The 48 hour film challenge DV Mission returns to Portsmouth | Big Read

Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to make a short film from scratch in 48 hours.

Saturday, 22nd January 2022, 6:00 am

You will be given its genre, its title and a line of dialogue to include in your two minute opus.

How you fulfil the brief is up to you…

The DV Mission 48 hour film challenge, now in its 17th year, is the largest of its kind in the south and it attracts entries from seasoned film-makers to total newbies – and all are equally welcome.

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Last year’s ‘obstructions’ (as the organisers call them) were ‘Cold War spy movie’, the title Deception Point, and the line of dialogue: ‘Do you know what love is? I’ll tell you: it is whatever you can still betray.’

This year’s obstructions will only be revealed at the start of the 48 hours.

Previous years have delved into a dizzying range of genres including sci-fi, Tokyo noir, zombies, and asked: what if David Lynch directed La La Land’?

And then a week later there is an awards evening – but not just any awards night, it combines screenings with live theatre to create an immersive experience.

The DV Mission 48 hour film challenge awards night in 2020 at The Wedgewood Rooms. Picture by Katya Gait

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DV Mission co-ordinator Roy Hanney says: ‘Everyone says they do it as it's because really good fun, and the experience of the awards night itself is very different, it's electric.

‘It's not like other film festivals and there's a real sense of shared community. That's a really powerful motivator and what keeps people coming back again and again – that sense of spirit.

‘We even have an award for The Spirit of DV Mission, and very often it goes to the film which isn't necessarily the one that's best made, but it encapsulates that passion for making films in a DIY way – it's one where you get a real sense that they loved making it.’

A still from What Are The Hours' entry to DV Mission 48 hour film challenge in 2021

The best example of this is the Worcester Massive team, longstanding participants in the challenge.

‘I don't think they've got a film-making background,' explains Roy, ‘I don't think any of them are filmmakers, but they do it for the party. It's quite a big group and they're always the loudest table at the events.

‘But over the years you can see their skills developing and last year they presented a really sophisticated, almost Hitchcockian film.

‘I gave them the Hidden Genius award, which is one we give after the festival for the one the judges missed. I felt there was a little subtlety to what they were doing that people missed.

The bespoke awards made for the DV Mission 48 hour film challenge in 2020, at the awards night at The Wedgewood Rooms. PIcture by Anna Zatorska

‘The other great thing about them is that when they first took part they were a group of people having a party, then over time you got the sense that they've got children, and now the children are taking part.

‘Now I'm just waiting for a Sons and Daughters of Worcester Massive to enter their own team – they've been brought up in what I can only describe as a Portsmouth film-making dynasty.

‘They started it as an excuse to have a party, now it's become part of their lives.’

It’s Roy’s job to come up with the obstructions, which are a closely guarded secret until the challenge begins at 5pm on Friday, February 18.

‘It is difficult,’ he admits. ‘Sometimes you don't get it quite right, and the filmmakers find it hard. I was talking to one filmmaker last night, and a few years ago we had Tokyo noir, and he said that was the hardest one we'd done – he didn't quite get it.

‘We did cold war spy movies last year, and I thought we'd get lots of Bond pastiches, but we didn't – everyone really ran with the concept and we had some fantastic spy movies that really got into that genre, even with shots of people crossing Checkpoint Charlie, crossing eastern European cities – it was amazing.’

A still from the Worcester Massive's entry to DV Mission 48 hour film challenge in 2021

Revealing the obstructions at the start of the challenge is so that teams can’t prepare.

‘It's what they call a pedagogy of restraint – it basically means that creativity comes through solving problems. It comes from a film by Lars Von Trier with a teacher of his. He said I'm going to get you to make this film five times, and each time I'm going to try and stop you from doing it.

‘This is one of the ways DV Mission is a really valuable learning experience, people are forced into a situation where they have to solve creative problems. It's like a mind gym – training your creativity.

‘People's primary motivation for doing DM Mission is always: “It's fun”, but we also get to practice our craft, we get better at what we're doing, we refine our skills and techniques over the years, and that's really valuable as well.

‘I think there's a lot of people who've gone on to have careers in film-making who will say that DV Mission is the first time they took it seriously.

‘There's a guy called Dan Hawkins who's now doing VFX for blockbuster films – there are people who've gone on to do all sorts of fantastic things.

‘DV Mission is a talent incubator. It is fun, but it's also serving a real purpose.

‘It also helps building an identity for the creative industries in the city – people realise there's something going on there.

‘There's nowhere else on the south coast doing anything like this at all – it's a real value that DV Mission brings to the city.’

This year's gala awards night takes place on February 26 at The Wedgewood Rooms in Southsea, with the deliberately obscure tagline: ‘DV Mission returns: The 26th day.’

The 2020 awards night was dubbed The Night That Pompey Stood Still – complete with giant killer robot. Last year they were forced to do things virtually thanks to Covid restrictions, so they're hoping to return this time with a bang. And all things being well, build for next year.

‘We have a plan for next year that will enable us to build on the immersive side of things. Over the last few years we've been making the awards night more of an immersive experience – you have a show where all of the films have been made specifically for that night, so it's like cinema, but it's also theatre, it's also like a club.

‘We want to broaden the audience so the films can be seen by more people.’

Film student Kalina Atanasova is taking part this year for the first time after hearing about it from her lecturer.

‘I love writing,’ says the 20-year-old, ‘and at the moment I'm working on the production of a television pilot.

‘I think the whole challenge idea is very interesting. I don't know if I will be able to achieve something amazing, but it's a great challenge for any creative person to at least attempt something in that timeframe.’

Kalina says she's worked on several projects, but nothing quite like this before, and she’s planning to get her team together in the coming weeks.

‘Right now, I only have a cinematographer, but we will be gathering a team up, and I'm planning to talk to some of the actors I've worked with before. I can work with drama, fantasy, sc-fi...’

This year videographer Ross Sterne will be back for his fourth DV Mission with his team A Step Too Far – and it was the event that inspired him to follow his dream career.

‘The first time I did it, I'd finished uni and had just moved back to Portsmouth from London. I didn't know that many people in the industry and I was quite an inexperienced filmmaker at that point.

‘My degree was in drama and theatre arts, but I really wanted to get into film – that was my passion. I saw about this, and a few of my friends recommended it, saying the main thing about it is that it's a laugh.

‘So me and my mates did and it was so much fun. We went to the awards night, sat there having a drink and we heard our names – we got nominated for three awards, and we won Best Story. It was a big confidence boost. Ever since then I've signed up every year, and I'm a professional videographer now.

‘When I started I was just a guy messing around with a camera – I can't turn that into a career. Then when we won an award, I thought, maybe I'm not actually that bad at this...’

The 48-hour film challenge kicks off at 5pm on Friday, February 18 when the obstacles (genre, line of dialogue and title) are released.

Organisers are also running free virtual events to help you make the most of the challenge. Register at

* February 2, 7.30pm. Edit Fast, Edit Effectively: what is the best way to manage a complex workflow in the shortest time possible?

* February 16, 7.30pm. After the Challenge: you have made a great short film, so what comes next?

The gala awards night is at the Wedgewood Rooms on Saturday, February 26.

For more information go to Register a team at

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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An image created for Red Books entry to DV Mission 48 hour film challenge in 2021