You have to give something to get something. Not always, though. Sometimes when you have a production budget next to zero and only 48 hours, you end up with a perfectly watchable film.
“We spent money on suit rentals for the mailmen and food for ourselves. That was about it,” said 26-year-old Malaysian Aw See Wee, director of the short film Postmen, as well as its camera man, screenwriter and supporting cast member.
Postmen is the tale of two indolent mail carriers who are afflicted with a mysterious curse. But when one helps the other, the curse is magically lifted.
Admittedly, it’s a film without blockbuster hormones, but it made the audience laugh and won a NT$5,000 prize at the premiere screening for Taipei’s 48 Hour Film Project last week.
The 48 Hour Film Project is the world’s largest timed film competition. The project was held at over 120 cities this year, including Taipei for the first time.
Like the 39 other films at the project screening, Postmen had been completed over a single weekend. Teams had Friday to Sunday evening — from Oct. 11 to Oct. 13 — to conceive, write, shoot, edit and render a four-to-seven minute film.
There were four elements each film had to include: a bicycle, a mailman, a randomly chosen genre and a line of dialogue (“I don’t want a plastic bag”) in English or Mandarin.
Other than that, it was free sailing. Anyone could participate, and there were no requirements on the number of cast and crew.
This year, teams averaged at 13 people. At a self-reported “4.5 members,” Kampung Crew (甘榜人) of Postmen was one of Taipei’s smaller teams.
“The half-person was someone who stopped by once with a camera so that we could have a second camera angle,” said Rina Tsou (鄒隆娜), 25, the film’s producer and editor.
“We’re all very good college classmates who just expected to have a fun weekend,” she said.
Gone Native Productions is a mix of friends and strangers who came together expressly for the 48 Hour Film Project. Their film Roots Source is about a Gaia-like Aboriginal goddess (played by Bean Hsueh, 薛鈺蓁) who saves Taipei from a corporate giant that has monopolized its electricity. It was nominated for best use of genre (superhero) and won Best Costume Design, though the pieces were free and mostly improvised, said director Tobie Openshaw.
“We actually only realized our costumes were pretty cool when we won the prize.”
The postman received a handmade paper badge, and everybody else mixed and matched from their old clothes. Hsueh styled her own goddess outfit from a one-strap evening gown.
“Bean said she had a dress in her closet that she thought could work as a base,” Openshaw said. The actress went through it with a pair of scissors, fashioning an earth-toned bandeau and a skirt that hit above the knee.
There are over 20 locals and long-term expatriates behind Roots Source. Many aren’t film industry professionals, though now they want to make other movies.
“We definitely plan to participate again next year. In fact, our team gelled so well together that we are already planning other productions under the Gone Native Productions name,” Openshaw said.
Other winners of Taipei’s 48 Hour Film Project include The Scars, a holiday flick with animation sequences by filmmaker Feal Chan, and Gift, about a man who bakes a chocolate cake with a coworker’s ashes.
The NT$20,000 top prize of Best Film went to Express Girl, a superhero movie with an original music score. The movie concept was so slow in coming, Team Whoa couldn’t begin shooting until 5pm on Saturday, said producer Yang Chieh (楊婕).
On scooters, the crew rushed from the Guting MRT Station to Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, a trip that takes 17 minutes in normal traffic conditions. They made it in 11, but picked up a speeding ticket along the way.
“I see now we’ve got the money for that,” Yang said.
Express Girl will screen in New Orleans at the 2013 Filmapalooza, along with winners from other cities that participated in the 48 Hour Film Project. The 14 top films of 2013 will screen at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner.