How to Shoot Like a Girl
Thursday 24 June @ 20:49:37
by Eric Larson
By 6:24 a.m. last Saturday morning, I couldn’t speak properly. My brain hurt. I was developing a sty on the rim of my left eye. My notes became indecipherable cat-scratches. Even after five or six cups of coffee, two Mountain Dews, cold water splashed over my face, fresh air and a magnificent sun rising over the river, my eyes threatened to shut and stay shut.
I laughed out loud driving home from the Warehouse District loft to my modest digs in Whittier, amused at my own exhaustion and utterly impressed that a film crew of 10 women who had not slept in 24 hours — and most of them would not sleep for 12 more — was at that moment packing up lights, light stands, camera, tripod, sound equipment, cords, props, coffee, packs of Parliament Lights, and makeup, and moving to their next location — a radio studio in Edina.
That would be the low point for Team Funny Underwear, one of 25 Twin Cities’ filmmaking teams who competed in the 48 Hour Film Project last weekend. An international contest now in its fourth year, this is the 48HFP’s first time passing through the Twin Cities.
“[The radio studio] is when everyone hit rock bottom,” Said FU team leader, co-writer and director Gennevieve Emery: We hadn’t slept. We hadn’t eaten. I was getting crabby. It was bad.”
Teams participating in the 48HFP had to write, cast, shoot and edit a film — picture and soundtrack — four to eight minutes in length, within 48 hours — 7 p.m. Friday to 7 p.m. Sunday. It sounds insane, and it is. Finishing a film, in any amount of time, is impressive. Doing it in two days, no matter what the advancements in technology, seems unthinkable and would have been impossible without the careful preparation of Emery and her crew, most of whom have experience in “the industry.”
To prevent anyone from working on films before the competition officially began, 48HFP required each team to wait until 7 p.m. Friday, when they drew their genre from a hat and a 48HFP volunteer drew several other variables from several other hats — a prop, a line of dialogue, a character name and occupation - all of which had to be incorporated into the films.
Line Producers Ann Sorenson and Randi Myhre, the Funny Underwear reps on hand at MCTC’s Wheelock/Whitney Hall, called in the new information to headquarters at 7 p.m. sharp on Friday, where the rest of the team were standing by, pencils and notebooks poised:
Line: “What did you do that for?”
Prop: A cookie jar.
Character/Occupation: H. Lober, an engineer.
And so began the marathon.
The team had been drilling this moment for weeks, so by the time Sorenson, Myhre and I arrived back at headquarters 20 minutes later, the story was already roughly-sketched and gaining narrative momentum. The conversation bounced lively around the circle, with Emery encouraging everyone to give their honest input.
They saw a school-aged heroine with super-intuitive powers. They saw an aunt and uncle. There was talk of a teacher; a suburban home; a school, a climax occurring at a school play or a talent show.
The ideas were in part constrained by the locations the team had secured over the previous few weeks — Minnehaha high school, a suburban home, several apartments, a couple of bars, a radio studio - and the actors who had auditioned the week before, whose pictures lay in a pile in the middle of the room.
At 9:28 p.m., after more than two hours of brainstorming, there were plenty of ideas but no definitive story. Emery and co-writer/Director of Photography Emily Van Bergen made an executive decision to begin writing the script anyway.
“Okay, ladies, it’s getting late,” announced Emery. “Emily and I are going to disappear for a few hours to write. Our first location will be (FU stylist) Jessi (Dery)’s apartment. Does everyone know what to do?” There was a collective nodding of heads and everyone scattered. There was a stray yawn here and there — the first signs of fatigue - but nothing serious.
Dery led the way to her Warehouse District loft where everyone reassembled to wait.
And they waited.
Assistant Director Sarah Morreim waited, phone in hand, ready to call any of the actors Emery and Van Bergen decided to include. Dawn Schot and Kris Barberg - sound and lighting supervisors respectively - stood by for news regarding how to arrange the room for shooting.
Sorenson, Myhre, Dery and co-artistic eye and comic relief, Molly Greenwald, stood by to dress the set.
And they waited.
As soon as the call came from Emery at 1:40 a.m., the loft became the living room of the (still nameless) superhero. Within minutes, she and Van Bergen arrived to explain the script to everyone, asking if they saw any major loopholes, reminding them that few changes could be made thereafter. They had to commit.
The first location would be downtown at 12th and Marquette.
Estimated first shot would be at 3 o’clock.
Downtown at 2:40, the protocol was similar: hurry up and wait. Dery explained to me that 20 minutes, in film, means 40. “Basically just take everything and double it,” she said, exhaling smoke, a non-habit she picked up waiting around on film sets.
At 3:25 Emery decided that her superhero — Heidi Post — would be called the Auburn Avenger. A minute later, she called “action” for the first time. Five — that is, 10 — minutes later, the scene was shot and everyone packed up again. As the first signs of the sunrise showed, we were hurrying back to Dery’s apartment. There, the crew ate and sipped coffee, waiting for a second wind to hit. When it did, they set up and began to shoot again.
After I left, the second wind carried them to Edina, where they waited around and shot footage; then to Minnetonka for the same. By early afternoon they were back in the city.
When I caught up with Funny Underwear again late Saturday afternoon at St. Anthony Main, where they shot the climax of their film, there was a palpable shift in the crew’s mood. The six young women there had slept no more than thirty minutes in 24 hours, they were keeping the schedule despite exhaustion and their interview responses were becoming more surreal.
On Sunday morning, half the team was at headquarters, editing tape and sound while the other half were again at Dery’s. Emery told me she had added a scene — which would need to be shot at Van Bergen’s father’s law office, west of the cities — and needed to re-shoot some of the St. Anthony Main footage. She wanted to finish by 1:00. That would leave five and a half hours to finish editing and a full hour to drive to St. Paul to turn in the final cut.
As we raced west on 394, Emery was busy on the phone. Shareen Benson, the Music Coordinator, was composing a theme song on her keyboard. Kris was editing the visuals. Schot’s sound software was crashing, but other than that, the movie was coming together.
Down to a shooting crew of three, Emery, Van Bergen and Dery were in and out of the law offices in a mere 45 minutes. The last shots were recorded. Back they went to headquarters, to wrap up the project.
By 6:30 p.m., half an hour to deadline, they were not yet done. Over the phone, Emery described the mood to me as frantic and abruptly hung up.
The final drop-off at the Renaissance Box in St. Paul was a mixture of relief, exhaustion and elation. Most of the teams seemed had turned in their films and were snacking on the free pizza and soda.
At 7:16, a group of women - unmistakably Funny Underwear - emerged from of a car across the street, waved and headed toward me. Inside, they pushed through the exclusively male crowd and Emery held out their tape to the 48HFP volunteer sitting behind the drop-off able.
“You’re on time.”
“How did it turn out?”
“It’s good,” said Emery. “Yeah, we feel really good about it.”
The film crew headed home, waiting to revisit their creation when their film is shown at the St. Anthony Main Cinema Tuesday night at 7 p.m.
“What now?” asked Schot.
“Alcohol,” Emery said. “Lots and lots of alcohol.”
Twenty-five local teams competed in the 48-hour Film Festival in Minneapolis, one of 11 cities taking part in the festival this year. Films are being screened at the St. Anthony Main Cinema on Tuesday, June 22nd and Wednesday, June 23rd at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m.
For more information visit 48hourfilm.com. The St. Anthony Main Cinema is located at 115 Main St. SE.