VAND - It’s All About The Challenge
Each year, Zürich Film Festival represents a real pleasure for film aficionados as well as filmmakers. Aside from an exquisite selection of cinematic tidbits, the festival also offers a lot for industry members with its exciting lectures, talks and events. One such event is ZFF72, a contest of a different sort. Competitors are given 72 hours to create a short film not longer than 72 seconds about a given topic. After admiring the results of other filmmakers over the previous couple of years, 2016 was the year when we decided to jump into this challenge.
Shortly after deciding to take part in the competition, on Friday, September 23, 2016, Manuel and I were sitting in a stylish lecture hall on Sechseläutenplatz at the Zürisee (Zürich's lake) and were waiting for the announcement of this year's topic. The go-ahead for the 72 hour challenge came exactly at noon. Its topic: water.
Brainstorming and discussions already started on the way back from Zürich to Bern. We had to find a fitting idea. We wanted it to be creative and funny, but also attainable with a limited budget and timeframe. Not an easy task, despite the years of experience.
Ultimately, the flash of inspiration hit us, and Manuel painted the picture of a lone fisherman standing at the lake on an early morning, pondering on his connection to the waters beneath him. The puzzle pieces fell into place by themselves: crew, location and a fitting actor were quickly found.
Thanks to a lot of passion, flexibility and commitment of everybody involved, we finally managed to bring our idea to life within 72 hours. The result was our 72-second black comedy VAND (Danish for "water"). Out of over 270 films submitted to ZFF72, VAND made it into the «Jury Top 10», which we were very happy about.
As one of our favorite projects of all time, VAND reinforced our confidence in our work and convictions on the one hand, while on the other hand it helped us learn a lot through the entire process starting from the idea, all the way to the finished film. Here are three major points that we picked up along the way:
You need to have a plan to be able to improvise
Flexibility is absolutely essential to our profession. Especially when every minute is valuable and the financial resources are limited, you have to be able to react to changing circumstances and resolve unexpected issues. Even more important, a well-crafted plan ensuring a seamless assembly of every component into a whole, despite deviations, is vital.
Small details can lead to seemingly unsolvable problems at a later stage. The first-best solution that worked last time often isn't the best.
In order not to lose sight of the entire complex process, you need: a strong vision, lots of experience and knowledge in the trade, and, last but not least, strong collaboration between everyone involved.
With its tough requirements, ZFF72 takes this challenge to new extremes and coaxes these very abilities out of the competitors. We gladly took the challenge.
See your weakness as a advantage
"It doesn't work, we can't, it's not enough..." are sentences that are often heard at the beginning, during the conceptualization and brainstorming phase. While high enthusiasm and drive are essential, one cannot forget the realistic assessment of what is feasible as an equally important trait of a filmmaker. In that regard, creativity and ambition are of only little worth if the entire budget is spent, but only 40% of the film is completed. So how do you go about surpassing seemingly insurmountable obstacles? Due to the strict time limit of the competition, we were forced to be pragmatically realistic and had to change our perspective from the beginning. The impossible is apparent straight away, but then what is possible? Why exactly can't we put something into practice, and are there ways to bypass that reason? In some cases you have got to back two or three steps, in order to untie a knot that causes ten problems. Necessity can make you effective, or, in our case, creative
Embrace the Deadline
Three days isn't much for an entire project, start to finish. But what initially may seem as working to the limit and enduring sleepless nights, can turn out to be a good didactic play in regards to planning, prioritization and teamwork. From the start we had to keep our impulse just go for it at bay and consciously force ourselves to spend a big chunk of time working on the concept and planning. Only when our vision was clear and the path to its realization was outlined clearly could we focus on production tasks. Everyone knew what they had to do and when to do it. We also knew where and to what degree we could invest our attention and time. This yielded a constant and natural creative efficiency, that we sadly often miss in commercial work. Of course we argue vehemently for a sufficient amount of time to budget the individual jobs and leave enough space for the creative process... but a nice turnaround also has its advantages.
VAND was an utterly exciting and fulfilling experience for us as filmmakers and as a team. Creatively and professionally very demanding, this project put us to a hard test. It was great to see that we work well as a team, even when the pressure is on. Furthermore, with the limitation of time, the most valuable resource there is, ZFF72has strengthened our resolve to take more challenges in the future. Because nothing keeps the spirit young and the reflexes quick like a good challenge.