Thursday, September 10, 2015



Haven't posted in a while, I know, but I've got a pretty great story to tell right now.

So the weekend of August 15 (Friday through Sunday) I participated in the Chicago 48 Hour Film Project! I joined a team of filmmakers from St. Louis to put together a film, and let me tell you it was one awesome experience.
I first heard about this from my friend Erika, who messaged me Wednesday of last week (talk about last minute!) asking what I was doing that weekend. I said I had no plans, and she invited me to join her with this 48 Hour Film Project. At the time, I had no idea what it was, and was pretty skeptical. She gave me some details and I googled it, and was still pretty skeptical, but I ran it by my parents and somehow got the okay to do it! I had this weird mix of emotions; I was excited because I love film and adventures and spontaneity, but at the same time I was scared because I had no idea what to expect and I'd be working with total strangers on a project that I knew little about.
Nonetheless, I went! I joined Erika (who wants to go into acting, and knew I had a passion for acting as well), Andrew and Adrian (who are going into filmmaking), and Sam (who has a passion for film) and we traveled about an hour away to meet the crew at a really nice hotel. The kickoff of the 48 hours was to start at 7pm Friday night, so we got there a couple hours early in order to meet everyone and get a feel for what was going to happen.

a bunch of clueless goons getting ready for one interesting weekend!
So basically here is what the 48 is: Filmmaking crews of all sizes in the area sign up to be a part of this project as a sort of competition and film festival. The teams have 48 hours to write, film, and edit a short film! What happens is at the kickoff of the 48 hours, the rules for the films are released; all of the films in the competition are assigned the same prop, character, and line of dialogue that must be included somewhere, and then each team is assigned a different genre (so there is a nice variety). Once that happens, the crews get to work coming up with a concept for a short film, write it, film it, edit it, and turn it in by 7pm on Sunday. It definitely seems like a daunting task (it was pretty stressful at times!), but overall it was very interesting and a lot of fun!
So it's Friday. We get to the hotel at around 5pm and knock on the door for room 413. At this point, I'm pretty nervous to meet a bunch of people and I have no idea what to expect. We get inside and are greeted by the director David, his wife (an actress) Emma, two crew members Shawn and Mike, and an actor Wolfgang. They were all older than we were (I wanna say 30s), and the hotel room was full of professional equipment! Most of it I had no idea what it was, and it all looked expensive. David also had 3 computer monitors and a computer he had built himself set up on a table for editing the film later. Everything looked very nice and extremely professional! At first I was really intimidated by everyone and pretty freaked out to be meeting a bunch of strangers, but I was surprised because throughout the project, everyone was very welcoming to us (a group of teenagers that they'd never met...I can't imagine how stressful that was for them! We're not professionals, and they didn't know what we could do!) and were very willing to teach us what they knew! Everyone was nothing but encouraging and trusting, which was a huge relief and what made the whole experience so grateful and informative! Seriously, I learned WAY more than I thought I would, and I'm extremely thankful for that!
Anyway. David immediately took the 5 of us and Wolfgang into room 419 to do some acting exercises to get to know our abilities and whatnot. We took turns reading from some random script, and throughout the exercise, David and Wolfgang gave us some really helpful film acting tips! I learned so much from them, like how to get into specific emotions, how to make it believable, and how to have a natural voice and whatnot. David said my voice was really good, and helped me work on subtle motions (they could tell I was primarily a stage actor because of my projection, and tendency to move my head a lot when I'm delivering a line...). We picked it up fairly quickly and I beliiiieve they liked some of what they saw in us.

They had some pretty legit looking props! And the nunos like to look dangerous with their fingers on the trigger...

Adrian, Andrew, me, Erika, and Sam, trying to get ready for what would be a great weekend!

