Filmmaking in 48 Hours

Susan Gerhard July 19, 2006

The assignment was “a short sci-fi comedy to be created in 48 hours,” featuring: a pillow, a character named Mark Pantagenet, Foreign Ambassador, and this particular line of dialogue: “When are you going to clean up this mess?” No problem for Leena Prasad, apparently, whose personal production company is WeAreNotAmused. The title of the film she and a hastily put-together crew came up with, “What Do You Really Think?,” (editor’s note: now up at YouTube) indicates they you, maybe, could be amused. Or at least that was the plan. The film screened with others from the San Francisco incarnation of the 48 Hour Film Project this past June, but Prasad is already gearing up for her next filmmaking-as-sprint-race this weekend (starting line is Dolores Park, 9 a.m.; films screen the Castro at 9:30 p.m. the same day) via Cinemasports, part of the this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival.

SF360: What was the most difficult part of making a film in 48 hours? Was this the first time you tried it?

Leena Prasad: Yes, this was the first time that I wrote, directed and produced a ’48-hour’ film. I had participated in the 2005 48 Hour Film Project as a cameraperson. The most difficult part was the writing, i.e., creating a satisfying and coherent plot, movement, and characters within the given parameters and time frame. After giving out the details to the cast and crew at midnight, we threw out our first story at 1 a.m. in the morning and finished this one at around 5 a.m. on Saturday morning. The cast and crew were scheduled to show up at my apartment at 8 a.m.

SF360: From the synopsis, your film sounds like it has a Charlie Kaufman-style premise (sci-fi, featuring a pillow?). Who are your favorite filmmakers and why are you making films?

Prasad: I don’t have any favorite filmmakers but there are some directors who have made unforgettable films: Stephen Frears (‘My Beautiful Laundrette’), Richard Linklater (‘Tape,’ ‘Waking Life’), Spike Lee (‘She’s Gotta Have It,’ ‘Do the Right Thing’), Quentin Tarantino (‘Pulp Fiction’), Mira Nair (‘Salaam Bombay,’ ‘Mississippi Masala’), Steven Soderbergh (‘Sex, Lies, and Videotape), Pedro Almodóvar (‘Talk to Me’), David Lynch (‘Blue Velvet’). There are many others that I know I’m forgetting, but these are just some that come to mind. For this film, however, I was influenced mostly by my obsession with the ‘Twilight Zone’ series when I was a teenager.

I’m compelled by the power of visual storytelling so, as a visual artist and a writer, filmmaking is a marriage of my two passions for the purposes of spawning visual stories.

SF360: How did you assemble your crew? How experienced were they?

Prasad: I assembled my crew with a lot of help from my friend Louise, who brought in all the actors and the camera guy. I met some of the crew members at the ‘Meet and Greet’ sponsored by the 48-hour-film project for hooking up cast and crew. The others I met via the 48-hour website and via Craigslist. One of the crew members was someone I had met as a participant in last year’s 48-hour-film project.

The experience level of the cast and crew ran the gamut from novices to people who were involved in filmmaking as a profession.

SF360: What was your personal favorite — excluding your own — of the ’48 hour’ films that screened a few weeks back?

Prasad: I don’t remember the exact title but I think it was called something like ‘The Last One,’ and was about the last single heterosexual man in San Francisco.

SF360: What are you going to do with this film?

Prasad: Fine tune it a bit more in terms of the edits and submit it to film festivals. And send a copy of the DVD to my mom and dad.

SF360: You’re participating in the next hurry-up-and-finish filmmaking project this weekend — the Cinemasports competition? Why do you like these contests? What makes you suited for them?

Prasad: The 48-hour film project was such an emotional high and I learned so much that I couldn’t resist the opportunity to carry that excitement into making another quickie film. I also wanted to take advantage of the cast and crew while their adrenaline is still pumping. I’m well suited for something like this because I’m good at organizing, work well under pressure, and love the instant feedback of creating and watching the movie all within a short time frame.