Monday, May 28, 2007

On the Lot - Episode 1

Well, not episode one, but the first of the episodes where they show the contestants films in their entirety and viewers at home get to vote.

And after watching 18 of these short one-minute comedies.... enh.

There were only four of them that didn't fall totally flat for me. Will Bigham, Zach Lipovsky and Shira-Lee Shalit and Sam Friedlander. Of those, I'm voting for Will Bigham's "Lucky Penny" film which clearly was the best tonight. Zach "Special Effects guy" Lipovsky was technically the best.

Of course, as an aspiring filmmaker, I was watching these with a "could I have done better than these?", and the answer, at least tonight, was absolutely. I didn't enter this contest, partially because I thought I wouldn't be in the class of what they were looking for.

Oh well...

On to the individual films this week.

Dance Man - clever idea. I was mildly amused. Solid filmmaking overall.

Deliver Me - Shot interestingly, but a bit incoherent as to what the film was supposed to be about.

Spaced Out - Not bad. I wasn't as amused by the projectile puppet puke as some seem to be. But overall, well made.

Wack Alley Cab - ?????????? Bye bye Kenny... What a mess. What was he possibly thinking?

Bus #1 - I didn't get this. I got what the joke was supposed to be (urine smells bad! LOL!!) but I didn't get why she thought this would be a good idea to make a film out of. Still scratching my head.

The Big Bad Heist - The trailer was all imagery and no story. I agreed with the judges that he should have followed the rules and made a short FILM, not a trailer. When he said "I want to take risks.", I thought to myself, you mean like not following any of the rules of the contest? Good idea.

Lucky Penny - For me, this one was the best overall effort of the night. A coherent story from beginning to end. Interesting angles. Can't say it was that FUNNY, but I thought it was the most complete FILM. Nothing jumped out at me as wrong.

How to Screw in a Light Bulb - I didn't get this one at all. What was she thinking?

Soft - Interesting idea, but horribly executed. None of the camera angles matched, color-wise. The humor was way too obvious. Sorry, pal. I didn't like it.

Blind Date - Again...?????? What was she thinking? This was a total wreck.

Getta Rhoom - I totally agreed with the judges. The first thought was that this poor fellow had Downs Syndrome, and it turned from potentially amusing to uncomfortable. Even if that's not what he was intending, a good director would have recognized that the actor had drifted all the way over into Mentally Challenged, rather than Nerdy, and would have corrected it.

File Size - I get what he was trying to do, and appreciated the camera work, but overall, this was sloppily conceived and put together.

Danger Zone - While I didn't think it was all that FUNNY, it was clearly the most competently put together of all the films. While I didn't put Zach at the top this week, I think he is clearly going to win this competition. He's the one that most GETS what filmmaking and creativity is all about. Even if he doesn't win On the Lot, he'll win in the long run.

A Golf Story - Tried to hard to be clever, and in the end didn't do exactly what the judges were saying. It didn't have any mini-golf shots (which are funny in and of themselves) or anything that really played off of the silliness that a mini-golf championship should have had. Looked nice. But nice try, but sorry.

Love in 2007 - Again, another film that makes me question if this filmmaker has ever seen a film before, or any sort of narrative.

Please Hold - Could have been good, but totally went off the rails with that first shot of the girl doing her nails while waiting on 911. And I thought the whole 911 thing was great the first time I heard it... on the Simpsons back in 1994. "You have selected regicide! If you know the name of the king or queen being murdered, press one."

Check Out - I thought this was one of the better ones of the night. Well made all around. An actual beginning, middle and end.

Replication Theory - I put this one number four for the evening. Funny idea, and ambitiously shot (with a variety of locations and settings), but it wasn't pulled off as well as it could have been. It took me a while to figure out what the title (Replication Theory) had to do with anything. A better title would have done more to set up the joke a bit better. But overall a solid effort.

Overall, the show is an odd duck. On most of these reality shows, the person showing their talent actually gets to be the focus of the presentation, but with this, they are the behind the scenes people, so it's hard to really gauge their personalities. Perhaps they will show more making of stuff as the show progresses.

But after having done a couple of 48 Hour Film contests, the films that these people came up with (with significantly more than 48 Hours) weren't any better than the average 48 Hour Film (which isn't saying much). I was really expecting a lot better, especially since a vast majority of these filmmakers attended some sort of film school.

We'll see how the survivors of round one react to the comments their first films got and see if they were really that clueless, or if they were just a bit nervous.

Going home (three people) I predict will be Kenny, Jason, and Claudia.

