Lights, camera, hastily written script... action!

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The winners were revealed last night – so how did Sue, and the other 38 teams from across the city, rise to the two-day movie-making challenge?

IT'S midnight on a Friday and we could all be in the pub. Judging from the expressions around the room, the same thought is on the minds of everyone.

Instead, we're in a living room in Shandon, nine of us, with our heads in our hands and a blank flipchart in the corner. The room should be buzzing with creativity but right now it's a pit of quiet desperation.

Welcome to the world of the 48 Hour Film Project.

&#149 Watch Water of Leith's Starfish

The competition – to write, film and edit a movie in 48 frantic hours – was launched in Washington DC eight years ago, and is now run in 70 cities across the world. The UK stages two contests – one in London, and the other in Edinburgh.

So it was that the weekend of 22 to 24 May saw 39 teams of people scuttling around the streets, hills and bridges of Edinburgh with increasing mania as they wielded their cameras and hastily-written scripts.

Teams were handed different genres at the Cameo Cinema on the Friday night, and then all given the same prop (a screwdriver), character (Michael or Michelle Murray) and a line of dialogue – "This is the first I've heard of it" – which had to be included, to make sure no one could prepare beforehand.

For most of us on this team, dubbed Water of Leith, it's second time around. Last year's competition saw us turn out a cannibalistic restaurant-based horror called Buffet of Death. Some of it got laughs, and some of it was incomprehensible. When you explained to people what it was about, they said they liked it. So we had much to build on this year.

We'd drawn the genre of romance and we had, for the second year running, got a large team of writers. This is how they wrote the hit sitcom Friends. By all accounts, their experience was a riot of laughter. We're some way from that stage.

Ideas have been thrown into the circle, thrown out, recycled, laughed at, panned, scrapped and resurrected. Eventually we settle on a love triangle.

Then director Eddie Smith arrives. He makes films for Lanarkshire Council, teaches film students, and probably knows better than us what we should be doing. He doesn't like it.

Which is how we come to be holding our heads in our hands at midnight looking at a blank flipchart again.

Then Eddie makes a suggestion. A widow in a park, a flirty gardener and a long-lost friend. We go for it, come up with an outline, fill in the dialogue, polish it, laugh at some of it, and go home as dawn breaks.

The 48 Hour Film Project throws all sorts of extraordinary challenges at competitors, not just a race against the clock. The lack of sleep is up there too, but above all is the fact that the vast majority of contestants are not professionals. These are microbudget films without catering vans, props departments or wardrobe assistants.

Our co-producer, Debs Cannon, is a guide on tourist buses by day. This weekend, in addition to producing, she is writing, acting, and got up after three hours' sleep to make the sandwiches. She brought her own costume too.

Someone's brother turns up with a car full of gardening kit, and I join David Thomson, another writer-turned-runner, to set about the lawnmower with duct tape so that the gardener can push it without the handle falling off. Hollywood it ain't.

Nonetheless, the sight of cameras, dollies, cranes and booms adds a sense of excitement and professionalism to proceedings - we do actually look like filmmakers. It's a good feeling.

This is just as well, because one of the great discoveries of the 48 Hour Film Project is that unless you're looking through the lens, much of the business of actually filming a movie is kind of dull. It's slow. It's repetitive. The dialogue you sharpened in the middle of the night, which sounded fresh on the first shot, drives you insane by the third, the fifth, the tenth time you've heard it.

The day is kind to us. We are sharing Napier's Craighouse Campus with a wedding and a lot of dog walkers. We manage not to disturb the wedding, only one of the dogs attacks the furry mic cover, and it only rains for half an hour.

Up here it's hard to imagine that all over Edinburgh other teams are doing the same. On the Forth Bridge, Cameo box office and bar worker Jonathan Ley's team is shooting Special People, the tale of a family of super-heroes with particularly rubbish super powers.

Filming in such a prominent place had its own unique challenges, he says: "I saw some of the outtakes where people are going past shouting things at the actor because he was screaming in pain in the middle of the Forth Road Bridge, but it was a brilliant weekend."

