minneapolis

48 Update: We Made a Movie! And It Screens This Week!

Well, this is a tad overdue. The Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project weekend is now almost a week behind us. I hope you all haven’t been waiting with bated breath since Marcus’ last post when he finished the script. If you have, then wow! You must have superhuman lung capacity!

You can exhale now. Because we did it! We successfully made a movie and turned it in on time without any loss of life or limb. And we’re very happy with the result! Our dedicated and talented team of artists delivered the goods, turning the weekend into one of our favorite film challenge experiences yet. Check out some production stills below and visit the Two Jackets Facebook page for even more:

I’m not going to delve into the nitty gritty of last weekend’s production in this post; we’re going to save that for an in-depth summation later this month when the local 48HFP events come to a close. After all, the film isn’t truly complete until it screens for an audience.

Speaking of which, you should come out and see it! Our entry, titled Cosmic Questers ‘97, is screening as part of the Group C Premieres at 7:00pm this Wednesday at the Riverview Theater. You can RSVP and see what other films are playing on the Facebook event page here. If you’re planning to attend, we recommend buying your tickets online in advance. You’ll save a whole dollar if you do! (Woot!)

I’m jacked for this week’s events, which include five blocks of screenings over three nights at the Riverview! Our screening can’t arrive soon enough, as I’m confident that the film will perform well in front of a live audience. It has all the requirements of a crowd-pleaser: action, comedy, romance, and Bill Dablow, packaged up in a totally awesome '90s wrapper! I’m also pumped to see our friends’ projects, including those by Two Jackets regulars, Craig Larson, Ben Efron, and Rachel Palashewski, each of whom had teams of their own. 

So stop by the Riverview this week and take in a truly unique film experience. Over 60 teams made films in Minneapolis last weekend, in the same amount of time, with the same required elements. The result is a dazzling display of creativity and community. Join us, won’t you?

Andrew

Top Five Reasons Why We Love Film Challenges

Hey gang! Andrew here…

Welcome back to Film Challenge Month at TwoJackets.com! Last week, we wrapped up our nine-part Film Challenge Retrospective series. If you haven’t had a chance to read through all of those articles, I highly recommend it. Together they form a detailed account of our most influential film challenge experiences so far, including all the mistakes made, lessons learned, and victories victor-ed! So go ahead, check ‘em out! I’ll wait while you get caught up.

All finished? Good! Now, you’re probably wondering - with all of the stress and frustration, the lack of sleep, the constant pressure of the clock, and the probability of failure - why do we continue to participate in these film challenges? What compels us to throw ourselves into this gauntlet time after time after time? 

Well get ready to have those questions answered! I’ve compiled the top five reasons why we love film challenges!

#1 - Embracing the Unknown

Going into a film challenge weekend, we don’t have a clue what kind of a movie we’re going to be making. We’ll assemble a team and pool together our available resources beforehand, but for what? We don’t know! And we find this very exciting! Going in with a blank slate means we’re truly making a film from idea to completion in just two days. That doesn’t allow any time for second guessing. We’re also likely to make something unlike anything else we’ve ever done before. I don’t think Two Jackets would have made films like Put a Ring on It or All Dressed in White in any other context, but I’m so grateful for those experiences. They allowed our creativity to manifest in exciting, unforeseen ways!

Actor Bill Dablow as former football star Reggie Thomas in  Put a Ring on It , our entry in the 2012 Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project. Drawing "silent film" as our genre that year required us to communicate a story entirely through visuals, which was an unexpected, but enriching experience.

Actor Bill Dablow as former football star Reggie Thomas in Put a Ring on It, our entry in the 2012 Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project. Drawing "silent film" as our genre that year required us to communicate a story entirely through visuals, which was an unexpected, but enriching experience.

#2 - Instant Gratification 

We get to make a film in just two days! A finished one! With a beginning, a middle, and an end! We don’t have a clue what it’ll be about, but we can tell you now, without hesitation, that we’re going to have a new short film ready for your viewing pleasure on Sunday, June 7, at the end of the 2015 Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project. Film challenges are minimum time commitment for maximum creative return.

We went into the 2013 Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project with an empty office and some chairs, and we came out the other side with  All's Chair in Love and War  - one of the oddest films in our oeuvre. I wouldn't have it any other way!

We went into the 2013 Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project with an empty office and some chairs, and we came out the other side with All's Chair in Love and War - one of the oddest films in our oeuvre. I wouldn't have it any other way!

