The Story Behind The Scenes
By Steven and Doug
Original Posting Date: July 2009
During the making of the Planning Project Trio, we both decided to write some scripts for new NSHG films. Doug had never written one for us before and was up for the challenge. Steve was feeling particularly ambitious and started writing a script that is titled “Good Wholesome Sitcoms” and revolves around how to make sitcoms, full of jokes of sitcom stereotypes. Doug in the meantime was writing a script called “How To High Five…”
As most writers know (and dread), the evil Writer’s Block struck. It struck both of us, and we both spent days and days figuring out how to end our respective scripts. On one particular night, we were trying to write endings at the same time, when Steve came up with an interesting idea:
“Why don’t we swap files and finish each other’s scripts?”
Doug was up for it, and that night (within the hour!), Doug and Steve finished the scripts. If we ever get around to shooting “Sitcoms”, we’ll fill you in on Doug’s changes and ending, which are….aggressive, but funny. Anyway, the ending to Doug’s script is in all seriousness four lines and a paragraph describing a montage. That montage and dialogue comprises about 3 minutes of the film, and it’s at this point that we’ll mention montages are awesome.
First a couple technical things. We tried the best of both worlds again in the film with the tripod. The interior shots are all on tripod, and while there is great stability, you may notice that the angles are sometimes a little…low. Not to mention the creaking, and the difficulty with tracking. All right, we really need to get a new tripod. And then during the exterior shots, we went to hand held, and yet again had problems with tracking steadily.
This sounds nitpicky, but between this and our ancient editing software, we feel on the verge of making our good videos really great. So it can be frustrating for all of us, since we take a lot of pride in our work.
Anyway, back to the start. We knew we needed to film in a school, and Burnaby South was naturally the school of choice. We were in luck as the best possible time of the year was approaching: exam time. Doug and Steve remembered from experience that the school is totally open, but mostly deserted (save the gyms where finals are being written). You’ll see the occasional group of students walk past, but generally it gets eerily quiet in the halls. As great as this is, it means we have three days, tops, to coordinate around.
Luckily there was a particular day when Nate was writing an exam and we could get Daniel’s friends together to help film. So we set up shop in the school, in what should be a straightforward shoot: school, then mall.
The first thing that pops into my mind is how much trouble Steve had remembering lines that he didn’t write. Doug was feeling frustrated by Steve blowing lines, or misremembering. And oftentimes, Steve would just approximate the lines. The other major pest on set was Andrew. Most of the time he’d sit and watch quietly, but he would grow bored quickly and intrude on the scene.
We had multiple takes as with each take we’d do, Dan and Steve would ham it up and interact just a little more. As such, we’ve all noted that the character-narrator interaction in this film is probably amongst the best.
Okay…so we’re ready to give up on Daniel’s friends. It was really getting ridiculous. That crowd of friends that promised to come help out didn’t show. A couple did, but after waiting 15 minutes for the rest to appear, they turned around and left. And then a couple more drifted by and then left. I have to give Stainer and Malins some props, as even though they had a brief part, at least they hung around long enough to actually be IN the film. So when the time came for Daniel and Doug to be draped in teen girls, we were hooped. No girls were around. Dan and Nate went separate ways to find some girls, and Dan struck gold…sort of. Some girl he kinda knew, Dana, and some other girls he didn’t. They were good sports about it, thankfully.
So our simple schedule went a little wonko. We did go to the mall to film the random high fives, and yes they were random people. All except the group comprised of some of Dan’s friends from school, including two Prasads (whom we have worked with in A Day In The Life Of A Superhero). But the footage on the escalator, in Bell and Bang-On, outside…those are all strangers and we were absolutely certain that people would oblige us. And they all did, except for that stuck-up blonde chick on the escalator. But oh well.
So then we went BACK to the high school to meet up with Nate and Dave and film the shots on the field. Nate reprises his role as Gringor/Gringol, which is always a joy, and even though he was a little worn out from his exam, was more than willing to ham it up on camera. Dave does his signature dance move in there, which you may recognize from “Booze Your Daddy?!”
Now, there are two aspects that Steve simply wasn’t around for. One was the party scene, and it was a great portrayal. We still laugh at Dave’s Aryan, and Mason’s Jew. Getting people to come to the party was the hardest part. Particularly Hamza, who we thought was the most crucial one to have there. You’ll also notice that there isn’t anyone Asian in that mix. We invited several of Chinese (and I think a Korean also) friends and none of them could make it. So, without Hamza we’d be missing pretty much everyone of a noticeably different ethnic background. But Hamza came after an audition and made the scene. Hurray! Doug was really worried that the multicultural scene was just going to be all white (and one half Indian).
The major change was the animation/chart sequences. We had always considered doing shots like these before, but found ways around it, as Dan and Steve both balked at the extra work it would take (the primary reason being Steve can’t draw). Now that we’ve seen how successfully it can be pulled off, we will probably dabble in it again in the future.
Doug had Steve sit in to do the narration, and soon he had to crack his knuckles and get to editing. There were a fair number of cuts, but some great music cues.
The reception was fantastic. People love this film. We’ve sent it off to so many people, and even our grandfather has sent along words of praise for this film (which was awesome…he used to work for NFB of Canada). It’s probably most people’s favourite, and we can easily see why. I’ve always been a proponent of simple is better. Doug’s film is accessible, easy to grasp, and the jokes are very funny.
We acquired a much larger audience due to this video, and we really started to get excited about new formats and new ideas. In fact, the reviews were so positive that it changed Doug’s mind of which program he was going to take in school. Doug was going to take an acting for film program, but changed it to directing instead.