Fifi & Mr. Pickles

Another shoot featuring one of my favorite people that was written, directed, and edited by another one of my favorite people, and filmed and sounded ummm soundified? soundied? by more of my favorite people.  And to get Executive Producer, all I had to do was offer up my garage (you’ll soon admire how fancy it is), eat cookies and occasionally shout out a line when needed (only occasionally… sometimes not at the right moment, but meh I made the credits! Go me!

You may remember this shoot was mentioned in a previous post where a crazy neighbor stomped on my porch and let us know she didn’t want this kind of thing in her neighborhood.   “…people popping up and down…”  The scandal!

Well, now you too can enjoy the scandalous shoot that shocked a neighborhood in all its scandalous glory.  Starring Holt Boggs & Jonathan Spear!

Abra-ka-what-what!

You may recall that last August our little gang entered our first Austin 48 Hour Film Project.  I may have written (vented?) about it in a behind-the-scenes post.

While we were able to turn-in a completed film, it wasn’t the film in its entirety.  (If only we’d had 49 hours!) But today, thanks to our DP/Editor, Richard G. Bingham, II and our writer/actor Topping Haggerty, we give you the full video.  Keep in mind this was all written, shot and edited (save the middle section which had to be scrapped to make the deadline) in 48 Hours.  Also, note that no children were harmed despite accusations from a disgusting little HOA hobgoblin (who has since inspired an original song and sketch ideas – our little troll muse, as she were).

A Big Win

Several weeks ago Richard, you know Richard – remember that time you and Richard…? Of course you do.  Anyway, Richard contacted the gang, you know the gang (do we have to do this again?) and presented us with a 1 minute film contest.  The contest, put on by Project ED, was to pick a scary word from a list of words and then teach that word on film. (Define it, use it in a sentence, demonstrate it, etc.)  We (the gang) had approximately two weeks to get it filmed and edited, so we each scurried off and wrote.

Howdy!

I went a little too big.  I created something I’d love, but would go over the 1 minute and involve a budget.  My budget that month was only big enough to include a trip to Dallas and one Big Tex bobble head.  I’m a simple soul. I couldn’t afford costumes and set decorations, which I’d definitely need.  Plus, my lead actor had big time constraints.  (He just got cast in Greater Tuna!) I had to face the reality that mine was never going to happen.  Still, I was just happy to write.  That left the other two, Richard and Topping (the gang reveals itself) who each wrote two.

Of the four sketches (words?) we had, we filmed two. I provided snacks and location (which makes me easily the most important person on the team, behind the writer, producer, actor, director of photography, the sound guy… ummm… )

The short was submitted and of the 111 entries (yes, I counted) Project ED received I am very pleased to announce that:

TOPPING’S WON!

You can watch the announcement here.

You can see Topping’s entry, which debuts my gloved hand, as well as the other entrants here:

https://www.projected.com/contests/11

So, please help me in congratulating Topping on a BIG WIN!  This is the first win for our little gang and it’s pretty darn exciting.  (I’m pretty sure it had everything to do with the location and the snacks and the fuzzy glove. Oh, and that stuff the other guy’s did, too.)

A big thanks to everyone who went out and voted on the videos and who helped Topping’s get noticed.

That’s A Wrap: The Austin 48 Hour Film Project

Our Team Name for the 48 Hr Film Project and our Mascot

We made it through the 48 Hour Film Fest weekend.  We made a movie!  And we got it turned in with 14 minutes to spare.  We watched other teams run, only to be turned away after failing to meet the 48 Hour deadline by mere seconds – some ran with their computers in their hands as their movie project finished rendering.

I knew there would be a story from the weekend.  I told a co-worker last week, “I look forward to telling you the story, because you know there’ll be one.”  She laughed and nodded. I guess I thought the story would be different.  I mean, how can you possibly write, cast, shoot and edit a film in 48 hours without something going terribly wrong especially when you have a cast and crew that totaled 19 people?  Different people, different temperaments crowded into a small space for a long time – how could there not be a story? There wasn’t.  When the card reader broke (the little reader that allows you to take a camera card and plug it into the computer), I thought “there’s the story”.  When the associate producer, replacing the card reader, was pulled over by a police officer I thought, “ok, maybe that’s the story.”  When the older well coifed white haired woman with her neatly put together summer outfit sauntered onto our porch as we were shooting our last scenes, I didn’t think that was the story.

So of course, that was the story.

