Monday, December 12, 2011

joy in our journey

a month or so ago, brandon approached me with an idea: he'd made a short film a few years ago and he wanted me to help him remake it. ten times. each time with a different obstruction or rule that had to be followed. i thought the idea was thrillingly brilliant. (it also wasn't his original idea; despite having no interest in lars von trier's work, i think this is fascinating. their starting film is so wonderful it reminds just how good a short film can be....)
one night after watching five obstructions, we stayed up until 3 a.m. pitching our obstacles. the ten that we selected are:
  1. each shot must be exactly seven seconds long
  2. the film must be shot and edited on a cell phone
  3. the actors' face's cannot be shown
  4. brandon can have nothing to do with the movie but he will be credited as the director
  5. the total time of shooting cannot exceed 30 minutes. the film must have at least five setups
  6. it shot in a style brandon hates. in this case, it was mimicking "the hills"
  7. the film must be done in one shot
  8. the film must be animated
  9. the film must consist of production audio only; the visual elements must be stock footage
  10. he can do whatever he wants
and so, in between the pressures of wrapping up the semester, we've been trying to make ten short films, all remakes of the same source film (because this has been the most fun i've had on any project here yet). in the original 2-minute short, he and his girlfriend are making dinner. nothing is said as they finish cooking and sit down to eat. after a few moments of dull silence, he asks, "how was your day?" with a subtitle reading, "i couldn't think of anything else to say." she replies, "it was fine", which is translated as "terrible." when she answers his question about dinner, she says it's good, the subtitle clarifies, "we should have gotten a pizza."

our first one, each shot being exactly seven seconds, was more or less a remake of this (i recorded some footage of brandon at around 2 a.m. stating exactly why seven seconds is the worst possible length for a shot), and the second one (shot on a cell phone) was also pretty straightforward. in an effort to not end up with ten nearly-identical movies, we started playing variations on the theme of dry communication.

the "no faces" was brandon and savannah circularly arguing about how they can never decide where to go to eat, not that it really matters anyway (at some points they got so intense that i wanted to stop them before their relationship deteriorated, but the shots i was getting were just so good.... to my relief, they told me they were amplifying their emotions for the sake of the camera), the "30 minutes total" was of an older couple making dinner who didn't talk much because they contentedly didn't need to. "the hills" was just the opposite, two girls talking non-stop without saying anything of substance or value.

which brought me to mine.
being a graduate of film school, i knew that student films nearly always had two glaring characteristics: they nearly always starred college aged kids and they were nearly always filmed around town, meaning they all felt the same. so i took a camera with me to minnesota over thanksgiving, hoping to enlist my 16-year old friend to star. unfortunately, our schedules didn't work out (and i'm still really fond of my concept for that story), but i'd shot a second idea as a backup.

in high school, my best friend and i would drive around town all night, hoping to find something to do yet always coming up empty. and so i wanted to tell the story of a relationship gone dry, not between two people, but between us and moorhead. jon and i shot for two nights and near the end i was getting so frustrated about not getting what i'd wanted that, during a break a perkins, he turned the camera on me as i vented. i thought maybe i could make a movie about not being able to make a movie, but that felt too self-aware and film student-ish.

after twelve hours of editing (the last three were fights with the export process), i cut a movie that is close to what i envisioned and that i'm actually very happy with.

brandon hasn't yet seen this. he'll first see it when he shows the project to his class tomorrow for their final.


kwistin said...


okay, it was cool for a couple reasons.

first off, i like (really like) the idea of remaking the same film multiple times. i often clam up in doing a project, thinking it has to be perfect, but recently i've reminded myself of the freeing joy that i could do it again...and again...and AGAIN.

secondly, remember how i told you that i had a journal entry i was gonna show you where my words fit perfectly with my thoughts? your film kind of goes along with it, freakishly well.

thirdly, i dug your film. a lot.

fourtherly (yes, that was intentional), i want to see the other obstructions.

well done, #2.

The Former 786 said...

I'm with Kwistin - I'd like to see all the interpretations of this project, if available.

Also, Moorhead seems nice (and cold). I may have to visit sometime (and bring a jacket).