Wow. On Tuesday’s premiere (brilliantly recapped by SnowflakeGirl), 50 finalists arrived in Hollywood, met the judges, completed a “pitch” task, got pared down to a group of 36, and started in on their second task – the making of a 2 ˝ minute short film, including the script, in 24 hours. Whew! Things move fast in the world of film! I’m exhausted just writing about it. You’d think there wouldn’t be time for anything except some fine, avant-garde filmmaking with only 24 hours to complete a task, wouldn’t you? Except that some of our novice filmmakers have egos that are too big to fit into a 2 ˝ minute short.
Clash and burn
Jeff Seibenick and Marty Martin are our first pair of Bickersons (the 3rd member of team #2, Trever James, has wisely distanced himself from their constant back-and-forth snark attacks on each other). Jeff is a big guy, pushy and aggressive, and Marty…well, he looks exactly like a guy named “Marty Martin” should look like. Think of a rebellious Chester to Jeff’s Spike. Marty obviously took his mom’s advice to heart the first time he came home and told her he got his lunch money stolen, because he refuses to back down from Jeff’s bullying. Each of the three team members is to direct one scene of their short films, and Jeff indulges himself in plenty of eye-rolling during Marty’s turn in the director’s chair. We don’t really get a good look at Marty’s directing style, except for one brief moment when he tells a female actress, “Every time you kiss someone from now on…you think of me”. He delivers this with what I’m sure he thinks is a devilish little grin, thereby ruining the poor woman’s love life indefinitely.
Team #1 is Adam Stein, Sam Freidmanson, and Zach Lipovsky, special effects artist extraordinaire. The team plans to make full use of Zach’s abilities, but it’s tricky to incorporate special FX into a short film, especially with the very limited timeline. Zach works feverishly, but admits that if his effects don’t work, they’re screwed. The good news? The boys are working hard together, and there’s nary a harsh word said. The bad news? For those very reasons, this team gets little on-camera time.
Film school? I don’t need no stinkin’ film school!
Hannah Sink, Kenny Luba, and Jessica Brillhart are team #3, and let me put it this way – this trio gets LOTS of on-camera time. Kenny’s decided to play the role of problem child while Hannah & Jess portray the frustrated parents. Hannah in particular is p.o.’d at Kenny, complaining that it’s impossible to direct him because he won’t take direction. Kenny, indeed, is exhibiting more than a few symptoms of advanced ADD – when he’s behind the camera, his rapid-fire speech that leaps from subject to subject is confusing at best and at worst, annoying as hell. Unfortunately, there’s no time-out corner for Hannah & Jess to put him in, and Hannah anxiously hopes for some “magic” to come out of the editing process.
Jessica is a film-school student on the verge of graduation, and she lords this fact over Kenny, who sneers that you don’t have to go to film school to be a filmmaker. I happen to know from personal experience that this is true, as my husband took a fine video of our four-year-old’s first soccer game this season. Mind you, he took plenty of shots of my
backbad side, and as soon as I figure out how to delete scenes from the camera I’ll be making a little editing magic myself.
Hannah & Jess labor over the editing on their laptop, and get progressively pissier as they realize that Kenny’s lousy camera work cost their scenes. Kenny moseys in and as he sees the progress – or lack thereof – that the girls have made, he has a tantrum and accuses his teammates of wasting the past three hours, accomplishing nothing. The girls get their backs up and angrily point out that Kenny’s lack of expertise in filming is the reason for the editing problems, and after some more acrimonious discussion, the girls storm out.
Why you should never go to bed angry
Admittedly, no one is at his or her best at 4:09 am. If you’re not sleeping, you should be (Marty). Or, if you’re sleeping when you should be hard at work perfecting your craft (Jeff). Marty the Martyr is punching away at the laptop, resenting every breath his snoozing teammate takes (again, Trever is nowhere in sight). Jeff finally awakens, and Marty is all over him, complaining that the audio mix still needs to be done, which is Jeff’s responsibility. Jeff somehow manages to be both drowsy and condescending at once, and assures Marty that he can do the sound and music in 10 minutes. This starts off another bickerfest, and Marty furiously tells Jeff to stop talking and ordering people around. Jeff rolls his eyes and makes faces – geez, these guys are filmmakers, do we really have to remind them that the camera is running during all this bitchery?
Random moments of brilliance
It’s judgment day, and the filmmakers assemble in front of the judging panel of Carrie Fisher, Brent Ratner, and newcomer John Avnet, producer of Fried Green Tomatoes, Risky Business, and The Mighty Ducks movies. That’s, um, a pretty diverse resume. Whereas Garry Marshall was a friendly, joke-cracking old-school gent, John is unsmiling and deadly serious. He must have been real popular with those kids in the Ducks movies. Carrie Fisher, who has a kind but no-nonsense demeanor, tells the filmmakers they’ll be screening all the movies and critiquing them as they’re shown.
