This is the third and final interview in our series talking with filmmakers who led teams in 48HFP-DC 2009. In our first two interviews we talked with Jasmine Bulin, a first time participant and Ishu Krishna, a long-time veteran. Today we bring you an interview with Amanda Hirsch of CreativeDC, who entered her team for the second time this year.
Amanda Hirsch, 48HFP-DC Team Leader
Still Indie: Amanda, how did you get involved in the 48 Hour Film Project?
Amanda Hirsch: I perform with Washington Improv Theater (WIT), and they’ve been participating in the 48 hour film project for years. The WIT community has gotten so big, though, that it doesn’t make sense for everyone to work on one film anymore, so last year, a bunch of us decided to give it a go on our own, and we had a blast, so we did it again this year.
SI: What genre were you hoping for and which one did your team draw?
AH: We were hoping for anything but “mockumentary”, and we drew “mockumentary” As improvisors we just thought that was low hanging fruit (we play with that style of storytelling a lot on stage), and wanted to challenge ourselves to stretch a bit more. So we put it back and ended up with “surprise ending,” which was the only other genre we really didn’t want — so it goes.
SI: What story did you tell?
AH: “Happy Hour” is about a lonely, lonely guy who so longs for friendship that he convinces himself he’s friends with complete strangers, creating elaborate back-stories in his head. The “surprise” is that for the whole movie, you think these people are really his friends, and then you realize they don’t know him from Adam. We tried to play with tone to underscore the element of surprise — you think it’s an upbeat episode of Friends, and then it gets really depressing and creepy really fast (we hope).
Production Still from "Happy Hour"
SI: What was the biggest challenge your team faced?
AH: It’s hard to assess how effective a surprise ending is when you’ve been so close to writing, shooting and editing the “surprise.” When we watched the first rough cut, our hearts sank – the surprise didn’t have any impact. We realized it was because there wasn’t enough of a tonal shift, so we redid the voiceover. When we watched again, we all had this moment of, “Ohh, wow, that was CREEPY.” So we were pretty sure it worked. But I’ve seen it 15 or 20 times now and I just have no idea if it works or not – I can’t tell! I need some distance.
SI: What was the best moment of the weekend?
AH: There were a lot of them – having everyone get really excited and on the same page about the story on Friday night was really cool. Then getting to see our editor, Jon Reiling, work his magic – seeing how he wove in b-roll and music to really bring the story to life on-screen. And he and our other director of photography, Bryce Whittaker, got some really cool shots looking in through the window of the bar where we shot, which were pivotal to conveying this notion of a stranger looking in on something he doesn’t have, and coveting it.
SI: Will you be participating again next year?
That’s the spirit! Thanks for taking time to answer our questions Amanda and keep up the great work! If you still think DC is just a mainstream city, stop by Amanda’s site at CreativeDC.org and find out what you’ve been missing. If you missed our first two segments this weekend, check out Jasmine’s perspective as a first-time participant and our interview with 48HFP veteran Ishu Krishna. If you’ve got questions for Amanda’s team, leave them in the comments section below.