I Made A Movie Last Week

Well, if you’re one of my crazy (and likely irritated) Facebook friends, you’ll know that me and my crew (Soft Drink Productions) worked on a new, short film last week.  Yeah.  That’s right.  As in DURING THE WEEK…WITH OUR FULL-TIME JOBS DURING THE DAY.

Brandon (AD) and I watch the monitor with different levels of concern.

Remind me never, ever, ever to do that again.

Here’s the short n’ dirty version of the story.  My friend and producer/sound-designer-type pal, Jason heard about a new film contest/festival that a local company was putting on.  It was called Z-Fest, sponsored by the company Z-Systems somewhere in the West Metro.  Anyway, like the 48 Hour Film Project, they wanted us to make a 7 minute film by a certain date.  Unlike the 48 HFP, they give you a week to work on it…also, you can write the script ahead of time.  Jason had this idea for a movie and asked if I’d direct it.  I said “Sure” mostly because I don’t know any better and mostly because I’m sort of needing a break from all the writing and re-writing and conceptualizing of my new book idea.

He wanted to do a movie about Jesus and monkeys and religious people.  I wanted to read the script.  After I read it, I read it again.  Now, I know I’m not the shiniest knob in the door store, but…well, I didn’t get it.  It was sort of too long, and well, I just didn’t get it.  It was supposed to be about the Book of Revelations, but told in current times.  It (like Jason) was kind of weird.  I feel okay saying Jason’s weird because I tell him he’s weird all the time.  Also: I’m weird, too.

So, I don’t think I was prepared to do a movie like that.  Jason had already had Bill Borea (the bad guy from FutureSand) lined up to play Jesus, so he was in no matter what.  Since the idea got shelved (and I think Jason will direct Jesus Monkey on his own someday) we decided to get together and meet to brainstorm ideas.  On the way to the Chinese restaurant where we’d put our heads together, I had (what I thought was) the coolest idea.  I thought it would be awesome to do a movie about a blacksmith who hits his hammer on a cursed weapon and it teleports him forward in time.  It would’ve been called BLACKSMITH & THE ANVIL OF TIME.

I presented the idea.  It got shot down like a lame turkey with no left wing and a weight problem.

So, we pooled our resources.  Bill is a pro wrestler.  Bill knows other wrestlers.  His friend, Lenny Lane, owns a company with a wrestling ring and is a wrestler, too.  I sort of cringed.  It sounded like we were going to make a wrestling movie…and guess who was going to have to write it?

Lenny Lane (left) and Bill Borea (right) are TWO. MEAN. MOTHERS.

We tossed ideas around.  Bill had an idea that took almost 45 minutes to explain.  I thought it was a cool story, but there was NO WAY we’d be able to get it all out in 7 minutes.  Just not possible, but I think it has mini-series potential.  Anyway, somehow we started talking about a local wrestling guy called EL BANO.  Bill thought it was Spanish for ‘The Toilet.’  I thought it was pretty funny and in no time, we sort of fleshed out the story of RISE OF EL RETRETE.  I looked up an alternate word for ‘toilet’ and the actual fixture is called ‘retrete.’  For what it’s worth, El Bano means ‘the bathroom.’

Anyway, I sat down later that night and realized I was basically Barton Fink (from the Coen Brothers movie of the same name)  I knew nothing about wrestling, what the moves were called, or anything.  Despite that, I cranked out a serviceable (but long) draft of the script.  It passed inspection but it was suggested I cut it down.  I did a little and we figured we were good to go.

So, we found some awesome actors and actually found El Bano himself, to play a fictionalized version of his alter-ego.  His name is Jeff Chermak.

Let me tell you how it went down.  Jason and I went out to Lenny’s place (Wrestlingparties.com) to see the ring and the place where we were going to shoot ROER.  While there, Bill set it up so that we could meet a couple of wrestlers to maybe have them read.  In my head, I knew I wanted someone that was sort of a bigger dude and could pull off playing a pathetic guy.  Instantly, after meeting Jeff (El Bano) I knew he was our man.  I feel sort of bad for the other guy that showed up because he didn’t have a chance.  We had Jeff look at the script, made arrangements to start shooting in a couple days and we left.

On the car ride back, Jason and I realized we made a mistake.  We never had Jeff read (aloud) word one of the script.  Yikes.

Jeff Chermak is JOHN SALAD (a.k.a. EL RETRETE) and was our golden boy!

A few minutes into shooting the movie, we felt vindicated.  Jeff was even better than I expected.  The dude was a consummate pro and had his lines memorized and just blew us out of the water.  All around, our cast was fantastic, but Jeff I think was the runaway star, which works since he’s our main character and shows up in all but maybe three shots of the movie.

Shooting went well, but it was definitely much more tiring than doing all of it over a weekend like the 48 HFP.  Getting up at 5:30am with Jake (my one year old!) and then going to work, coming home for a bit and then heading out to Plymouth (which is a haul for me from Woodbury) until 1-2am, only to do it all over again the next 3-4 days was rough.  I looked and felt ragged and worn-out.  My family wasn’t too crazy about it, either.  We were pretty efficient for the most part, but even still, it took it’s toll.

A handful of us took that Friday off and we shot the last few scenes and it was in the can.  From there, we spent what felt like years in the basement of Brian (our DP and editor)’s basement.

Now, I don’t like to think I’m too fidgety, but I definitely have to be doing something.  It was an exercise in patience for me to sit and watch us piece this thing together a little at a time.

I won’t make this seem like a year, I swear.  Bottom line: When it was all put together (sans sound fx and music) the sucker was around 10 1/2 minutes.


At about 2am on Saturday night, Brian, Jason and I made a decision:  Forget the contest.  There was no way we could chop 3 1/2 minutes off of our film and have it make sense.  Contest be damned!  So, we contacted the dude who put the show together and asked if we could still be screened.  He agreed and a weight was lifted from our shoulders.  Would we have like to have won the $1000.00 first prize?  Sure.  But, when it’s all said and done, we’ve never been in it for the money or the glory, really.  These contests serve one purpose for ol’ Soft Drink Productions.  It give us a kick in the pants to get a movie made.

And we did.

How many people does it take to film a 30 second scene in a living room? (Answer: This many)

And you know what?  It’s pretty dang good, methinks.

Sure, I’m not a wrestling fan and if someone told me years ago that I’d be writing and directing a wrestling movie, I’d slap them in their mouth.  It just didn’t seem like it was in the cards, you know?  But I think we did something a little different.  Sure there’s all kinds of beatings and dumb jokes, but there’s kind of some cool stuff happening with the characters, especially with Jeff’s character JOHN SALAD who will become EL RETRETE.  I don’t know.  Maybe I’m biased (of course I am) but I think people will kind of dig it.  I guess I’ll know when the film is posted up here (hopefully) sometime next week.

In the meantime, it’ll be screening Saturday night (3.6.10) at the now defunct Oak Street Cinema on the U of M campus, along with about 18 other short films.  We’ve been told we’re up

2nd to last shoot and I'm starting to look a wee bit tired, no?

first (since we’re disqualified) so we won’t have to wait long to see or flick up on the big screen: Speedos, pile-drivers, dropping elbows and all.

Oh…and for the record?  I still want to do the BLACKSMITH movie.  I think it’d rock.

Special thanks: Greg Schaal who took these (and a skillion) more wicked pictures of our goofy little production.  He helped us with FutureSand and was more than happy to hang with us for 3 nights, snapping pictures of EVERYTHING.  If you need a rockin’ photographer, look him up at: www.gregschaal.com.  He’s the goods.