A woman in a bowler hat spins around in an office chair, looking at four other women crowded in the office around her. She then casually starts picking up paper clips and tossing them at the others, earning glares in return.
This could be a scene from any film set. However, rather than in a studio, it’s in a kindergarten near Jamsil. And rather than professionals, it’s a grouping of friends and acquaintances taking part in a film challenge, racing against time to write, film and edit a short film in just 48 hours.
“I got about two hours of sleep,” admitted director Makrenna Sterdan. “I got up around 6 or 6:30. I had a panic dream last night that I overslept, so I got up and looked over the script. Then I got the others who stayed over up around 7 a.m. to look over the script.”
Part of Red Lips Productions, they were just one of 12 teams who took part in this year’s KIX48 Film Challenge, organized by the Korea Independent Expat Film Festival. The event took place from June 22-24 – from Friday night to Sunday night. According to organizer Kevin Lambert, all 12 teams completed the challenge and turned in their films by the deadline, which is not always the case.
Also, this year the challenge included groups outside of Seoul – one based in Busan, another in Incheon and yet another in Bundang. A feat made possible by the fact the launch was livestreamed and teams submitted the films digitally rather than having to rush to a drop-off location.
“This is great for teams, I think; why should they be disqualified for getting stuck in traffic?” Lambert said. “That said, now the traffic is digital. So, not sure how well that argument holds up. That said, I’d feel really bad if someone got hit by a car because they were running to the drop-off location with their USB stick. Not sure a certificate would cover that.”
Each group was given three elements that they all had to include in their films – though they could choose the genre. Lambert said he based all the elements on a Western-theme – the location was a Korean mountain, the prop a cowboy hat (or something like it), and the line “Tell them I’m coming, and Hell’s coming with me.” Each film had to be between four and seven minutes long, not including end credits.
But ultimately, the true competition was the race against time
According Karelia from Team Adrenaline-Fueled Sleep-Deprived Caffeinated Pictures, no one on their team got enough sleep the first night. She was up until about 2:30 a.m. writing the script and then up until nearly 4 a.m. trying to finish her shot list, though she admits she eventually gave up and went to bed.
The story-writing process was “a nightmare,” according to Karelia, but it worked out that the required location element could just be included in the shot rather than setting the entire film or a scene on a mountain.
“We knew we wanted to have it in one place,” she said. “That was a big thing. We did not want to go anywhere. So, we could do it by our house, so that’s cool.”
As always with a 48-hour film challenge, it’s best to expect the unexpected and go with the changes, as evident with Team Thor, which created the film “Branded.”
“We had a rough idea of what we wanted, so we tried to make it fit. But then today (June 23), we scrapped it and we just, I don’t know, we just kind of let Mike (actor) drift. And he drifts really well,” said Johnathon Jacobson. “We sort of, um, feed him dialogue and see where he goes.”
James Lee from Seoul’s Soul knew to expect the unexpected from previous experience, though said that the team’s writer-editor-director Xuying had to rush in from out of town from another set and had the tough task of editing all day Sunday.
“So, we all shared different types of workloads and challenges,” he said. He continued that the major obstacle was the race against time and shooting with only two hours of light as they couldn’t start until 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
“We all had mixed feelings, however, I was satisfied knowing that we put something out there. Whether we think it’s great or not, makes sense or not, is in our control. Every audience member interprets a film differently,” he said. “So, my belief is, don’t let it be known, put it out there with confidence and let people know that’s what you meant to put out. Unplanned things in art make for unexpected successes.”
Some teams went into the challenge with ideas already in mind and chose the best that fit the elements, such as Cinema Webb.
“I came up with three or four core ideas before. And then when we saw, once we got the elements, we thought about which ones we could mix the elements into and maintain the integrity of the idea,” said James Webb, the leader of the team as well as the writer and director.
And while the plan was for the team to get some sleep the first night, then get up early on Saturday to get started, Webb couldn’t sleep so got to work instead.
“I woke up in the middle of the night and wrote the whole script. And then at 7 o’clock, we then reworked it a bit together,” he said.
Teammate Liz added that they spent the day of filming reworking as they went along.
“Everybody knows their lines. Everybody’s ready. So we’ve just been playing it by ear and seeing where we could take it, what would work better, what would sound better,” she said. “And so far everybody that’s been involved has been kind of amazing.”
One of the most mixed teams with half Korean and half non-Korean members, the group shot a dual-language film with the entire script in English and Korean. Though the main obstacle for them was daylight as their entire film “All Nighters” is set at night. They were able to film a fair amount during the day as their film locations were in basements where no light got in, but had to wait until sundown for some scenes.
“We’ve been switching from going to coffee shops and drinking coffee to going to bars and drinking beers. Back and forth continuously, so we’ll probably die. It’s distinctly possible,” Webb joked.
However, ultimately, all the long days and nights, fighting with locations and elements, racing against time was worth it. Lambert said he had a blast supporting and visiting the teams throughout the weekend as they filmed and edited. And that more than anything, events like KIX48 are meant to bring the community together.
“That’s the whole point of the Korean International Expat Film Festival and KIX48. It’s about giving people something fun to do, but also hopefully bringing people together,” he said. “I think it’s a testament to all of your local, non-profit arts communities, that when the curtain goes down, you’re like, ‘I need a break, but let’s do this again.’”