DKU student-led filmmaking teams awarded at 48 Hour Film Project competition

<p>Team Film Weaver working on a project.</p>

Team Film Weaver working on a project.

Two student teams from Duke Kunshan University were recognized at a recent film competition in Shanghai.

The Sept. 24 competition was hosted by The 48 Hour Film Project, an international program that hosts competitions in more than 100 cities across the globe where teams are challenged to plan, shoot and edit a film — all in the span of 48 hours. 

Team Focus won awards for Best Student Film, Best Use of Location and honorable mention for Best Costume, while Team Film Weaver received an honorable mention for Best Student Film. The two teams competed against 15 professional and student teams.

Teams must choose between two randomly picked prompts assigned to their team and must include certain details such as one-line quotes and props within the film which are assigned by the organizers. Contests have taken place in over 45 countries since the project was founded in 2001.

This is not the first time that DKU students have entered the competition. Kaley Clements, assistant professor of media and arts at DKU, participated in January and started the tradition of creating DKU student-led teams.

“[The objective] was more so just to get our students exposure to how professional sets can work, working with a really good team of filmmakers and letting them see the kind of talent that our students have,” he said.

Clements sees the film festival as an opportunity for students to gain experience outside of classes and let “the independent filmmaking community and Shanghai see what [DKU] students [are] capable of.”

Junior Yuri Park, the producer for Team Film Weaver, spoke about her experience as a first-time participant. 

“For me, filming was like a hobby, so I've never been in an actual film set … 48 hours gave me a really great [way] to experience that,” she said.

Yuxuan Leng, Kunshan ’23, participated in the film project before, but was excited to lead a team for the first time as director and scriptwriter of Team Focus this year. He acknowledged the pressure of leading a student-led team with little experience, but is “really proud” of what Team Focus was able to accomplish.

“DKU is not a film school,” he said. “The professional techniques or the abilities of students, we feel like they may have some gap with the professionals.”

Additionally, the constraints of the competition require participants to approach filmmaking in an untraditional manner. Leng described how, in the normal filmmaking process, producers take a script and then find actors and a location. At the competition, they prepare the actors and the location in advance, but get the script after.

“It’s totally opposite from the regular filmmaking process,” he said.

In preparation for the film project, both teams spent several weeks gathering members and preparing resources. According to Park, the crew had two months of weekly meetings to understand the “basics of story writing and filming.” 

Leng also added that they invited professionals from Shanghai to assist with production. 

During production, despite managing only a few hours of sleep, members of Team Focus remained focused and energetic. Leng mentioned that one of the professionals invited from Shanghai wrote in a WeChat post that the “whole environment of filmmaking” would be better off if more filmmakers were like the DKU students he had encountered.

Junior Heejae Yoon, director of Team Film Weaver, admitted that the film they submitted wasn’t perfect, but said that she was grateful that the opportunity gave “a chance for [her team] to maintain [their] passion” for filmmaking. 

“Filmmaking cannot be perfect, there’s no perfect film,” Leng said, reminding student filmmakers that the final product may not always meet their expectations. “... We always have the space to improve.”


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