#3 - Team Building

Film challenges bring people together! Back in our early college years, the Jackets participated in the National Film Challenge. Going into those first few events, we hardly knew the other members of our teams. However, we quickly learned that when you’re together with a bunch of people pushing their artistic abilities to both a mental and physical limit, friendships bloom! To this day, we continue to work with people we met back in those formative times and encourage each other as artists. In addition to these stalwarts, we try to bring in new collaborators on the cast and crew each year in order to add fresh voices to the mix. For this year’s event, we’re welcoming three new collaborators into the fold! We hope it’s the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

Eric was very happy to team up with some of our favorite collaborators for the recording of "The Money Song" from our film  I Stole a Lot of Money! , which we made for the 2014 Four Points Film Project. From left to right: Eric, the foot of Emily King, Tyler Michaels, Reed Reimer.

Eric was very happy to team up with some of our favorite collaborators for the recording of "The Money Song" from our film I Stole a Lot of Money!, which we made for the 2014 Four Points Film Project. From left to right: Eric, the foot of Emily King, Tyler Michaels, Reed Reimer.

#4 - A Public Screening

The fun isn’t over after the filmmaking weekend. The film that you and your team created with your collective might, that you sprinted to complete, is going to be put up on the big screen in front of a living, breathing audience! This is a rare gift. Filmmakers aren’t used to seeing how their work affects people. We can put it online for an anonymous crowd, but that doesn’t provide the instant feedback of being there in person. Another unique aspect is the composition of that live audience. Almost everyone in the room with you, watching your film, has a film of their own to screen, made as part of the same grueling experience. And even with that great equalizer, those films are going to be so different from one another, even if their makers received the same assignment as you. This is a special experience that doesn’t happen at any other type of screening.

Team Two Jackets after the Best of Fest screening for the 2014 Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project. From left: Debra Berger, Eric Carlson, Andrew Neill (ME!), Katie Vannelli, Craig Larson

Team Two Jackets after the Best of Fest screening for the 2014 Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project. From left: Debra Berger, Eric Carlson, Andrew Neill (ME!), Katie Vannelli, Craig Larson

#5 - Community Involvement

Film challenges bring the members of a team closer together, but they also bring the teams of a community closer together. In Minneapolis, the city producers work hard to organize mixers and workshops ahead of the event weekend with the goal of forming new friendships and collaborations. At public screenings, filmmakers get together in the lobby before and after the show to commiserate and share their experiences. We’ve been participating in the Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project since 2012, and each year we make new friends and colleagues. Events like these make me realize that film isn’t only what goes into a production or what ends up on screen. The community forming around the art completes it, and we’re so glad to be part of it.

I snapped this shot of City Producer Austin Anderson at a recent mixer for the 2015 Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project.

I snapped this shot of City Producer Austin Anderson at a recent mixer for the 2015 Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project.

As I wrap this up, I’m going to cheat and add a sixth, overarching reason for why we love film challenges: They’re fun! We get to hang out with some of our favorite people, meet some new people, tell a story from scratch, try something new, and see our work on the big screen! For those who participate in film challenges, it’s easy to see only the blood, sweat, and tears going into them. However, when you take a moment to step outside the pressure and exhaustion bottled up in these weekends, and you see the creativity and community behind it all, then it makes sense. There’s so much heart and drive in it. This is why we love doing it. 

Andrew

Film Challenge Retrospective: All Dressed in White

Hey ghouls and goblins! Andrew here…

Things are about to get a touch spooky and a tad scary here on TwoJackets.com! For this penultimate entry in our Film Challenge Month Retrospective series, I’m going to reminisce back to October 2014, when Two Jackets participated in the first-ever Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Horror Project and brought our film, All Dressed in White, to life!

Horror movies require moody BTS photos. From left to right: Joe Filipas, Rachel Palashewski, Erin Granger.

Horror movies require moody BTS photos. From left to right: Joe Filipas, Rachel Palashewski, Erin Granger.

The 48 Hour Film Horror Project was Two Jackets’ third film challenge of 2014 (and it wouldn’t be our last)! For our roles on this project, I directed, Marcus wrote and assistant directed, and Eric was mysteriously absent - perhaps off chasing a man-beast with an insatiable hunger for the most bizarre of cuisine. In order to fill the Eric-sized hole in our hearts, we assembled the largest team we’d ever assembled for a film challenge. I’d list every one of our team members’ beautiful names here, but I’m feeling rigor mortis set in. You’d best just watch the film (available online now for the first time!) and stay through the credits...

As long as we’ve been participating in these film challenges, I’ve longed to draw horror as our assigned genre. When the announcement went out that Minneapolis was to host its first-ever all-horror 48 hour film challenge, I was thrilled! This meant that every genre we could draw would be a subgenre of horror. My dream of horror (very different from a nightmare) was about to come true!

