CogWheel Films: Creating ’27 Pictures’ & the 48hr Sci-Fi Challenge

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to take part in a fantastic competition with the filming company I work with, Cogwheel Films. This competition happens once a year, this time I took part, it was as fun (albeit stressful!) as it was the first year I did it (2015).

27 pictures


A still from 27 Pictures

The Challenge:

For those of you who don’t know, the 48hr Sci-Fi Challenge is a national competition open to filmmakers of all backgrounds and abilities. The challenge begins when a brief is sent out to all participant teams with set compulsory elements to include in your film: a title, a line of dialogue, an action/prop, and an optional science prompt.

Your team then has 48 hours to go from the prompts to producing a finished short film. For more details on the competition, visit 2017’s official website.

The Brief:

Title: 27 Pictures
Action/Prop: A USB/SD card is pushed into a slot
The line of Dialogue: ‘The images were sourced randomly if such a concept exists.’

The Finished Film:

27 Pictures

Coming Up With a Story:
It’s pretty nerve-wracking stuff waiting to be told what randomised prompts you will have to craft a story around and to know that the longer it takes you to figure something out, the less time can be spent on actually creating the film. With this in mind, this year Cogwheel Films’ directors, Tori and Paul, suggested we gather around Paul’s house to await the brief. Traffic delayed half the team, however, and I got delayed by Molly (doggo) deciding to pee just as our metro was pulling into the station. When the whole team was finally together, we started throwing around some ideas for what the story could be. This challenge was particularly difficult because the compulsory line of dialogue (see above) kept throwing a curveball in all of our ideas. We were far behind schedule at this point as we’d anticipated it’d take an hour to an hour and a half to come up with a basic premise. Almost three hours after receiving the brief, we had all agreed on the storyline that was to become 27 Pictures.

Doing My Bit:
Once the backbone of the story was settled, it was up to me and Paul to add some flesh to it while the others began gathering/creating props, contacting our actors, sorting out location ideas, distracting my dog Molly from giving Paul an allergic reaction that gave his eyes the appearance of chronic alcoholism…the usual stuff. Here, the thing I find most challenging is writing a script that’s feasible with the limited time and resources you have. It’s quite disheartening to write something that you think would add a lot to the story but ultimately realise it just isn’t possible to include. As Paul said himself when editing and having to cut out a short scene from the film that everyone enjoyed, sometimes you have to kill your darlings. And in a 48hr challenge, this can feel incredibly frustrating.

As soon as the practical side of things was sorted, which took a while given that we had to make ‘government’ documents, a picnic, and a life-long scrapbook as props, the whole team headed out to the film’s location. Unfortunately for us, it was a beautifully sunny day in Newcastle meaning the area of the Quayside that we’d expected to be quiet was full of families, joggers, and dog-walkers alike. Knowing that I’d be out for most of the day, I’d brought my dog along with me and she suitably went nuts at a German Shepherd that kept walking by us and caused some problems with the sound when she got too enthusiastic about destroying a crisp packet and chasing clumps of grass (Sorry Cogs!).

While trying to keep a beady eye and a quick hand on the destructive beast that is Molly, I continued to thrash out the script as the team began filming the scenes in sequence. It really was a race as I frantically wrote to keep one step ahead of the shoot and in the end, I had to leave the last few scenes in the safe hands of Paul and Tori as Molly’s patience (and the sunlight) grew thin and we headed home.


Unlike 2015’s competition where I spent the duration of the 48hr challenge in a rented Scout hut alongside the whole team, this year our schedules didn’t quite allow for that. For me, this meant I missed out on the editing of the film which is something I thoroughly enjoyed learning from during the previous challenge and hope to be more involved in next time round. That being said, it was nice to go back home and sleep easy in my memory-foam bed knowing that the fate of the film was firmly in the hands of Paul and Tori from now on.

The event was great fun though and considering the film was created over the space of a weekend, and with limited resources and without the full team, it’s turned out really well.  It’s refreshing to take on a task that challenges your creativity and problem-solving to such a degree, the added pressure just makes the teamwork needed all the more vital and being part of Cogwheel Films is a brilliant team to be involved with.

You can find out more about Cogwheel Films by visiting the Facebook page:

We’re always on the lookout for a diverse range of talented creative people so please give the page a message if you’re interested in getting involved.


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