The Canon 48-Hour Film Project (48HFP), a contest in which contestants shoot and complete post-production on a short film within 48 hours, gave its top prize this year to The Safe, a heist film produced by the Lam Thien Group. Screenings of this and other competing films took place in Ha Noi and HCM City yesterday, where the producer of the 48HFP, Ross Stewart, spoke to Culture Vulture.
How did you become producer of the 48HFP?
After studying creative industries at university, I worked as a producer of arts events in Australia. Needing a break from western culture, I decided to leave with a friend to Viet Nam. When we arrived in HCM City in 2003, we were lured into its seductive embrace and ended up staying and working as teachers for a local school. I was accepted to produce the 48HFP in 2010.
Before the project launched, what level of participation did you expect from Vietnamese filmmakers?
Before the competition launched in 2011, we hoped that we would be able to recruit around 90-100 teams to make films in Viet Nam. We totally didn't expect to register 125 teams! It was impressive.
What do you think about young Vietnamese filmmakers?
The filmmakers in Viet Nam today are very influenced by the world around them and take full advantage of the technological advances that have been made in cameras and industry-standard editing suite software. So, technically, they are very skilled.
That is, apart from sound recording. This is not 100 per cent their fault due to the excessive amount of environmental noise that is present in the cities these days. It's almost impossible to find a quite place to record actors in their natural environment, so filmmakers have to rely heavily on looping dialogue over the top, which requires great skill and expensive microphones set up in correctly configured rooms.
What do filmmakers gain from and learn when they participate in the competition?
Besides the interesting personal experience that the 48HFP provides for participants, the project also creates new partnerships and possibilities. Often teams will be made up of people who have never worked together before – with each person bringing their unique view on life, technical skill set, and equipment.
Because of the limited time frame given to make a film in the 48HFP, filmmakers have to draw upon their immediate surroundings, stories and community which we hope will allow them to expose their little part of Viet Nam. The screenings will allow the young filmmakers to reflect more upon these stories and the multifaceted society they live in, and in turn make them become more aware of their identities as the filmmakers of tomorrow.
What was the most impressive film crew you've encounted in your time producing the competition?
The people and film crews that impress me the most are the ones that discover something new about themselves, either by pushing themselves to follow a dream or have a new experience – or experienced filmmakers that have stepped outside of their comfort zone and professional folio to create a film that might change the way they think about their craft or influence their future work.
A team from last year's competition, "Fast Food Films", impressed me the most. They are a large group of friends and filmmakers who have participated in every 48HFP competition so far. They have even worked together on commercial projects, which just goes to show that the 48HFP is the beginning for many filmmakers to break into the industry.
Tell us about your ordinary life in Viet Nam currently?
Ordinary life in Viet Nam? I wish I had one! Sometimes I wish I could go back to a normal day job where I go to work and come home every day – maybe make a plan for the weekend. But, life is not like that anymore for me, and if you really want to get ahead in life, then you need to take some risks and you need to deal with some stress. — VNS