cinema  full journal 
the theory of you at 35

When you're 25 years old, you have a secret (or not so secret) theory of what you might become, and where, and how. It's a naive theory, no doubt, but it has all the seductive power of the self-made myth. Your suspicions about yourself brim over, begging to be confirmed--and you have no evidence that they won't be confirmed. All you've got is a long swath of time and desire to imagine and seek out opportunities to be tested.

When you're 35 years old, things have changed. You've already tabled most of your spare time as a bargaining chip to try to negotiate your way into a serious relationship as well as something resembling a career. And it was worth it. Because you just aren't so interested anymore in spending much time thinking about the Theory of You. You tell yourself that you can't afford to navel-gaze, but that's not it. The hypothesis itself has changed. It's been falsified, at least in part, by your relentlessly unhypothetical life. And you don't necessarily feel all that good about it.

Well you should, because a 25-year-old's idea of who they will be is boldly, enthusiastically wrong. They will fire themselves off with great speed and intensity and it will all look very cool, but they won't have a clue what they're aiming at. Collateral damage abounds in those years, and friendly fire is a real problem. But you've been through this hail of random bullets and you're still standing. And in the future, you will choose your targets more carefully.

But what if there were an opportunity for you to have it both ways? To combine the benefits of experience with the urgency of innocence? I think there might just be such an opportunity in the 48-hour Toronto Film Challenge, and I invite you to join the 'die hard' team of creatives we're assembling for the attempt if you're still interested after reading how and why we're doing it.

The challenge is to make a film, from pre-production to post, in two days. At 7pm on a Friday you begin with cast, crew, equipment, and not a lick of dialogue. At 7pm on the following Sunday you must turn in a finished film. There will be no rough cut. There will be no reshoots. No weather delays. No lighting, costume, or prop delays. No script meetings (because in our case there will be no script). Walk in with yourself. Walk away with the actual film. Three days later, you're watching it in a public theatre.

It's an idea that has taken off in other cities around North America and has now come to Toronto. There has already been a 24-hour Challenge in April; the one we'll be competing in is the 48-hour Challenge in June. I won't go into a lot of background about the rules, because you can read them all here. The local organiser is a guy named J. Michael Dawson, whose L.I.F.T. bio page can be seen here.

I attended the 24-hour Film Challenge screenings with some friends. Most of the entries were failed experiments, which is what filmmaking is all about. What's interesting is the way they failed, by trying to hit all of the bases of making a film at about 10%, resulting in an overall 10% solution. It feels like you are being very ambitious but actually it results in sharp drop in expectations of everyone involved, and almost guarantees failure because as I've noted elsewhere, you just can't get away with a 10% solution when it comes to performance. But what would you have at the end of 48 hours if you decided to turn up the dial on performance to 80% or more, and just didn't really sweat the rest?

Sounds like a dodgy idea. Isn't the other stuff also important? I have learned as a writer that far from being thwarted by self-imposed limitations, art will often thrive on them. A carefully chosen omission can free what remains to occupy the canvas fully. And the careful omission that I propose to make is of the act of omission itself—editing. The ability to choose what you will omit from your film is very expensive in terms of time; doing it right could easily consume half of our precious 48. Rather than compromise the story for the sake of being able to mess around with it afterwards, I think the cagier option would be to just relinquish that control.

No editing. Shoot the whole thing in a single handheld take. Treat the camera as one of the actors. Don't plan the camera movements and rest points; instead, rehearse them. And rehearse them. And rehearse them. Until the best blocking for camera reveals itself. The beauty of it is that if we dispense with the final cut, we can also discard all of the usual prep time for lighting, costuming, and sound that gives filmmaking its reputation as an exercise in 'hurry up and wait'. I'll explain why in one of a series of further posts I am planning about the challenge. To keep up on the latest developments please bookmark my main log page.

For now, I would just like any of you who is interested in joining the team to add a comment to the bottom of this page announcing your availability. Please keep in mind that the rules dictate we cannot have more than 10 contestants (cast and crew), so don't be offended if you aren't ultimately chosen. We can't have 10 boom ops: we need to choose a complementary team oriented toward single-take filmmaking, so most selections will be practically driven. Besides, we may compete again, and your interest will be noted in any case, for future projects.


All team members will be expected to show up with that 25-year-old's commitment level. Which means just a little bit of financial commitment, but a whole lot of time.

Team tickets cost $250. Ours is bought and paid for thanks to our producer Sean, who has indicated that though it isn't mandatory, it would be nice if each team member pitched in a tenth of the cost of the ticket. The team as a whole will not be asked to foot the bill for any equipment rentals or other production costs, but catering may be limited or non-existent. It will not cost us anything as team members to attend the general screenings, but it will cost us $15 (and $25 for our non-competing friends!) to attend the gala screening honouring the top ten films, at which we will all be forced to wear "formal attire" (don't get me started).

