Archive for April, 2010

Trilogy of Failure: CUFF 2008 to 2010

When you bring up the subject of failed movie trilogies, most people immediately think of Star Wars prequels. But I’m here to tell you of an even bigger failure. A trilogy so bad, it even failed to rake in 2.4 billion dollars in box office revenue. A trilogy that saw no toys, no slurpee cups, and no fan edits.

Who is responsible for these disasters? Who can be held accountable?!? I say, blame the Calgary Underground Film Festival! They made us make these movies!

CUFF runs the 48 hour movie making challenge every year. CUFF promises participants fame. CUFF promises fortune. CUFF promises cold beer. But in the end, it wasn’t fame or fortune I spilled down my shirt.

Countdown to Destruction

Year: 2008 Prop: Hat Genera: Sci-Fi
Dialog: “I bet she gives great helmet.”
Prize: We took home several CUFF program guides.

Our first CUFF 48-hour challenge saw us finalizing our script after a mere 18 hours of debate. But we had our largest team ever, allowing us to build “sets” and send people out for “food”.

You could say we stalled that first evening, trying to agree on an idea. We all headed for home, agreeing to each return the next morning finished scripts in hand. The next morning, Blaise showed up with a mostly completed script. The rest of us had only brought coffee. So we went with Blaise’s script.

To speed up editing, we tried hooking up a laptop to our primary machine’s firewire port as a means of sharing video data (this was back in the day when Windows still supported 1394 networking). Blaise was able to perform some editing on the laptop, but ultimately the connection was too slow to facilitate true parallel editing with my desktop.

Screenplay by committee does not work. Once an outline is agreed on, then it is possible to write scenes in parallel, but brainstorming should alternate with working-in-silence or else too much time is wasted debating.

CUFF 2008 Who beat us? What did they beat us with?
1st Place Mos Eisley Cantina Band Catalyst
2nd Place Short Sword Films Chrono Shift
Audience Stuff Productions Selenium Chip

Fantasy is Hard

Year: 2009 Prop: Ball Genera: Fantasy
Dialog: “You’re so sure that your crew’s comin’ to get you?”
Prize: Smuggled out pizza, washed down with a nice warm cup of fail.

Curtis (“Crom“) Larson was easily fooled into joining our team by lies about our 2008 performance. “No really, we were this close to winning in 2008, Crom!” <snicker/>

Crom said he’d show up to help out Sunday, if we still needed any help by then. It was with this small and cautious first offer of help that Crom would be sucked into the vortex.

At 7pm, as soon as we received our short story parameters (prop, genera, dialog) we raced to the office and began writing scripts in parallel. By 2 am, we reviewed what we had created, and the panic set in.

Little did we know Crom was also writing a script in parallel. He emailed us a copy (a PDF, because that’s how Final Draft users make fun of everyone else), and we knew that despite his inability to be videotaped until Sunday, he would play the lead role.

Saturday we shot every non-Crom scene we could, while Crom laid down guitar tracks (and Cameron Falkenhagen supplied synth). I took some naps over night while others took a whack at editing. On Sunday, we picked up the missing Crom footage on Flamingo Block rooftop.

Then, realizing we were almost out of time, I took the music tracks which had been so lovingly constructed, and jammed them onto the editing timeline like a drunken chef constructing a turducken by force.

The rest, as they say, is movie making history!

(We lost again.)

Background render your current, crappy edit to an uncompressed video file early on, while CPU cycles are plentiful. Come deadline, when SONY VEGAS decides it doesn’t want to export some specific piece of your video project you can focus on exporting that one troublesome section. Then all uncompressed parts can be quickly transcoded together if a deadline panic hits.

CUFF 2009 Who beat us? What did they beat us with?
1st Place Unknown Team Name Hard Done By
2nd Place Unknown Team Name Stranger
3rd Place Unknown Team Name Grande Gringo: Man of Action
Honorable Mention Science Bear Juantourage

Fun House

Year: 2010 Prop: Ball Genera: Revenge
Dialog: “I don’t mind a reasonable amount of trouble.”
Prize: Free roll of toilet paper from men’s room.

After 2 consecutive years of failure, and the discovery of Cameron Falkenhagen and Crom’s bodies with “You have failed me for the last time” carved into their foreheads, it was getting hard to find new team mates.

Fortunately, Sarah “@ispeakcanadian” McKenzie hadn’t heard about the bodies! And Blaise Kolodychuk, Elaine Boyling & Colin Kershaw volunteered to create music at home and email tracks to us as MP3s.

Unfortunately, as the team worked in parallel on different scripts, we didn’t quite have an ending we were 100% satisfied with. We figured we’d jump off that bridge when we came to it, and the best thing to do was start shooting what we had.

Tubby Dog was gracious to let us shoot before (and after) opening on Saturday morning. Jeff at The Mustard Seed not only let us use their Coke vending machine, but glamorized cola theft. (Soda pop theft is a gateway crime, so I’m guessing this was a long-term strategy for job security.)

Things were racing along, until Sunday at noon when we agreed the current ending needed improvement. We shot 2 alternate endings simultaneously, and I quickly tacked one onto the end of Fun House. Then I spent 3 minutes stuffing in music that had taken Blaise, Elaine and Colin hours to create. (See a pattern here?)

And for the 3rd time, we made movie making history!

If sleeping on a problem doesn’t present a solution, then running around shooting video probably won’t be conducive to finding an answer either. We knew we had script issues, it was a perfectly parallelizable problem which we could have bounced off multiple writers simultaneously, but we waited until the last day to try address it. We should have taken the time up front to get someone else to solve our script problem, while we shot and edited the solid portion.

CUFF 2010 Who beat us? What did they beat us with?
1st Place Pauls Simmons and the Prequels Robinson Family Vacation
2nd Place 2 Days Moonshine SIN
3rd Place Dr. Robotnik You Fucked My Mother
Audience John Wayne and the Ladies Gumshoe: A Victor Flint Detective Flick

2011 CUFF 48-Hour Challenge

A word of warning to anyone thinking of competing in 2011.

There will be no awards left for you after we win them all.

There will be only cold beer and pizza. And even then, we will try acquire all the meat-lover slices for ourselves.

Why not spend the weekend at home with your family? Perhaps you own a dog. They need lots of attention, don’t they?

Hey is that your car over there getting towed?

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