Monday, July 27, 2015

Arby 'n' the Chief Premiere Delay, 48 Hour Film Competition

News I'm sure will be a disappointment to some, I'm sorry -- I need to push the release of Arby 'n' the Chief's eighth season premiere episode about a week or so.

There is some good news at the end of this, though.

I was a bit behind schedule with the development of the premiere's screenplay as well as a detailed scene-by-scene outline of the entire season as I had twatted on Tweeter earlier, but I thought I could still possibly release the episode on August 1st at that point until one of my roommates who had recently caught wind of a locally organized and funded forty-eight hour film competition got myself and the other guys in the house together and pitched the idea of us all competing as a team.

"Forty-eight hour film competition", to my personal horror, pretty much means what it reads -- a five minute live action film has to be developed, written, produced, cast, designed, shot, edited, color corrected, sound designed, rendered and delivered within a rigid forty-eight hour window of time.

Might not sound too bad unless you've ever actually made a movie -- one that could be considered seriously among others in a film competition -- and are familiar with the amount of work involved across all departments and phases of filmmaking.

Myself and the others in the house make a great team and are all either film school educated or graduates and we haven't gotten together to make a flick since we had to in order to satisfy our school curriculum.

They've been enthused about the idea of helping out with Arby 'n' the Chief in some way, but writing the story is taking me so much time to do and as I'm consequently barely ever out of my room or in the house nowadays, not only does everybody on the Internet keep believing I died some horrible accident, but probably my roommates as well.

All the guys were excited by the idea of entering the competition, and as I'm one of the few among my peers dedicated almost exclusively to screenwriting and considered to be almost good at it, they wanted my help to make something funny.

Anyway, the competition's already over.

We paid the entry fee, and on the starting hour of the competition, our director (Mattisse -- a good friend of mine, he was the guy sitting next to me in my first Twitch stream) was given by the competition organizer three surprise elements that had to be incorporated in our film's story somehow (this prevented some anus from submitting content created in the past).

At 7:00 PM, as soon as we heard what the elements were over the phone, myself and a couple of guys had a little "writer's room" ready to immediately start brainstorming -- a mess of white and cork boards, sticky notes, markers and dildos.

The dildos were mine.

For about eight hours we paced around the room breaking a fast-paced, gag-riddled story about two Police Detectives in search of the world's most heinous offender of online piracy in a house full of drug dealers, assassins and kidnappers.

Sounds fun, right?

It was -- very -- but it's soured by the back of your head constantly reminding you there's no time to fuck around, and a crew full of people are devoting their time and effort to your story with the hope that it's worthwhile producing, and inspiration can be a hard thing to muster on command -- particularly if you're a moody fuck like me.

Luckily we were all in good spirits, kicked around plenty of good jokes and constructed a fairly solid five-minute plot.

After that, at about 4:00 AM, while the rest of the crew got some shut-eye, I walked alone for a half-hour to my local twenty-four hour Denny's and, for another six hours, wrote as much as I could of the screenplay based on the story the other editors and I had broken.

11:00 AM -- the director, cast and crew were on set almost ready to start shooting, and I was panicking, still not having finished the script entirely.

Though I had a full five pages written out, some of it was point-form and had blocks of action missing, and I had still yet to get the director's approval -- although most of the dialogue was there which was priority as the director had most of the film's action already blocked out in his head and, comedically, him and I are almost always on the same wavelength, so the matter of approval wasn't too much of a concern.

The script ultimately required a massive amount of re-working, however.

Not because the jokes were weak -- the team were actually consistenly praising me for keeping the dialogue funny, logical and concise -- mostly the fact was due to time constraints.

For a five-minute film, we had a lot of plot to cover, and a lot of the jokes we came up with we felt were too good to cut out.

Keeping a scene concise as well as its characters' dialogue sounding natural is a valuable skill, certainly one I haven't mastered.

