Film Challenge Month

Film Challenge Retrospective: Cosmic Questers '97

Hey there, Questers! Marcus here...

It was great looking back over our old projects during Film Challenge Month last May. Now, six months after our latest film challenge was completed, I’m pleased to be able to share a retrospective on the making of “Cosmic Questers ‘97”!

In the green room at our location,  rehearsing the script with our talented cast. 

In the green room at our location,  rehearsing the script with our talented cast. 

Unlike our past projects, we shared a lot of the details of this production before it began. You can find our cast and crew announcement and our planned schedule in previous blog entries. I won’t repeat those details in this post, but I will talk about how the production differed from our expectations.

Before getting critical, I have to say I couldn’t be happier with the contributions everyone brought to this film. I gushed about them in the announcement back in May, but the cast and crew brought their A-game to this project, and Andrew, Eric, and I are very proud of what the team came up with. 

Check out the film on your viewscreen here before we dive into the production details:

Pretty rad, right?

Okay, so how did the actual weekend differ from our plan? It all started at the genre drawing. Right there at the beginning, the odds were simply not in our favor. 

Andrew went up and drew "Film de Femme," which requires a female lead. This was literally the only genre we didn't want to use. Normally, it wouldn't be a problem, but we had lined up Bill Dablow, Lucas Vonasek, and MJ Marsh as our actors—three guys that we had been aching to work with for ages—and we didn't want to discard the opportunity to showcase them together. So we reprimanded Andrew and sent him back up to draw a wild card genre.

We were excited for the wild cards. We could make do with any of them except “Period Piece" because our reserved location was a production office space with a very modern look. Guess what we got?

Yeah. Andrew isn't allowed to draw anymore.

We were left with the following elements after taking our wild card choice:

Character: Kevin Whitefish, Club President
Prop: A coat hanger
Line of Dialogue: "You choose. I can't/cannot decide."
Genre: Period Piece

I’ll freely admit that we weren’t thrilled by the genre selection. Our location wasn't going to work for any distinctive period, and it was set to rain that weekend, which meant it would be hard to do an outdoor shoot—woods look the same in most periods. As a rather risky play, we decided to change our location to a more versatile studio space and double down on the period elements. The film would take place in the late 90s during a public access production inspired by a 60s era sci-fi show—in an homage to the original "Star Trek" series and Minnesota’s own “Mystery Science Theater 3000."

With "Cosmic Questers '97" we won our first “Best Use of Prop” award for our coat hanger monster! We affectionately call him "Coatie"!

With "Cosmic Questers '97" we won our first “Best Use of Prop” award for our coat hanger monster! We affectionately call him "Coatie"!

Our risky move to fulfill the "Period Piece" genre really began to throw us off balance come Saturday morning.

While I rehearsed and refined the script with the cast, our concept's need for period props and costumes pulled Andrew's attention away from his co-director responsibilities to more of a producer's role. He spent a majority of his morning on the phone with our production assistants, arranging the acquisition of materials. Due to the last minute change of location, Eric was forced to run to our unused location to pick up a bunch of equipment. He also had to stop by a couple of places for additional props and costumes. As a result, neither Andrew or Eric had much time to plan our shots for the day, and we started shooting late. Once we got going, the team made up for lost time by working quickly, but at the expense of more deliberate blocking and visuals, which could have better communicated our characters' motivations. At the time, the stakes were clear to Andrew, Eric, and me, but I don’t know how well they came across in those first few crucial minutes of the film.

Our expectations for the weekend were exceeded when we got into post-production, thanks in huge part to our pre-production sessions with Ben Pimlott (editor), Eric Pagel (sound mixer), and Reed Reimer (composer). With these meetings before the weekend, we established a clear and effective post-production plan and encouraged frequent communication. As a result, everyone knew what was expected and each role was executed beautifully. We were able to have the film ready early enough to export safety copies several times before turning in our final, which really helped reduce anxiety at the end of the weekend. Ben and his workmate Cody Rowan, who assisted with visual effects, went on to be nominated for Best VFX—believe it or not, it takes a lot of work to make something look that (intentionally) bad—and Eric P. won for Best Sound! The film itself was nominated for Best Film and screened at the Best of Fest!

The big lesson for us here is to better plan how the three of us are going to collaborate and then reflect that within the schedule. This time around, we isolated ourselves too much in order to address the challenges of the production. When we finally came together to plan shots, we didn’t have the time to make the best of our collaboration. I had spent too much of my time rehearsing the cast off stage, not aware of the need to get the blocking down on stage early enough for Andrew and Eric to work on the shot planning.

In the end, we’re still very happy with the film we made. The 2015 Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project was a great experience! We keep learning more every time we run a production, and I for one can’t wait for our next film challenge! Hopefully that retrospective will come along a bit sooner…

Marcus

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

2015 Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project Schedule

Hello readers!  Marcus here…

Can you feel it?  Tomorrow is the start of the Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project 2015!  I just landed in Minneapolis from Columbus, and I’m ready to get down to it.  

Scheduling a 48 hour shoot is vitally important, because, although the shoot never goes exactly according to plan, if there is a solid foundation the production can always bounce back.  Knowing what needs to be done and when is crucial to a successful film challenge effort.

