5 Things: Danielle Sumita on Making a Film in 48 Hours

By That's Shanghai, August 18, 2016

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That’s series where we ask a Shanghai-based somebody to tell us 5 Things specific to his or her life.

The 48-Hour Film Project is a global competition held across 130 cities to see who can make the best short film in only 48 hours. The Shanghai edition kicks off from September 16-18 but they will be holding a screening of past award winners on August 18 at The Market. For those interested in taking part, it's RMB700 earlybird prices per team before August 22 and a final deadline of September 16 for RMB800 per team.

To get motivation, we asked the Shanghai organizer and short film producer Danielle Sumita to share five tips on how to maximize your time and resources to put together a good film in just two days. She gladly obliged.


1. Get creative with your dialogue


No VPN? Watch the 2013 Shanghai 48 Hour Film winner The Forest on Youku.

It's tough to record clean audio and issues are more apparent in a big screening venue. Get creative by using dubbing, narration, musical interludes, or sweet sweet silence to lighten the aural load. Trainwreck's A La Cart did so and made a great short film!

2. Use the daylight

Not a tip a professional would give, but if you can't afford to rent lights and you don't want a grainy, dull picture from poor lighting, schedule your shoots around 7am-4pm. This Chinese high school team Warm Tone filmed all within the beautiful baitian of a Shanghai fall day for 病 The Illness. This may, perhaps, be due to the fact that they had curfew and had to be in by dark. 

3. Film locations can be a pain to find, try thinking micro 

Instead of scouting for numerous locations and schlepping your team and gear around town (hello, Shanghai traffic) try to get creative with your shots, trying a mid or tight frame. Makes for a much more visually diverse film and an abstract can make nice transitions between scenes. Touch by Lion15 offered some beautiful imagery, all shot in one location.

4. Your phone probably has a better video camera on it than the one used to film your parents' wedding 

Don't be discouraged if you don't have access to a professional-grade camera – your phone is small and light and can hold a fair amount of data. Let's Make Great's entry last year, Listen.Love.Share, was filmed entirely on iPhones.

5. Get back to your creative roots: play time! 

Films featuring cartoons, dolls and action figures, puppets, or whimsical costumes could help create a world outside of your everyday. Animations or inanimate sidekicks (think: Wilson from Cast Away) are some alternatives if your team is light on actors, and it is speaks to the spirit of the 48 Hour Film Project – get out and have some filmmaking fun! This is a badass example of how Cairo team Nawash illustrated themselves to greatness in Tarot.


Register to participate in the Shanghai 48 Hour Film Project at the official website. Contest runs from Sep 16-18.

For more 5 Things, click here.

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