I devoured short horror films before the event weekend. I wanted to learn all the in’s and out’s of what made a short horror film successful. I took extensive notes, listing what techniques worked and what didn’t. I had extensive conversations with Marcus and our frequent collaborator and friend, Craig Larson, about the elements that worked best for each of us. By the time the event weekend arrived, I felt comfortably prepared for the challenge ahead. At kickoff we were assigned the following elements:

Character: Eileen or Ethan Diness, Caterer (this threw us for a loop)
Prop: A broom
Line of dialogue: “Never again”
Genre: Asylum/Insanity

The production of All Dressed in White is an example of how one can go into a 48 with plenty of preparation, experience, and a cracker-jack team in tow and still make a ton of mistakes.

In the retrospective articles for Mostly Attractive Monsters and Put a Ring on It, we’ve well covered an important lesson: play to your strengths. Going into the Horror Project, I had discussed with Marcus and Craig that I wanted to make something truly scary. However, although I had done plenty of research, the execution of effective horror techniques was still uncharted territory. Two Jackets had never made a straight-up horror film before. We were willingly venturing into the unknown, accepting failure as a possibility.

A 48 hour film challenge is not the most forgiving environment for experimentation. Making Put a Ring on It, a silent film, in 2012 was definitely an experiment, but we were drawing on many other strengths to supplement the sacrifice of sound. For that project, we were wise to hold fast to the storytelling voice we’d previously established, losing the dialogue but keeping familiar elements as well as our unique perspective through which we’d filter the story.

With All Dressed in White, I struggled to reconcile the established Two Jackets voice with the darker material we had developed. The result feels inconsistent. My intention was to make something tense and discomforting, but the film’s perspective isn’t subjective enough to really place the viewer in the situation. As a result, the characters’ goals seem unclear, the tense beats are missed, and the moments of relief feel too frequent. The Two Jackets sense of humor, most apparent in the film’s finale, then arrives abruptly without any proper setup. Transitioning between tones in a 6-minute short film is tricky and, when you only have 48 hours to make that film, ill-advised.

The experience of working with a large team to make this film also taught me a great deal about communication on a film set, which is always essential, but even essential-er during the rush of the 48. I made a grave communication misstep early in this production that put us behind for the rest of the weekend.

Since we had more hands on deck than usual, I made the decision to dress the set more than we’d ever previously done. When we arrived on location Saturday morning, we made a list of set and costume items, and I sent a team out to procure them. My mistake was in not establishing a clear deadline or budget for this run. While the budget didn’t end up being a concern, the deadline most certainly was. The production design team didn’t return until close to 1pm, and with the subsequent dressing of the basement location, we weren’t shooting until nearly 3pm.

Due to the increased stress of the late start, I felt off-balance for most of the shoot. Directing requires a great amount of focus, and the stress of the day’s mistakes was clouding my focus and ability to tell the story as best as I could. I was already facing the increased difficulty of an unfamiliar genre and new techniques, and I now had far less time to work through those challenges. I was so pleased with the drive of the team once the camera began rolling, but in hindsight I can now see that we were pursuing an inconsistent and incomplete vision.

If I had taken just a few minutes with the production design team to create a schedule, I’d have shaved hours off our shoot and have prevented the chain reaction that continued to drive us behind. We wrapped shooting around midnight, which isn’t much later than normal, but the delay in shooting meant our editor, Mitch Miller, was behind in the cut. Also, in the rush to complete the shoot, I had hardly given any direction to Mitch. With this slow start, the edit came down to the wire, and we were left without adequate time to finesse sound and color. We made it to the drop-off in time, but the film we handed in (the same version you watched above) still felt rough.

Taking on the dual role of director and producer is tricky. The needs of the story and the production are complementary but different, and if you’re responsible for both, you have to strike a balance. However, that balance requires a great deal of compartmentalization and an incredible amount of focus. If you can split the responsibility, I highly recommend it. For the 2015 48HFP in a few weeks, Marcus and I are sharing the directing role as we did for All’s Chair in Love and War. This way, he can devote the necessary attention to the cast while I focus on the crew.

While All Dressed in White may not have been completely successful, I strongly believe that this experience was well worth having. For one, despite the delays, the team came to play; their commitment to the production kept me afloat. The team also came out to support the film at the screenings, where it ended up in the Best of Fest! At that event, we won the award for Best Costumes, which was a nice consolation given all the extra time we took to procure them.

