Riker's Mailbox

Monday, November 13, 2006



As mentioned in post-previous, I took part in a filmmaking contest this past weekend, and promised to blog again upon completion of the project.

It didn't go so well.

A quick recap - Apple Computer revealed a set of criteria that each participating five-member team must incorporate into a three-minute short film that was to be submitted within 24 hours of said criteria being revealed. The obvious goal (and just in case it wasn't obvious enough, they named it the 'Insomnia Film Festival') was to get teams to stay up all night producing the film.

It didn't go so well.

The problem is that we got too ambitious with the direction of the project. We had narrowed our path down to two potential concepts: one which was pretty basic with potential for humor (if done correctly), and one that was unique and novel, and had the potential for a hysterically funny climax, but was also complicated and would be very demanding to film. We chose to attempt the latter. I'm proud of this because the latter idea was of my own devising, but I am disappointed, because choosing to film it ultimately led to the team's demise.

The synopsis of the storyline is as follows:

A girl receives three different singing telegrams from three different people for three different reasons, all of whom arrive at her house at the same time.

The contest criteria we'd chosen to include were numerous... all you need to know is that one of them included a sidekick monkey.

To pull this off, we needed to film four sets of backstory footage for the characters, each in different settings. Plot elements critical to the story involved indoor and outdoor scenes in daylight and at night - which meant we had to plan our shooting schedule very carefully to work with the timeframe we were given. On top of all this, our film was going to be narrated and needed to feature a soundtrack. I'll remind you that it's illegal to include copyrighted material in our production; we had to compose and record the music ourselves. We needed to put together a wardrobe that included several garage mechanics, a tuxedo, and a gorilla suit.

Things kept stacking up.

The critical shot of the film is when the three singing telegrams arrive at the girls house, and, seeing the competition, engage in a full-on brawl in her front yard as each tries to be the first one to get to the door. By the time we finished shooting, we only had two hours left to edit the footage and to record the narrations/overdubs.

Where we really shot ourselves in the foot was forgetting that the raw footage had to upload into the editor in realtime, which meant we had to wait an hour before we could even start working on putting the film together.

Loren, the director/editor, started out methodically, selecting the best takes for each scene and started building the story as it was originally written... but as the deadline drew closer, we realized that we were not going to finish in time. Rather than finish the film as planned and be unable to submit it for judging, Loren instead chose to lose his goddamn mind and just started grabbing footage at random and throwing it in in awkward chunks. He threw in narration, again at random, and never over the appropriate scene. Almost half the scenes we shot were left completely out of the film. Still others appeared three or more times each.

What came out of the frenzy was three minutes of garbage. There was no story to follow, the narration appeared out of order and would only serve to further confuse the viewer, and we'd omitted the requisite title page entirely. But we got that fucker in on time.

At this point, our only hope is that some Hollywood hipster on the judging panel sees our work as an avant-garde visionary masterpiece and grants us the grand prize on the spot. It could happen...

Meanwhile, the five of us who got together for the project still want to see what we would have come up with. We know that if we'd managed to submit the film we wanted to, we'd have had gold on our hands. So, we're going to finish post-production, even though we cannot enter it into the contest. Once that is up, I will post a link here. And afterward, I'll post a link to the film we ended up submitting to Apple.

What's ironic, is that when we watched the garbage submission, we all thought it was funnier than the actual story we'd written - it came together in that haphazard way that was too absurd to be intentional, and therefore was hilarious. Of course, the problem is, it can only be that funny when you knew what it was supposed to be in the first place. Soon enough I'll have links to both versions up here, and I'll let you decide for yourselves.

Meanwhile, I'll be spending my time online, looking for contests with later deadlines.

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