It's hard to know where to start in documenting last weekend's filmmaking activities. I guess I should go back to the A3F 48-hour challenge in February. We made a decent film that no one, not even on our own team, cared about, and with nary a humurous moment to redeem it. Then, late last month in Boston, we aborted another attempt to make a film had promise of being both very funy and very different.
So it was that we rode this raging tide of failure into last weekend's A3F All-Star 72-hour challene. Quite an honor to be hand-selected as a Top 10 team among the 120 or so teams that have participated in A3F events over the past three years. No entry fees, more time than previous challenges, big prizes at stake.
For me, anyway, the first 24 hours of the challenge were perhaps the least stressful of all challenges thusfar. Brock and Gabe took up the story/writing reigns this time, so as the challenge started I found myself at home, relaxing, and going to bed early for a nice night's sleep. The screenplay arrived the next morning. The story of an embittered married couple facing off in a bar over sports memorabilia didn't catch me at first, but all made good sense by the end of the first read. "This could be really funny," I thought. In fact, it's funniness, I reasoned, would be limited only by the actor's desire to take the material squarely into over-the-top absuridty. I was excited, and my focus would be purely to get some nice pictures to edit.
Sadly, when the high point of the weekend has come and gone before you arrive at the location, you know you're not in for anything good. When we did arrive, we discovered that there was a poker tournament schedule at the bar late in the afternoon, giving us scant hours to shoot the entire six-or-seven page screenplay. We dug in, and a few shortcuts and compromises later, we believed we had the film in the can, just in the nick of time.
It was only as we sat to feast on Fish 'n' Chips that our peril began to set in. As we mused about each of the hilarious moments that would make it into the final film, we came to a grim realization, moment by moment. The lines were indeed funny, and rather would have been, had we actually shot them. "Did we even shoot that scene?" No, no we had not. In our rush, pages of the script, perhaps as much as 50% of it, had been neglected. How could we have made such an oversight? What did we have in the can? What would we do?
The initial viewing at home confirmed it. There was only drama where our comedy was supposed to be. Well acted, well shot, well directed drama, yes. Even at that, it made no sense without the missing scenes.
Then came out-and-out creative block on everyone's part. We sat around Saturday night, then regrouped at sat around some more Sunday morning and early afternoon. We parted ways to get ready for the meeting without much ado and so much as a gameplan to take this film (or any film) forward. I finally broke through with some new ideas Sunday night, but, hey, it was Sunday night already.
What we did agree to do was tie the existing segments of film together with some quickly assembled shots of us sitting around the living room, watching this nonsensical film for the first time, with Brock conducting this fictional MOC pow-wow as resident neurotic director. We shot these scenes, then scenes of us each parting ways, dealing with the abject failure in our own melodramatic ways. Filming this type of conclusion to a failed film was in and of itself quite theraputic.
I would have felt much better, except I had to immediately hunker down and edit, not one, but essentially two interwoven films, to the level of precision and quality generally expected of our productions. Therefore, I didn't get to feel better until late the next evening, when once again, we pressed against the deadline to complete and deliver the film. Proving once again that it doesn't matter how much time you give us, we'll probably not finish until the last possible moment.
The finished film is something to behold. In form, it's quite accidentaly the most bizarre and challenging film we've made. It looks and sounds nice, and the acting is solid throughout, including the improved reactions. If any of this had been intentional, we could be lauded as mavericks, geniuses. They probably won't have a chance, however, since we can't seem to stop talking about screwed up we have been lately, and relating the depths of our great disasters, as I am now.
The whole affair was a lot more fun a couple years ago when we did not know so much or have as high expectations as we do today. Ignorance was bliss. There was no pressure. Back then, it seemed that we got all the breaks. Nowadays, everything seems broken. It'll be nice to leave calendar year 2007 behind us. 2008 may well bring with it a slew of Widlifeless film festival acceptance letters, prizes, and acclaim. 2007 brought only misery.
A year from now, we could well be watching this film nostalgically, a comical record of one of our grandest failures.
My final step in editing was to add a title. I didn't have the pride to put our name or logo up front, as has been the custom. Rather, it was the last thing I added. A simple ALL CAPS Arial Black string respresenting ourselves. It immediately follows another title: GOODBYE, CRUEL WORLD.