Reflection – The 72-Hour Challenge

Last week’s 72-hour challenge (link to the brief) was an unusual and unexpected task for me.

The first day, when we were introduced to the brief, I thought it would not be possible to do it right. With 30+ people in a group, I expected us to have a very hard time to agree even on meeting times, let alone something more creative.

Before the seminars on Tuesday, we had to gather in our small groups (A4) to discuss and come up with 10 ideas for the challenge. From these 10 ideas, we chose 3 or 4 which we were most keen on presenting to the other groups. Since there was a change in the seminar place and time, and because for the first time in my life, I didn’t have a working phone, instead of the 3 of us in my group to go and choose who’s representing us, I ended up there rather unprepaired. Anyway, I somehow managed to present the 3 ideas, and in the end we chose group A3’s idea.

In the seminar we got confused whether we needed to have a lipsync or not; some groups were told it’s compulsory, and in ours we all got the impression it wasn’t. We agreed that we’d gather all the people we can on the next day so that we can decide collectively what we were doing.

Some time after the seminar, I met my A4 group to tell them what we’ve decided to do and to try and brainstorm ideas. No one was really excited about the task, as we didn’t think it would work or that it would teach us anything useful. What is more, we didn’t have a clear outline of what we should and should not do, so we were feeling pretty much lost.

On the next day, Wednesday, all A groups gathered in the Ellen Terry building and we went up in the Dome. This was, I think, the most productive part of our challenge – around 20 people showed up, we sat around in a circle in the Dome, and we were calmly discussing ideas. I couldn’t believe that 20 people could agree on anything, but it turned out there were some more active people that became like leaders, and the others either helped with ideas or just stood rather passive, not helping but not going in the way as well. As soon as we found out who’d be filming the piece, we started discussing the technical details. A fraction of people built up, including the cameraman (Chris), his assistant (James), me and Andrew as second assistants, Dean (he later turned out as the director of this piece), and Jack – the main character. We went through the Ellen Terry building to find and rehearse the proper path where we could film our idea.

Basically, the idea was to film a main character who receives a text message that makes him sad, and he goes around the building thinking about his miserable life. In the beginning, there would be mimes behind him which amplify the dramatic effect. Throughout the whole video, there would be people in the background, colourful, fun, but he would stay deep and sad. We decided to film on Thursday evening, because we wanted to have maximum people, and to use only the light in Ellen Terry and don’t mix with daylight which would make a technical nightmare for filming – changes in exposure, white ballance etc. We made a lot of rehearsal sessions walking with a camera and the main character around the building so that we make sure what happens where and when.

On Thursday, when we met for the final shoot, it turned out another group was already preparing to shoot on the same location we had chosen, so we had to change the plan completely. We changed the starting and ending points, as well as the path where we would be going.

We had a small group of people trying to cope with the new situation and a large group of people that didn’t know what to do. An hour before starting to shoot, we already had made a big mess in the building’s corridors – people weren’t told what they needed to do, when or where, so they just walked randomly with balloons and party stuff. There wasn’t a collective understanding who’s in charge of the production; what is more – the people who thought were organising the whole thing failed to recognise the need to inform people. I tried to speak with the people that were doing the filming lots of times that we need to gather everyone in a room, tell them what we’re doing, who’s doing what and why and how the big idea is realised with them. So the director ended up walking with groups round the corridors and putting them on places he felt were right, but they didn’t have clear directions what they were supposed to do and not do, how and when.

In the meantime, we were trying to rehearse the first shots with the sad main character, initially we wanted to have a shot with the sad message on his phone, but someone said no so we ended up with just a shot where he looks sadly to his phone. I think that opening shot doesn’t say enough so the video looks like just people walking randomly. What is more, in the end, in one of the last groups, people weren’t prepared what they were supposed to do when they appear on camera, so they were just walking around, hands in pockets.

This task made me realise what a nightmare it can be when you have an unclear brief, a lot of people to deal with and no distinctive leaders. A leader would have helped to stick with one idea, one decision, and to make compromises enough that we fit into the brief, but not do too many compromises. In my opinion, with this task, because of bad organisation, we had to settle with a lot of compromise just to have ‘something’ to show as an end product, and to have it on time.

I think one of the reasons our tutors introduced us to this task was to show us how things can get inspiringly good or totally bad just because of a very small change in organisation or attitude within the groups. Another thing I noticed was that people need to be motivated to do things, and I think that even though you might be just holding a door, you need to know the whole idea so that you know where you fit within the big picture and what could go wrong if you mess up something.

I also realised that big books are right – production is only a small fraction of all the work that is involved with a media object. There is far more work to be done in pre-production – decisions, plans, scripts etc. And if your pre-production is bad, the production ends up bad as well and you can’t do much in post-production to fix it.

If this task would have been done again, I would prefer to do it in smaller groups – 10-15 people max. It would need a very clear brief which all people are aware of and stick to. A good idea is to have a tutor with the group (at least in the beginning) to help us identify and choose the leaders and the whole organisation in the group, so that we don’t end up lost in compromises and unclear ideas.

Here’s the link to the final videos of all groups:

http://keyconceptsinmc.wordpress.com/2010/11/10/the-72-hour-challenge-lipdubs/

In my personal opinion, the group that did the best work was group D. They followed all the rules in the brief – lipdub, one cut, no copyright infringements, everyone involved; the video is well done, has the right mood and tells a story.

Anyway, here’s our product:

I am looking forward for the feedback sessions.

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