Serial Filmmakers - Director Dan Hartley on his award-winning entry for the 24 Hour Oddball Film Competition at Cannes
London based Director Dan Hartley and collaborator Max Day won first prize at the 24
hour 'Oddball film competition' in Cannes .
The event sponsored by Avid and The Film Council UK attracted 12 teams from all over the world. Teams had just 24 hours to write, direct and edit a three minute film with a title and genre drawn out of a hat at Twelve Noon. The winning film, a comedy, starring Jamie Martin called 'Serial Filmmakers' tells the storyof a man who believes himself to be a huge celebrity but is upstaged by his own equally deluded reflection on the night of his big Premiere.
Dan and Max met whilst working on the 'Harry Potter' film sets, Max in his capacity as Harry's stand-in and Dan as a floor editor. This was the directors first visit to Cannes and the film was a true independent film with equipment borrowed for the event, locations blagged and French barely spoken.
Here Dan gives us a diary of his stressful but successful bid for film stardom:
"I arrive in Cannes on Thursday May 12 th . The festival has been in swing for two days already but I'm only here for the 24 Hour Oddball Challenge which begins Saturday noon. I've so far negotiated seven bags on a train to Luton, a plane to Nice, a bus to Cannes and now a taxi to my hotel. The amount of luggage reflects my purpose here - the 24 hour challenge permits its participants just 24 hours to write, direct and edit a three minute short, so on my back or in my bag or attached somewhere to my body I have two Sony PD 150's, a G4 powerbook, a tripod, monopod, steadycam jnr, a suitcase full of clothes and a case full of accessories. So far it has not been easy, but arriving at the hotel my team are already in residence and very dapper they look, with suits and blue shirts the order of the day. No one told me were getting dressed up! But then we're in Cannes and my first lesson has been learned, outfits and appearances are everything, status and gloss, human billboards advertising themselves.
My two partners in this initiative are Max Day, my co-director and Jamie Martin who will be our sole actor. This is my first time meeting Jamie and I'm soon captivated by his easy humour, charm and consideration, if nothing else this week we're going to have fun. At least we'd better hope so because Jamie and Martin are sharing a double bed and I'm a hand reach away in a single.
Now the first priority in Cannes is accreditation, without it you can't enter the main festival offices or access the International Pavilion or for our purposes enter the competition so we seek out the Carlton , one of the jurassic hotels that line the front of the Croisette and then gain access to the Warner Bros publicity office. This is our big moment, Max and I arranged these passes weeks ago, on the strength of our former employment on Harry Potter and in our naivete we're expecting the full red carpet treatment, 'A list' access to the best parties, a bag of goodies, some free cinema tickets. As Cannes newbies it seemed certain that they would take us under their wing and show us good old British boys around town. Events unfortunately are slightly differently. Guided from one desk to another, a quick burst of non-understood french and then we're told quite simply and plainly 'we lost your photos.' No explanation, no apology. French bureaucracy delivered fast food. For a few seconds we three stare back, unable to actually comprehend this spectacular curve ball. Gamely I attempt to resurrect our hopes with my best French... Ay? Mutterings and fumblings, a 24 hour delay possible, now a trip to the festival office along with all the regular people, all pomp and circumstance yanked from under us, yet three hours later we are now in possession of the beloved festival pass and we're away to the British Pavilion, the home of the ex-pat, good old blighty in a tent, this is where the party starts.
No beer until 6pm, are we in the right tent? The British Pavilion, surely that's just an excuse for a bar? Not so, and now its starting to sink in that we really don't know what we're doing here. It's bizarre because we really did expect someone to hand us a big map and itinerary which says watch film here, then go to party here, now board this yacht and have a meeting in this villa. Without prior experience of the festival and without knowing anyone here we actually haven't got a clue what to do. Still, it's certainly a spectacle and we're here to work so the three of us casually recce the croisette and soak up the med sun. Max and I had already been thinking about an idea that we could hopefully use for the 24 hour challenge which involves shooting Jamie against lots of reflective surfaces. The concept being to tell the story of a reflection who starts to challenge the man that he's reflecting, so we're peering into car windows and sneaking into hotels to see whether we can access a five star floor. The day soon slips by in this fashion and we decide to head to bed early so that we can start the challenge fresh the next day.
