April 18, 2003 Features & Images » Feature Story

72 hours: The Quest for the Golden Reel 

The planning, the effort and the mayhem that go into competing in the Filmmaker Showdown

Seventy-two hours is a long time. If you’re giving birth. Quitting smoking. Waiting for the bombing campaign to end. In 72 hours, three generations of dragonfly live and die, a glacier makes its patient retreat, you shed 200 head hairs, our little blue planet twirls on its axis three times. And 36 teams of film-makers consummate, gestate and create a 4.5 minute short film.

Or not.

9:30 Friday 11 April 2003 Second Cup [TIME plus 73.5 hours] : 11 th hour negotiations

The executive team assembles, collars high against the hangers-on and the wannabes. The financial backing is secured – three digital mini-dv cameras, a PC with Primia 6.25 and Adobe After Effects, and enough money to sustain three film-makers in sufficient coffee, beer, dope and gas-station food for the next 72 hours.

You nurse bowls of caffeine, visions of greatness, a cunning plan. Forge a couple of signatures on an entry form. You’ve been here before. You’re a veteran of the 72 hours Film-maker Showdown. A former finalist. This time, you’re shooting to win.

10:00 Briefing Tent [TIME plus 73 hours] : Mission Command

Twenty-eight representatives of the 36 teams entered show up for the briefing. Your mission is to shoot, edit and produce a film within the next 72 hours. Your film must be 4.5 minutes long, including credits. You must stay within a 100km radius of Whistler. You endure the necessary paperwork, waiver signing, the business end of things. The clock starts at precisely 11 a.m. The teams disperse, scatter. Last year’s winners are off and running, like a team of adventure racers. You watch them go. Think about the tortoise.

12:30 Merlin’s [TIME plus 70.5 hours] : Storyboard Session and Casting Call

Units alcohol consumed: nil.

Minutes footage shot: nil.

Budget for talent: nil.

Prospect of winning an Oscar, Genie, Cannes Audience Selection Award: nil.

Prospect of being a finalist in the 72 hour Filmmaker Showdown (provided you complete a short): 1:6

You round-table ideas with your executive team. As usual, the brainstorming keeps circling back to porn, a cheap way to keep an audience entertained. Your aspirations are more noble. You want to meet commonly accepted Broadcast Guidelines, not just titillate. The porn story-line is shot down. You mock up a storyboard – someone has some paper, so you don’t have to use the napkin you’d started making notes on.

You walk the lot, scout shooting locations. Do your casting call, which involves seducing some mates with tales of glory and hard-drinking, randomly kidnap people off the street to be extras.

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