The three of us Jackets have worked on our process over the years and have come up with a basic weekend plan that has delivered a film on schedule every time.  Below you’ll see a breakdown of our itinerary for each day of the competition.  There are a lot of great ways that other teams break down their weekends, but this approach has worked best for us in the past.

Remember, for this production, Andrew and I will be co-directing from a script I will write, and Eric will be our director of photography.  We will all be on set to monitor the production, keep things on track, and hopefully catch any major disasters before they get too big.

Friday

The competition starts at 6:00 P.M. with a kick-off party at the Crooked Pint Ale House in Minneapolis.  At 7:00 P.M., Andrew, Eric, and I will receive our required elements then rush back to our secret meeting location.  We will then spend until 9:00 P.M. or so brainstorming the story we want to tell.  We let the required elements drive our story discussion, so it’s hard to account for exactly how long this will take.  It’s our goal to make a film that wouldn’t work if the elements were removed.  We learned that lesson back when we made All’s Chair in Love and War.

With a firm concept in hand, we will break off with me writing the script, and Andrew and Eric will launch into producer mode.  They’ll be contacting our cast about any wardrobe requirements we have come up with, and coordinating with our production assistants and post-production crew.  While sleep is important in the weekend, we find it’s best to gather resources as much as possible on the first night.  Andrew and Eric will go to sleep when everything is on track for the next day.

The first draft of the script should be finished around midnight.  I will then prod Andrew with whatever instruments are nearby until he wakes up.Andrew and I will review the script, I’ll make any glaring changes, and then we’ll both tap out for the night.

Saturday

Andrew and Eric will start breaking down the visual elements of the film around 5 or 6 in the morning.  I’ll join them around 7, and together we’ll determine exactly how we’re going to shoot our story.  With that information in mind, we’ll be able to break down the schedule for the production.

Our cast will arrive at 9:00 A.M. and we’ll spend the next hour in rehearsal.  This will be time for us to get the script on its feet and for us to make any changes based on suggestions from our fantastic performers.  We have some talented storytellers and improvisers on our set, and I want to get their feedback at the onset of the production.  Inevitably there will be some better ideas for lines or even whole sequences with a fresh group in the light of day, than I came up with in the dark of night.  Our emphasis on rehearsal will allow us to fix problems before we commit them to film.

We’ll start shooting at 11:00 A.M.  This is where co-directing with Andrew will become a big strength.  Andrew will be focusing on the visual style of the film and the production coordination, while I focus on the actors.  It allows us to be two places at once.  I can hone in on the performances, while Andrew ensures that the visuals are effectively communicating the story we want to tell.  Even better, we aren’t limited strictly to these roles.  That gives us another set of eyes on both visuals and performances.  Together, we will catch a lot of things we wouldn’t individually, and the film will be better for that collaboration.

We’re scheduled to keep shooting until midnight.  The exact details of the shoot are up in the air until we know what we’re shooting, but during this time we’ll frequently run footage over to our editor, Ben Pimlott, so he can cut while we’re recording.

Once we’re done shooting, we’ll review the footage Ben has cut together and decide if there are any additional shots or dialogue we need.  If we’re in the clear, we’ll move fully into post.  If not, we’ll schedule the pick-ups.

With shooting done, I’ll tag out for some rest and Andrew, who will get more rest on Friday night will push through with Ben on editing.

Sunday

Sunday morning, Eric and I will join Andrew and Ben around 7:00 A.M. to review the state of the cut.  Our goal is to make changes and have the picture locked by 10:00 A.M.  This will allow us to then split out the audio of the project for Eric Pagel, who will be doing our sound mix, and Reed Reimer, who will be composing the score.  Eric Carlson will, at this time, work on color correction while Ben gets some rest.

With the post-production split into three groups, sound, color, and score, we’ll start reassembling the elements as they are completed.  Our target is to have everything brought back into a single project ready for export at 3:30 P.M.   This will give us a backup copy that we’re able to take to the turn-in, while still allowing us three hours to make any final tweaks.

If all goes according to plan, we will turn in the final edit at the Crooked Pint before the 7:30 P.M. deadline, watch Game of Thrones, then call it a night!

Monday

Sometime after we are awake again, we’ll share our final cut with our cast and crew.  We’ll wait until after the public screening to show the film online, but rest assured you’ll hear stories from the production weekend before then!

Thanks for reading up on our game plan.  If everything goes as smoothly as it is written here, this will be the easiest film challenge of all time!  Unfortunately, things never go exactly according to plan… though, that can be part of the fun, too.  We’ll be posting pictures to our instagram feed, and making brief updates here throughout the weekend.  So stay tuned for more on our fourth Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Challenge!

Until then,

Marcus

 

Film Challenge Prep 2015

Greetings!  Marcus here…

All throughout May we’ve looked back on our previous efforts in film challenges, but now it’s time to start talking about the future.  Today is Friday, May 29, 2015, which means that we are one week away from the next Minneapolis 48 Hour Film Project!

In this post I’ll give you a rundown of the prep we’ve done so far, and introduce you to our excellent collaborators!