The time requirements are laid out in the schedule below. If there is some part of this schedule that you can't commit to attending for some reason, please indicate in your response how much of it you would have to miss, including your travel time to and from the downtown core. Even if you can't make any of the times at all, I still welcome any thoughts you might have about the Film Challenge, and you don't have to be one of the 10 team members to participate in any discussions on these pages about it. You have all been invited because you have something to offer, and I am really looking forward to watching this collaboration come together.


Late MayTBAOne strategy meetingTBA
Early JuneTBATwo strategy meetingsTBA
June 157pm-11pmChallenge Screening IBloor Cinema
(506 Bloor W)

June 167pm-9pmChallenge Screening IIBloor Cinema
(506 Bloor W)

June 187pm-1amGala Screening followed by
disgusting 'black tie' schmoozefest
The Great Hall
(1087 Queen St. W)

I prefer that you express your interest publically in these pages so that we can all see how the potential team is coming together and discuss any concerns. You can add your own post to the bottom of this page if you scroll down past all the other posts and click the double arrows next to 'ADD A COMMENT'. I suggest you use your first name as your username for film challenge posts instead of any alias, so you will be recognised immediately. If you are uncomfortable posting publically or you have troubles making it work for some reason, just send me a private email, but I may quote any non-personal sections of it so we can discuss it as a group.

Sounds like it would be a fun challenge. Consider me in.
Awesome, Doug. I think you would bring a nice irreverent element to the cast. You were hi-larious as RIGHTFACE. For those reading who don't know it, Doug played this role in an experiment of mine called 'An Untitled Interaction'. I'll include a link to a clip here for the curious. Appropriately enough, Doug's is the face on the right, in the thumbnail below as well as in the clip's opening shots.

An Untitled Interaction

It's too bad that the thin-post-production approach would render your animation skills (pun intended) inaccessible. Still, technically speaking, overlaying some animation onto the final take wouldn't be any different than overlaying credits. It wouldn't require an actual cut.

If the story called for it, I wonder how many seconds of simple animation you could model and render out in about 6 hours, including DV transfer in and out? Because that's about how long I expect us to have with the final footage before turning it in.
the rogue
I've been looking at renting various items, most importantly the wireless mics (of which we can only use two with the BeachTek, right Paul?). I'd also consider renting us a vehicle for the weekend if neccessary but if anyone has fairly unrestricted access to a car that would be awesome. We already own most of the core equipment (camera, directional mic, mixer, lights) but may need to borrow a few things from Rui if he's willing to part with them (XLR cables, light stands, etc.).

For those who don't see the similarity in the pictures, the Rogue is our producer. And yep, that's right, just two mics with the BeachTek. But we should maybe have a third wireless mic as a backup if it's not too tall an order. There are several potential team members with vehicles, so I'm not sure if rental will be required. We have all the XLR cables we need, plus about three makeshift light stands. Rui's lightstands are a lot better. I'll ask him about them.

I haven't decided yet whether I want to rent a few lights (which would include stands), or whether to use only our old Canadian-Tire-lights-affixed-with-plastic-ties trick from 'An Untitled Interaction'. More professional lights can be set up with a bit less hassle. It would not be very prudent to use a mix-and-match approach, since the colour temperatures would be slightly different, but hey, prudence is not the main concern here.

One thing we are definitely short of is long heavy-duty power extension cords for lights. Oh, and sound blankets. As I think of more I'll post it here, and if anyone else has some suggestions please do the same.
hey guys,
Andrew here. Sounds like a cool way to spend a weekend. I am seeing if I can commit for the music end of things. Questions though. How are we recording the soundtrack? Would I need to be onsite, or can we record after shooting in my living room or is there portable equipment and so on? Essentially, what options do we have? Also, I am primarily a piano player so the sound track would probably be piano stuff. Is that cool?

anyway, sounds like a good time - count me in as long as I can get my schedule worked out.

Hi Andrew, thanks for posting. It's great to hear you're interested.

We will dub your performace through a mic and portable mixing board directly onto the original footage in the camera, which we will bring to your location. It's possible we could record in stereo, but *very* unlikely. We'll bring a small television and plug that into the camera as well, so you can see the movie as you play along. You will likely wear hearphones so that you can self-modulate the volume so as not to obscure any dialogue, hopefully saving us the time of remixing the music tracks on the computer.