And onto the challenge. The British Pavilion is now awash with entrants and suddenly the adrenaline is coursing through my body. We take to the stage to get our genre and title, a comedy called 'Serial Filmmakers'. Max and I retire outside to dwell on this result, sans Jamie who we left behind at the hotel to sleep. The title isn't doing us any favours, the suggestion is that we make a film about filmmaking in the fashion of Seven, multiple films perpetrated by multiple filmmakers but that doesn't lend into our pre-concept at all so we've got to stick to the plan and make the title work for us. The pressure is immediate, as minutes pass by we're forming dialogue and trying to work in the title to the idea. We know now that the film will be about a man who imagines himself to be a big celebrity on the way to his premiere in Cannes but who is beaten to it by his reflection. So Max hits on the notion of making the premiere film, 'Serial Filmmakers' thus neatly side stepping the complications whilst also permitting us to have fun with devising a billboard advertising this fictional film.
By the end of the train ride we're not so sure, maybe we should make the film about a bunch of filmmakers who just can't stop shooting bad films and Jamie can be our detective, a DC from England brought over to solve the case. Shots of Jamie reacting to bad films, actors trembling from the experience of making the film, a sexy assistant who is revealed at the end to be the perpetrator all along and as Jamie and her go to bed at the end of the film, she reaches down to the bedside, basic instinct style to pick up a.... camcorder...
Unfortunately though we're now three hours into the afternoon and we haven't started shooting either script so I'm left to make a call and choose to shoot the reflection idea. The afternoon now begins in earnest. We have three friends who have been working on the boats near Nice and who form our crew as we start to shoot, first Jamie in the bathroom mirror, then the billboard poster shot using the balcony, now the streets around the hotel, then onto the croisette as the sun dips. Although we started late, the schedule seems to be going quite nicely, provided we make the film premiere at 10 which will be the center piece of the film we're in good shape. Arrive at 10 and the Palais looks terrific, a huge red carpet leads like a giant tongue into the heart of the cinema and along its path hundreds of people drift along, crowds whooping and hollering as someone famous stops for a photo call. We pull out the tripod and get the master show, the palais, the red carpet, the giant screen. Now we have to establish Jamie's arrival, so we switch to steadycam and hold on, what's happening to the music? what's happening to the celebrities, the crowd? It's over... just like that. The last people are ushered into the cinema, the guards who line the carpet start to drift off, the onlookers are onward looking. Bugger me. Now its a case of cheating everything. In half an hour we dash back and forth around the perimeter, framing shots to exploit the stragglers, cheating the shots to hide the empty red carpet. Stressful but so much fun to be shooting guerilla style. Come 11 and we've finished shooting. Eight hours that's all, I've never had such a short shoot day before. I'd actually expected to be shooting until two or so but this is great, might I still get some sleep?
Its 3:30 in the morning and I've been staring at my computer for ten minutes and haven't touched a key. My brain has sludged and its seems I cannot awake it from this stupor. I look to Max and I can tell he's in the same zone. We resolve to sleep for an hour and seconds later we're flat out.
I edit until 11:20 in the morning, five minutes before the train is due to depart for Cannes, ten minutes along the coast from our hotel. I've been editing continuously since re-awaking at four, with Max joining me at about six. I've completed the visual FX and Max has added the audio and titles. We've got a cut. Exhilaration coupled with exhaustion, stirred up by Nicotine poisoning.
I deliver the tape alone at 12 noon on Sunday. 24 hours later I'm now entering into competition a film which didn't even exist yesterday. What a feeling. Everyone is clearly suffering in the same way but now word leaks out that some people have been given an extension? Scandal! This news does not sit happily but I'm beyond caring. I just want to sleep.
At the screening that evening, our film comes on and for the first time in my life I'm able to watch a film I've directed with an audience of non-friends. Reactions are very good, Jamie gets the laughs, the editing is tight and the technical aspects of framing, focus and exposure are good for the most part. When the awards are announced an hour later we're feeling pretty encouraged but to be told that we've won first prize is unlike any feeling I've ever known before. A rocket full of adrenaline propels me out of the seat and now Max, Jamie and I are hugging and laughing and living the exhilaration. I've never won anything before we all say but god it feels good and here at Cannes as well. Utterly amazing.
So now we're in Cannes with three days to go. We've rung our mums, dads, girlfriends, vicars and we've spilled out onto the streets of Cannes once more, only now we know exactly what to do. We're going to party and we're going to party hard. Now how on earth do you get onto a yacht?"