The HP 48Hours short film competition held its grand finals and awards ceremony on Friday. Madeleine Chapman went along for the first time and came away with some lasting impressions, both good and bad.
I’ve never entered the 48Hours film competition, though I’ve been tempted. It seems like something fun and excruciating to do with friends, like the 40 Hour Famine. Instead, this year I went along to the grand finals to see what it takes to be a champion short filmmaker. I went with a friend and we parked in a parking building, assuming it couldn’t possibly take more than an hour to screen the grand finalists and chuck out some awards. It took over three hours.
Despite the length of proceedings, it was a fun night. But it wasn’t all good. Before we get into the best shit of the night, we must also address the worst shit; the few bad impressions that have troubled me since I walked out of Civic Theatre three days ago.
Bad: Too many laughs
It’s a 48Hours film competition but could just as easily serve as try-outs for New Zealand’s comedy shows. Of the 18 grand finalists screened on Friday night, 14 had blatant comedic elements and one-liners. A few looked like sketches pulled straight from Funny Girls or Jono & Ben. There’s nothing wrong with comedy, it tends to make everything a bit better, but only in New Zealand would drama be an outsider genre in a film competition. Which makes me wonder what is more impressive in a time-restrained film competition: the ability to style, shoot, and edit an effective scene, or the ability to write a joke that lands? Because there was plenty of laughter but not so much truly impressive camera work, highlighted by the fact the film that won Best Cinematography wasn’t even a finalist.
Bad: Best female director
There were awards for acting, editing, sound, song, cinematography, directing, and… female directing. Yes, the girls got their very own category. There were no female nominees in the best director category and, unsurprisingly, the film whose director was crowned best of the females wasn’t a grand finalist. Unless the best directing category is actually meant to be called ‘best male directing’, the fact this category even exists is pretty depressing. I understand that female directors are few and far between the world over, but creating a separate category so one of them can get a prize is just dumb. Maybe nominating a woman for best director could help. And if you can’t include a woman without it feeling obligatory, then leave it alone. Because I guarantee that any young filmmaker with big aspirations doesn’t have dreams of being the best female director.
Good: Runner Runner Up
One of the crowd favourites on the night, Love.exe deserved some sort of prize for the quality animation alone. Reminiscent of Wall-E, it exemplified the very essence of 48Hours in that I couldn’t believe a small team of people managed to make the whole thing in two days.
Good: Runner Up
Ghostfish: Catfished By A Ghost was overall the most professional-looking of the grand finalists. It could’ve been straight out of Funny Girls both in its digital-short-like presentation and in the team members themselves, many of whom write for the show. The team performed some impressive ghost effects and editing, while also winning the unofficial award for Most Team Members.
(Time) Travel Centre was a surprise winner on the night. A wildcard pick by Sir Peter Jackson, the short film was undoubtedly clever in its premise and looked very crisp. Like Ghostfish: Catfished By A Ghost, (Time) Travel Centre wouldn’t have looked at all out of place in an episode of Funny Girls.
Very good: Crowd favourite
There was a pretty clear crowd favourite on the night. Or, at least, A Bro’s Life was my favourite and seemed to elicit the greatest audience response. It didn’t end up winning any awards despite being the most impressive film, in my opinion. Like the other finalists, it provided plenty of laughs, but it was also the most sensitive and thought-provoking of the entries. Not to mention the chosen storytelling method was extremely well-executed. If I had to guess, I’d say the team had experience in creating TV content, but even so, it was a short film that stayed with me.
Very good: Wildcard winner
A film that could never have won but which I found the funniest in a night full of comedies, was Dazza and Bazza: Kiwi Dad Detectives. With Microsoft Paint-like animation, the onus was very deliberately placed on the dialogue, and it delivered. It featured the best joke and line delivery of the night which is enough to make it a winner in my books. It was also another wildcard pick by Sir Peter Jackson, which makes me think maybe he should just pick all the finalists next time because he seems to know his stuff.