44 wins 24/7
The 2005 24/7 Youth Film Festival in Sydney's Northern Beaches showcased talents and skills beyond the years of participants. The 24/7 concept is simple: crews get clues and motifs and 24 hours to plan, script, shoot and edit a short film based on their interpretation.
The haunting Highway 44 took out the cinematography gong. Xander Collier the cinematographer and driving force behind the best film at this year’s festival was stoked to take out the prize he aimed to win. Xander spoke to Miller’s marketing manager, Heidi Tobin about the effort that goes into making a winning film.
Heidi: Considering the time frame of 24 hours, did your production go to plan?
Xander: Yes and no. When I entered the competition last year (He Came, He Saw) it made me realize exactly what had to be done this year if I were to enter it again, which was having the script finalised, storyboards and shot lists completed as well as a reccie done for all the locations (which was done a few days before).
Again this year I had a little trouble with actor availability losing 2 actors the day before I shot, leaving me with only the lead actor (Arrin Gardiner) locked in. That and the weather turned on us, it was cold and pouring with rain - however the wetdown added to the films look I was trying to convey - so it worked out well.
The night started at 9pm with actors arriving to our location. 1hr was dedicated to make up and a talk through with the all the actors. I started shooting at roughly 10.30pm in Mona Vale. Then at midnight travelled to Oxford Falls for all ext. scenes and back to Mona Vale for int. car scenes so I could use lighting (this scene was eventually cut from the film due to time restraints). Pushing onto 3am the actors were wrapped. After they left I wanted to go back to the Parkway to get other shots using different styles and techniques with the camera, finishing shooting at about 5.30am. Then back home to capture all media shot from the night. After all the media was captured I had to go back to Mona Vale to help with another film 'Soccer Dad' for 3hrs, then back home at 12pm to have a solid 7hr edit - the product... Highway44.
Heidi: You shot "Highway 44" at night using only the available light – was this the most challenging aspect of making your film?
Xander: A few nights before the shoot I wanted to go out and look at possible locations to shoot the movie, so Andrew Cameron (Assoc. Producer/PM) and I went out scouting for dark highway locations. I wanted to do this mainly not only to find a location to shoot at but to see the available light that I had to work with. After realising that filming most of the scenes on the Parkway was near impossible due to the unavailable light, roughly 6 locations later we found Oxford Falls. Not only did it have all the elements I was looking for shooting but it also had 2 street lights either side of the water flowing through the street which to an extent came in handy not only for shooting but for the crew as well. The majority of the lighting I did using two car headlights. Another car was always positioned off to the side for a key light and the character car as a backlight.
The scene in the car (which ended up being cut I was using lights to try and re create street lights passing and for inside the car small 40w lights covered with a sheet for diffusion. So I guess the answer is yes - it was challenging shooting without lights, I guess I was lucky that my camera works well in low light conditions.
Heidi: The film really caught the audiences attention at the finalist screening, do you think you achieved this through images, sound, story plot or a mix of these elements to produce a winning film?
Xander: It was funny, when my film came on everyone seemed to go quiet and I really wondered what everyone was thinking while watching. I think it was a mix of everything though. People react to all sorts of different elements but in this case I think that the mix of a strong plot that was visually appetizing and a haunting score really grabbed people’s attention and made an impact, which is what I was hoping for. I didn't want to over complicate the story, sound design or images. The last thing I wanted to do is loose the audience - less is more.
Heidi: You used originally composed music, was that something prepared earlier or made within the 24 hour period of the competition?
Xander: It was prepared earlier - way earlier, something like that takes time and for 24/7 that’s not really a luxury that you get. It’s a mixture of loops, sound FX and samples looped and looped. I love scores; they add so much that’s not there visually on screen. They can convey so many themes - fear, suspense, anger, love etc. its 50% of the film. It’s heavily influenced by Cliff Martinez & Elliot Goldenthal - my favourite composers.
Heidi: What’s the hardest thing about competing in 24/7?
Xander: Just having limited time to basically do EVERYTHING. The pre production - getting everything ready for the shoot night/day, production - actually shooting the film in a limited time with possibly all the elements against you and the need to know everything that needs to be done during that time, and post production - editing your baby in a limited time frame which would usually take the longest. But having said that that’s also what makes it so fun as well, you get to have something on paper transform into reality in a 24hr period, and to see that happen - is a really strong feeling of great achievement.
Heidi: For others who may want to get involved in the 24/7 festival next year, would you have any hints or tips that would help them in their quest to make short films in a limited time frame?
Xander: Preparation!! You can never have enough. You have to know exactly what you want and have the vision strong in your mind. Be prepared to answer any questions that someone may ask weather it is about story, characters, the edit etc. Make sure you have a script written, storyboards also help a great deal, organize your actors before the shoot day and have a rough idea on where you’re going to shoot on the day/night. What’s really important is to know your characters - to be able to know how they'd react to a situation, their attitude, why there like the way they are. Know them as well as you know yourself.
Heidi: Will you be entering the 24/7 festival next year?
Xander: Like I said to people this year, if I’m available and have not committed to working on a shoot already and have a great idea then absolutely! Filmmaking is my hobby, passion and life so... yes, I’d love to!
Heidi: What's happening next for Dragonfly Productions?
Xander: Dragonfly Productions is my business I've had for the last 3yrs and I do all sorts of production. Lately Dragonfly Productions have been involved in Directing, Assist. Directing, Editing and Camera Operating for TV Production, Live events, behind the scenes, Shorts and Features. In the year ahead more features are on the cards - in the area of assistant directing and editing, and hopefully in the future the business will grow and include more crew.
Here's a list of all the winners at 2005 24/7 Youth Film festival – If you want to find out more information on how to get involved please contact Pittwater or Manly Councils
THE WINNERS OF THE 2005 24/7 YOUTH FILM FESTIVAL
Avid Australia BEST FILM – “Highway 44”
The Getting Creative PEOPLES CHOICE AWARD – “Making Tornados”
BEST UNDER 18 FILM – “The Unknown”
The Miller Prize for BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – “Highway 44”
Videocraft Sydney BEST COMEDY – “Soccer Dad”
BEST ACTOR – David Halgren
BEST ACTRESS – Laura McAliese
BEST ACTION FILM – “The Unknown”
BEST SCRIPT – “The Downfall of Donnie Douvalakii”
BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC COMPOSITION – “Highway 44”
BEST USE OF AN ITEM – “Terrorist Song”