Ever tried to make a movie from scratch in 48 hours?
This past weekend – on a total whim – I had the chance to participate in the 48 Hour Film Project.
The global competition asks competitors to conceptualize, write, shoot, edit and score a 6.5-minute film over the course of a weekend – from 7pm on Friday to the firm deadline of 7pm on Sunday.
Yes, it sounds crazy. And no, none of the filmmakers and editors got any sleep.
Whether you’re an actor or a CEO, I learned a few things from the process that are applicable to pretty much anyone.
Being a “Yes Person” usually works out for you.
Bright and early on Saturday, I woke up to a text asking if I wanted to participate in the challenge. Despite a never-ending to-do list and plans with a friend (not to mention, being a little rusty in the film acting department), after a brief internal debate, I decided to throw myself together and go ahead with it. And it was great. I got to work that right side of my brain on overdrive, enjoy the countryside and meet new creative people. What I’ve learned through people I’ve met or interviewed and my own choices, is that those who say yes to foreign experiences tend to be among that lucky set that lives with fewer regrets. As for that to-do list, that’s another story (ugh).
We tend to overthink things and it affects our productivity.
When you have such a tight deadline, you have no choice but to work quickly and effectively. In our case, there was no time to overthink decisions about the technicalities of dialogue or camera angles. You just go ahead and do it. I can remember my early days as a writer; I would literally lament over every single word and sentence to the point it would take me a whole day to produce one piece. Then came a time when I decided to trust my skill and my instincts and keep typing away once my fingers hit the keyboard. No stopping. No overthinking. Now, I can write up to 4 or 5 a day.
Your instincts are your most powerful tool.
Not overthinking things, as I’ve learned, means trusting your instincts. Often your initial ideas turn out to be the best you have. For example, some of the film involved improvisation, which is highly instinctual as opposed to overly technical. Of course, a tight timeline meant a maximum of two takes per scene, so trusting your instincts – both before and after the scene – was essential. It’s ok to acknowledge when something feels forced or not right – whether that means a major career decision or the way a line rolls off your tongue.
It’s okay to change the plan.
Whether you completely change the direction of a client campaign an hour before a presentation or, in our case, change a key element of the plot right before shooting, sometimes you need to shift gears and go with it. In creative processes, ideas are meant to be built and expanded upon. The final idea is the product of an accumulation of ideas from a variety of people with an assortment of strengths and visions. And that’s what makes good films and good advertising campaigns so thought-provoking and colourful.
You don’t realize how much adrenaline you have until you really need it.
Tight deadlines and pressure usually induce an energy and adrenaline that is the only thing that propels you through. Some people claim to physically be unable to function without eight hours of sleep and a morning coffee, but if they had to, they could. You’d be surprised at how much you can get done when you make the most of every second of the day – no social media, limited text messages, minimal sleep and hurried meals. While it’s undoubtedly unhealthy to live in a perpetual state of stress, being extra efficient with your time really highlights how much you can waste in a day.
There is no point in getting worked up.
When you’re working under such pressure, things are bound to go wrong. Even if the pressure was absent, things are bound to go wrong. At one point, we thought our drone was broken beyond repair thanks to a dwindling battery and an unfortunate collision with a tree. And since we really needed the drone shot, you could say it was a minor crisis. And yes, it was inevitably stressful. But it would have been a lot more stressful if anyone had gotten all anxious and freaked out about it. Such is the case in any life situation.
In the end, we completed the project and submitted it before the 7pm deadline. And damn, did it feel good.