You wouldn't need to be there for the first 24 hours of the Challenge, since that will all be spent improving to come up with the story. Tentatively we are planning to have the narrative structure finalised and locked down by 7pm Saturday (June 11). Sometime that evening, you would need to show up on set to watch what the actors are doing ... and you can take home a VHS copy of a rough complete run-through. The composition must be completed and ready to perform by Sunday noon, at the latest, at which time you will see the final version for the first time. There will be a lot of acting improv all the way through, so the composition should be designed in such a way that there is 'room to breathe' in the timings of any lines and actions. The final 10 minute recording should be complete three hours later, by Sunday 3pm. This is the HARDEST deadline. If it is not made then there will be no music.

Does this seem doable? If this is simply an unrealistic process for you in some way, let me know, because I could consider some changes to our schedule to accomodate you. By the way, where is your piano located and what is the sound situation there ... i.e. extraneous noise, trains/subways/buses/etc.?

Hey Paul & Sean! I'm in!! Looking forward to helping in any way possible.
Cool, Phil! I gave you a userpic. That you would be a great addition to any cast or crew is plainly obvious to anyone who watches this clip!

the rogue
Hey All,

This is gonna be a friggin' blast. This Challenge fits so perfectly into my 35 year-old life! Everytime we shoot I get so pumped that I just want to quit my job and make movies. Anybody else feel his way?
hi guys,

i'm on board. if we're short male actors let me know, cuz i can russle up a slew of them.

the rogue
Hey G! Glad you're on board. The last time we worked together on a shoot, wasn't that the infamous 'Crushed-And-Broken-Man' weekend? Wonder what that guy ever did with his 30k.

And a shout-out to the LADIES! We know you're out there! Let's here from ya!
Looks like a pretty good round-up of the usual suspects! Gentlemen, I believe we may have ourselves an outfit here.

Giles, in answer to your question ... yes. We are in fact short male actors. But we're good male actors, dammit! Seriously, though, with your involvement rounding out the men, I'm not sure we need (or have room for) that many more.

And apparently, the Rogue will be our D.J. for this evening! I think you're talking to dead air out there, man. There are plenty of women who have expressed interest, but they aren't exactly computer types, so I think that any online discussions are going to be more of a circle jerk. Uh, I mean ... a highly informative, well-planned and tightly-executed circle-jerk!

And for anyone who hasn't seen it yet, I've post a sample of the shooting style we'll be going for here. If you have any questions or suggestions about it, post a response on that page.
Oye muchachos,

I'm willing to be the token 25 year old on board, should it be needed/desired. Of course, I realize the need for solid teambuilding for this project, so mix and match as you like and let me know if there is a place that I can help out.

In terms of availability, I would be unavailable on Sunday afternoon from 3-5pm, as I have just started school.....CIRCUS SCHOOL (an example of my firecracker youthfulness). Unfortunately I cant make up missed classes, so it's important for me (and to me) to be there. However it is only at Ossington and Queen, and I do have a magic bus pass and am able to commute before and after, to and from the location.

Paul: let me know if you want me to 'book' that other vid camera as a backup for the weekend. Would be best to have it on hand, imo.

Erin ;)
the rogue
Erin, the Sunday 3-5 thing probably won't be a problem because at that point in the day we'll be done shooting and will have moved on to adding music and packaging the final product. I was hoping you could be involved in some of that cuz I know you have a lot of experience with rendering in Final Cut and such but no worries!

I think the backup camera is an excellent idea, even if were only used as a 'documentary' cam. For sure we should secure that. Paul and I are finalizing our 'wish list' tonight and will begin securing/booking equipment this coming week. If anyone has requests, suggestions or know people who lend stuff out for free, please post!
Hi, Erin, welcome to the circle jer-- uh, party!

A second camera might be a not only a good backup, but a necessity. As mentioned above, there are only two live mic inputs possible into my camera ... and into most DV cameras. But even with two main actors wearing wireless mics, it would behoove us to have a third input for a roving boom to cover secondary characters. One way to do this would be to fire up a second camera for every take, just for the purpose of recording additional soundtracks. The advantage of doing this on a DV camera instead of on some audio recording device is that the soundtracks should sync up without a problem. The second camera will likely be the one with the boom attached, since we can't have wires hanging from the primary camera.

Of course this raises an interesting question: while we are using the second camera to record sound ... where do we point the lens? At the behind-the-scenes crew, where else? Anyone interested in operating this secondary 'making of' camera?

So yes, Erin, if you could inquire as to whether that camera might be available (it's a Canon GL-1, right?) Also, Sean, doesn't Nick Ciccione also own a GL-1? Care to broach the topic with him? And did you say we could rent BeachTek adaptors? We might have to do so. Anyway, we will discuss further tonight.

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