As soon as the script for our film's first scene was locked, it was printed and handed off to the director and cast.

While everybody else was shooting the movie and laughing together on set, like a troll I was sitting alone in my room in the dark with slight nausea and diarrhea -- the consequence of eating solely pizza and Denny's breakfasts for days -- for hours at a time, desperately trying to get the next scene that was to be shot written in time as well as whittle down the script's full length to something that wouldn't make the eventual video editor (which ended up being our director) rip his hair out trying to keep the run-time within five minutes.

And of course that's what ended up happening, as it always does.

Writing's one thing, and it sucks.

Writing when a crew of actors, equipment operators and a director are all sitting on their hands in the next room, the sounds of their restless conversation audible, waiting on you to finish writing a scene and print it off as quickly as possible and finally make the day they've forfeited to be on set worthwhile, buying the eventual post-production team precious seconds in the final hours approaching the deadline is something else.

Staring at the monitor in vacant desperation, the pressure of the production launching missiles into your head and blowing up any bridges that lead you towards humor or creativity, trying to jump the gaps and just fucking write something.

I also hate writing short films.

Some people wonder how they could possibly fill five pages with content.

Thanks to Arby 'n' the Chief, I'm so acustomed to writing entire seasons' worth of episodic content that five minutes seems like an impossibly tiny amount of time to tell a memorable story that's properly paced with great characters from beginning to end.

I didn't get any sleep until the script and shooting of the film were completed, having been awake for about thirty-five hours altogether.

After I managed to get a half-decent amount of rest, I assisted the editor with cutting and sound designing the film.

About twenty minutes after I had taken control of our workstation to design the film's sound, to my horror I found that somebody -- most likely me -- had somehow unknowingly butchered the entire cut with duplicate, improperly placed shots and unsynchronized dialogue all over the place due to some unwise key presses.

In hindsight, I'm pretty sure it was me -- when I was tapping the Q and E keys reflexively to zoom in and out of Adobe Premiere's video timeline, as that's how I have my keys mapped on my own computer -- I wasn't working on my own station at the time -- wondering why the zoom function wasn't working and in all likelihood obliviously deleting frames or something in actuality like a dumb cunt.

Anyway, it all worked out for the most part.

The sound design is iffy, which is probably my bad for wasting time having to revert to a previous project file auto-save and lose a precious half-hour of work.

However, myself and the crew who have seen the final cut all think it's hilarious and are pleased with it given our constraints.

Nobody entirely loves filmmaking.

It sucks massive dick in the sense that it's almost always exhausting and stressful, but it's so creatively rewarding when a cool product comes together in the end that it usually makes the strain worthwhile.

That's why I do it -- if you can call my films "films" and throw a show about toys with robot voices made by a lazy writer in the same bucket as Chinatown.

Our film's been submitted, our entire house is currently a cringe-worthy mess of props, lights, camera gear and other equipment, my room's a disaster, and I'm exhausted.

The film's going to be screened at a local theater and judged before a panel of industry veterans on August 8th, after which we're allowed to release it publicly on the web, so I can share it with you as soon as that happens.

I'm still, of course, excited about and fully dedicated to making Arby 'n' the Chief's eighth season as bad-ass as possible, but I know at this point I'm not gonna be able to make my previously announced deadline for the airing of the premiere episode.

I need a more time, and I hope nobody's sore.

I'm tremendously grateful for all the support I'm receiving and continue to receive, your contributions are not without appreciation.

On the bright side, based on what I've heard from my backers, they're all enthusiastic to be able to support me in no matter what I do; I did really bust ass on this short film, and I really think it's quite funny and that you'll enjoy it when you see it.

Again, sorry about the delay -- I know I've always been notorious for delays and I'm embarrassed to fulfill the prophecy once again, and assuming I have your patience, I love you for it.

If you have any questions or conerns, please e-mail me at jcjgraham@gmail.com and I'll try to get back to you.

Cheers!
Jon