What it’s like to compete in the 60 Hour Film Blitz

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ACK Productions: Annabel Romanos, Charlotte Flatley, and Kit Klaes.

60 hours isn’t a whole lot of time to make a film, which is something that ACK Productions, made up of third-year students Kit Klaes, Annabel Romanos, and Charlotte Flatley, know from experience. The trio have competed in the Film Blitz every year they’ve been at the university so far, and won in multiple categories for their past two entries, “Run” and “Waiting for Death”.

Kit and Charlotte are film students, with Kit not only Film Studies president, but one of the lead organisers of this year’s Blitz. Charlotte, also on the Blitz volunteer committee, is Joint Honours with Psychology. Annabel studies Social Anthropology, but she’s from Los Angeles, she explains, so she grew up around filmmaking and TV, which is very important to her—Bones even sparked her interest in anthropology. She has also worked as a photographer. “I’ve always liked having a camera in my hands,” she says. Accordingly, Annabel handles the cinematography, while Kit likes to write and edit, and Charlotte has won Best Actress two years in a row.

ACK Productions: Annabel Romanos, Charlotte Flatley, and Kit Klaes.
ACK Productions: Annabel Romanos, Charlotte Flatley, and Kit Klaes.

They trio very kindly agree to let me shadow them as they make their three-minute short over the weekend. As a veteran team, they’re noticeably less frantic in the days before the competition begins than some of the less-experienced teams I’ve spoken to. Kit is busy making sure everything will run smoothly on the organising end, and even working on a script for a different project. “Maybe I’ll even make a film,” she muses.

Friday

At 12 pm, the competition kicks off with a respectable 23 teams signed up, falling just short of last year’s record 25. (19 of these will go on to complete and submit their entry.) ACK Productions meets up at 3 pm to write a script for their film. Since the theme of this year’s competition is ‘inspired by a painting’, they’ve decided on Salvator Dalí’s Persistence of Memory, not only as a thematic inspiration—their film will cut intermittently to a ticking clock—but also for its surreal style.

They’re finished with the script in less than an hour, and the rest of the day is consumed by non-Blitz obligations: Charlotte has to prepare for a Psychology fair, while Annabel and Kit are busy working karaoke from 8 pm until 2 am. They hope to get a fresh start the next day.

Saturday

The team meets up around 2 pm, and after picking up batteries for their clock (“and food,” notes Charlotte), walk over to Castle Sands to begin filming, where I join them shortly after. They’ve only been on the beach for a few minutes, but they’re so efficient that by the time I make my way from the top of the cliffs down to the water’s edge, they already have what they need.

As we walk over to South St, they tell me about their busy schedules: In addition to deadlines, upcoming election campaigns, and society obligations, Kit is busy planning for Thursday night’s gala. Since their first entry two years ago, “we’ve been spending less and less time on the actual Film Blitz,” says Charlotte.

By 2:30 pm we reach Janetta’s, where they’ve planned to film Annabel eating an ice cream cone. But it’s crowded, with the line out the door, so they decide to skip it and choose something else for Annabel’s scene. “That’s why it’s fun,” she says. “You get to make it up as you go.”

There’s no panic accompanying this last-minute switch; sudden changes to the plan come with the territory. When they filmed “Run” in their first year, the team were on the pier when a hail storm “came out of nowhere.” Completely soaked, they had to go to the Union to clean up, drying Charlotte’s hair under the bathroom hand dryer for continuity between her scenes.

We continue down South St, where, because this weekend happens to coincide with Oktoberfest, the pavement is crowded with attendees dressed in lederhosen and dirndls. This certainly feels surreal, but when I ask if they’ve considered using shots of the attendees, the answer is a decided no.

We reach Lade Braes, and plans change again when a puddle Charlotte was meant to splash in leaves no room for a running start. When Annabel suggests that Charlotte chase a duck instead, Charlotte looks dubious, to say the least. The atmosphere is extremely relaxed—multiple renditions of “Happy Llama, Sad Llama” are sung as we walk—and the three are obviously good friends. They have been, Kit tells me, since their first 60 Hour Blitz. “Charlotte and I didn’t know each other that well during the first Blitz—Annabel was our mutual friend. But after the Blitz we spent all our free time together. It forces friendship.”

Annabel Romanos.
Annabel Romanos.

“Whether you like it or not,” adds Charlotte.

By now it’s 3 pm, and we head down further down Lade Braes, run into a dead end, then backtrack. Along the way, Annabel will stop every so often to film a door, some graffiti, or anything cool-looking. As we head toward Cockshaugh Park, they’re on the hunt for a tree for Annabel to climb. On the way, we spot a dog sitting by the gate on the path, and naturally we must all pet the dog. Annabel pulls out her camera to film. Not long after, someone spots chickens through a fence, and the same thing happens (minus the petting). These will be featured for only seconds in the final film.

Around 3:30 pm we reach the park and Annabel climbs her tree at last. Then she needs to borrow my feet—my film debut!—as she lies on the ground and has the three of us walk individually toward and away from the camera. I leave them around 4 pm—hour 28, almost halfway through the competition—with the filming almost complete. They head off to Kit’s flat in town to film the clock and their monologues until 6 pm, after which Kit edits on her own for a couple of hours.

Sunday

At 11:45 am team reconvenes at Costa, then goes back to Kit’s flat where Charlotte and Annabel give Kit feedback on her edits. From 1 pm Kit edits some more on her own until 2:30 pm, when she exports their film. They’re finally finished, with more than 9 hours to spare, giving Kit plenty of time before she needs to go man the films submission station from 8 pm to midnight. It hasn’t been the mad dash around town that I was expecting; at times, the walk around town to film felt almost leisurely. But watching their final film, “3:05:12”, on at the gala on Thursday night, I had a totally new appreciation for how Blitz competitors put their films together. And if they had half as much fun as ACK Productions did while making them, it was well worth it.

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