10 Tips to Survive and Thrive at the CUFF 48-hour Movie Making Challenge

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Have you got what it takes to go from nothing to a finished short film in 48 hours?

For the past 8 years, the Calgary Underground Film Festival has organized one of the best filmmaking exercises in the city: The 48-hour Movie Making Challenge. Teams are given a random genre, prop and line of dialogue on Friday at 7pm, and they have to turn in a 2-5 minute short film using those elements 48 hours later.

The Challenge is a fantastic experience. It forces you to be creative under pressure (how all great ideas are born), puts you in unique and unforgettable situations, and provides countless opportunities to learn new things…like how your heart feels after 7 energy drinks.

Full Swing has participated a few times over the years, and while it sounds easy enough, the 48-hour Movie Making Challenge is actually like running a marathon. The trick is to pace yourself and prep as much as you can beforehand.


icon red homework1. Do your homework. Plan as much as possible before Friday. We encourage everyone to stick to the spirit of spontaneity when it comes to creating the story, but you should have all your gear checked, charged and ready to go; have a variety of actors ready to participate; buy groceries; and know a handful of locations that can be available if you need them.



icon red roles2. Plan your roles. The 48-hour Challenge is a great way to strengthen or broaden your skill set. You can be a Screenwriter and a Grip, or a Director and Foley artist. But know your roles before you start. It will help you plan a rotating sleep schedule (critical), and provide structure on set (people will butt heads on 2 hours of sleep).



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3. Book equipment early
. If you’re renting any equipment (CSIF and EMMEDIA are great resources), remember that you’re not the only team shooting that weekend!



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4. Sprint from the start
. Teams tend to move slowly on the first night. Don’t. You’ll thank yourself on Sunday.



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5. Spend time on your script
. Don’t forget that your screenplay is your road map. Taking a little extra time at the beginning to work out the kinks in your story and polish your dialogue will help everything run more smoothly all weekend.



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6. Plan for Post
. It takes more time during production, but slate your shots, don’t keep the camera running, circle the good takes and keep notes as you go. You will more than make up the precious time in post production and your Editor will love you for it.



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7. Get started on Post early. If you can have an Editor ingesting footage and cutting scenes while you’re still shooting, you’ll spend less time scrambling and more time polishing.



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8. Don’t forget about Sound
. Good sound sets amateur and professional films apart, and is one of the easiest things to forget about when you’re under the gun. If you can have someone dedicated to capturing great sound (and don’t forget audio post-production), you’re already a step ahead.


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9. Submitting takes time
. You have the option to submit a DVD in person or, new this year, email a password-protected Vimeo link to your film. Don’t forget your project needs to be submitted by 7pm, and driving/uploading takes time! Many groups have pushed themselves to their limits crafting beautiful, inspiring films…and then forgot to plan for traffic.

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10. Safety first
. Film sets can be hazardous, even more so when the crew is working on little or no sleep. No matter how little time you have, if someone is starting to make decisions that seem unsafe, it’s time for a nap.



We hope these tips help! Registrations for the 2014 48-hour Movie Making Challenge are now open and spaces are limited, so gather your $60 and sign up as soon as you can.

For FAQ’s, official rules and to register, visit The Official Site.

Watch Revengeance belowFull Swing’s 2013 48-hour Movie.

Scott Westby

About the Author:

Scott Westby is a Writer, Director and Producer in Calgary's film industry. He's a 2008 graduate of SAIT's Film & VIdeo Production Program, and has years of experience in strategic marketing and content creation for traditional and new media. A Taco/Slurpee enthusiast and a hater of mushrooms.
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