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Two Weeks?

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Part I: a #2wkfilm

For the last couple of years, there have been countless articles written about how the new digital revolution will grease the wheels of film production, how your phone will allow you to make a movie on your way to work, edit it over your lunch break, and then have it broadcast to the world by the time you get home. Before you know it, Hollywood will come calling with millions of dollars and a three-picture deal. And while that sounds good in abstract (and makes for a really good subject of an article), anyone who's ever made a film knows that it just isn't that easy. The smallest film you've ever seen has about a thousand moving parts, all of them subject to breaking down at any given moment. So while greasing the wheels is nice, it's only a fraction of the process.

If you're like a lot of filmmakers, working out of pocket or with no budget at all, this is just an open invitation for a project to fall apart. And most of the time, that's what happens. A filmmaker can spend years trying to get a modest production off the ground, to no avail.

This is super frustrating.

When I got on Twitter, one of the first things I noticed is there's a lot of film people on there who have boring day jobs, during which they post all sorts of film stuff while their boss isn't looking. This isn't all that surprising.  And one of the most popular filmmaker discussions is the whole "this is why my current project is stuck" discussion. It sounds like complaining because, well, it kind of is. It just happens.

So one day, Reid Gershbein threw out a joke of a solution: make a film in two weeks, from the first day of shooting to a final cut. Everyone laughed, but then people started talking about it. Yes, it was an insane idea, but that kind of made it appealing. It would force you to find a way around all the potential potholes, which is a how a lot of interesting stuff in film happens. Expectations would be super low, for obvious reasons. And at worst, you'd spend a couple weeks making a film that you'd be ashamed to show people. Let's face it, there's a good chance at some point you'll spend a year making a film you're ashamed to show people (or never gets finished). Two weeks is nothing in film production. If you can make a film in a year, you're moving pretty fast.

The more we talked about it, the more it made sense, but we set up some guidelines:

1) This was around April 20. You could start your film at any point in May, as long as your two weeks finished by the end of May. This gave people up to three weeks of pre-production. Or, if you're me, time to find a story and write it.

2) Final cut got switched to fine cut. As I pointed out, color correction and sound mixing can make a film substantially more watchable without really affecting content, so we might as well allow for that.

3) The final film had to be at least 60 minutes long, which is the minimum length for a feature. If that meant a 15-minute shot of a tree, so be it.

4) There was no competition. It was more a friendly, 'I'll do this if you do it too' sort of thing.

In the end, three of us decided to do this. Reid, myself, and Mike Peter Reed, a filmmaker in the UK whose film Crooked Features I once reviewed. None of us had a script or a treatment or anything beyond a few random ideas floating around our heads, but filmmakers always have that.

And with less than a month to prep, there wasn't much time to find funding. This was going to be no-budget filmmaking in the purest form.

Up next: Anyone got an idea for a film?

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About Lucas McNelly

  • The most difficult part of a two-week no-budget shoot is finding cast and crew who are willing and able to give up two full weeks of their lives for no money.

    As someone who worked on a two week shoot of a feature in September, I’m looking forward to the rest of this series!

  • You can see the other #2wkfilm for free online here:

    The Dabbler…

    The Original Soundtrack

    Natural Victims (from the second round)

  • Dave,

    a 2-week shooting schedule is certainly doable.

    This is not that. This is 2 weeks to shoot and edit. We shot it in 4 days.

    Thanks for reading and stay tuned!

  • Cut to the chase. Where can we see the brilliant output of this project?

    BTW, a 2-week shooting schedule is not impossible. They shoot hour long TV episodes in less and at high quality, and there are plenty of straight-to-video indie films shot in 2 weeks. Most suck, but every once in a while the result is something pretty cool.

    I’d argue that this is more of a challenge to your expectations than to what is possible.