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Pep Talk

The stress of making this short nearly gave me a heart attack.

We were halfway through the semester before our group–which was myself, a dude named Danny, Nick Ricci and William Rowan–even had a script. Look, it had been a super-busy semester, for all of us. Having spit-balled like a million stupid ideas, William came up with a fun idea of a guy going through the stages of grief before asking out a girl. He wrote a script, and we were gonna go with it.

My memory gets fuzzy on the next step… I believe our professor, Duane Andersen, wasn’t a fan of the script in its current form–which was more of a skit than a short film, admittedly–and I decided to take a shot at it.

*Edit: William got back to me about this, he said that he purposefully wrote a skit, as the examples Duane was showing to the class were skit-like.

Here’s that script

This script was seen as both a blessing and a curse. I did make it a reasonably well-structured 3-act short film that would satisfy Duane, but it included multiple locations, more characters, and according to William a scene (the original “pep talk” scene taken word-for-word from his script) that was way too long. William then sent me a draft where he trimmed down my version, and we figured okay, this is what we’ve going with.

But then trouble with casting happened…

If anybody has heard my rant on the show “Getting PHAT” on the episode “Flakes” you may know about some of the problems we ran into when casting.

William tried everything, asking around for people who looked under 18 for the high-school roles, posting up the parts available on various Facebook groups for Utah film actors, and although he got a few bites, we wanted to make something really good out of this short, and didn’t have too many who would audition. It could have been the timing of our filming. The script as it was would take at least 3 days to shoot and the availability of the young actors was turbulent at best.

As the deadline for our shooting day came closer, it became clearer and clearer to us that we were gonna have to write the script with fewer parts. We tried so hard, especially William, to get everybody together to shoot the damn thing, but we just couldn’t find the actors!

Here’s a problem with Utah Film Actors, one that I ran into with my Michael Clayton scene re-creation, they’re flaky as fuck if you’re not paying them. This could be an every actor thing, but given the small pool of actors available in Salt Lake and Utah Valley, you would think the actors would be jumping at the opportunity to add something to their reel, student film or not. But no, we’re beneath them. They say that all they want to do is become an actor, yet given the opportunity to act, they refuse to make it a priority.

If you wanted to write professionally, would you refuse to write for free? No, that’s fucking idiotic.

The night before we were about to shoot, William calls me up and gives me the situation. We have 1 Actress and 1 actor. Possibly a second actress.

Shit.

That’s it. We agree that we’ll try to come up with something that we can film with them, so William and I go our separate ways and try to come up with something. He comes up with another “skit” I would say, having to do with two metal-head girls headbanging against a wall and harassing passers-by. To be frank, I didn’t get it, and I didn’t want to direct something I didn’t get.

But then a thought hit me, just as it did with “Memories” a few months before. I’m gonna write a movie about a movie falling apart. In a fury I come up with “So Meta” and typed the shit out of it right before midnight.

Here’s “So Meta”. I actually like that script a lot considering how fast I wrote it.

Okay. Now we have a script that SHOULD work. We have our female leads, the guys behind the camera can act a bit, and we’ll be alright… Then one of the girls bails.

We were fucked.

On a three-way phone call, we agreed to put off shooting for a week. Defeated, William sent out the message, and we took a breath.

Our next plan was to go with the original script, and William tried for a week once again to get all of the pieces together. Much like the week before, in the end he could only get 1 girl actor and 1 boy actor to show.

I said fuck it with the script; I remembered an idea I had about a boy getting a girl’s attention in more and more desperate ways, and shot William and Nick an email with only an outline to go off of, but we had no choice.

We took our time and shot the movie that Saturday with a much smaller crew than we had the week before. The actors were a bit taken aback by the fact that the script had been completely thrown out, and we were relying on our actor’s improvisations for the bulk of the comedy.

I had Nick–our D.P.–shoot the movie on a long lens for the most part, as I kind-of wanted that 70’s telephoto look mixed with some early Kevin Smith starkness to add to the awkward comedy. We lucked out on the actors we got, Robert worked hard, and I regret not giving Samantha a bigger role as she was really great too. We had fun improvising the short, and even I improvised the ending, shooting a girl I called “Asian Barbie” (she looks JUST LIKE A BARBIE) secretly in a wide, with the added little piece of candy we got in the editing room when she was adjusting her bra.

Because everything was late as shit for this project, William, Nick, and I spent a solid week giving all of our free time to editing this fucking short. Often we would disagree on certain aspects of the movie, and when we had a meeting with Duane Andersen, we took another week to trim it down, color it, and do the sound mix. In-case you’re wondering what that song is at the end, it’s a song called “blow me” I wrote for a friend as a prank one night, and the funkiness was something we figured worked for the end credits.

I look at this short now and all I can think of is the drama and sleepless nights that led up to it. Ugh. I’m exhausted just writing about it.

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