Steps To Safety

The Story Behind The Scenes

By Steven

Original Posting Date: August 2nd 2009

My friend Eric contacts me not long after we’ve finished filming “High Fives” with interesting news. Apparently someone he knows vaguely through his church was a part of a workshop involving youth learning work-related skills. Without getting too much into the details, this lady by the name of Claire was looking for a video about ladder safety. Anything she was finding was either out-of-date or boring.

Now, I have done ladder safety many many times at my work for new employees (or old ones that have a habit of forgetting). As such I was very familiar with the subject material. I had used my theatre as a set before (notably “Belts” and “Elimination!”) and figured this time would be just as, if not more, relevant to the subject material. Plus…they had ladders.

In regards to Donnie, we were already having a tough time thinking of a unique character for Daniel to play. We settled on having him play an enthusiastic, but extremely naive fellow, with a flair for misusing big words. Unfortunately, the “big words” problem was mostly edited out (whoops!)…

First off….Andrew. He tagged along with Daniel and myself, and I was so sure he’d be a silent observer, and that we wouldn’t be long anyway. What was I thinking?? He was very noisy at the beginning and hard to work with. I can’t tell you how many shots we nixed because he just wouldn’t chill out. In fact, if you listen closely to the beginning where Donnie is trying to figure out how to get the light bulb, you can hear him downstairs mucking about in the arcade.

Further to that, when we were doing the shoot outside, we didn’t notice that Andrew was hucking toys off the ledge into the parking below. I finally saw him throw something and went to stop him. I looked down to see toys littering the sidewalk, and hoped no one (or car) was hit by him. And then security showed up. I apologized, and he asked that I stop filming around the mall. I agreed (but only because we got all the shots we needed…heh).

It was a pretty simple shoot all things considered. We didn’t have a script, but we did have an outline of all the safety points we wanted to cover, and we covered a lot. Dan and I thought to contribute to the character, we’d have him have a little perverted sense of humour. So after a few lines of narration, Donnie would get an aside like “I’d climb up your mom’s ladder” or “I’d need a harness with your mom”, etc. At the time we thought this would be pretty funny.

Ian’s Note: Next for filming was the Angus McKinnen segment. I had always wanted to do an insert with an old-timey feel, and I was even able to find music (courtesy of Mercury Rev) that would match the feel of it. Ian was visiting at the time, and I think the instructions we gave him was basically “You’ve invented the ladder – tell us why it’s so great”. It’s definitely a highlight. I will always say that Ian’s strengths lie in his improvisational skills, and from his first line (“I am from Nova Scotia” – totally unscripted) Ian hits the mark with timing and inflection. The placing of the segment was crucial too; I felt it added a little “break” from the educational content and kept interest going.

Okay…now things get complicated. I believe the first cut was 12 minutes long. It had a lot of educational information, and included a portion at the end where every individual point was recapped over a relevant still image – naturally this would make it easier for the students to remember what the video was actually trying to teach them. Daniel slapped together the first edit and even included our YouTube account at the end as some shameless advertising. So, we screened this first edit for Doug and Jess, and both expressed that they didn’t like the sidebar innuendos Donnie had. Even while watching it, I wasn’t too happy with them either. Daniel on the other hand was pretty insistent on keeping it in.

Now, we were already a day behind our deadline, because of Doug needing to finish editing “High Fives”, and our own timelines being hard to balance against getting this done. As such, we were both anxious to send it off, so I relented. We contacted Claire and directed her to a file dump website where the file was being held for them.

It was plainly obvious that we’d need a YouTube edit, given how long the video was and how much educational content was in it as opposed to satire. So just like when we redid “Honey”, I sat down and reedited the video. First, I took out the end recap, and the innuendo sidebars. Daniel didn’t protest this time. Then I restructured the video. This was probably far more work than we had done with “Honey”, and I spent a long time moving segments around. I was pretty happy with the final cut.

I’ll quote Claire here directly:

“Hi Steve, busy in the middle of our week so will be brief and try to follow-up when I get back. You guys worked really hard on the movie and there was some great stuff in there – really appreciated the list at the end. We were showing it to church groups at the start of our week of work projects to serve a community in SK, so we couldn’t show the full video to them. Our tech guy had to shorten it a bit because we had lots to get through on our first evening together (which was when we had to show it and tell them about ladders before they used this week) and we cut out the innuendos.
The video certainly kept the teens’ attention and got some good group laughs. I think ‘Donnie’ putting the chair on the table was the biggest; they liked the toilet brush at the end too; and as I’ve been with groups during the week I’ve heard “don’t do what your idiot co-workers tell you to do” (and that’s even when they’re just goofing around and there aren’t any ladders in sight :o) Thanks for getting it formatted and everything so we could use it. How many of you worked on it altogether?

So, pretty good with a couple groans thrown in. I remember Daniel and I having a conversation along the lines of “I knew Eric knew her through church, but I didn’t know the program was for the church!” “Ack, if I knew that I wouldn’t have kept the innuendo in!” “How much did this tech guy edit out??” etc.
Meanwhile, and I’m not joking, Jess is saying “I knew it was for their church. Why didn’t you guys?”

But I’m glad they liked it. I even extended the offer, saying if she ever needed another video in the future, we’d gladly help out.

I consider this one a “back-to-basics” sort of NSHG film, and those ones are always my favourites (Brain Damage, Fun With Fitness, Risky Business). Plus it was also our first “commissioned” video, so I’m pretty proud of it too.

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