When she walked up my sidewalk the Director of Photography (DP) asked, “is that one of your neighbors?” I looked at her; she wasn’t someone I’d ever seen, but we’re those quiet people that stick to themselves and spend too much time indoors.  I may have met four of our neighbors in the time we’ve lived here and other than the two right next to me, I couldn’t pick the rest of them out at the grocery store if asked.  “Maybe?”

Official Clap Board and One Goofy “We’re Making a MOVIE!” Grin

This is where I get a bit fuzzy on the exchange, so know the dialog is what I heard, not necessarily what was said verbatim.

She came up and asked what we were doing.  Our DP answered, “We’re making a movie.”  She wasn’t very satisfied, then she mentioned cars had been in the cul-de-sac all day and that was a problem.  “We’d be glad to move them.”  I made a mental note for future films that I should check.  Sure, I’d asked people to park on a different street, since cul-de-sacs can be tricky with their lack of curb room, but some cars were sticking out in the street and people were parked between me and the adjacent house. “My son has cerebral palsy and he cannot drive in here easily if there are all these cars!” Again, the DP offered to tell anyone who was in the way to move – that we didn’t realize until then that it was a problem, but we’d be happy to correct it.”  She didn’t seem to want that, she wanted to scream at people.  That’s when it all blew up.

“What are you doing?!?! I do not understand WHAT you are doing!”

“We’re making a film.”

“That doesn’t make sense.  What are you talking about?”

“This is for the 48 Hour Film Festival, so we’re finishing up filming today so we can enter.”

“That doesn’t make sense. I ASKED YOU WHAT YOU ARE DOING!!! What kind of movie. Why do you have children?” (or something to that effect)

“You are welcome to look it up online.”

“You are not answering me!”

Our writer stepped in:

“We were given the genre “Fantasy” and our movie is a narrative film based on that genre where magical children are looking for new homes.”

“This is illegal!”

“No ma’am, it’s not.”

“You shouldn’t be doing things with those children.”

“We have their parents here and they have signed releases allowing them to be in the film.”

“Why do you have children?”

“Again, they’re part of the film. One of their parents is right here.” Steve our sound guy waved.

“You had your garage door open with people popping up and down from boxes. We do not want that kind of thing here!! It’s illegal.  I will call the police!!!!!” She was referring to a film shoot we did back in May where we used the space in my garage to shoot one of our writer’s short films – a film about two talking dogs in their bejeweled purses discussing what it was like to be an aging pampered pooch.  There was a gigantic green screen behind them that will eventually be transformed into a hotel lobby.

“You may call the police, but we have permission from the owner to film on their property.”

“If the owner knew what you were doing with their property they would not…”

I raised my hand, “I am the owner of this property.”  I had been sitting on the bench on our porch trying to stay out of the way of the camera while we filmed.  She really hadn’t noticed me until then, since she was completely content to yell at the DP and the writer.

“What you are doing here is illegal.”

“No, it’s actually not.”

“Yes, it is. You cannot do this with the children.”

“We have permission from their parents to film them.”

“The neighborhood does not approve of what you are doing here.”

This went on for awhile until she implied that my husband and I were doing something illicit and creepy in the house.  I was FUMING.

“And you have all of these cars.”

“…which as we told you we would be happy to move.  We didn’t realize it was a problem.”

“Well it IS! You are blocking…!!!!”

“Again, as we have said, we will have those cars moved.”

The whole time, our actors were coming out of the house to move their cars out of the way – heads down as they hurriedly moved passed the craziness. Also, in truth no one was parked near her house.  Now the people across from us were, because they were having a “we better get all of that toilet paper out of the tree” party.  So, between the two of us, we had created a bit of an unexpected bottle neck.

She stomped off telling us we’d better not do that kind of thing in her neighborhood again that the neighbors did not approve of us or our activities.  In my head, this meant all of the neighbors.  She then self-righteously marched to the good neighbor’s house with my neighbor nemesis trailing not far behind her. As the self-appointed spokesperson of them to let them know she had defeated the lascivious child porn purveyors, because that’s basically what it all came down to.  She knew we were clearly doing something disgusting with children and she was not having it.

One clothed actor, one very naked puppet. SCANDALOUS! What is he doing with that puppet?!?!?! What kind of film is this?!?!?!?!

I was shocked.  In fact, my feelings were generally hurt.  There she was on the driveway with my good neighbors, Bill and Becky, listening to her tale of their disgusting neighbors.  We had to move!  That was the only solution.  This whole circle thought we were filthy.  I had to tell Jay.  I had to finish a movie.  Where were we going to move?  While trying to wrap, I was going through all the steps we’d need to go through to sell the house.  I like my house, but I’d like the next house and maybe we’d get better neighbors.  I couldn’t believe Bill and Becky were turning against me right before my eyes.  She attacked my character!