The 48 Hour Film Project helpfully identifies the only four types of work that can be done for the film prior to the weekend, which I will shamelessly use as my headings…

Organizing Crew

The first step for all Two Jackets productions is to determine what each of us Jackets will be doing on the production.  We’ve decided that Andrew and I will be co-directing-- with Andrew additionally producing, and me writing the script-- and Eric will be our director of photography and camera operator.  This gets us all involved directly in the creative process, and will allow us to quickly solve problems together as they arise over the weekend.

With that settled, we started making calls and managed to put together one of the most exciting groups we’ve ever had the pleasure to work with!    

Allow me to introduce our team for the 2015 48 Hour Film Project:

  • Composer – Reed Reimer:  We’ve worked with Reed on projects for the past five years, ever since he wrote the fantastic score for our feature debut, Limpwings.  Reed’s musical chops are second to none, and we’re thrilled to be collaborating with him again!

  • Editor – Ben Pimlott:  Ben is a fellow Minnesota State University Moorhead alum, and we’re extremely excited to be working with him for the first time on an official Two Jackets shoot.  I was always awed by Ben’s work in school, and I personally can’t wait to make something new with him!

  • Sound – Eric Pagel:  After working with Eric on I Stole a Lot of Money! we knew we had found a great collaborator.  Eric is a professional sound recordist, and will be mixing our final audio as well.  We are super stoked to have Eric back with us for this project!

  • Assistant Camera – Nicholas Korokidas:  Another MSUM alum whom we’re really happy to be working with again.  Nick has a great visual eye and will be a wonderful counterpart to Mr. Carlson in our photography department!

  • Makeup Artist – Anna Giuliano:  Anna did the electric make-up in our film, Meanwhile, at the Citadel of Superheroes… and is graciously joining us for another round.  Anna is a professional make-up designer, and she’ll make us look good!

Additionally, we have the awesome Dustin Riccio and Chelsey Green joining us as production assistants, Sam Johnson (photographer on Keeping Up with the Cloneses) filming behind-the-scenes footage, and Sally Winther contributing delicious craft services (food)!

Those are the people who are going to make this film possible, and I couldn’t be happier with the group we’ve brought together.  It’s going to be a blast!

Organizing Cast

Occasionally, when making a film it is important to have actors as well as crewpeople, and this is one of those times.  We’ve brought together two of our favorite past collaborators, and an actor we’ve been dying to work with for years.  Without further ado, let me introduce the cast of… well, whatever it is we’re making…

Bill in  A Lutefisk Western.

Bill in A Lutefisk Western.

We’re bringing in Battling Bill Dablow for his first 48 Hour Project with Two Jackets since 2012’s Put a Ring on It!  Bill is a fantastic actor, and just a great guy to have around.  We’re excited to have him talk this year!

Lucas in my senior film,  Ecci's Story .

Lucas in my senior film, Ecci's Story.

Joining Bill is Battling Lucas Vonasek!  I had the pleasure of being in an improv troupe with Luke back in college and having him star in my senior thesis film.   However, this will mark the first official Two Jackets production Luke has taken part in.  Luke can currently be seen performing live each week with Bearded Men Improv at the Huge Theater in Minneapolis!

MJ, stolen from the  Bearded Men website.

MJ, stolen from the Bearded Men website.

Rounding out our cast is newcomer, Battling M. J. Marsh!  Andrew, Eric, and I have never worked with M. J. before, but, like so many of our favorite collaborators, he is a hilarious member of the Bearded Men!  We’re very excited to get him on camera for the first time!

Securing Equipment

Equipment is slightly less exciting than the awesome cast and crew we’ve pulled together.  It is however still very important if one wants to, you know, record anything.

Eric Pagel is generously bringing in his own sound mixer and microphones. He will then be using Pro Tools for sound mixing in post.

We will be shooting the movie on a Canon C100.  We chose this camera so that we could shoot with natural lighting as much as possible.  This keeps our production nimble, and will help us keep on schedule when filming begins.  Nicholas, our assistant camera operator, has generously lent us his camera for the shoot.

The film will be edited using the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, which our editor Ben is, again, generously bringing to the table.  I can’t overstate how thankful we are to have these contributions from our collaborators!

Scouting/Securing Locations

Our primary objective when looking for locations is to find a place that can serve as a backdrop for multiple scenes without getting visually dull.  In Put a Ring on It, our first Minneapolis 48, we spent too much of the production traveling from location to location, and since then we’ve learned our lesson. All’s Chair in Love and War, and Keeping Up with the Cloneses were both shot in a single location.  That helps keep the film moving, and allows us to focus on telling a contained story.

We’re still locking down our final locations for this year, but rest assured, most of the filming will take place in one spot!

Wait, what about scheduling?

In this post I’ve discussed the resources we’ve assembled for our film, but a successful production requires more than just good people and equipment.  Next week, I’ll give a rundown of how we’ve scheduled out the weekend to maximize our productive human-hours during the 48 hour period.  Until then, I’ll be busy getting as much sleep as humanly possible so that I can remember what that’s like when the weekend gets started.

Marcus