Behind the scenes of NTV 48 Hour Short Film Competition


Photo provided by Dean Witt of NTV

UP ALL NIGHT IN THE SPOTLIGHT: Senior Coco Wu performs the role of Ruth Booker, a novice model

Annie Lee, Viewpoint Editor

A somber blue light illuminates scattered bits of paper, ferociously ripped apart. Cameras zoom in on an agitated painter slouched on the floor. The clapping of the film slate reverberates around the room, crew members flattening themselves against the walls and holding their breath. The scene has begun.

During a 48-hour film competition from Feb. 10-12, NTV scripted and recorded a psychological thriller revolving around Ezra (senior Ze Xi Isaac Lee), a gifted artist whose intense desire to create a perfect portrait transforms him into a cold-hearted sociopath. One of many memorable scenes was filmed at the end of a grueling day. 

“I had to scream maniacally in a mirror while pushing my head against it,” Lee said. “After 14 hours of filming, it was a great cathartic release from exhaustion. Plus, the method acting made it look so good.” 

Although NTV was allowed to prepare the script and props ahead of the challenge, the time limit of the competition still created scheduling difficulties. However, by establishing a strict filming schedule and operating collaboratively between the various organized teams, the crew members overcame the time restraint and successfully finished the film production on time.

“There are many roles similar to professional films like director, producer, director of photography and production design,” senior Yash Khot said. “My role was director of photography which meant I had to make shots look the way they do with lighting by setting up shots at a specific angle, describing the motion of the camera—if there are any—and how the shot is framed.”

Those working in the spotlight also faced personal challenges. Although he has worked with NTV during their 24-hour film competition and was selected for the 48-hour one after an audition that required him to read two of Ezra’s mini monologues, Lee had to continue to work on unlearning some of his mannerisms from his theater performance background. 

“Screen acting is a lot more nuanced and more natural, which meant I had to actively suppress my theater habits like clear diction and projection,” Lee said. “I knew we only had a limited time to film everything, so to pressure myself to avoid those habits, I internally told myself that instead of countless takes to get it right, I would only get three takes. That internal pressure really helps to spur things along.” 

Yet, not every actor had much experience in front of a camera. Acting for the first time, senior Coco Wu played Ruth Booker, a first-time model that Ezra paints. This was in addition to taking on the role of assistant producer and being a part of the food crafty team, who provided breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks for the crew to keep their spirits up. 

“I’ve never acted before and I’m so glad my first experience was with this crew because they’re all my family,” Wu said. “We do the 24 and the 48 challenges every year and ultimately it’s an amazing bonding experience that allows us to recreate the sense of a professional film set.” 

NTV’s film will be released after the Orange County Film Festival in March. Be sure to check it out!

“Production design and our head producers worked so hard to make this film possible,” Wu said. “I’m so proud of everyone, especially because many of the key roles were taken on by newbies in NTV. They did such an amazing job and will definitely carry on the NTV legacy.”