How to win the Jameson Empire’s Done In 60 Seconds Awards: a foolproof guide

Sunday will see the unveiling of the winner of this year’s Done In 60 Seconds competition – an accolade that will ensure fame, fortune and universal love from the industry greats for at least minutes and possibly even hours afterwards. 540 entries from around the world, cut down to 29 (brilliant) semi-finalists for last night’s event, and now cut down to just five pretty epic finalists – it’s certainly nothing to sniff at. We won’t know who’ll take home the big prize until the Empire Awards this Sunday, but having been given the inside scoop (and by that we mean drunkenly sidling up competition judges Gareth Edwards – director of Monsters, Alex Zane – off of Sky’s 35mm and Mark Dinning – Empire Editor and shouting at them until they gave us some words) we reckon that next year, we’ve got this on lock down.

So sure, this year’s finalists – Andrew Norton (from Ireland) and his District 9, Indira Suleimenova (from Kazakhstan) and Black Swan, Gonzalo Ruiz and Joaquin Vergara (Chile) and their Spiderman, Rosen Iliev (Bulgaria) and his animated Edward Scissorhands and Philip Askins (UK) and his Raiders Of The Lost Ark – may think they’ve done alright. But we reckon there’s a method to this madness, and frankly, next year, that trophy (trophy? Whatever) is OURS. RULES, PEOPLE. THAT’S WHAT THIS RABID SOCIETY NEEDS.

1# Choose a film everyone knows

It may sound obvious, but seriously, people like dealing with what they know. You can have all the beautifully detailed nuances down from I’m A Cyborg And It’s OK down to a T, but if your source material doesn’t resonate with the judges, it just isn’t going to mean anything. Go big. Go global. Generally speaking, go Spielberg. The entries that got the biggest love from the crowds last night were the ones that struck something familiar in our hearts – Star Wars, The Godfather, Raiders; the greats. You may have a great idea for a cup-based distillation of In Time (and indeed, someone last night did), but if the judges haven’t seen it, you’re firing into the sky.

2# Make sure the film you choose is good

The truly magical moments of last night’s event occurred when it became clear that a much-loved tale STILL WORKS even in 60 second form. Gareth Edwards said, “if you can tell a story in a minute and you can still follow it, then it means that it’s a story that works. It teaches you what you can get rid off, it teaches you what’s indulgence and what’s vital. When you see entries like these and you can get a sense of the movie itself, it goes to show you that the film-makers understand what makes that story great.” It was a sentiment echoed by the other judges too, Alex Zane said “it’s about coherence; managing to hit the high notes of a movie – something that’s two hours long, when you’ve only got 60 seconds. When it works, it’s amazing.”

3# Make sure your short is funny

“Chris O’Dowd has a soft-spot for the funny ones,” grinned Empire Editor Mark Dinning. And he wasn’t alone; the idea of taking films that are known for being serious and sending them up in a way that was still a great homage to the original – that seemed to resonate with every judge. “I think my favourites are always the funny ones,” said Alex Zane, “taking the film, then using it to jump off in a totally different direction, and yet it still feels like the film – it’s what it’s all about.” And considering every single finalist has at least a comic edge, there’s certainly something to be said for bringing the funnies…

4# Idea first, execution second

Though it’s obvious that technical proficiency plays an important role in the making of a good shot, the films that were grounded in an original idea were the ones that stood out. Despite the flabbergasting effects of some of the sci-fi attempts (a CGI Transformers short was basically mind-blowing), the judges were far more interested in the creativity of the film-makers when it came to their take on their chosen film. “We’re not anti-budget,” says Mark Dinning, “but its definitely about the kernel of the idea, the through-line that’s driving the piece.”

5# Don’t be precious. Period.

At the end of the day, if you don’t win, you don’t win. That’s no excuse for not GOING FORTH and showing your creation to everyone you can. Considering Gareth Edwards had the brilliant Monsters commissioned off the back of a shot he’d created, there’s no telling what your piece might lead to – especially in an age where you’re only ever one click away from industry greats.

“Just put (your films) on the internet,” said Edwards, “putting it online makes everything easier. Someone once asked me “what festivals should I enter my film into?” And when I told them to stick it online they said “well then I won’t be eligible to win an Oscar.” I was like; if not winning an Oscar is your biggest problem, trust me, youll be doing alright! Thing is, sending people DVDs, it’s a lot of effort on both sides. It takes a lot of time to actually open up the packet, stick in the DVD, load it up, all that. Whereas an email link from someone they trust; its quick and its simple and usually you can tell within a few minutes whether its worth carrying on with. That’s the beauty of the internet; it’s really opened everything up for film-makers starting out today.”


*UPDATE: as of last night (25th March), the winner of this year’s 2012 Jameson Empire’s Done In 60 Seconds competition is Indira Suleimenova (from Kazakhstan) and her Black Swan. CONGRATULATIONS AND HURRAH!*

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