Fast and frantic filmmaking

(l-r) Mission producer Roy Hanney, founder and Mission director Jinx Prowse with Mike Reed and Sally Moore, who will be taking part in the DV Mission competition.  Picture: Sarah Standing (143067-2324)

(l-r) Mission producer Roy Hanney, founder and Mission director Jinx Prowse with Mike Reed and Sally Moore, who will be taking part in the DV Mission competition. Picture: Sarah Standing (143067-2324)

Richard Preston

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As you relax and unwind this weekend you may notice something odd happening around Portsmouth.

There could be a woman in a gorilla suit being chased by someone else holding a smartphone, a group of zombies staggering along the seafront or perhaps even a drone filming from above the city streets. But there’s no cause for alarm, explains Jinx Prowse, they’re just taking part in the world’s longest-running 48-hour filmmaking competition.

Jinx says of the frantic race against time, called DVMission: ‘There’s nothing else quite like it.

‘If someone tells me they want to enter but they don’t look slightly scared, I haven’t explained it right.

‘It’s quite daunting to try to pull it off, but that’s the excitement, the thrill and the danger of it.’

The concept is simple: budding and professional filmmakers gather on a Friday evening to hear what the ‘obstructions’ – a title, a line of dialogue and a genre – will be.

They then rush off to write, produce and edit a two-minute film by Sunday evening.

A mere two hours later the films are screened at a gala celebration dubbed the ‘Pompey Oscars’ before awards are dished out.

Jinx, 43, of Southsea, said other 48-hour film challenges had come and gone, but DVMission (the initials come from digital video) had been around the longest.

‘I heard about someone running a 48-hour film challenge back in 2005,’ he says.

‘It was a guy called Johnny Oddball from London.

‘He was sitting around in a pub with his filmmaking mates and said drunkenly: “I challenge you all to make a film. Come back on Sunday”.

‘A handful of people actually did it.

‘I thought: “I’d love to do something like that”.

‘So I waited and waited for someone to start one up down here, but nobody did.’

It was then he met Roy Hanney, 53, of Southsea, who was on a judging panel of another film competition.

Jinx says: ‘When I met Roy, he told me: “The only way you’re going to get this challenge happening is if you organise it yourself”.

‘So I did, and in 2006 I ran it, just so I could enter it myself.

‘There were eight teams that tried but only six made it across the finish line.’

Now in its ninth year, the popularity of the challenge has grown and and nowadays a maximum of 25 teams are allowed to take part.

‘We need a limit,’ Jinx says. ‘There are only so many films you can judge in that two-hour window after the challenge is finished but before the premier night starts.’

Jinx says his role is ‘mission director’ while Roy takes the title ‘mission producer’.

‘I think of the challenge as the Sex Pistols meets the Oscars,’ says Roy.

‘It’s rock ‘n’ roll filmmaking. It’s about having a go.

‘There are some teams that take it very, very seriously and others that come in just for the fun of it.

‘There’s a bit of rock ‘n’ roll in both of those attitudes, but it’s the fun that we like to celebrate.

‘It’s about ideas. If you can shoot a really simple film with really great ideas then people will just be wowed by it.’

Jinx says team sizes range from three to 30 members, who come from across the country just for the challenge.

‘There’s one team called The Worcester Massive,’ he says.

‘There’s 30 of them and they all come down from Worcester en masse for the weekend.

‘They’ve got actors, actresses, sound, props, the works. There’s really a community around each film.’

Thanks to smartphones with in-built high-definition cameras, filmmaking has become a lot more accessible than it was nine years ago.

But rather than dilute the quality of the entries, Jinx argues new technology has helped to level the playing field.

‘The thing is that if everyone can make a film, the only ones that are going to stand out are the good ones, which have a good storyline and amazing shots,’ he explains.

‘Last year, we were watching a film and the judges said: “Stop, rewind, how did they do that shot?”

‘They simply couldn’t work it out.

‘We found out that it was a flying helicopter, a drone with a camera on it.

‘ We thought: “Did they actually just pull a drone shot off?”

‘It’s just incredible what people are doing.’

What else helps make a successful two-minute film?

Part of the secret, Jinx explains, is keeping a good spirit within the team.

He says this can be more difficult than it sounds when working in such a high-pressure environment.

‘There was one year when one team entered and a big argument broke out among them on the Friday night,’ he recalls.

‘They entered two different films as two different teams by the end of the weekend.

‘It’s a lot of fun, but it can be stressful as well.’

This year’s ‘premier night’ where entries will be shown and awards given, will be held tomorrow (Sunday) at the Pyramids Centre in Southsea.

