|Team members of Perhaps Nightshade film a scene in Seoul using DSLR cameras. (Emma Kalka/The Korea Herald)
What do you get when you put writers, producers, directors and actors — some Korean, some foreign, and most strangers — together for one weekend of little to no sleep?
This year the 48 Hour Film Project returned to Seoul to see what amateur and small-time filmmakers could bring to the screen. And with the ultimate goal of being featured in the short film category at Cannes Film Festival in 2013, all were driven to do their best.
For some, like expat group Perhaps Nightshade, made up of English teachers, it meant starting off as complete strangers but ending as a group that hopes to work together again.
For the group Mintcheerios, made up of Koreans and foreigners, it meant “killing babies,” to quote a famous director, to get a beautiful child of a film.
But for all groups, it meant an intense weekend of little sleep, sometimes nothing more than 20-minute naps here and there, such as with Korean group h Production.
And still others worked long and hard only to get disqualified from the competition for being late, as with another expat group thehour25.
But everyone started out the same. On Friday, Oct. 19, each group showed up at Gasan Digital Complex at 6 p.m. to draw a genre.
The list varied — from thriller to silent film, to musical or mockumentary. Then, at 7 p.m., the event producers, Joseph Kim and Young Lee, announced the three required items — an office worker named Ji-young/Jin-young Choi, a light bulb, and the line, “No one can ever persuade me to give up!”
From then, the mayhem truly began as each group raced off to begin writing, filming and editing a 7-minute film in 48 hours.
Brothers Bae Se-young and Se-woong of h Production said they had their whole team on Google Chat for the kick-off.
By midnight, they had a script and were already heading out to their first location.
Their second location took them from Seoul to Incheon, where they knew someone with a factory. Setting up the lighting alone took three hours for the scene.
The group had a close call with their film, a thriller based off Franz Kafka’s “Metamorphosis.” As Se-young was driving to the drop-off on Sunday, his team decided to change a part.
They edited while he drove, and then he frantically tried to find a computer to download the finished project to a flash drive for the 7:30 p.m. deadline.
“I turned it in at 7:27 p.m. It was really close.”
Other groups were not as lucky.
“I thought we had plenty of time until I looked at the clock and we had one hour left and the film hadn’t been rendered,” said thehour25 team leader Janet Kim.
She said they rendered the film in a cab, and prayed that they would make it on time.
“We knew the rules and we were one minute late, which means we’re unable to compete,” Kim said. “It was a huge disappointment. I really wanted to compete, but they are still going to play it on the screen.”
The group drew silent film, a genre that Kim said she originally didn’t want. However, the group became excited as they built up a story around an office worker who wished to be an artist.
“I worked with my friends, which in some situations is not the best thing, but I got lucky,” she said. “Yes, we fought and yelled, but at the end of the day we’re still friends.”
It was the complete opposite for Perhaps Nightshade, led by Chris Gilmore. The team of 10 started out as strangers sitting around in a living room tossing around ideas. They settled on a mockumentary called “Kimchi, Coffee, Love” that detailed the relationship between a Korean woman and a foreign man who turns orange for unexplained reasons.
“Everything went well,” Gilmore said. “I met new people, we hung out. It’s crazy when you’re spending the night in some stranger’s living room.”
However, despite the team working well together, disaster struck when they went to fix a small problem with the sound.
“We watched it and thought, ‘Well, it is what it is.’ We just wanted to get it in on time,” he said. “I went to restart the program and it deleted half the movie.”
With just hours before the drop-off, the team faced a dilemma. Turn in a halffinished movie eligible for the competition, or finish it for the secondary drop-off for just the screening on Nov. 1-3. After a call to the program organizers, they decided to forfeit the competition.
“It was a lot better because we had more time,” he said. “But I was upset.”
For team Mintcheerios, led by Alex Paik and Gerald Lee, the little mix-ups along the way helped. Because of complications, the team had to make do without music and had some editing complications due to software issues.
“It’s weird with these 48-hour things. A lot of things don’t go to plan. And a lot of things that didn’t go to plan made it better.”
Their drama about an unlikely connection between an office worker and a homeless man was filmed entirely in Korean with a Korean cast, which Park called a challenge, especially in his sleep-deprived state. But he said overall, the project is a great thing for Seoul. “What I realized, what I think is a great thing about it, it gets people to get up and move … And you can’t pay the actors, so you know everyone there is doing it for the spirit of making film,” he said. “Honestly, I really hope the Seoul event gets bigger.”
That might be the case. According to the organizers, this year’s event was much bigger than the last run in 2010. A total of 59 teams registered, three times as many as in 2010.
They said the biggest difference from 2010 was early planning and more sponsors, such as Megabox, 3M, Sony and the Korean Film Council.
This year will see more than 50,000 filmmakers around the world competing with almost 4,000 films in 420 cities for the 48 Hour Film Project. All are hoping for the grand prize of $5,000 and making the Short Film Corner at Cannes in 2013.
But for teams in Seoul, there were 22 citylevel prizes with a 5 million won cash prize from Megabox and Movie Magic Screenwriter Software 6 for the top award. “Turn Off” by Son Da-gyeom was the biggest winner, claiming titles for best of city, best writing, best directing and best score.
“Kimchi, Coffee, Love” by Perhaps Nightshade won one of five audience awards.
By Emma Kalka (firstname.lastname@example.org)