The first movie shown is courtesy of team #5, Hilary Graham, Brent McCorkel, and Carolina Zorilla De San Martin (I swear to you that’s the name the show’s site had), and is entitled “Random Acts Of Kindness”. I’m not sure how that’s going to fit into the “out of time” theme the teams were supposed to follow, but then I’ve never been to film school. The film itself has a My Name Is Earl-type plot, the subject being a woman who embarks on these random kind acts when she learns that she’s dying – the problem is, her well-intentioned actions end up being disastrous. In spite of the filched TV plot, the short has some good comic moments and the judges highly approve – Carrie thinks they’ve done a fantastic job, and Brent gives them a “Bravo!”.
Next up is “Vinny’s Vault”, the effort from the contentious trio of Kenny, Hannah & Jess, team #3. The film concerns a Mafia snitch, and the action is somewhat confusing but ends with one of the guys being locked in a vault by his partner, who realizes that he’s a rat. Carrie loved the “look” – the cinematography – of the short, but John sternly tells Hannah that her scene was sloppy and that as director, she should have had more control. Hannah unleashes in confessional, complaining that the problems with her scene were caused by Kenny, and adds that she’ll be very upset if she gets sent home because of his errors. Man, that’s such heavy foreshadowing, they could’ve played the “Jaws” theme while she was talking.
Time for “Out Of Time”, the cleverly-named (yes, that’s sarcasm you hear) offering from team #2, Trever, Marty, and Jeff. Their short is billed as a murder thriller (no, there’s no scene of Marty stabbing Jeff in his sleep). It’s about a homicidal husband whose wife foils his intentions when she drugs his drink in a restaurant, presumably killing him before he can kill her. Considering the acrimony between the directors, it’s not at all bad. Brent loved the sidewalk sequence (Trever’s scene) but John plays the hardass again and criticizes Jeff’s restaurant scene as “weak”. All the judges then chime in to admonish Marty & Jeff for their constant crap slinging, reminding them that they must play nice and work together.
Stop the clocks – we have a winner
“Time Out” is Zach, Sam, and Adam’s effort. Zach, as you recall, is the resident special FX wizard, and he’s put his talents to use on his team’s short. Team #1’s film is coolness personified – it’s about a couple who gets into an argument over a hat in a store, and their fighting freezes time. Zach’s effects include a bunch of plastic clothes hangers frozen in mid-air, and actors who look like they’re playing a very advanced game of freeze-tag. It’s a truly amazing product of 24 hours’ labor, and if you didn’t see it, get over to the Fox website and check it out. The judges are effusive with their praise, calling it fantastic, incredibly inventive, and even grouchy John Avnet admits it was “very good”. The other teams applaud the boys’ effort, but are dismayed at the strong showing; Jess Brillhart admits she was blown away, and says the bar has been set high.
Twelve more are out of time
The filmmakers assemble outside the screening room and nervously await their fates. Hannah Sink complains to teammate Jess that she’s very worried that Kenny’s incompetence has blown her chances. (DUH-dum…DUH-dum…DUH-dum…)
The teams are called back in and the first trio – Hannah, Jess, and Kenny – are up for judgment. Carrie tells Hannah to step forward and after a brief dramatic pause – because Carrie’s the actress in the group, I suppose – tells Hannah that she’s been eliminated. Hannah is stoic in defeat, and hugs Jess as she leaves the room.
Next is Sam, Zach, and Adam, and no surprise here, all three are going on to the next round. The “Random Acts” crew of Hilary, Brent, and Caroline Zeta de whatever are also safe all around.
It’s Jeff, Trever, and Marty’s turn, and the suspense is heavy. Carrie tells Trever and then Marty to step back, and after another dramatic pause, eliminates Jeff. Jeff is stunned and heartbroken, sobbing in confessional that all he has to his name is fifty bucks and a crappy video camera. Maybe he can beat up some kids for their lunch money on his way back home.
As for the other fourteen filmmakers who are safe – they were too well-behaved and their films too middling for them to be worthy of any extra camera time, so we have no idea who they are…with the exception of brilliant pitchman Andrew Hunt, kindly dad Will Bigham, and brassy blonde Claudia LaBianca. The remaining 24 are immediately given their next task – they have one hour to direct a one-page script. They will get their own crew and set, and the final cut will be administered after the screening. The filmmakers scramble out of the screening room and are given one out of a possible four scripts, and have a ˝ hour to prepare before their one-hour shoot deadline.
We’ll see most of the third task’s action next Monday, but we get a brief glimpse at the efforts of Italian filmmaker Claudia LaBianca, who takes a half hour of her one-hour allotment to set her shot up. Mio dio!
After the rest of the deadwood is cut, our 18 finalists will be churning out a new film every week, and the fans (are there any? Helloooo?) will be voting for their favorites. The smart filmmaker will hire Sanjaya Malakar to star at least one of them.
If you know where the delete key is on digital video cameras, PM me.