Yesterday kicked ass. I mean all kinds of ass, big ass, little ass, fat ass – ALL KINDS OF ASS was kicked. Knowing my friend George Caleodis was coming back to Columbus for a few days, I came up with an idea to shoot him on the greenscreen stage with a bit I have that is both for my upcoming feature film and can also stand on it’s own for the web for now. It’s not hard to shoot, as I planned on 2 cameras and no moving shots so the keying and tracking will be easy sleazy cover girl.
So all I needed to do was write something. I sketched out a few ideas and hand wrote the random assemblage of ideas as I wrote in a previous bloggy blog. Well, that’s as far as I got. I scheduled everyone to be at the studio at 12 Noon. I got there at 11:15AM and STARTED to write the scripts for the day. I am generally not a procrastinator, but the writer’s block has been a bitch, so I strangled her at got busy. When it rains, it pours, as they say and I got 4-5 new ideas as I furiously typed them out and proceeded to print them.
The shoot was skedded (using Daily Variety terminology) from Noon to 4:00 PM. We got started at 1:20PM and wrapped at 3:15PM. Everything was shot, we improvised (“we” meaning George) a few things at the tail that work out perfectly as interstitials, or opening teases. George is a professional improviser, currently teaching and directing at the Improv Olympics in LA. Working with George is effortless and simple. I ruined 2 takes by laughing out loud at some of his improv’s that took my by surprise.
I have studied several forms of comedy as a hobby for many years. It’s not an exact science by any stretch, and in the end all you can do is know what makes you laugh and what you personally find funny. There is so much intangible in the form of “comedy”. Laughing is an unnatural act. Literally, laughing resembles a seizure and makes your body react in a form of involuntary convulsion – but in a good way. Making people laugh is probably one of the hardest things you can attempt to do, especially as a stand up comedian where all you have is your words, or in the case of Carrot Top, cheap props, which is why he’s not the most respected comedian because he can’t do his act without the crutches. Most stand ups are armed with words and wit, which feels kind of naked on a stage. Making a comedic film is not easy either, but you have tools and things that you can use, so it’s more comforting. Sitting in an audience, lights dimmed and the flickering images and sounds emanating represent the truest test of a comedy film. Luckily, I have been in the audience when my own alleged comedies have succeeded and failed to cause the desired reaction of laughing. You learn a lot from the experience of being in a room full of strangers and as a filmmaker you attempt to manipulate the audience into the communal response. What bombs with one audience, may work well with another group of people. Sooner or later you just have to form your own opinion of what is funny and go with that, not worrying whether it plays in Peoria. Be true to your own sense of humor and be content if you find it funny.
I will never “master” this, but I hope to get better each time. That’s all I can ever ask. At best, you can predict what you think is funny and hope that audiences agree. Strangely, I can say I found what we made yesterday to be very funny to me, if no one else. I haven’t laughed this hard in many months. It was such a visceral release for me and I was even light headed by the end due to a lack of oxygen, which my Fiancé says is something I should be used to by now. George makes me laugh. My words, reinterpreted and improvised by George always play out better than what I come up with on my own. Yesterday was no exception. I think if I turn on the marketing machine in a way I haven’t in a while, this could get George seen a lot. We’ll see…
Now the post production end of things lies heavy on me. With footage of George and a sea of green nothing behind him, it will take a lot longer than usual to finish post on this project. So much of what we’re doing with this one is in that green nothing. I will have to supervise a design, character creation, music, and sound design with a far more professional touch than my previous clips to date. I am not going to do it all myself. I love to collaborate with artisans that are far better than me so that the whole equals more than the parts. Since it’s a green nothing, other people’s contributions can shape the whole piece beyond my limited vision.
Immediately following the shoot, since we were way early, I started digitizing footage and got both cameras set before My Sexy Fiancé Veronica™ arrived and we departed for the legendary MARIE’s PIZZA in Wadsworth Ohio whence I came. My lifelong friend Maurice was in Ohio from Seattle for a funeral and since I have a fresh set of wheels, we drove up to have a nice dinner. My brother was already there and we waited out the extra long Saturday night dinner rush, but good conversation doesn’t care if you’re waiting in line or sitting at the table.
Since the day’s shooting was so successful, I was on cloud 9. What I failed to realize is that by comparison to the last shoot I directed, this was a much more pleasant experience. I think I might have been demoralized by the overall experience of the last shoot. Some parts were good, some parts were disappointing, but mostly it was a bland experience as opposed to the excitement and energy I had almost universally experienced on ever previous shoot. What’s even weirder was that this shoot had the smallest crew since my original BACK OFFICE days, as it was on a pre-lit greenscreen stage with wired mics and a mixer/video village already set up. Micah ran sound, slated, and also shot Behind the Scenes footage. The D.P. merely pressed record on the 2 JVC HD-110’s and walked away since there can’t be any camera movement. I still had a blast, and I don’t have that ego of having too many people on set. I’d rather have what we need and I only care about the final product, not the way a set “should” be. Some of my dearest friends feel they have to have a big crew, but it feeds their egos more than the story at hand. I will never compare myself to Kubrick, but sometimes once the stage was lit, the mics were checked, and the camera was loaded, there was no one else on set but him and the actors as he operated the camera himself and kicked everyone else out entirely. What a hack! He must be a loser.
I just finished eating leftover Marie’s Pizza and I am stuffed again. We got home late last night, but it was a fun time. I haven’t seen Maurice since the Horrors of War screening in Seattle in 2006. I hadn’t seen his nephew since 2003. Time flies and I’m in the vortex.