This production is a hard one for me to think back on, but I won’t misconstrue it as a wasted effort. We knew tackling horror meant leaving our comfort zone. The takeaway here isn’t that we should avoid horror in the future; we just need to accept our mistakes and consciously correct them the next time around.

After All Dressed in White, I was anxious for another chance to make a film and put into practice what I’d learned. Lo and behold, three weeks later, we were kicking off another film challenge. More on that next time…

Andrew

Film Challenge Retrospective: All's Chair in Love and War

Hi everybody!  Marcus here!

In our second year participating in the Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project, Two Jackets Productions made an absurdist comedy called All’s Chair in Love and War. The only problem was that we were supposed to make a romance!  And we had such beautiful people to work with…

Joe (left) and Matt (right) are, unfortunately, not about to get romantic .

Joe (left) and Matt (right) are, unfortunately, not about to get romantic.

In the picture above you see Matt Pitner (right) who played Limpwings in, um, Limpwings, and Joe Rapp (left) who we had never had the pleasure of working with before on film.  Both Matt and Joe are members of the Bearded Men Improv troupe and are hilarious performers.  Not pictured is Emily King (YODO!, I Stole A Lot of Money!) who brought a good deal of heart to the film, and Craig Larson (Boxing with God) who never fails to crack me up.  I co-directed this piece with Andrew (something we really enjoyed and plan to do again this year!) and Eric filled the editor role.  This is all heightened by Reed Reimer’s fantastic score.

So where did we go wrong?  First, take a look at the film...

I really love the film that we came up with for this competition as a standalone piece, but it falls down as an entry in the 48 Hour Film Project.  To explain why, I’ll need the help of a Jedi Master.

There’s a scene in The Empire Strikes Back where Luke Skywalker, our hero and Jedi-in-training is instructed by his master, Yoda, to go into a spooky cave for some reason.  Luke reasonably asks, “What’s in the cave?” and Yoda sagely replies, “Only what you take with you.”  Luke brings in a lot of rage, fear, and doubt, and ends up having a pretty miserable time of it.  The idea is that if he had gone in without all of his baggage, he may have seen something a lot better than his own decapitated head in a Darth Vader outfit.  Maybe even a rousing performance by the Max Rebo Band.

The 48 Hour Film Project is like that cave: The less you bring with you when entering it, the better your experience will be.

Allow me to elaborate.

Remember when I said our genre was romance?  Here is the full list of required elements we had that year:

Genre: Romance
Character: Betty or Bobby Bulmer, Farmer or Gardener
Prop:  A lamp
Line of Dialogue: (S)he told me it’s a secret.

Our difficulty was that we had gotten an excellent open office space that was filled with blue and red chairs, and we had a vision of using tents indoors going into the weekend.  We worked so hard to get our own set of self-imposed restrictions into the film that we lost sight of the prompt.

The first draft of the script didn’t even include the prop or the line of dialogue, because I was so busy trying to fit in our other fun items.  We never come up with story ideas before the weekend, but we found ourselves backed into a corner when we couldn’t let go of the extra elements we brought with us.  The film as a competition piece suffered because of it.  While the finished project has elements of a romance, that certainly wasn’t the primary genre and as such we failed the assignment.

We learned back with Level Up that it’s possible to not achieve the goals of a 48 but still create a film we love.  This film however, finally drove home the idea that we had to put the assignment first.  When we make films for challenges now we go in as blank slates and let the ideas derive directly from the assignment.  You’ll usually see the assigned character as our lead, and the prop and line as integral parts of the story.    It’s a really fun way to make a film and it guarantees that we are working on something we never would have dreamt of Thursday night!

In essence, we will no longer fight Vader in the cave.

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that we’re unhappy with how this film turned out. Thanks to a smooth shoot, and the dedication of our crew (Ben Efron our valiant Director of Photography actually slept in one of the tents Friday night), we turned in the film on time!  And that’s really the number one rule of a 48 hour shoot: Finish.  That was even after the hour we spent getting Matt to say his character’s name correctly.  

We’re proud of the work that went into All’s Chair in Love and War, both from Andrew, Eric, and me, and from our awesome collaborators.  While we weren’t right on the ball with the required elements, we did have the smoothest shoot in a 48 that we’ve yet had in Minneapolis.  This was definitely helped by Andrew and I co-directing the film.  Sharing the directorial load allowed us to solve problems faster, and not feel like we were overwhelmed. It was a great directing experience, and one we will be repeating with our 2015 entry!

I won’t, however, say which one of us was the master and which the padawan learner...