Then the other crew members joined us in the room as David got a text from the two other actors, Shrini and James, and the camera guy Matt, saying what the requirements were for the film. The required prop was a plate, the character was Andrew/Annie Dundalk who had to be a musician, and the line of dialogue was "Don't touch me". Our team had been assigned the genre "Film de Femme", which was pretty lucky because it was pretty open-ended; it could be anything as long as it had strong female lead characters. Upon hearing this, the team immediately started bouncing ideas off of one another until everyone got there. David and Matt then went back to the other room to put together a story, and everyone else all went out to dinner. We went to Red Robin together, which was delicious, and it was especially nice because Emma covered the meal for everyone! She was extremely nice! Everyone was really friendly and a lot of fun to talk to. On the way back, we passed a Super Target, and Mike and Wolfgang started questioning it because they'd never seen a Super Target before! It was pretty amusing for me and Erika.
When we got back to the hotel, we met up with David and Matt who had a pretty solid concept and story down, and were about to write the script itself. As soon as we entered the room, David called me over, and he and Matt looked me up and down, and said "This could work." I was immediately confused and intrigued, and they said that I looked like I could play a really unassuming badass. This made me draw some conclusions that maybe I would play a strong female lead? I had originally thought Emma would because she was an older professional actress, however, she was 3 months pregnant and felt really nauseous all weekend, and requested a small role. David then looked at Erika and asked if she could play an emotional, sensitive character. Erika nodded, and David told her to cry. On the spot. And we were all amazed when she did! Erika started crying on command, which was really impressive! Everyone was blown away, and then we left the room so David and Matt could write the script.

yeah, I snapchatted the whole event.

As we were chilling in the other room, Emma was talking to us about some things she'd worked on, like being an extra in Chicago P.D. and in Captain America Civil War! She gave a lot of cool stories and great advice about the industry. We really learned a lot from her!
About 30 minutes later (not long at all! You could tell they had done stuff like this before!), David and Matt came into the room with a bunch of copies of the script, and handed them to each of the actors. They then insisted that we start rehearsing right away! In the script, all of the characters used our actual names (Except for Erika, who would play Annie Dundalk, the required character), so I found my name and discovered that I was to play an undercover badass! I was proud to represent strong female characters in our short film. The premise for the film was: Annie was a DJ, and one night while going out to her car, she gets abducted by a creepy guy. She then escapes and hires a mercenary (me) to take care of the guys who kidnapped her (you don't see this part though). I pretend to get kidnapped so that I can be around the guys, and am seen handcuffed and gagged in a hotel room. Wolfgang is holding me hostage there, then is joined by two other shifty guys, Shrini and James. Then James goes into the room with a knife, but I end up killing him, then taking Shrini's gun and shooting him and Wolfgang. At the end, you see me giving a case full of money to Annie. After reading the script, everyone was really excited to get started for the weekend!
David decided it'd be the best use of our time to start filming right away! Since it was late at night (like 1:30 a.m. I wanna say), they decided to film the night scene where Erika's character gets abducted in the beginning. Everyone involved in the scene then went outside to start filming, and Sam and I decided to stay in the hotel room and chill out while we could. I thought it'd be smart to get some sleep because there wouldn't be much time for sleep later, but SURPRISE as soon as we started to get situated, the fire alarm went off! It was obviously extremely loud, but Sam and I stood there clueless for a second, not sure what was going on. We then left the room (I forgot to grab shoes!) and saw that everyone from the hallway was leaving, so we followed. We met up with Adrian and Andrew down the hall, and we all went down the stairs and outside. Everyone was complaining and so confused! Once we all got outside, we met up with the rest of the crew, who was already getting set up for the scene they were supposed to film. They tried to film the scene as best as they could while ambulances and firetrucks arrived and the fire alarm went off in the background. Sam and I wanted to go back inside and just chill, but we did get to end up watching the scene be filmed, which was pretty cool. One major downside to the fire alarm was the fact that all of the other hotel guests were outside too, so many of them came over to us and asked what was going on and disrupted the filming. Like come on people, we only have 48 hours for this!

Watching a scene be filmed was a really cool process! A lot went into it!
Nonetheless, the fire alarm stopped after a while and they did get the scene filmed and we were let back into the building. The filming didn't end till about 3:30 am, and we had to be ready by 8am the next morning, so as you can imagine, we got very little sleep!
The next morning was go, go, go. We got up, rushed through a quick breakfast, and got straight to work.
Andrew was super excited to be given the job of handling the clapboard!
David wanted to first film the ending of the movie, which he envisioned as taking place at a table outside the hotel. We got out there with all of the equipment and set everything up in the perfect place, and as I was sitting at the table to allow Matt to get focused on some angles before we started shooting, we suddenly hear David yell "FUCK!" and it immediately began POURING rain! It wasn't even gradual; it all came down at once! Everyone had to scramble to grab all of the equipment and take it inside so it didn't get wet. It was pretty scary, and everyone was really frantic. We were also all complaining, like yesterday it was a fire alarm, today it's rain, what's next!? David was at a loss and really pissed off. We all got back inside and left the equipment in the hotel room to dry, and everyone changed out of their wet clothes. Ultimately we decided to put that scene off till later, and film a different scene.
We went straight into filming the rest of the film in order, and that's where my day of laying handcuffed and gagged in a hotel bed began! Basically, I spent the whole morning laying there for my scenes with Wolfgang playing this creepy guy. It was really interesting to experience a professional filming with different angles and takes and such! It was also pretty intimidating to be working with professionals, but I like to think I handled it well and everyone was being really supportive! Seriously, not one person was snotty or mean or unwilling to teach me what I needed to know! I learned so much from everyone and had a lot of fun.
Then it was break time for lunch, and while Shawn went out to get lunch for everyone from Potbelly and Target, he had taken the handcuff keys with him unintentionally! So guess who was stuck in handcuffs for an hour?? Mike tried to unlock them with other tools, but to no avail. Sigh.