Old Negro Space Program

Latest in a series of my favorite viral-ish videos. This is a parody of Ken Burns' style of documentaries. Warning: Near the end, it gets a bit Not Safe For Work.

Anyway, this is absolutely brilliant. Too many little details to single out one or two. But if I had to, I'd say that the line "In 1957, if you were black, and if you were an astronaut... you were outta work." was the highlight for me.

Titanic sequel

Here's the latest in my attempt to catalog all of my favorite viral videos. This is my favorite parody movie trailer. It's a sequel to Titanic. Again, I love all the little details. My favorite is the use of the dance version of "My Heart Will Go On."
Bonus points if you can name all the films that were used to create this trailer.

Cat Herders - My favorite commercial

You may remember this from the Superbowl a few years ago. It was for EDS, and was part of a trilogy of commercials. But Cat Herders was the greatest of these.

I love all the little details, like the guy rolling the ball of yarn, and the closeup of the cat fording the river. Brilliant. It's the level of detail I long to be able to include in commercials I work on (but never get to do)

This one is good, but not quite up to Cat Herders' standard.

Monday, May 21, 2007

48 Hour Film Project 2007


That's the only way to describe a 48 Hour Film Project weekend. And that's what this weekend was. My team, Irony Coast, came together again and worked non-stop to produce a short film in the span of 48 Hours. That's 48 hours to write, shoot, and edit a 5-7 minute film. We did it with 15 minutes to spare.

Our film this year? "Plan 48". The genre we pulled from a hat was 'buddy film'. Our required elements (that all participating teams must use in their films) were a character named Stan or Sarah Gibbs who is a communicable disease specialist, a big pink eraser, and the line of dialogue, "You want the truth? So do I".

As usual, we commenced the evening with a few rounds of brainstorming that included all team members. Out of all of that, two must-have elements emerged. One was that our film could be about a team of rogue CDC agents. The other (playing off of our permission to use the Cactus King location, a really cool mega-cactus seller with thousands of cacti of all kinds), was the creation of the new street drug known as "cractus". Using these two ideas come up with by different brainstorm groups, we then crafted the full script, finishing at 6am (with first call scheduled at 7:30am).

"Plan 48" is about how a rogue team of CDC agents deal with the growth of a new street drug called 'cractus' that's made from cactus plants. The unfortunate side effect of this drug is a rare disease called 'dermatitis cactosis'. A breakthrough leads the team to the source of cractus, a crimelord named Hector Pinchazo.

We shot all day on Saturday, finishing at 9pm. Thanks to one of our team members, Gary Denton, we were able to use a giant military truck for use in our film. As mentioned above, we were able to shoot at the amazingly cool "Cactus King" location, as well as at a diagnostic and imaging lab, and we found a bridge trestle that was just made for shooting a film at.

We had to scramble the last hour just to get the film finished in a state that would allow it to be eligible for judging. The direct result of that is that while we are happy with the product, we feel it's at best 80% of where it can and will be. Lots of music needs to be added, some animations we just didn't have time to produce, sound sweeting, color correction, gunfire visual effects... the list goes on. Plus, our very last line, written at 5:30am, just didn't work like we wanted. It looked okay on paper, but when produced, it lacks clarity. So we are going to rewrite and reshoot the ending very soon.

We think it turned out okay. It gets laughs when viewed, but aren't sure if it will really connect with audiences yet. We'll find out this Wednesday at the screening of all of this year's entries, and we'll find out who the judges selected. We did really well last year in the individual categories (directing, cinematography, script, sound, editing, use of line of dialogue), but didn't win the overall city prize. While we aren't happy with our final product, we know now from experience that none of the other teams are likely happy with their films, either, and have similar regrets about things that had to be abandoned due to running out of time. If I had to predict if we get an award, I'd predict editing, since we had a million edits in our film, with lots of very meticulous continuity that (I feel) was successfully maintained. On a purely technical level, the 'technical difficulty' of what we attempted this year was a 5 (on a 5 scale). On some of those counts, I think we succeeded.

One thing we did that we're all really proud of, is that we not only included this year's required elements, we also included LAST year's required prop, character, and line of dialogue. And we actually think we did a better at incorporating last year's elements this time than we did last year.

All in all it was another fantastic weekend, despite how grueling it was. In a few days, we'll all forget just how rough it was and start planning our next big shoot.

That's all for now. I'll post a link to the "theatrical version" of the film that will be showing at River Oaks Theater on Wednesday.

For now, enjoy!