Some background on why this bothered me on many levels; this cul-de-sac troll had managed to find that button – she found my nerve center – she hit my definition of self.  I used to tease my mother that she was a priss.  In fact, I’d sometimes take her middle name and transform it, calling her Priss-tina.  Well, the truth is, I inherited those same genes.  I’m prissy. I’m a prude. I’m so uptight I squeak. I’m good at my job in QA, because I believe in rules and following rules. (This does not always apply to speed limits or trying to convince YOU to do something bad.)  I like rules for me.  They provide a framework.  Once I know the rules, I stick to them.  Rules define the “is-ness” of things.  For the record, so you know what kind of prude I am, I’ve never seen a porn, which makes my friends laugh.  I have never used illegal drugs. I’m ok if you have, but that’s not me. I have never been sick from too much alcohol.  I am Priss-tina’s daughter – Priss-tina’s uptight legacy.  And here was this hateful vile creature telling me that basically the whole neighborhood thought I lived an abhorrent lifestyle and Bill and Becky were listening.  She said I’d broken rules.

We had to keep filming.  Our DP got us back on track, because we didn’t have time to dwell and properly vent.  We only had a few short takes and daylight was burning, but truthfully the whole time I could hear her laughing with Bill and Becky with the evil neighbor standing right there in Bill and Becky’s driveway.  I was dying inside and I didn’t get a chance to grieve.  The film continued and then mid shot I hear, “Neighbor! Neighbor!” It was Bill calling me over, “my wife was really worried you thought we agreed with that woman and asked me to come over and apologize.  I am so sorry.  She’s a crazy person.”  I told him what she’d accused us of and explained “we’re in the 48 Hour film project.  We are just filming the kids; their parents are here.”  He waived me off, “I know, she’s just crazy. How did she even know you had kids in there? She’s just sitting around watching you.  Crazy.”  I added, “I really don’t think we’re bad people.  Sure we’re quiet, but we’re not bad people.”  He nodded and he said, “if you need to use our driveway for the cars, you just say the word.”  I love Bill and Becky.

We finally finished filming.

It was so hard to listen to her craziness, because all of us held back.  You could see how enraged the DP was, and how irritated the sound guy and the writer were.  Everyone wanted to unload full guns, but here was this ballsy lady yelling at two adult men and two women – this human Chihuahua off her meds.  One of the actresses summed it all up so beautifully as she came back from moving her car, “I hate it that she won.”  And won she had.

The wife of the sound guy added a bit of levity, “I bet she’s with one of the other teams and she’s trying to throw us off.”  That made the rounds and had us all laughing a bit.

Then Topping, our writer, said later when we were inside reliving it all, “Beth, I’m mad for you, because if you’re anything like me, you’re thinking about how this is something you’ve always wanted to do and how finally you have these friends who are helping you achieve that dream, and you’re thinking about completely quitting and definitely never filming in your house. The one where we have the most space.”  Yes.  I had planned to tell Jay I wasn’t going to film again, because apparently it made me dirty and I’m not a dirty person.  (Did I mention she attacked how I define myself?)

Jonathan and Nancy as “The Hagels” – fully clothed!

I lost sleep that night, despite my husband reassuring me that she was a crazy person and you couldn’t reason with her AND that me being angry had no affect on her.  She didn’t know I was angry, but me being angry did affect me.

We were down to our last 12 hours and were helping editing.  I’d be lying if I said I had let it all go, but I’d find myself paused, staring at the footage, reliving the event, and thinking of all the things I could have said – to a woman who would never think she was wrong.  (You know great things like to her comment of “this is illegal”.  “Yeah? Well YOUR FACE is illegal!” My four year old retorts.)  Then I declared in my brain, “my Daddy and my friend Anna will beat you up!”  So not true, but it’s what you say when you harrumph and realize playing this all out in your brain is silly and that’s the best silly line you can end with.

As for the film – we did finish it.  We had to cut a couple of scenes and leave an intro bit out to get it all turned in on time, BUT when we do post it for viewing, everyone will see the full movie.  For the record, despite having kids in the movie, it’s all rated G.  I know, I know, hard to believe you could have kids in a movie and it still be rated G, but we broke the stereotype.  Turns out we’re all more Disney than “Deep Throat”.

