The 48 Hour Sci-Fi Film Challenge Diary

Here’re some great pictures (taken by Teppei Tanino) from our entry to the London Sci-Fi Festival 48 Hour Film Challenge, E For Echo.

On Saturday April 10th I (with help from some exceptional people) entered the London Sci-Fi Festival’s 48 Hour Film Challenge; 48 hours to make a three to five minute film, incorporating random dialogue, props and a title provided by the festival.

Teppei, Sam and myself got to the Apollo cinema in Piccadilly at 9am, joining about ten other people. We were told to be there by 9.30, and by that time the number of people outside the cinema had swelled to a couple of hundred. At 9.30 some guys with video and stills cameras, and wearing ‘sci-fi London film festival’ t-shirts, came outside  and started documenting the throngs. I started getting anxious and stressing and wanting to get in and get on with finding out if my gamble of preparing an idea would pay off when I was given a title, some dialogue and a prop list.

Rob Thom and Sam Truss at the Apollo Piccadilly

Waiting with Sam Truss at the Apollo Piccadilly cinema

We were finally let in around 9.45, and went down to one of the screens; I thought it was pretty amateur to start so late, but when the organisor and festival director Louis Savy unashamedly said how it was good for the festival to get as much photographic evidence about its popularity to secure sponsorship, I thought to myself “fair play.”

The London Sci-Fi Festival Director Louis Savy

The London Sci-Fi Festival Director Louis Savy

So Sam and Teppei and I sat there in the front row while they went through the rules again… I was just thinking “come on come on come on!” And then we went to it; three of the organisors stood at the front of the cinema, each holding a coloured cardboard bag, and one member from each team taking part took one piece of paper from each bag.

My title was ‘E For Echo,’ the dialogue I had to use was ‘Now, let’s move on to Quantum field theory,’ and the prop list was I had to use three identical mobile phones.

The 48 Hour Film Challenges

This is what we got

For a moment I thought “Oh f*@k me” but as we hurried on to Parliament Sq. to shoot our first scene, we started brain storming how we could chisel these elements into the script.

I called Sarah, Caroline and Angela to get their input too. By the time we got to College Green we had come up with the idea that people in our story who had become shunned by society became known as Echos, Sam, whose character has become quarantined would have an online tutorial about Quantum field theory, and the National Health Database would be accessable on the iPhone, which Sam, Teppei and I all owned… looking back now I think we were incredibly jammy with what we got!

Rob Thom

Filming at Carlton Gardens

At College Green I fulfilled a little ambition by portraying a minister giving an interview to Television News. I was wearing jeans, a pink shirt and suit jacket, and when we arrived outside Westminster Palace I put on a red and gold tie. There was a Sky News crew a few metres away, and (according to Sam) were checking us out – probably trying to work out who we were..!

Sam Truss

Sam Truss looking arty out the window

After that we jumped on the tube and went up to Muswell Hill. Sarah, Mike, David and Caroline joined us, and we shot all afternoon and into the evening.

Sam Truss Rob Thom and Caroline Dexter

Working out a scene with Sam Truss and Caroline Dexter

Teppei Tanino

Teppei Tanino enjoying his costume

Sunday morning; I got up at 5am, and dragged Teppei and Sam (who had both stayed in the front room) and Sarah and her Lesley (who drove over from Leytonstone) out to Highgate wood to film the final scene.

Even at 6am, it was surprising how much traffic there was, and we were lucky to get a minute of sustained silence and bird song. Actually in the edit I had to damp down the ambient track as it sounded like it was shot in a tropical rain forest!

Rob Thom and Sam Truss

Setting off at 6am to film by Highgate wood

Filming Sam Truss

Filming Sam Truss at sunrise by Highgate Wood

Rob Thom Lesley McIlroy and Sarah Partridge

Working out the final scene with Lesley McIlroy and Sarah Partridge

Sam Truss and Rob Thom

Working out the final scene with Sam Truss

After that Sarah drove me down to Angela’s home in Sydenham Hill, where we filmed the fake news pieces and TV advert. I then proceeded to start piecing it all together. I took a break at 6pmish to host the Stage Door open mic, and then went back to editing.

I worked on through the night until I had a finished film, and took it on a DVD back to the Apollo cinema, getting there about 12noon, an hour to before the deadline.


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