Disaster! Disaster!

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.



Gabe said...

The most ironic part - Friday night Brock and I set out with the intention of making this one of the least stressful filming experiences to date. Thus, the simple story and single location.

We even "studied" notable shorts from the likes of Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, and others. We found that some of their really good shorts also used a single location and simple story. What made them stand out was the acting and cinematography. We were going to use the same strategy. We also knew the other filmmakers would be prone to stressing themselves out with getting something grandiose. It is the "All Stars" after all. Brock and I didn't want any part of that kind of stress. We wanted to have fun. And we did when we wrote it.

If we had better prior arrangements with a location, or just complete control of one, it still would have been the least stressful film. Friday night was awarded with that title. We came up with an idea and started writing a story a lot earlier than we ever did before.

But alas, it wasn't so, and turned out to be one of the most upside-down debacles. And, mostly out of regard for our actors, I felt we had to make something of nothing. Otherwise, I would have been perefectly fine with scrapping everything and throwing in the towel. We all have to fail sometime.

We left Josh with that arduous task of putting together the pieces of nothing for something. And for that, we salute you, good chap. We'll make it up to you, somehow.

Brock said...

I'm just gonna brain dump -

-We should have had a better location. I'm sick of location issues...that will never happen again, so help me.

-Writing the script was fun and stress free, but we should have had a spit-balling session. While that's not to say the idea we came up with sucked, I think it might have been even sharper had we had a group of people to bounce it off. I blame myself for that one.

-Watching this film is very enjoyable, despite how horrible it is. It's funny because we created a highly subversive self-commentary out of need. In the past, we tried to do that on purpose. Sure, this is no Filmic...but I just find the whole thing ironic. And yes, had this been on purpose, I do believe some would say we were daring. As it is, this is just a document of our collapse. Had to happen though, and there is something sluttishly compelling about it. I like watching people hurt emotionally.

-I just want to sit back and enjoy the Wildlifeless glow. I'm so sick of things falling apart. Can't I just have kids renounce their parents once they see Wildlifeless? Or, just say some nice things about it...that'd be fine.

Brock said...

Quick add-on to that last one...

I am still highly tempted to say, super Hollywood style, that this was our finest hour. The failure was horrible, crushing, morally and psychologically devistating...and yet, amid all that torment and self-doubt and criticism and just plain bad choices on my part...we still delivered something that works. We salvaged it. Did it deserve to be salvaged? Probably not. Is it a good film? Not really...unless you seriously know us and what's going on with us. I hate these types of films as a rule, and the fact that we made one just ravages me.

But. We prevailed. Sorta. It's like yes...we didn't get to the moon, the spaceship exploded and we nearly died. But heck, we got back alive. Doesn't that count for something? Call me overly sentimental, but I love people who stick it out and fight against crap that they create and others throw at them. I love spectacular failures. Is it worth something on account of the fact that this is just that? Doesn't that comment on who we are as filmmakers? Napoleons. Either tremendous victory or crushing defeat. I gotta say, for once, it was nice to have a terrific defeat rather than just eek out a decent if you like vaseline on toast kind of film.

Joshua Provost said...

So many words to describe it, it seems like if this weekend was anything... it was EVERYTHING.

Put this film head to head against AGTC, Rendezvous, and The Peoples' Champion, and it's probably better than any of them. So, why was it so painful?

I'm real optimistic about Wildlifeless. It's like an investment all those months ago, not yet fully matured. I think we'll know by February or sooner if Wildlifeless is going to go boom or bust. Either way, your involvement with MOC is somewhat required for a time.

I'm not sure how to take your resignation. Without you there is no MOC. We must rewind to a point in time when Gabe and I are off making music videos by ourselves... and probably not even that.

If Wildlifeless succeeds, MOC is a success again and none of this matters. I hope if that's the case, we'll have some opportunity to collectively redeem ourselves on our terms.

Maybe we can even make a film that scares the crap out of us.

Brock said...

I think its better than AGTC and The Peoples' Champion...but Rendezvous? C'mon. That's a sharp little film. I still think it gets better each time I watch it.

I'm fine with supporting Wildlifeless and remaining a part of MOC for that. We worked so hard on that film that I'm locked into that no matter what.
I just can't do things the MOC way anymore. Things with me at the helm is either feast or famine. And yes, I want to make an even better short than Wildlifeless and I want to move on to a feature...I want to find my voice...but MOC just isn't prevailing and I need to make a serious career out of this. Wildlifeless may change our fortunes (I hope it does), but for the time being I have neither the confidence or charisma to raise MOC beyond what it is. If the cow's legs are broken, you gotta put a bullet in its brain.

Brock said...

And c'mon, do we have the money we need to make the films we want to? No. I can't begin to say how thankful Gabe and I are for your investment in the films, but we need actual investors. And we need crew. There are tons of kids everywhere willing to follow all kinds of filmmakers in this town, but where's our crew? We don't have people and we don't have money.

Now, things change...but for the moment, we're dead in the water.

Brock said...

If it's any comfort, Scott really enjoyed watching the film.