Bird MegaMovie

Perhaps I am beating the "too many projects" horse to death. Nevertheless, I feel I must purge myself of the Bird MegaMovie, one decade after its birth.

The film, Larry Bird: A Day In The Life, was conceived by my brothers and I some ten years ago. The film would follow Larry Bird from waking to sleeping on Sunday, June 8, 1986, the day of game 6 of the 1986 NBA Finals, the Celtics sixteenth and last NBA championship. The premise was that as a "blue collar" type player, Larry was like anyone else. We would follow him picking out his cloths (various Celtics jerseys and warm-ups), picking up his stuff (Green Chuck Taylor converse, basketball), and commuting to work (the Green line trolley from Brookline to the Boston Garden). There were also scenes of intensive warm-ups, talking with fellow players, getting lunch, the game itself, celebration, and going home and to bed.

Filming began in late 1994, and, although the film was never completed, it cannot be understated the amount of preparation and expense that went into it. It's astounding considering it was made by a sixteen year old and starred a twelve year old. We ramped up by borrowing video cameras from our grandfather and uncle. I had to upgrade the RAM in my Macintosh LC III from 4 to 12 MB, and buy a 720 MB hard drive, to accomodate the online editing we were doing. This alone cost around $600-700, if memory serves me. We had a very detailed screenplay and shot list. We went to libraries towns away to pull up microfilm and get background articles and box score for the game itself. Numerous viewings of the Larry Bird: A Basketball Legend video were no doubt involved in Jeremy's character research.

What we actually committed to film was rather convincing, even looking at it today. We took the train to Brookline, in the area where Larry actually lived, and shot scenes at the train station. We rode the train into the city and shot footage on the train. We shot in the train station in front of the Boston Garden to capture the train arriving with a nice pan up to the venues signage. We shot the McDonalds across the street where lunch was to happen. We took the Garden tour twice, I believe, to get background shots of various Garden locations we would later chroma key our characters into. I snuck the camera into a real game to get shots. Did I mention we had to go out of our way to locate and purchase a Larry Bird home (white) jersey? The footage that was shot and edited really holds up. Nice composition, nice timing on the edits, nice character development. All of this with the standard "if I do say so myself" disclaimer.

We cast or friends as other players, some of them playing multiple parts. Rob Wells would play Robert Parish, Brad Duncan would play Kevin McHale, Mike Wells as Dennis Johnson, myself as Danny Ainge, John Hayes as Bill Walton. Carl played Scott Wedman, sorry Carl. These were not arbitrary designations. Think about it, these people would have been convincing look-alikes, if a little too young.

The inspired and eclectic soundtrack included John Mellencamp (Small Town, Human Wheels), Collective Soul (Shine), Smashing Pumpkins (1979, Thirty-Three), REM (What's The Frequency, Kenneth?), Weezer (Holiday), Filter (Hey Man, Nice Shot), and Green Day (When I Come Around).

The film relied, in part, on special effects, and we were ambitious in our inclusion of them. There was going to be a whole lot of chroma keying, it was the only way we could get our actors in the Boston Garden (renting it costs in the neighborhood of $15,000, and that was definitely out of our budget). We did some unsuccssful blue screen tests, and then fell back to rotoscoping, manually masking each frame. One effect does appear in the completed edits, a replacement of the background out the window while riding on the trolley. We took it from inside a tunnel to a suburban woodsy background, all by hand.

Technical, this was no Cinemascope feature presentation. It was shot on standard 8mm video, and captured to 160x120 QuickTime at 15fps, the best quality available at the time. We may have even resampled down to 12fps to save storage space at one point.

In the end, my move to Arizona scuttled the project. Further, without a Mac to work on, the footage was stuck on that 720mb SCSI hard drive for nearly eight years. It was finally recovered through an arduous process of a friend burning the drive to CD, and moving the files over to Windows using some arcane Mac conversion utility.

Well, the footage is now available, and I'm telling the whole world right now, it will be cut, and it will be beautiful. It will also be a mere four or five minites long. This is one ten year old project that will be finished!


Jeremy said...

First of all, when you link to sites, don't include the space between words. Not attractive.

Second, while this was certainly a spectacular project for children of our age, it just doesn't hold up. Plus the fact that we never shot most of the movie, including all of the Boston Garden shots. There's no practice, no game, no celebration, no going home. There's just the wake up and go to work shots. That could make this difficult to finish.

What I find quite interesting is that at that age we were basically doing the same things that we're doing now. How far we've come (you can read that sarcastic or not, depending upon your own feelings).

Jeremy said...

You also neglected to mention a special effect that you included in the video.

When Larry Bird, played by myself (back when I had blond hair), grabs his jersey from the hanger there is another Larry Bird #33 white jersey right behind it. Obviously, at our age, there was no money to purchase two jerseys so Joshua had a white Reggie Lewis (RIP) #35 right behind the #33. In the edited process he was able to change the 5 to a 3 on screen. This came out really well. You'd never know it was a special effect unless I just told you.

Joshua Provost said...

I think you'd be surprised at how good it really is. We'll have to go with what we have, but it will be captivating nonetheless. I've got a nice clip of beer being poured for the celebration.

We are doing much the same now, but this time around you're the director. I just think it's interesting that Brock and Gabe rekindled something that was long forgotten. Looking back, though, we did a heck of a lot of filmmaking. Grandpa never had access to his own camera.

We made a racing film (with special effects as well), a horror film (disembodied arm in a laboratory), and others, not to mention five years of Media & Video at College Academy (your one year of actual filmmaking was much more valuable, though). I hope I have The Man Who Runs around somewhere.

As for the other special effect, either it was never done, or I just don't have the footage. I know it was discussed at one point, but we went with the clothing in the drawer instead, with the numbers conveniently folded under.

EggNogg said...

Better yet, why dont you take the time to finish the movie. Even though you are older, I think that this will really give it an effect. I'm not quite sure what that effect will be but it might be interesting.

I think that it would be very intesting to see you younger and older all in the same movie. I do not know maybe I am just being sentimental, or want you guys to ACTUALLY FINISH SOMETHING.

You always take the easy way out. I think that was one of the hidden plots in DUNE. Those who take the safe path are forever dominated by the person who is willing to take a risk!

Jeremy said...

We do finish things. For instance, prepare yourself for The Moon Is No More CD Release Part in December. That's going to blow you away. Hopefully in a good way.

Joshua Provost said...

Larry Bird: A Day In The Life will never be finished in that sense, but it will be completed. I do finish things! Recently, Gabe's DVD, the Debue DVD, and the Time Is My Crisis DVD is awaiting only cover art.