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the landing
The 48-hour Toronto Film Challenge is over. We did it. We built our wooden-winged contraption and then we all piled into it at once and rolled it off a cliff. Did it fly? Or did it crash and burn? What it did most certainly was provide us with an incredibly intense, rollercoaster weekend of creativity, and although we didn't end up qualifying for any prizes due to a last-minute technical glitch that delayed our submission, that doesn't change at all what we achieved.
did we do it?
We had 48 hours to write and shoot a complete story, and instead of sitting around the table on the first evening and allowing our fear of the deadline to box us into writing something simple with a single ironic twist, we threw ourselves into an open-ended process of improvisational discovery that really challenged us and became an intense learning experience. Considering the requirements we were up against, this was indeed exactly like diving off a precipice without even looking over the edge first. We were betting that our mad question-and-answer narrative flapping would catch wind and pull us out of that 48-hour dive in time for a survivable landing. That was a huge bet, and you were all right there making that bet with me, and it took a giant helping of collective nerve.

And we pulled it off.

Furthermore, we committed ourselves to a rehearsal process that would not even involve turning on a camera until the late stages. The *very* late stages, as it turned out. That's like not turning on the propeller until you're within spitting distance of the ground.

And we pulled that off.

And to top it all, we submitted ourselves to a shooting style (the one shot) that left no room for error. All the performances had to work, and they all had to work in a single run, because there would be no inserts or cutaways. That's like doing the whole stunt dive with five acrobats spread along each wing performing somersaults all the way down!

And guess what? We went ahead and did that, too.

As Robin said after Wednesday night's screening at the Bloor Cinema, not one actor dropped the ball. Everyone fulfilled his or her function in the story with real effectiveness. There wasn't even a whiff of 'why try it's only 48 hours', only solid committed performances, which puts our film among the very, very few with the real guts to put it all out there without pretending not to care. And you all did it in a single uneditable run. This achievement came out of your skill, your dedication, your 'bravado', and your openness to experimentation, and from the shoot's priority on allowing the exercise of these qualities above all other considerations.

In my original declaration of intent over a month ago, I pointed out that most starting filmmakers would approach this deadline by "trying to hit all of the bases of making a film at about 10%, resulting in an overall 10% solution", which results in a "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." Everyone who was at the screening could probably detect this 10% solution in many of the films we saw there. And then I asked, "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?"

Now we know the answer. We know what we would have, because we have it, and it is very good. We can place the few technical production flaws in the final result firmly in the category of acceptable losses, because we ran those risks knowingly, in order to achieve our ends. And we achieved them. I was aiming us for 80% of the performance level attainable with a lot more time to rehearse, but I believe what I got was something more like 90%, and I applaud you all for that (and thank you). And thank you also to the producer, Sean, and the crew, for their complete willingness to do whatever it took to make sure that landing would be as soft as possible.
the second question
Okay, we've answered the first question. Now, do we have a second? If that opener wasn't enough of a hint for you ... yes, we have a second question, and yes, it's about the narrative structure we followed in making our 48-hour film.

Several people have spoken to me about collaborating on their own projects. But the real second question for me is ... now that I have at least six actors who are familiar with a method for applying my ideas about writing in an improvisational, collective way, what do I do with them?
Paul came by the studio with a copy for me to watch. Kudos to everyone.
Thanks, Doug. Since you weren't among the members of the outfit this time, I guess we all know why we only hit 90% on the performances. Just not enough Doug Content. We could have had this! (Heh heh heh...)

Actually, that's a pretty good approximation of his expression as he watched the film.

Anyway, I know what you're thinking ... when will the finished film be posted here? Actually there are rights issues. Part of the rather Faustian bargain you make with the Film Challenge is that TFC owns the rights to everything when the work is done. I'm going to try to get permission to post it anyway. I've seen other filmmakers involved post theirs; I'm just not sure if it was on the up-and-up.
Checking back in here over one year later: I actually did eventually receive permission to post that video here, but by the time I got it, this blog had gone pretty dormant, and digging up the project files to strike up the web compressor just wasn't on my radar. Once again, however, the worm has turned, and this site is now being relaunched for its own homegrown first shot challenge, so I'll be posting our TFC entry soon as a work sample. Watch this space if you're curious — I'll link to it here.

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