Thursday, January 7, 2016

Video production class weblog: Day 4--another mugging, pitches, and a jump in a cold pond

Once again, I'm tired and not feeling especially coherent, but the Interim class had another excellent and productive day. After we watched the world premier of the first two short short videos of Big Bad Squirrel Studios and Pacific Pundit Productions (one involving a student stalked and abducted, another involving the president of the US stepping outside of an office just before being tackled by a secret service agent, after which "Love Wins"), I followed the Squirrel gang outside to stand by as they shot an opening scene in some hammocks. The other group was off on the other side of campus finishing a circular story, a series of linked GoPro shots that move from the ladies bathroom to two soccer playing dudes, to a bicyclist, and finally to a fellow who gets mugged before returning to the ladies' bathroom. Incidentally, I asked both groups why they have a hankering for including muggings. They more or less shrugged and said that was the world they live in.

Later in the afternoon (after I helped with another scene where two runners had to climb a wall), I helped the PPP figure out some good pitches for tomorrow. They are as follows:

1) A young man enters campus, does not gain many friends, and falls in love with an extremely popular girl who has 3 "suitors." He realizes that his attraction to her is hopeless, but one day, during a lunch in the cafeteria, a mysterious note arrives on his tray that tells him that someone understands his love, and if he's willing to follow directions, they can both arrange to have all three suitors expelled from the school. Without knowing who wrote the note, he signals his agreement. His first mission is to leave a sheet of paper in a person's backpack.  The next day, that person gets busted for cheating and expelled. Our hero continues these nefarious practices until all three suitors have been obliged to leave campus. On the last day, the hero picks up the final communique, but this time there are drugs in the package. He is immediately busted for possession by the school police, and as he's leaving he learns that a female student (who we've seen glancing at him before) had arranged everything, and she is now about to take over the original popular girl's affections.

2) Three students, who do not know each other very well, learn from a mysterious but plausible source that one of the three will die in ten minutes, but they don't know which one. The movie is shot in real time, and it plots the various responses of all the students (incredulity, irony, confusion, denial, the 5 stages of grief), until one of them does die, but in a completely unexpected but highly logical way.

3) The third pitch posits a miniaturized variation of the time loop of Groundhog Day (1993). A young man finishes dinner and walks across campus to break up with his girlfriend in a 15 minute or so period. He is successful (she is crushed), but then he abruptly finds himself finishing the exact same meal and walking across campus to his girlfriend again. He breaks up with her again, but as the loop repeats, he becomes increasingly self-conscious. Has fate arranged to punish him for the act? What does he do? As he keeps repeating the action, he finds himself increasingly remorseful, since we learn that he has been unfaithful to his girlfriend, and perhaps the only way to come clean and break the curse will be to be fully honest with her about his treachery. Does he end up not breaking up with her? Again, the group was a bit vague about the outcome.

Meanwhile, the Squirrel gang had been shooting scenes across town, and they ended with one fellow getting shoved into a cold pond later in the afternoon. They all returned to a Skype session with a Hollywood producer (another alumnus). He proved fascinating as he talked about how quickly those who work in Hollywood get fired if they produce a flop. He also said that, regardless, now is the best time to go into filmmaking, because talent scouts will notice if someone produces an amazingly good video and releases it on the Internet. We also talked with him about pitch techniques, the prominence of sequels being released, the importance of suiting the cinematography to the story of a film, and the difficulty of getting one's movie seen, especially given the distortions brought on by people looking at movies on their cell phones. Perhaps later, with his permission, I will post the interview on this blog. He left the impression that Hollywood is intense, but also capable of granting enormous creative satisfaction to those who are smart and hardworking enough to earn it (and somehow keep their jobs).

All in all, not at all a bad day.

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