Tips, tricks and failures - a finalist's guide to surviving the 48 hours

We asked Yoobee Online tutor and previous 48 hours finalist Luke Barker to write some tips on the 48 hours film competition. Luke has entered into three previous 48 hours competitions. In 2011 he was a Christchurch city finalist for She'll be right and in 2013 not only was he a city finalist, but he also won "best art direction" and 'sexiest looking short' for 158. Here are his tip's and tricks for a successful Rialto Channel 48 hours. 

Here are some tips, tricks and failures that I have encountered during the past few years that I have entered the 48 hour film competition. It's something that I wasn’t sure how to dress up. But then thinking about it, if you’re in the 48 hours, chances are you’re dressing down, so here goes..

Sleep a lot!

Sleeping is the best way to achieve anything creative. It's a good idea when you are first given your genre to head straight for your sleeping bag. Sleeping releases some very creative endorphins so your mind will no doubt assemble your story in your head as you rest up. When you wake up the story will be done and you’ll be well rested for your big shoot. This really does work,  I’m not just saying this because I’m entering again this year and want you to miss the deadline to increase my chances.

You’re a giant killer...

This is probably the greatest thing about the 48 hours, it is truly a level playing field. Nobody can start anything early and nobody can throw money at it to win. At 7pm on Friday night nobody is in the lead, and come Sunday, those that have all the budget and resource in the world can come crashing down to earth because they insisted on shooting everything in 4k res, or spend too long working on the VFX so it just can’t render in time. You can do it!

Test everything!

In the weeks leading up the competition test all of your gear. Shoot something with the camera you plan on using, cut it in the software you plan on using and render it to the 48 hours specs with a stopwatch nearby. Getting familiar with this process will allow you to make key decisions like “how long can I nap for?” and “do I have time to get a sneaky cheeseburger while this rough cut renders?” Over the shoot weekend have somebody who is constantly driving things forward. Telling you that you said that shot would be ready in 5 minutes 10 minutes ago. This is a necessary evil to getting things done.

Don’t listen to movie fans!

Your flatmates ex boyfriend's sister, who watches movies all the time, doesn’t know what she is talking about. We all have that person who is keen and enthusiastic about entering, they turned up with a mate of a mate and command the spotlight during the idea creation process. Problem is they want Michael Bay and you guys have the time and budget smaller than his breakfast menu. Think up ideas based around what you have and what you can use. The fewer the locations and the fewer actors the better. You will end up with a much more well-rounded film if you just work within your means.

Nobody believes a lawyer with zits...

While it's great that you have a lot of people who are keen to get involved, you still need to have some level of ‘casting’ rather than giving the role to the person who is most keen. There is something to be said about getting an older actor to play the older parts. However, that’s often easier said than done. These older actors are a rare breed. I suggest you tell your parents/grandparents that you believe your film will make you the next Peter Jackson, and without them it has no substance. They hear the name Peter Jackson on the 6 o’clock news every so often, and it's because of him your decision to choose a career in film-making is all of a sudden valid. Cash in on that.


Unless you have taken my advice and slept the weekend away you will experience a years worth of highs and lows all in the one weekend. Not only will it challenge you emotionally, but physically it will also be very demanding. In one of our shoots we needed an actor to be covered in blood and wearing very little. Too bad we were shooting in a freezing cold garage late at night. Our actor really suffered. We had a fan heater that was switched on instantly between takes. He was hugging that heater so tight I thought they were becoming an item!

Always try to score

But first get your mind out of the gutter. I meant add some music to your film. More accurately, I really mean master all of your audio. Sound is important, the audience may not pick up on a slightly dodgy image, but they will definitely notice if the sound isn’t right, you just can’t get away with it. Check all of the peaks and make sure the audio is consistent throughout. Headphones can be deceptive, so if you have time play it back through some external speakers. If you are really twiddling your thumbs render it off and watch it on the TV, that will sort out your pesky ‘spare time.’

Get your story straight!

Everybody likes that you have just figured out what ‘depth of field’ is and how all of a sudden your finished film is 90% blurry (you know who you are). But your flick ain’t goin nowhere without a story. Story is everything. This is one of those giant killing facts. In this competition it's not uncommon for a group of year 11’s (that's 5th form in the old money, I just googled it.) to topple an industry giant at the awards show, based solely on their execution of story. Story is everything.

Story is nothing...

Without getting it across. One of the hardest things to do is tell a story with your film. It's truly not easy. Things that make sense to you may only make sense because you have known them from the outset. The fact that Bobby Young is an ex bully, or Vic Meyer is an insomniac, you need your audience to know this too. Don’t forget to tell them. Or better yet, show them. There is nothing worse than when “scientist number two rolls out an ex-positional statement number 3"  just to blatantly tell everyone what’s going on. Hopefully this guide helps some of you. If it inspires even 1 person to enter, then it's been worth me sharing my thoughts. Every entry is a potential industry giant waiting to happen. Get out there and have a stupid fun time with your mates and a camera, at worst you’ll get some ‘V’ out of it. I just noticed reading this back, I do tend to exaggerate a lot, but then again I’ve said that a thousand times... Have fun, get shootin! Luke Baker