"Shallow End Inc." was made in a group for Apple's 24 hour Insomina Film Competition. The idea of the competition is for high school and college students all around the country to make movies within a twenty four hour time period. The movies are then posted on Apple's website and the general public can vote for what they think the best movies are. The team whose movie is voted the best in the country is the winner, and every member of the team gets a MacBook Pro, Final Cut Studio 2, Logic Studio, and Shake. Hofstra University, the college that I go to, usually holds its own 48 hour film competition. However, in exchange for allowing its students to win better prizes than what the Hofstra Film Club, HFC, could afford, Hofstra partnered up with Insomnia. The deal was that Apple would give Hofstra copies of Final Cut to give the best Hofstra team, while still giving the Hofstra students a chance at Apple's grand prize.
When I joined the competition, I knew that it would mean joining a group. I'm someone who rearely enjoys working in groups. I usually find myself at odds with other filmmakers because I have a very set standard of excellance in my mind that not many other filmmakers really care about. Essentially, if it isn't at the level of excellence of Hollywood, it's not good enough for me. And while I don't always meet my expectations even in my own movies, that goal helps keeping me working as hard as possible. Most other filmmakers don't have patience for the time and effort that it takes to reach that standard of quality. Not that they need to. There are a multitude of movies made from a laissez-faire attitude that are much better than mine. The problem arises when we try to work together with completely different expectations on how to handle the project. I can normally negate this somewhat by being careful about who I partner up with. But, to make it easier for the students to meet new people, HFC paired up the group members randomly. So I went in knowing that there was every chance that I'd end up in a group where everyone just wanted to point the camera at stuff and call it art. So imagine my surprise when I find myself in one of the best groups I've ever worked with. Everyone in the group had the same commitment to detail and quality, unwilling to take any risks that would result in a lowsy movie. What's even more bizarre is that we were all Freshmen and Sophomores, yet were more commited than some of the Juniors and Seniors. Great!
The first thing we had to do was figure out what to make our movie about. HFC had already given us the topic of doing a Mockumentary, so one of us, I forget whom, came up with the idea of doing a Mockumentary about the factory that makes rubber ducks. Or, if not rubber ducks, anything that is humorous that people don't usually think about being made. That's when another kid in the group, I again forget whom, mentioned that his roommate had four bags of ball pit balls in his room. Regardless of why he had the balls, we immediately started coming up with the different jokes that could come from the employees who would work at a ball company. We then each volunteered for whichever role we thought was best for ourselves, bought the props, got dressed up to look business-like, and got ready to shoot the film.
That three minute limitation was one of many rules that we had to follow In order for our movie to qualify for Apple's competition, we had to follow Apple's guidlines, such as keeping the movie under three minutes. Another of these guidelines was that the movie had to contain three out of the ten different movie elements provided by Apple. These were elements such as "Have a shot that includes a park bench!" and "Have one of your actors where a tuxedo". These elements aren't announced until the beginning of the twenty four hours as a method of preventing students from starting their projects before the twenty four hour time frame. We had already had our idea, so we chose elements that could be easily worked into the movie. For example, one element we chose was to name a character "Robin Darjeeling". (Is this a marketing tie-in with "The Darjeeling Limited"?) Since we were naming our characters randomly anyway, we gave the name to the Founder and CEO of Shallow End Inc. The second element we chose was the Dutch Angle. A Dutch Angle is a shot that's slanted horizontally. It was most famously used whenever the villains appeared on the Adam West "Batman" TV series. We were having trouble figuring out what elements we could include without sacrificing our idea, so we tried shooting Dutch Angles whereever we thought we might be able to get away with one. For example, we tried to make one while shooting B Roll of the Drunken Co-Worker (more on him later). But just in case the shot would prove itself to be unneeded in the editing, we also tried using the angle on a shot of Mr. Darjeeling after Gary's death. Since he's agonizing over how his business will now go down the drain, the angle kind of made sense. While we did use the shot of Mr. Darjeeling, we put it in a different context. Instead of it being a reaction to Gary, we made it represent Mr. Darjeeling when he was unable to swim. The shot hopefully makes sense in that context. The final element was the line "Don't Tempt Me". To insert the line into the movie, we created a scene where Luther Lee accidentally angers the Drunken Co-Worker.
