The Story Behind The Scenes
Original Posting Date: May 28th 2009
To round off the Planning Project Trilogy, Dan was again assigned a project on substance use/abuse. Once again, he approached his teacher asking to do a video project solo, and once again the answer was yes. A lot of the students in Dan’s class were doing drugs, which is pretty fair and easy, and strangely enough Dan was alone in doing alcohol as the focus of his project.
So Dan calls me up (again) and tells me what he wants to do. The first thought that we toss around is to have a party scene – a real party. Lots of teens, lots of (pretend) drinking, and very realistic reactions and consequences. There would be a focus on lots of types of drunks: sad, angry, sick, happy, talkative, sexual, etc. It doesn’t sound too funny, and we weren’t too sure of how to make it funny. But since we had a few of these under our belt now, and the last two turned out pretty well, we were confident. All it would take is a Facebook invite to a ton of Daniel’s friends to fill our place up. We got a lot of affirmatives, so we started plotting out other aspects.
The first objective was comedy. The second objective was fulfilling the assignment criteria. And what was the criteria? Well…the substance use/abuse had to be more than just research; it had to be how it relates to people in a personal way. That was pretty much it.
First the outdoor scenes. We shot them at a school a couple blocks away on one day, but were ultimately not happy with the footage. We reshot them a day or two later for continuity and to adjust some lines.
So, those are actual bottles of wine there, but they remained unopened. Even though I’m not a big liquor fan, I enjoy cooking with white wine, and I got them as presents, so one day there will be wine-cooked goodness. The other drinks were soda for the most part.
A word on Nick Wangersky: first off, cheers on him being the only person to come to this filming from Dan’s list. That’s right, all those yes people backed out on us. We had to basically rewrite the scene and change the tone of the film as we went – we incorporated this into the dialogue by having Daniel (truthfully) admit that “the girls aren’t coming”.
Nick is SO awkward through out this film, but he’s such a good sport and so receptive to the scenes. Thank God that Nate and Dave were available to help film otherwise we simply would not have been able to do this. We took so many takes of Dave in unusual/drunken situations, simply because he’s hilarious. You’ll notice his “Minnie Mouse” sad voice in the drunk dialing scene. It’s hard to take that seriously.
A quick word about the tripod. One of the chief complaints I would get about our films was the “shaky camera work”. I finally admitted to myself that, yes, I should use our somewhat busted tripod. Now, this movie was pretty much all tripod, and working with it that extensively I have two complaints:
1) It creaks like a dungeon door.
2) If centered, it focuses on people’s torsos/guts.
I would have to constantly correct the tripod and aim it at everyone’s heads. And more squeaking would follow. In future films, Dan and I alternate between hand-held and tripod. Using one primarily winds up being no good.
The scene where Nate aggressively lashes out at everyone initially went on way longer and had a Bumbler reference at the end. Unfortunately, Nate’s ramble just started sounding silly, so we cut most of it.
All right, back to the drunk dialing (this is awesome). So we tell Dave we want him to “drunk dial” a lady friend of his, alluding to a broken heart. Dave scrolls through his phone looking for a suitable candidate, with Nate interjecting “Do her! No call her!” every couple of entries. Then Dave stops at this one number, and an odd look comes over his face. He stays pretty silent about who it is, and we film the scene. Listen carefully: the girl at the other end says “Hello?” “What?” and “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Apparently, she did. She was Dave’s ex-girlfriend. A month later I met this girl at a high school function, and I semi-apologized for the awkwardness of the call, seeing as it was my production. She didn’t seem to be bothered too much about it, but then again, she HAD dated Dave.
Now…a sadness moment. You’ll notice that Nick doesn’t have a Drunk Profile. We DID film one, where he’s the jabbering drunk, and Nick gave this long monologue about nothing, slurring, and spaced out. At least, I thought I filmed it. The camera was off, and I didn’t realize this until we were deep in editing. D’oh! You can see an extension of Nick’s rant when Dan is going to puke in the bathroom, as Dan tells Nick to “keep talking.”
We wanted to get a “who did I sleep with?” scene in the original party scene, and it would probably be a little more awkward and serious. We had to take the comedic route with this, and knew we had to follow the Rule Of Three to get the joke done well. The horse sound effect was the best way to finish that off.
While Daniel was editing, he threw a bunch of clips together to form a montage (or as Doug called it “Dan’s Arthouse Scene). The clips were scenes previously seen, cut scenes, and outtakes as well. Doug and Jess both give it a raised eyebrow, but Dan and I are both fond of it. That’s probably because it more closely matches what we had initially envisioned for the film, but still worked within the confines of the satire.
So presentation day came around and Dan’s classmates all did their projects, and Dan showed our video. Dan’s teacher tells the class that the project wasn’t as much about information, as it was about how the substances affect you personally (a more introspective approach). She says the class failed to do this, with one exception: our video. This was a big relief, because as with any assignment, you have to stick to the criteria. Dan got perfect again.
That ended the Planning Project Trilogy, and I still both snicker and roll my eyes when I think that a couple of Dan’s classmates could have participated in all three videos and shared in the grades…provided they hadn’t bailed.