Pretty uncomfortable, but we had to admit it was pretty funny
Eventually Shawn got back and let me out of the handcuffs, and to make up for it he let me have a whole brownie cookie from Potbelly (score!). We enjoyed our sandwiches and Mexican coke for a bit, then got straight back into filming. Let me tell you, it was a long day of filming.

Here's the lovely bed I sat in all day with the handcuffs and the rag that was used to gag me....

it was a long and interesting day!
We were given small breaks while the director and crew were discussing stuff and downloading footage and such, and that was really nice because everyone was exhausted.

Then came the interesting part: the shooting scene! I had to learn how to shoot a gun, or at least look like I was shooting a gun, so Shawn gave me some pointers on how to hold the gun and make it look like I was a realistic, trained professional. He said that given the fact that we had 48 hours to totally do this, I was picking up on things rather well. Since we were losing daylight and the crew wanted to keep consistent (and we only had this day to film...), we had to move quickly. I was told I had to be coated head to toe in blood because I kill a guy with a knife, and I was immediately on board! David said my shirt would be cut up and ruined, and I was like whatever! Whatever had to happen, I was ready! So Shawn took my shirt and took his pocketknife to it and tore it up pretty badly. Next was the fun part! I stood in the shower while Shawn and David splattered fake blood all over me! They put blood all over my hands and legs and everything! They ended up getting blood all over the bathroom (including the ceiling), but we decided to clean it up later for the sake of time.

I felt like such a badass.
Everyone was amazed by how cool I looked! We then shot the scene where I step out of the room, stab Shrini in the eye, then shoot him and Wolfgang. We did the same thing over and over to get enough takes, which was pretty fun actually. I felt like I commanded the entire set! Everyone said I was doing such a good job, and Shawn commended me for taking orders really well and acting so well! I was really pleased to hear all of these encouraging words from everyone! I felt like I was actually contributing and that I was welcome among the pros!

here we are watching some footage from Matt's camera
Once we finally got that scene filmed, everyone went to change. I had to take a shower to get all of the blood off of myself (obviously) and I tried to clean the bathroom a bit (couldn't reach the ceiling though...). When I was clean, we went downstairs and filmed the last scene we had left to film, which was the one we tried to film outside earlier. To avoid taking any more chances with the weather, we filmed inside at a table in the hotel. It was pretty difficult to work around people talking in the lobby, but we eventually did it with enough takes and that was a wrap! Filming wrapped at around 10pm on Saturday.

That's a wrap!
Everyone then went upstairs, and David and Matt went straight to work downloading the footage and starting to edit. Someone had gotten a pizza, but I thought it was pretty gross so I didn't eat much. Then the five of us chilled in the hotel room (the one we had actually filmed the majority of the movie in) and just hung out, despite the fact that we were all exhausted.

I've got some interesting friends this is true.

At around 1am, Matt came into the room to talk to us. He was taking a break and decided to just chill with us for a bit. He repeatedly encouraged us and praised our talents! He gave us his life story and a lot of great advice about life and film and how hard it is to follow your dreams. We really learned a lot from him; he was very real with us. I feel really grateful for getting the opportunity to hear this advice from someone who's living it right now. 
We went to sleep at about 1am (Erika and I slept on the couch, and the next morning we discovered that the couch folded out into a Why didn't we notice sooner...), and we cleaned up and left the next morning. 

Overall, it was a very interesting, spontaneous, informational, and really really fun weekend! I hope someday I'll be able to do a 48 again, cuz now I have experience! I can't stress enough how thankful I am for Erika leading us to this opportunity, and how grateful I am that everyone was so supportive and willing to welcome us and teach us everything they knew! This weekend was absolutely incredible and I will never forget it!
Sorry about such a long post, but I had to share the details of this great experience!

With love,

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