48HFP Experienceby Ts'eliso Monaheng / 11.10.2013
Television fascinates me. While the act of watching it has lost its appeal, the process behind making the medium has taken centre-stage. Lately, I’ve been paying attention to camera angles; to styles of editing; to how dialogue between actors is paced. For sport, I oftentimes guess what camera lenses were used for a particular shot – or at least the type of lens which could approximate how the shot has been framed. I’m intrigued by lighting techniques and set design, and how the two synergise to result in a great final grade. I get geeked when the music advisor picks just the right song to associate to introduce the next scene (How To Make It In America anyone?).
Television’s got so good that the output has come to resemble big budget movies – think: Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Killing.
I’ve made acquaintances with some people who are involved in the South African television industry, so at times I get first-hand accounts of what goes on on-set. I’ve heard of the impossible director, the over-eager intern, and the script overseer who stresses over the most minute of details. I’ve also heard about the legendary amount of hours spent on set. During one particularly cold night in Cape Town, I watched as crew and cast sipped warm liquids to fight off the bitter South-Easterly chill.
I’d heard of the 48-hour film project two years ago and paid closer attention in 2012. This is the same year that Isaac Chokwe’s “Beau Belle Cosmetics” won. Sara Chitambo, a dear and loving friend of mine, starred in a film entered into the competition that same year and was interested in directing one this year. She pitched the idea to me and asked that I jump on board. I didn’t care much about the story; good-looking women and great food were on offer, so why not?! A short film – from scripting to filming to editing – done in two days, imagine that!
Though it was impossible to shift prior commitments, any amount of time would be worthwhile, I reasoned. I’d at least get a first-hand glimpse of how everything was planned – from the lighting, to the sound, to the overall direction. I’d finally graduated from keen by-stander during commercial shoots, to eager partaker on an actual set, albeit one with minimal resources to throw around.
Other people generously donated their time and expertise. Tebogo was the DOP, Banele wrote the script, Magalela edited the footage, and Mpho and Nomalanga were the leads. The call sheet got sent to all involved on Thursday evening (call time was 8am on Saturday), while the scriptwriting process was undertaken on Friday night after part of the team received the genre. That’s how it works by the way, at least for Jozi. Participating teams gather at the Goethe Institut on Friday and get assigned “a character, a prop, a line of dialogue and a genre” which must all be included in the movie.
Apparently inspired by the relentless disagreements which unfolded during the scriptwriting process, it was decided that we’d do a film about doing a film in 48hours. “The plot centres around two very different friends who lost touch and get together to enter the 48Hr film festival. This partnership reveals underlying tensions in the friendship,” says the director Sara Chitambo about the plot.
Delays were inevitable on the day of the shoot; instead of 8am, we started shooting at mid-day. More people chimed in; Velisiwe and myself interchanged on boom swinger duty, Karabo was the stylist/set designer, while Nthabiseng undertook assistant director duties. Banele the scriptwriter’s trusty eye came in handy for continuity purposes. I hung around the set taking pictures and generally being a nuisance, constantly sneaking away to the kitchen to take a bite of the food on offer.
I had to leave eventually. The rest of the crew did their best and handed in the film on time. “After 48 Hours” it is called.
“While shooting the last scene, one of our crew members’ car got stolen. We watched powerlessly and screamed as the thieves got away. The camera was still rolling…” read part of the credits during the preview at a cinema in Rosebank. Everyone in the theatre laughed. It would’ve been funny, if only it weren’t true.
* All images © Ts’eliso Monaheng