Roughly four years ago I woke up one morning at 3 am with the unquenchable desire to make “47 Minutes” as a short film. Since that moment I have been on one of the wildest adventures of my life, fraught with high highs and low lows. With this film I was able to shoot b-roll in New York, construct a plane set, and work with some of the most talented cast and crew who have all become close friends. During production I have dealt with some of the greatest trials that I have ever faced. At a few points these trials drew close to derailing this project completely and crushing all hopes of bringing 47 Minutes to the screen. Through this blog I hope to share my story of what it was like making this film in hopes that you can glean a few things of what it takes to make the best film possible and how to overcome the trials that will inevitably come up through the filmmaking process.
“47 Minutes” is a short film about three perfect strangers: a selfless flight attendant, a down-and-out paramedic, and an overworked lawyer go about a normal day when a single act puts their seemingly separate lives on a collision course culminating at the moment that defined our generation.
Amy (Kristen Jensen), Michael (Joshua French), Sam (Max Mount)
47 Minutes was originally a nationally award winning 10 minute stage play where three actors stand on stage and give a broken monologue. I saw it performed at my university. I have never been so moved by something that I seen on the stage or any other medium for that matter. I instantly saw it as a short film. I wanted to share the experience I had with the play with a larger audience using my skill set as a film director. Then that fateful night in April of 2012 I woke up in the middle of the night with this overwhelming desire to turn 47 Minutes into a film, marking the start of a four year adventure.
To start of the process I needed to find the playwright of “47 Minutes,” Joshua French. Unknowingly at the time I was taking a directing class with him at the University. When I showed my final project in class he was impressed and came up and congratulated me on the work I had done. In the passing conversation I asked what other projects he had worked on. Joshua off-handedly mentioned that he was the writer of “47 Minutes”. I did all I could to contain my excitement. As a curtsey he mentioned that we should work together some time and swapped info. Less than a week later I called Joshua and pitched him about making 47 Minutes. He immediately jumped on board idea.
The next step was assembling the right team. Through helping on a lot of student films while in school, I had built a network of very talented upcoming filmmakers. The first person Josh and I brought on was Merrill Nielson. He would help produce, edit, and color “47 Minutes”. After Merrill was on board we were able to bring on an amazing Director of Photography, Gaffer, VFX Supervisor, and Composer.
BTS at the Fire Station
With the team put together Josh and I began adapting the play to the screen. The biggest obstacle in adapting the play to the screen is flushing out these monologue vignettes and into fully formed scenes, filled with characters and environments only insinuated at in the play. Joshua and I spent many nights on a whiteboard flushing out each of our protagonist’s story lines and how we could interweave the stories as seamlessly as possible. After several months of meetings Joshua took all our notes and in the span of 18 hours wrote the screenplay.
With the screenplay in hand we began scheduling. Breaking down the script we realized that we were more or less shooting three separate short films and editing them together with the help of some New York B-Roll. We decided to schedule to shoot them separately over the following year, shooting the New York B-Roll in September, the fireman story in October, the business man in February, and the Flight Attendant in March.
BTS in the Business Office
The hardest part of production was finding the right locations to tell the story. We had to have the right fire station, business office, and an in interior of a plane. We were fortunate to find locally the perfect fire station and business office. The interior of the plane is what escaped us. We tried contacting our local airport to talk to use their training center, we looked into going to LA to use one of their plane sets. When none of those options would work we decided to build our own plane set. A local production company had the outer plane hull set that they were going to throw away. We gladly took it off their hands and extended ourselves.
BTS on the plane set
In preparing to shoot each storyline we knew that we needed the right cast to be able to pull of the emotional depth that we wanted to portray in this film. Fortuity Joshua French is an actor with great connections in our local acting community. We were able to cast everyone between the people we already knew personally or through connections through other cast and crew. With all those connections we were able to fill out a dynamic cast that perfectly matched these vibrated characters that we created.
Mckowski (Corbin Allred)
In March we wrapped the production and I could not be happier with the footage that we got. All the actors gave brilliant performances. Our crew created a beautiful look for each of the storylines. I was excited to dive in to post production and be able to pull these three stories together into a tight short film. That’s when all hell broke loose.
In June of 2013 my dad passed away in a plane accident. If you have seen the play or have seen the film the irony is off the charts. With the death of my dad I had to take a sabbatical from working on the film. I had to attend to mom and to my family to help them emotionally and to help make sure my mom was set financially. With the grief I felt I didn’t know if I was able to finish the film. Instead of making this tragedy a negative I chose to turn it into a positive and dedicated the film to his memory. I used the pain and grief I felt and helped use that to help focus the message of the film.
Unfortunately that wasn’t our only set back. Each member of our post production team went through their own life changing trials. Instead of getting frustrated with one another we chose to band together and lift each other up to finish this project.
With all the trials we went through finally finished the film in December of 2014, a full year after our planned date. With the film finished we had our friends and family screening in December of 2014 and had our world premiere at the Student Filmmaker Awards January 2015. Since then we have been showing the film in festivals around the nation.
My goal was to share the experience that I had with the play in 2012. It’s been amazing to go to festivals to see and feel people react and connect with the material. The same way I connected with the material back in 2012. That has made all the struggles of making this film worthwhile.
Written by Austin H. Wilson – Director of 47 Minutes
Watch 47 Minutes - Official Trailer