Thunder & Ash - A 48 Hour Film Project

Andrew Website User Posts: 379 Enthusiast
edited September 2014 in Practical Filmmaking
Hey guys,
While we were working away in the background on the finishing touches of our Splinter Cell Fanfilm from the summer months, we decided to enter something we generally just really love doing- and that is a 48 Hour Film Project competition. We hadn't done it in a few years, so though we had missed the contests in our home cities of Dallas and Austin in Texas, we scooted into the running in San Antonio last-minute two weeks ago, and were pretty happy with how it all came out.
The result is a short we've titled "Thunder & Ash", a 7-minute drama about friendship and atonement, that I'm pleased to say actually won the competition, taking home 'Best Film' along with Best Directing, Writing, Acting, Cinematography, Sound Design, and Editing. 

Though we've worked on a huge number of 24 and 48-hour competition projects the past several years, and won numerous awards over that time- we've never had quite as large a sweep on all the major categories and top prize as we did this year, and it's a pretty exciting and validating result to have happened after so many 'almost-got-it' entries over the years.


One fun thing about this year is we took this opportunity to test out a few things we hadn't yet tried or had the chance to utilize, such as using an original composer and scoring an original musical score for the short during the time period (which came out fantastically), using our Canon C100 on the 48 hour shoot, and coordinating permission to shoot in a national park called 'Lost Pines', in Bastrop, TX- which is eerily charred and barren throughout hundreds of acres of surreally burned-down woods.

Though it was sometimes a trial-by-fire, we were able to complete the whole thing and get it in on time. And thanks to the wins, we'll now be progressing to Filmapalooza next March and then, potentially, Cannes Short Film Corner from there. All really exciting stuff.





Anyway, just wanted to share. We can't as of yet release the short publicly on the internet, because of the wins- but we're close to being able to, and just waiting on double-confirmation that it's all good-to-go. So I wanted to just push this out there for now, in case anyone had any interest. As with every year and 24/48 competition we do, no matter how planned or precise our Splinter Cell project or corporate promo jobs may be themselves, there was and is something incredibly special and magical about being able to pull together and create a short as a team in such a frenzied and concise amount of time- and each entry is a new and incredibly unique, rewarding experience- no matter the end result. Just as we do with many other years, we worked primarily with new actors and strangers we'd yet to collaborate with- and the experience is one that really forces innovation and interaction between cast and crew that galvanizes trust in such an odd and amazing way.
To anyone who has any interest in ever doing one, I greatly recommend it. The 48 Hour Film Project now tours through a number of major (and minor) cities internationally, and is well worth the entry fee to try out.


  • KirstieT
    KirstieT Staff Administrator, Moderator, Website User Posts: 1,069 Staff
    edited September 2014
    HUGE congratulations on winning the competition - that's amazing news!
    I really look forward to viewing the short when you do put it online - if just for the barren forest shots because they look really eerie :) 
    Please do put it back into this thread and link us all to it!
  • Andrew
    Andrew Website User Posts: 379 Enthusiast
    Thanks, Kirstie! We'll be premiering the short online this Sunday, September 7th- so I'll be sure to post that here for anyone interested.
  • Andrew
    Andrew Website User Posts: 379 Enthusiast
    edited September 2014
    Here's the full short, for anyone interested! Let me know what you think!

