Film Challenge Retrospective: The Home Office

Hey cool people!  Marcus at the keyboard.

We’re nearing the end of our Film Challenge Retrospectives.  It’s sad, I know, but after this week, we’ll be switching gears to talk about our upcoming 48 Hour Film Project entry—whatever it may be!  Before we move on though, I am excited to talk to you about The Home Office!

 Hand drawn as I was procrastinating on Friday night!

Hand drawn as I was procrastinating on Friday night!

This is a special film for me, because it’s a film by me, or as close as I will ever come to calling a project “A Film by Marcus Mann.”  Film is a very collaborative art, so I don’t like to claim sole ownership of a film even if I’m writing and directing.  But this is a special case.  To see what I mean, stay tuned through the credits…

I wrote, directed, edited, shot, and performed in The Home Office.  I even sung in the shower all by myself.  Why would I do this, you ask?  This film was our first and only entry to date in the Columbus 48 Hour Film Project.  Since I’m the only one in Columbus, and new people frighten me, it was the only option.  No, that’s not quite it, but I am the only member of Two Jackets living in Ohio.  I mostly decided to do a solo 48 film as an exercise, and even then, you’ve seen that I ended up including a lot of other talents in the process.

My personal goal in this challenge was to write a film that only required one person, while keeping up with all of the elements.  While I ended up using other actors through remote recording, I successfully structured the film in a way that a single actor could have played all of the roles.  My ego isn’t so great that I thought the film would be improved by only having me in it.  In fact, as a writer I had an awkward moment in the process when I realized that I would have to perform the script I had just written – a matter I had forgotten while I was composing the draft.  The good news is I can watch most of it without cringing.

Let’s take a look at the requirements:

Genre: Parody/Spoof
Prop: A Wallet
Character: Mary or Matthew Philips, Award Winning Gardener
Line of Dialogue: “There’s only one way to know for sure.”

As I talked about in my post for All’s Chair in Love and War, we now put a lot of emphasis in brainstorming on building a story out of the requirements, and I think that’s very evident in this piece.  Although, I originally drew a genre called “Film De Femme” which is described by the 48 Hour Film Project as “a film featuring one or more strong female characters.”  I thought I might have a hard time pulling that off when I was the only actor, so I chose a wildcard genre, which is an option allowed to each team if they reject their first draw.  The wildcard genres are separate from the main genre choices, and can be pretty far-flung.  I was fortunate to choose parody, a genre which I really enjoy.  With the new genre in hand, I was able to build a film around the requirements in a very organic way.

The film is a big success to me in that I achieved my goal of writing a piece for one person, and that I turned in the film on time.  But its faults are also clear to me: The film would have benefitted greatly from having more of our frequent collaborators on set.  A more practiced actor could have wrung more humor out of the script, and a crew could have greatly improved the production value.

I shot the entire film, except for one shot, on a tripod using a Panasonic GH4.  The camera records at 4K resolution, which allowed me to zoom in on the images and add a digital shake to simulate the look of a handheld documentary.  The shot running into the bathroom was the only time I took the camera off the tripod, and there I spliced in a tripod shot at the end of the look up to the shower so I could be in the scene.  The sound was all recorded with a mounted shotgun microphone, which picks up sound in only one direction.  

As difficult as this process made production, it made post production a breeze.  I remembered all of the takes I performed and was easily able to select exactly the shots that I wanted in the final edit.  I was even completely finished early on Sunday morning because I was the only one with a say in the editing process.  If I had had Eric and Andrew around to look over my edit, the piece could have been stronger, but, with only one opinion on the cut, it went by really quickly.  I actually ended up as the first team to turn in in Columbus.  Besides, I’m glad no one else had to see the awkward footage of me talking to myself when I flubbed a take.

Despite the film’s shortcomings, I am proud of the work that went into making it.  I think it’s a good illustration of the strength that can come out of writing to the assignment and trying something new!  While I don’t plan on doing another solo film anytime soon, this was a great opportunity to really focus on the importance of scripting in a timed film challenge and I was blown away when the Columbus judges selected me for Best Writing in the competition.  I can’t wait to take what I learned from this experiment and put it into our next 48 Hour Film Project!