On Arthur's Seat, another team are filming the newly resurrected Jesus, now living in Musselburgh, as he tells a mockumentary team about his difficult relationship with his father, while somewhere out there is a gang of primary school pupils, filming a terrorism flick.

The kids from Roseburn Primary, led by Jamie MacDonald, 12, and Alex Thoms, 11, shot their piece, Empty Space around Jamie's home in Murrayfield.

"We did get funny looks, and a lot of people stopping to watch, but it was amazing," he says.

As dusk falls we trail away, at last to sleep, as the editor, Chris Merchant, works his magic through the night and the whole of Sunday.

The deadline is 7.30pm in the Cameo bar. At 7.28pm, Chris rushes in, wide-eyed and pale, with the final cut.

The bar is full of others just like us. Variously tired, unshaven, unwashed and high on adrenalin, we tuck into the beers and share tales from the battlefield. This is the fun bit, the reward for the hard work. Somehow, against the odds, we have all made a film.

Screenings run on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the Cameo. It is a distinctly better-groomed and better-slept crowd. Starfish looks good, it sounds good, and it's better than Buffet of Death. We are all mighty pleased.

As I leave, I'm pleased to notice that the screening is on the Cameo's billboard, billed below the week's main feature, Drag Me To Hell. That seems appropriate.

Did we win? No, that honour went to Special People, described by Sam Goldblatt, the dynamo who is producer of the Edinburgh challenge as "funny and smart, and beautifully directed".

That movie will represent Edinburgh at the 2010 Filmapalooza in Las Vegas, where it will go up against the other city winners of 48 Hour Film Projects from around the world.

As for our film, the judges apparently thought it was "visually beautiful" and that we have the "best attitude" of all the teams, although sadly there's not a prize in that category.

Would we do it again? Well, the words "next year" already seem to be slipping into our conversations . .


THE 48 Hour Film Project sets contestants the challenge of making a four-to seven-minute film in two days. On Friday night representatives of each team gather to receive a brief designed to prevent them working on their film ahead of time. They are given the name of a character, a prop and a line of dialogue that must be included, and each team then draws a genre, such as romance, comedy, sci-fi or cop film. The film must be handed in by 7:30pm on Sunday. The audience at each screening votes for its favourite, which receives the audience award. A panel of judges also selects winners, and the overall winner goes to the international finals in Las Vegas.


BEST FILM: Special People by The Degrassi Junior High Alumni Society. This film will represent Scotland at Filmapalooza, the International Finals of all 48-Hour Film Projects around the world.

BEST DIRECTING: Jonathan Ley for Special People

BEST WRITING: Captain Smart? by Tiny Little Rocks. A comedy using purely still photography and a voiceover reading a long-form poem

AUDIENCE AWARDS: A: Special People, The Guilt Sniffer (see below), The Suffering: mockumentary about Jesus Christ, made by the staff of siktilt, an Edinburgh online content company

BEST ACTOR: Alex Donald as Dr Robert Macbride in The Guilt Sniffer by Twilight. Donald is a former advertising executive for Saatchi & Saatchi in London who decided he wanted to become an actor. Here he plays a detective who smells guilt.

BEST ACTRESS: Catriona Fraser as Keli in Keli's on the Kase, a mockumentary. The film, an Ali G-style investgation into the issues of the day, was made by a group of computer students from Napier, entered by their lecturer.

BEST EDITING: In Safe Hands by ABNormal Productions. A suspense thriller about a babysitter made by Anthony Baxter

BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY: HCI by Mad Productions. A post-apocalyptic tale of a world killed by addiction to the internet

BEST SOUND DESIGN: Hard of Hearing by FF, a black and white film about a deaf man


BEST USE OF PROP: A screwdriver in The Suffering


BEST SPECIAL EFFECTS: Empty Space by Jam Films. A film about a terrorist attack made entirely by 12-year-olds

BEST SCORE: Goodbye Barnaby by Blates, a film about two friends and their pet hamster

BEST COSTUME: A Gentleman's Guide to Modern Living by Return of the Marvellous Cloppers