  • AxelWilkinson
    AxelWilkinson Staff Administrator, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 5,247 Staff
    Pretty darn impressive for a 48 hour project.  After seeing it, there's not much wonder as to why it won so many categories.  Its very polished, cohesive and complete.  Production value feels high, and its overall very professional in every respect.  
  • Triem23
    Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 19,245 Ambassador
    Pretty much what Axel said: It's beautifully put together, your actors are compelling, the storyline is solid, and it sure as hell doesn't feel like a 48 hour project. If I had a single nit (and I do--a single, solitary little nit), it's that some of the sub-base rumble during the first in-car sequence is a bit loud. I had to quickly turn down bass EQ on my sound system because it was stepping on the dialog. Meh--48 hour festival. it happens.
    Still, congratulations on your awards! Very well deserved recognition for an amazing piece of work!. Nicely done, gentlemen!
  • KirstieT
    KirstieT Staff Administrator, Moderator, Website User Posts: 1,069 Staff
    edited September 2014
    All that in 48 hours? Wow!
    You had a really good script (I especially liked the tangential bit in the cafe where he's talking about how he came to work for him. At first it doesn't seem to be anything much and you wonder why you're spending so much time on this seemingly unimportant story - and then he finishes it and you go 'ooooohhhhh....').
    Your actors pulled it off brilliantly (considering they probably only had a few hours to learn their lines).
    I think your narrator might be my favourite part - his voice is perfect for the tone of the piece. Aside from that, the music did a lot to peak my interest in this short.
    The instrumental piano never took over completely, but it really made you feel like it was all gaining momentum. Especially when they were flashing to moments with the couple - that particular part of the piece was beautiful piano (well done Matt Bukaty!)
    I saw the twist coming before it arrived and was hoping immediately that it wouldn't be cheesy - but your actors and script really pulled it out of that trap. When he said "You said anything, so..." at 5:35 and can't finish the sentence, that tugged at me a little bit.
    Brilliant cinematography - thoroughly deserved win! I can't spot it anywhere so I'll ask - did you use HitFilm in it at any point? It'd be nice to be able to promote it in a few places if it uses the software at all.
  • Aculag
    Aculag Website User Posts: 708 Just Starting Out
    The bit in the diner was definitely my favorite scene. That actor (not sure of his name) who is the one telling the story is just fantastic. He really nailed it. You guys have great luck working with dramatic actors who don't go over the top (usually).
    It's been really interesting seeing your progress on these 48-hour shoots over the years. The fact that you have an original score this time really sets it apart, and gotta love that Deakins-esque cinematography of course. Those shots of the burned woods were lovely, but even the interior shots had great appeal.
    I will say that even though it really works for you guys, I don't personally like voice overs, so I found myself wishing you'd found a way to tell the story without it. That said, it also didn't take away from the impact of the short, so that's not a huge complaint or anything.
    Definitely a solid short, and once again I find myself wondering when you guys are going to produce a feature-length film. You've definitely got what it takes to make something really special I think.
    Great work!
  • Andrew
    Andrew Website User Posts: 379 Enthusiast
    edited September 2014
    Thanks, guys. Really appreciate you all taking the time to watch this and give your thoughts. I know the Hitfilm forums are more scant on commentary and viewership of short films specifically, as that sort of audience traffic has moved off of forums and more to YouTube comments and Facebook pages over the years. So thanks for watching.
    Matt Bukaty, the composer, really has been a great addition to the team. He's incredibly versatile and crazy-good, scary-talented at coming up with stuff that matches our style and vision very quickly. He's scoring our Splinter Cell short, too, and has done some fantastic stuff with that as well.
    Aculag, funny thing about that. The new actor we worked with, Johnny, was absolutely phenomenal in his performance and delivery- brought real gravitas to the role and short in a very small amount of time. As did Bekah, the female actor in the short. Only thing is, because they were new additions and the first time we had worked with them, I think the way in which we work- especially on 48 and 24 hour competitions- threw them off a bit.
    We're a very well-oiled machine as a team on timed competitions. We trust eachother's instincts and move and adapt quickly to what we need as we write, shoot, edit, shoot more, edit more, and polish the whole thing. A lot of this means getting pointed, cinematic one-liners thrown into the script to use as opening and closing 'bookends' for scenes so that if we have to cut them shorter because we're running over the max runtime, or we're running out of physical time in the competition to shoot everything- we know that we can slash pieces and still be safe.
    The original script was 12 pages long and had no voiceover as I always write overlong, with the idea being that we can trim bits and pieces as necessary and have too much, but aren't going to ever come up with not enough content. I think because we didn't effectively communicate this to our new actors- who were both incredibly strong and positive and great to work with- they felt a bit lost in exactly what we were going for, and it made it difficult to get those bookends. So that when scenes came up and ran way overlong (the diner scene clocking in at 7 minutes alone), there was no clear way to be surgical about cutting them naturally.
    So I pulled into our bag of tricks and pulled something I knew always works for cutting and creatively editing shorts that maximizes small scenes and still ensures the sort of 'cinematic flow' that we like to capture. And that trick is voiceover. It still works well here, I think, and in the end I'm glad I used it. But I definitely know what you mean, and it is something we tried to stay away from. It does, after all, have its consequences. (Like in the case of this short, essentially being used to cut Bekah's scene and lengthy screentime completely out of the movie, save 2-3 shots, convincingly to save runtime)
    We were lucky, though, that our main actor Johnny gave such a tour-de-force performance- and that we could rest on the gravitas of his voiceover after-the-fact to consistently pepper throughout the short. We decided early on that he'd essentially 'do a voice', which is far more east-coast, deep, and gravelly than his actual central Texan cadence. And he just nails it, like he's a completely different person.
    Triem23: Sorry about that, man. I do love me some booming bass sounds and green-tinted visuals. Guilty stylistic indulgence of mine. ;)
    Kirstie: No, alas no Hitfilm usage in this one. It's an awesome program, though, and Splinter Cell will have some great implementation of it. But I'm still kicking around with my early-2010 beta copy of Hitfilm 1. So I'm a bit on the outdated end. 
  • Ben
    Ben Website User Posts: 51

    Just happened upon this thread after having not realized it was posted here a few weeks ago.

    Thanks so much, guys, for the compliments and comments, we're really glad you enjoyed the film. We're hoping to submit this film to a handful of festivals, if it's good enough, and see what happens with it at Filmapalooza 2015; the final festival (short of the Court Metrage at Cannes) for the 48 Hour Film Project winners.

Sign In or Register to comment.

Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!