This project was my first incident learning how hard it is to secure locations (you'll be hearing more on this when I make behind the scenes information about one of my future projects). We had to find an office like area, preferably with cubicles, to shoot the video. Fortunately, I knew that the campus library had about a dozen cubicles on its second floor. So we asked the students behind the library desk if we could shoot. They said we couldn't. In order to shoot in the library, you need to get permission in advance, and you have to shoot on a weekday. We couldn't ask in advance since it was a 24 hour film competition and it was a Saturday. Without going into how these rules don't make sense, we needed a new location (although some of us suggested just sneaking our ball pit past the librarians and shooting upstairs anyways since no one was upstairs). We looked for office like rooms in the dorm buildings and the communications building, but none of them were open. Offices are only open when professors are using them, and professors aren't on campus on weekends. So we broke for lunch.
While wandering around during lunch, I got lucky and found a wall of pipes below the cafeteria. Figuring that pipes would kind of make sense in a factory, we shot Gary's interview there. After the library incident, we smartly didn't ask for permission. Who would we ask, anyway? Although we did get kind of worried when one of the cooks walked by and looked at us strangely. Ever the polite filmmakers, we asked her if it was okay to shoot. After much confusion, we realized that she didn't speak English. Since no one else came down after we left, we must have been fine.
Next, we shot the lifeguard scene and Luthor Lee's interview in the Communication Building's Studio A, where TNL is shot (see "TNL Writer's Strike" for more info on TNL). The screen you see behind the lifeguard is the studio's blue screen. It's hopefully clear that he's a lifeguard. And hopefully Luther Lee's interning position would have placed him near some equipment as that's what's behind him. I'd point out that he shouldn't where a tie inside a factory, in case it got caught in gears or something, but then again, Luther's not that smart.
When wandering through the communications building looking for an office we could give Mr. Darjeeling, we found a section in the Journalism wing under construction. Since a half finished room would be the closest we could get to a testing room, we shot Gary's testing scene there. When I later went back to the area, long after the shoot, I discovered that it had been filled with computers, editing systems, and HDTVs displaying the news. I need to find out what it's used for now to satiate my own curiosity, but my guess is that it's used to find study and analyze the news. Oh, and while I'm on the topic, the many people who run to see Gary drowned are all people we randomly found in the hallways, most of whom were probably on their breaks from their own 24 hour films.
Then, while exploring the school's Student Center, we found an empty classroom. Not ones to abandon such prime real estate, we moved all the desks into a corner, and shot Mr. Darjeeling's interview.
The drunk worker was a friend of someone in our group. I heard he was an actual drama major, which is what helped him grab his much deserved role. We shot his interview in his room, and shot the "Don't tempt me" scene in his dorm building's kitchen.
The final step of the movie was the edit. Unfortunately, this movie had one of the most painful edits I've yet experienced (though I'm sure I'll see worse by the end of college). We edited the movie to what we considered to be a good length, and were scared to find ourselves with a four minute movie. This was horrible. Remember, the movie couldn't be any longer than three minutes. We all glared at the movie for hours, unable to see how it could be edited down and still maintain its charm. Hours went by, until it was three or four in the morning. We had all originally agreed to go to bed at a reasonable hour. So we were all cranky, angry, and irritable. I'm the kind of person who takes quality of tardiness (as my teachers will sadly tell you). I suggested that we all go to bed, get up after the deadline, and finish the edit when we were all in a better mood and able to think critically. I figured that while we would be disqualified from the Insomnia Film Fest, at least we'd get to make the movie the best it could be. I recieved a unanimous "No!" No one was willing to give up after so much work. Since I was tired and had just been denied, I stepped away from the Final Cut station in protest. If only I had stepped away sooner. The moment I left, CJ took my place and was quickly able to point out multiple places to effectively cut. He removed the drunk worker's interview and a long montage of Luther Lee being hazed. We looked at the movie's length. 2:59:29. That's exactly one frame short of three minutes. We called it done.
And thank God they didn't listen to me about not submitting the movie. While we didn't win the National Insomnia competition, we did win our school's competition! We each recieved a shiny certificate and a promise that we'd each get a copy of Final Cut Pro! A promise that has yet to be fulfilled, but still... Anywho, we recieved a ton of praise on the video and the whole experience taught me so many things. Now I just need to decide whether its worth doing another 24 hour film competition.