go to sleep by 2 am.
12:30 am They have finished a first draft, and now they're mostly arguing. Owen took over Damian's song and "fixed" it. They've done the casting, including for friends who will arrive in the morning, and Cally is drafting a costume list. I drive the director, Ryan, home to sleep in his own bed. Everybody else plans to camp out at our house. As I go to bed, a now-calmer group sits around refining the script.
5:30 am Strangely, the kids have waked up to go for a "nature walk." They went to bed at 3:30.
8:00 am The director arrives. Damian makes pancakes for his friends. Then, as Albert the Tongue-in-Cheek Romantic Advice columnist, he types on an actual typewriter a parent brought over for a prop.
Noon Two are here working on music. The others are out scouting locations: playground and restaurant. They've already filmed and uploaded most of the scenes they could do at home.
3 pm Back out with picnic gear to film the restaurant scene at outdoor tables of a small, currently closed, restaurant. When the hero falls down in (simulated) anaphylaxis, the kids' cries of "Call 911!" attract attention.
5 pm The kids decide the tire swing in the park was not the right kind. They rig a tire swinging from a chain in the back yard, but the light is wrong for filming. Filming ends for the day. Editing and composing continue.
6 pm The leading lady, Cally, sprains her ankle jumping on the trampoline. Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation.
7 pm Our older kids, their significant others, and a guest also come for dinner. Leo cooks a 4-course Asian meal for 19. The male lead, Andrew, who is allergic to nuts, points out a nut in a dish I assured him was safe. I give him Benadryl. Life does not imitate art. No anaphylaxis ensues.
8:30 pm I clean up after dinner for 19.
9:30 pm to midnight Some people go home for the night or go upstairs to sleep for a few hours. Three kids compete to write the final song the leading man sings to his love, while the director tells them there won't be room for a final song.
The four boys working at the computer now averaged 5 hours of sleep, much better than Friday night. Status update: two scenes need to be re-shot. No decision has been made about music for the final scene and credits. Otherwise, editing is coming along well.
7:30 am Decision: the movie will be called OGDEN after the main character.
8 am Cally is on crutches. There will be no re-make of the tire swing scene.
8:50 am Endless re-takes of a 15-second scene. Can Tynan stop mumbling?
11 am Will the final scene be a song or Ogden reading a poem with a musical background? Much discussion. The girls work on the love poem; the boys work on the song.
12:40 pm Decision: The final poem has become a heartfelt speech with music in the background.
Much of the last hour has been spent perfecting a scream.
2 pm Mostly editing now. Title and credits are ready. Some of the actors have headed for home. I'm recruiting others to be in a small movie demonstrating activities for my novel THE ICE CASTLE.
The kids are in the home stretch, splicing in sound effects. The girls have wandered off. One last, desperate argument: poison or anaphylaxis? The film is currently 6 minutes, 30 seconds long.
3:50 Damian brings in Cally as backup. She convinces the editing team: It's anaphylaxis.
4:30 Really just clean-up details left now -- making sure everybody has signed releases, adding or subtracting a second here or there, and fitting chord progressions to the cuts in the video stream. Damian on the music track says, "I am so close."
5:06 pm All the gathered kids and parents finally get to crowd around and see a run-through of the film. People laughed at the right parts, and the music worked really well. Now there's about half an hour for final tweaks and exporting the entire movie.
5:15 Consternation. Is the time limit7 minutes with credits or without credits? Can they run the credits fast enough to fit within 7 minutes? Quick check of the rules online. Phew. The credits aren't counted toward the 7 minutes.
5:53 Panic. The formatted film is suddenly square and squished instead of being in a 4 to 3 ratio. Quick, make another copy.
6:12 The car has left! 78 minutes to get the film to Providence.
7:18 pm They made it! OGDEN is in.