Monday, November 7, 2011

"Dumb Luck"

It was my entire life for over a third of my junior year. I eat, slept, and breathed "Dumb Luck," and as a result I'm very proud of it. Yes, I tend to see imperfections rather than focusing on the pluses when I re-watch my films, but what I realize is how much effort I put into Dumb Luck, and how that effort translated into a successful 30 minute short film, the longest film I have ever completed.

It started with the idea that I wanted to do a project for Video Production that would take up the whole third trimester of my junior year. I wanted to make one collective project, instead of a series of smaller projects, as had been the precedent set previously. So I discussed it with Mrs. St. Clair, got the okay, and began to come up with a story.

As I've mentioned a number of times previously, I believe Mike and I were a decent team, and we had already done the "Linden Eagle News Gone Wrong" video, so I began with the thought that it would be the two of us in the lead role. I in particular wanted a large role for myself because up to that point I had done relatively little acting in my videos, despite acting being an interest of mine. I wanted to get a chance to be a main part of a larger project.

Instead of putting the two of us at odds, however, I decided that Mike and I would be working together to reach a goal. I had to be reasonable and choose something that we could feasibly film, and I decided that we would be trying to catch a robber. The comedy would come from the idea that we were "secret agents," and that catching the robber was an important mission of ours.

I wrote the actual script in just a day or two, and then revised it only a little, before it was ready to go. I showed it to St. Clair, and she said that I would need to get approval from the principal. So I sent him the script too.

Meanwhile, I started looking for other actors to play parts. I asked around a little bit before I thought of Matt Ostrander and Cassi Nowiki for the two other large parts. At this time Matt and I didn't know each other very well, but I remembered how hilarious he had been in one of my classes and knew he would be a good match. Cassi was one of the few girls I thought of that I figured would be into doing such a big project, and she also made me laugh, so I asked her and she said yes. Ross and Cameron were good friends of mine so they immediately got involved as the assassin and the head of the "organization," respectively.

I finally heard back from the principal, who said that the project was not strictly "school-appropriate" and that I would have to revise the script more. This was something I was very opposed to, so instead I struck a compromise: I would make two films: the original script and also a "school-appropriate" version, which I knew would probably only involve taking out scenes instead of shooting new ones. I got the okay and we began to get started.

By this point, it was early spring. There was no more snow on the ground but the grass and trees were still dead. Based on this I decided to shoot the three night scenes first so that by the time we got around to the day scenes it would look more like summer.

I got pretty organized after that. I had a three-ring binder with both the original and edited script in it, a list of both props and wardrobe, and a document for each scene that gave important information about it. I also included the dates that we would be filming, scheduled to change.

Then I gathered up all the special wardrobe items and put them in my car, and I took all the props that we would need and put them into a storage container on wheels, which I also put in my car. I also spent a lot of time storyboarding in my head how I wanted the scenes to look.

We began by filming the first night scene. We started as soon as it got dark, and ended up filming until just after midnight, by which time everyone was cold and tired. This being early spring, it still got pretty cold at night, and the whole crew suffered. (The crew was essentially made up of actors in the film who were not currently on camera.) I also invited our friend Luke to shoot behind the scenes footage; below is the behind the scenes footage for our second night of filming.

The second night was essentially just as cold as the first, but it was more difficult because it involved more people than the first and was difficult to coordinate, so we filmed for just as long. The third night scene involved everyone and was filmed next. Once the night scenes were done, we began shooting the day scenes.

Side note: we edited the footage in-class as we shot it, knowing that we would have little time at the end of the year to put the whole film together.

The day scenes were shot in maybe four or five days, spread out over a period of weeks, during which we would edit what we had previously shot while planning for the next shoot. And it was really exciting to see the project slowly come together.

And then, of course, came tragedy. We were nearing the end of the project, and I believe all of the footage was shot (we had recently shot the dark room scenes at the school and the hot tub scene, our last scene, at Cassi's house). Since I was using an HD camera to film with, and the file sizes were quite large, we were storing the project and the files on a hard drive, which choose this as the perfect time to crash. I was devastated, and I thought we had lost everything.

After a few days our tech guy, Mr. Hayes came in, and managed to recover basically all of the files. We were ecstatic, but we were on a deadline, as the project had to be completed in a matter of days before the end of school. And we worked right up until the last day, even after school got out. We were probably let out of school around 12:30 (a half day), and we worked in the video room until about 4, finishing the project as best we could. We quickly threw together the school-appropriate version, which was awful and made no sense (but at least there were no guns or girls in bathing suits!), and finished the film as well as being able to throw together some last minute bloopers and behind the scenes footage. We put it on a series of DVDs and finally it was done!

We premiered the video at Cassi's end of the year party, to a group who was pretty enthusiastic about it. I feel bad for showing it about three times, but different people kept coming in who hadn't seen it but wanted to, so I kept replaying it.

It was a lot of hard work and today, I still kind of feel that it's unfinished (I still have most of the original files), but I've found that there will always be things that you want to go back and change. More than anything, I wish that we had compressed the file better, because there are some issues with video quality and clearness that shouldn't have been a factor in the final product. Nevertheless, I am extremely proud that I accomplished this monster feat, because at the time 30 minutes was unthinkable. I attribute its success to the amount of planning that was involved in making the film, because without it I feel the project would have collapsed onto itself and we would not have finished on time.

I only recently added this film to YouTube because up until recently I was unable to upload videos longer than fifteen minutes. But I'd like to share this film with you today, and I hope you enjoy it.

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