by Jason Lee
This was my first time diving into a "timed" film challenge. I heard stories of non-sleep and many unexpected last minute problems. I even heard stories of cast, crew and friends "falling out" due to the stress and strain. Okay, I have 48 hours to brainstorm and write a script, cast it, shoot it then edit it! I thought this was crazy. But since I love challenges and testing my patience level, I thought, "Why not?". And of course, I've heard of how rewarding this experience can be.
My personal strategy
To cut complications of dealing with too many people, opinions and logistics, I decided to be a one-man team (with the help of Tristan, the photographer), which people thought can be disadvantageous. But I thought, why not try and make something own my own simply and efficiently?
The biggest mistake I made and learned from a film challenge is to not come in with pre-conceived or "rough" ideas. I had 2 or 3 ideas which I thought I can be flexible with. On day 1 at 7pm, we were presented with the 3 elements. A prop, a location and a line of dialogue. Boy, was I already stressing on hour number 2 knowing that my "ideas" would not work. I had to come up with a fresh new script using a red cup, a sidewalk and the line of dialogue. "It's not where you go, but who you meet along the way". Worried on my train ride home, I composed myself and said, "Don't stress your creativity. Just relax, be open for ideas to enter my spirit because negativity will block it.". I went to a piano practice room which costed me about 7,000 (USD $6.30) won for the hour and decided to improvise a soundtrack in 20 minutes. Since at this point, I had no idea what the film would be about nor the genre. I recorded, on my cellphone a melancholy, sad slow song and an uplifting, happier song. I had no idea if I'd be able to use it but thought, why not have these 2 (two) minute piano soundtracks in my back pocket?
As I imagined some teams were probably not going to sleep having meetings and trying to come up with ideas, I told myself to get some good sleep and sit on it. I've learned over the years that when I get an idea, it happens in random moments and spurts throughout the day when I least expect it.
Hour 15, about 10am. Got some coffee to get a little caffeine high thus, maybe my creative juices flowing. Knowing that I had to use the sidewalk "pathway"(the yellow line which guides the blind) and the dialogue, "It's not where you go...", I knew this had to be about some kind of goal, path or dream. My rule of thumb in my creative life was to always relate to my thoughts, beliefs and experiences as sources for inspiration. My rules when film making is to always use resources and my abilities. It's never about fancy looking pictures, locations or equipment. Story is king. A story with heart can be shot with a smartphone and as long as people are moved, they will remember it.
Light bulb moment...
Art imitates life and life imitates art... I can dance, I used to be a street performer, I've had struggles during this road. Ah ha!!! "The Road" is what I will call it and it will be about my long journey as an entertainer and performer.
I will use my talents as a street dancer to entertain and show real life examples of some challenges I had during the way. In the end have an uplifting message about our life's roads and journeys. Since I've always had an admiration for Charlie Chaplin, I thought why not add a little spice and put on white makeup. Instead of finding an outfit to look like Chaplin, I just settled to be a mime.
Hour 20, I must finish the shooting in the next 8 hours or so, so I can edit during the last day.
Oh no, I will need some assistance and actors. I started making calls to my friends in the afternoon wondering who is available at night (Saturday night). I roughly estimated 3 to 4 hours to shoot but we shot it all in less than 3 hours. I took maybe only 3-4 takes, sometimes just 1 take of each scene. God, or the universe was on my side, cast members and help from all directions showed up.
Hour 29, Its about 11pm to midnight. The shoot is a wrap! What a relief... Went home, relaxed and got a good night's rest for the next and last day which will be for editing.
Hour 40, editing went pretty smooth because I only had a few takes of each scene to sift through. Don't get me wrong, there is never such a thing as editing going "smooth". When it was time to plug that improvised piano soundtrack, it worked perfectly. I was elated and couldn't believe it. Everything was coming together.
Hour 47, I rushed over to Haebongchon to hand over my USB drive to Kevin Lambert, the director. It was a relief. Knowing how well my film would be received wasn't a thought. I truly felt rewarded to have completed this task. I felt like Frank Sinatra having done it successfully "My Way". I spent maybe less than 20, 000 won (USD $18), half of which was for soda, didn't lash out at anyone due to the pressures of time, got real good sleep and the cast/crew was happy.
I was overwhelmed at the touching responses I received.
Many of my friends showed up which contributed to unexpectedly winning the audience choice award. It was a great night and overall a great experience. I learned many things in this process. I found out who I was and what I'm capable of. I learned that sometimes art and creativity can be forced and push you into a wall. Sometimes artists have to create under pressure. It taught me to keep being myself and true to my story and art. It also reaffirmed my motto to be kind to people. I'd like to think the acting and film community had my back because I was a pretty chill dude. I'm grateful to each and every person who contributed to this project and my journey here in Korea.