Mobile film challenge shows it’s not size that matters, but teamwork

By Adam Skuse Source:Global Times Published: 2015-9-24 18:08:01

Participants at Techyizu's Mobile Film Challenge edit together their short film. Photo: Courtesy of Noah Solnick

A screenshot of the short film Breath Moment made for Techyizu's Mobile Film Challenge

Last weekend saw budding filmmakers gather together for a challenge that pitted them against the clock to use little more than a mobile device and their own ingenuity to produce a two-minute film in just two days.

Among the locals and expats taking part in the challenge were seasoned pros, enthusiastic amateurs and complete beginners.

The 80 or so attendees formed teams of two to five people and then, after getting some tips from the organizers and film industry mentors, set to work brainstorming, storyboarding, shooting and editing their miniature masterpieces.

With a loose remit to theme their films about life in Shanghai, the results covered drama, comedy, romance, documentary and horror.

After a frantic Sunday afternoon of editing, the films were screened and votes cast to award prizes to the best productions.

The Global Times caught up with some of the organizers and participants to find out if their experiences had been a blockbuster event or a disappointing flop.

Noah Solnick, organizer, the US

Techyizu's goal is to support the community by organizing free, open events around start-ups, design, and the tech industry. At the beginning of each year we brainstorm a rough schedule of events to put on. We'd never attempted anything like this before and it sounded like a ton of fun, so we decided to go for it.

The biggest challenge around making a two-minute mobile film is the time limitation. Two minutes is an incredibly short amount of time to tell a story, so it forces teams to really cut everything away to get their message across. Every shot, every second is critical.

For Techyizu, one of our biggest challenges is finding a venue for our events. Since we're a non-profit organization, we're always on the lookout for venues willing to donate their space to the community for an event. ShanghaiTech University has been a generous sponsor for both this and our previous Designing Shanghai event.

I'm incredibly happy about the final results. Over 20 teams screened their films at the end of the event and the quality of the films really showed how much teams learned over the weekend.

The takeaways were knowledge, and the satisfaction of creating something to be proud of in just one weekend. Several participants came up to me to let me know how much fun they had creating their films.

Manuel Giner, participant, Spain

I'm an actor, but not experienced at all on production. I wanted to learn about pre and post production, because I find it useful when I'm on set. It may not help my performance, but it helps to make production teamwork easier. And, of course, I wanted to have fun.

Not having a designated director, it's difficult to work when everyone has a different opinion and everyone wants to be the one choosing the angles we shoot or use later, or where to cut. That and lack of time were the difficulties. 

We didn't know each other in our team, yet we could overcome not being on the same page. We learned a lot from the talks that the organizers gave and realized that there's no need for budget at all if you have a good story, vision and teamwork.

The only thing I'd change about the event was the fact that we, the teams, voted for our favorite films. I'd like the organizers, who are professionals, to have been the ones choosing the best films and making a short review or critique of every movie. It would have taken time and effort, but we could have learned a lot from that.

Adrian Montague, participant, the UK

I joined the event to show the world that a product manager can also be a world-class director of photography with just a phone. I expected to gain world-class fame, but this is yet to arrive.

I had no film experience except drunkenly videoing friends dancing, falling over and riding kiddie rides outside shops on nights out.

The first challenge was trying to get my teammates, two stand-up comedians, to be focused. This was solved by telling them to stand on specific marks and not move. Basically treating them like naughty children and telling them to stand in the corner.

Our film, Balls, was a dramatic and epic account of two men's struggles to be the best. Set in a colosseum, it is a man on man fight to the death or until one of them gets kicked in the balls and lies on the floor screaming.

From this experience, I will take away an Oscar-winning short film, the memory of a friend being kicked in the balls, and tired arms from holding a heavy phone. It's rewarding seeing the film come together and knowing that your team worked like a well-oiled runaway train.

Erin McGinley, participant, the US

I was told about the event a few days before by a member of the China Indie Film WeChat group. I knew I would have to create a Web series for a writing class, but I have very little technical experience outside of writing, so I wanted to get some shooting tips. I had very little prior experience aside from school projects.

I worked with a great group of folks, so our only real challenge was time.

Our film was set during the day, so we filmed our interior shots the night before, and we decided to meet very early the next morning for the exteriors.

Getting to see the final product was great of course, but so was getting out of my comfort zone. I do stand-up comedy, so my comfort zone is words. I liked the idea of doing a film that had no dialogue to try something new. I met some great people and got some good tips!

In our film, Sucker, a man sees an awkward but intriguing woman on the subway, and he follows her off the train, only to watch her walk straight into the arms of her much younger Chinese boyfriend.

The man is disappointed, but laughs, and a young boy wearing the same T-shirt sits down next to him and gives him his sucker (a lollipop). The concept was inspired by the idea that when one door closes, another one opens.

Posted in: Metro Shanghai, City Panorama

blog comments powered by Disqus