The Magical CLOTHED Children from L to R: Lyssa, Tryph, Kaitlynn, Kelsey, Nathan and Eryn between takes

I also want to say that I’m proud of the entire team of cast and crew.  They all worked incredibly hard and were all awesome.  My one job was to pick the right team and I did a solid job.  Everyone got along, everyone stayed focused and we made a movie in 48 hours.  I’m so proud of all of you and I’m so lucky to know each and every one of you.  We made something good, especially considering the time constraints, and we did it despite the suburban troll.

Great job all!

Dunes: The Teaser

First a disclaimer: I’m typing this directly into WordPress, which means a couple of things: 1) I will doubtlessly not hit save, lose all my words, and then spend the rest of the day being mad at the Universe, because it’s constantly trying to provoke me, and 2) there will be even MORE misspellings, typos, bad grammar than you’ve come to expect, and I will spend hours – possibly months – revising this post and cleaning it up.  As I’ve told people in the past: Do not read my posts for at least 24 hours after they’ve been posted.  I’m the worst editor.  Sure, I re-read before hitting post, but apparently I’m high when that happens because I usually find 30 more errors 8+ hours later.  I think it’s because I unwittingly slip into alternate dimensions, but that hasn’t been officially proven, and my psychiatrist always makes the skeptical face while scribbling copious notes whenever I mention it. Doubter.

So, I finally created a teaser for the Dunes sketch after posting the Dunes actual sketch.  It makes sense if you do things backwards like say Merlin. For the record, Merlin experiencing time backwards was really just a T.H. White devise and is not mentioned anywhere else, so for our purposes I’m referring to T.H. White’s Merlin.  I’m glad we got that straightened up, too.

XKCD Comics – http://www.xkcd.com

It came about like this (this is ACTUAL dialog – yessiree, I’m like a human digital recorder):

Me: Hey Richard, we never got around to creating that teaser.

Richard (Director of Photography/Sketch Writing Comedic Genius – look for his upcoming reality show on YouTube): Grasshopper (a reference to Kung Fu, Starring David Carradine – conceptualized by Bruce Lee who had his idea stolen by Warner Bros. ANYWAY) Grasshopper (he had to repeat, because your head was being filled with more fun facts about Kung Fu) AHEM! Grasshopper!

Me: Yes?

Richard: Didn’t you get movie editing software for Christmas?

Me: I’m confused.

Richard: It’s time, Grasshopper.  Snatch the video from my hand and create the Dunes teaser. Then YOU will be the master or well, you’ll get your feet wet which is a great idea.  I always encourage people to learn to edit their own videos so they get a feel… (there were more words here, but I was getting a “battery low” warning on my memory and had to take care of that by generally drooling and thinking about ponies. It helped push down the panic attack associated with me installing and playing with the video editing software.)

The prodding worked.  Well, it took me a few weeks, but that’s not what matters.  What matters is that yesterday I sat down and played and posted a video then I came back this morning and played around some more.  The result is below.  Note: if you saw the teaser on FB yesterday, this is newer – it has added words at the end, because well… it had to have that “Beth touch” added to it.  This video was relatively simple, but it did allow me to play a bit. What you can’t see is that there were 4 tracks I manipulated, a transition in the front and then of course the end bits  I still have more to learn, but overall it was a fun experiment.  So next up, the plan is to create more shorts to get a better feel for editing and THEN I’ll go back to having real editors on any additional sketches we film, because really there are limits.

With that being said though, who wants to make some shorts?  I promise to stop referring to you as “my little human guinea pigs” (maybe) if you volunteer. Ok, I’ll at least give up the cackling maniacally bit at the end – that’s really all I’m willing to commit to and I’m totally crediting you as the “little human guinea pigs”, which is a term of affection.

Oh right, the teaser:

Dunes Teaser 2

Dunes

You’ve seen the Twilight saga (it’s ok, this s safe place and any snickering on my part will subside soon enough) and now I present to you “Dunes” – a parody of the beloved movie franchise written as part of The Institution Theater’s Sketch 201 class featuring the most underused supernatural love interest.  I do suspect that after this sketch we’ll see more of “them” as romantic leads.  Yes, I’m being vague. I can’t go around spoiling things for you.  (Thankfully, you can’t see the YouTube still below, so it really will be a surprise.  Right? Right?!?!)

This is my second sketch to be filmed and I want to thank all the cast and crew involved in making it happen.  Thank you for your time, your energy, for letting me pay you in sodas, coffee, breakfast tacos and sandwiches.