Award categories include ‘inspired cinematic moment’, ‘most surprising prop’, ‘best line of dialogue’, ‘inspired cinematic moment’ and, of course, ‘best film’.

‘It’s 25 wrap parties all in one room,’ says Roy.

‘It’s a pretty electric atmosphere.

‘Next year it will be our 10-year anniversary, and I really want to get the Sex Pistols themselves to play at our premier night.

‘It’s ambitious, but then, ambitious dreaming is part of my job.’

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What: The ‘Pompey Oscars’ – short film screening and awards ceremony for DVMission. All 25 entries will be shown before the gongs – which look like smaller versions of their more famous Hollywood cousins – are handed out.

Where: The Pyramids Centre, Southsea.

When: Sunday, November 2, 7pm

Cost: £5

____________________

Sally Moore, 27, of Buckland, is taking part in a team called the Hyper Glory Eldon Squad.

When she’s not making short films she works at Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard as a tour guide aboard HMS Victory.

She says: ‘A lot of our members work in the Eldon Building at the University of Portsmouth, so that explains our name.

‘I’m a creative writing graduate so I studied scriptwriting and last year I was the writer on the team.

‘I’m strictly behind the camera.

‘My friends and I have always liked doing little independant projects.

‘Competing in something like this is great because you have so many teams and so many different levels of experience.

‘It doesn’t matter so much how much technical experience you have because in the end, it’s all about your creativity.

‘Last year the genre was “urban fairytale”.

‘We made a film based on the TV show Cops, with fairytale characters in the real world.

‘It ended with a drugs bust where everyone was eating poisoned apples.’

Sam Bell, 25, and Jackson Batchelor, 23, both from Southsea, are taking part in a team called Trash Art.

Sam says: ‘It’s the third year I’ve done it.

‘It’s a great opportunity to be involved in something quite local.

‘We’ve done other film challenges around the country and they’re a heck of a lot of fun.

‘But with this one, there’s a sense of urgency involved with the awards ceremony at the end.

‘It’s kind of nice to be able to 
walk into something and have no idea about what’s going to happen.’

Jackson says: ‘Last year I was working at a bar at the same time. Over the weekend I was having to go to my bar job in the evenings and come back afterward and carry on editing.

‘I pretty much just stayed awake for the whole 48 hours.

‘You have to push on ’til you reach the deadline.

‘With locations, sometimes you have to hope for the best.

‘If there’s loads of people walking through you just can’t film.’

Mike Reed, 43, from Denmead, first took part in DVMission in 2009. He is competing this weekend with a team called Air Ninja.

He says: ‘It’s the infusion of ideas and teamwork that makes it such a positive event to be a part of.

‘The challenge are the obstructions and trying to push yourself to bring something to the screen that perhaps others wouldn’t have thought of.

‘By nature, everyone comes 
up with something different so you have to try to push the envelope a little bit and come up with something that’s going 
to stand out and maybe win a prize.

‘In Air Ninja, we have a method of working where we focus less on the kit and more on people and the characters. I’m shooting on an iPhone this year.’

Before DVMission’s organisers decided to make the 48-hour film challenge an event in its own right, it was part of the annual Portsmouth Film Festival.

The festival runs a separate short-film competition called Making Waves, which this year attracted more than 250 entries.

The winner will be announced on Tuesday at 7pm at the Fat Fox in Southsea.

The festival’s artistic director, Kate O’Driscoll, said: ‘We were completely overwhelmed by the quality of the films submitted to the 2014 competition.

‘It was also fantastic to see local new talent compete with talent from across the UK and the world.’

The key to the challenge are the ‘obstructions’, three short lines hidden in envelopes which will shape the style and outcome of the filmmakers’ efforts. There is a stated genre – examples from past years have been ‘weird west’, ‘techno horror’, ‘urban fairytale’, and ‘road movie’.

A line of dialogue is also listed. This is often something already well-known such as: ‘I’ve got 99 problems’, or ‘What we have here is a failure to communicate’. The third obstruction is a film title, for example ’Golden 8’, or ‘The Red Curve’.

Team members pick up their envelopes from Jinx on the opening Friday of the challenge – which for this year’s contest happened yesterday at the Edge of the Wedge in Southsea.

Jinx said the obstructions were always a closely-guarded secret which team members sometimes went to great lengths to uncover.

‘One year my bins got raided the night before the challenge and I thought nothing of it,’ he says. ‘But then the next year my bins got raided the night before the challenge as well, so then I started to think there was something a bit suspicious behind it!’

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