Some special thanks to:

April – for helping me make the costume (we are now pros and our next supernatural costume of this sort will be even more awesome – lots.of lessons learned there), thanks for your ideas, for all the shopping trips, for letting us invade your space, re-arrange and decorate your room.  Also, huge thanks for all of the behind-the-scenes photos.  You were incredible as always.

Jonathan – thanks for taking care of the cast and crew, keeping everyone happy  and for knowing me well enough that when I get brain-locked, I don’t have to say a word – you just swoop in and do.  I hope you’re always available to PA.  You are awesome!

Richard – I cannot begin to thank you enough.  Without you and your talent this project wouldn’t have happened.  Thank you for volunteering so much of your time from filming to editing to providing the music, sound effects and of course the fantastic special effects.  You are terrific and it’s a great privilege to be a part of any shoot you’re on.  I truly feel guilty receiving any praise for this when so much of what made this work is you and your dedication.  I’m looking forward to shooting Clown Family and for borrowing you again to shoot my horrible family birthday sketch.

Screaming Under Water

I babysit projects for a living.  I watch them closely as they grow up. I pat them lovingly, diagnose their ailments and I wave goodbye tearfully when they’ve grown-up into the product they were meant to be.  I do this every day and come the end of every August, I wish them well and get ready to welcome a new set.  When you do this daily, you start to think of everything as potentially a project.  It’s a bit of an illness, really.  “People are coming over?  Well, first we need to think about whether people need to come over, is it a feasible thing to have them here?  What are the activities that need to happen in order to get people here? I know, we’ll make a party plan and start executing it by sending out emails, organizing any food/drinks and checking in occasionally to see if we’re on track for those people to be here. Once it’s over, we’ll do mental “lessons learned” and identify what worked and then what we could do better.”

This is how I think.  I’m one of those overly planned sorts – the kind you’ll never get to spontaneously run away on some great adventure in the middle of the night unless you’ve given me a few days notice (a few weeks would be even better!).  I know.  I think among my friends, I’d be called a “fun suck” – the vacuum where fun goes to die.

I mention all of this as a way to lead up to an update on our upcoming sketch show.  Hey, you’ve been with me since my first sketch class, through the highs and the lows and then more lows, through the casting of the show so I owe you an update.  (FINE! I’ll give you an update on Sam later.  Just pretend for now that “sketch” is just code for a floppy eared beagle, if you must.)

Our show is in trouble.  I say this as a babysitter of projects – as the person who ushers in 20+ projects a year and waves goodbye to 10-20 more by year’s end.  The only way we’ll have a show on August 5th is if we reduce the scope and that means cutting sketches and giving up on the filming.  You see, right now there is no discernible plan beyond “we rehearse once a week”.  There’s no driver pushing this baby to its end and for me, the project babysitter, it’s frustrating.  Last Tuesday, we received the rehearsal schedule a few hours before the rehearsals.  It lets all of us know what is being rehearsed and when the actors should arrive.  One actor asked if the rehearsal had been canceled and I’m the one who had to say, “no, the schedule is late… please forgive…,” which wasn’t my place.  We ended up with four actors out.  Two notified in advance, but when it came time to schedule the sketches that night, that bit of information was forgotten, which meant that two of the sketches were missing half or more of their cast.  The third sketch was sent back for re-writes after the first read.  This is something that should have been determined before the rehearsal started, before the actors came in for 15 minutes and were sent back home.  Our instructor should have read through the sketch and if he had doubts, he should have aired them before people were lined up to read it in the middle of the night.  We’re still paying for this class.  We’re paying to learn about this aspect of sketch – casting, rehearsals and putting on a show.

Where we stand right now is we’ve rehearsed 5 of 20 sketches, 2 of those without the full cast that are supposed to perform them, 1 that was determined mid-read wasn’t ready, which means only 3 shows have been fully rehearsed and blocked with the cast that will perform them.  We are supposed to film at least 2 of the sketches, if not more and there’s been no plan for that other than a classmate stepping up and saying, “I’ll do it” just so we can get it done.  We were told “we may need more sketches and an opening number”.  If we want that in there, it has to be written NOW, it has to be rehearsed in the next couple of weeks, otherwise that is NOT happening.

All emails to our fearless leader are met with silence – like whispering a wish into the air.

I feel like I’m screaming alone underwater.

If this were one of my project babies, I’d be shooting up so many flares and waving so many red flags, because it’s in trouble.  At best, it’s “yellow”.  And quite honestly, to bore you with a project term, only fast-tracking will get baby back on schedule at this point.

Honestly, guys.  I don’t want you at the show right now.