This was Chunky Milk Productions' seventh year in the 48 Hour Film Project. We could have been doctors or lawyers by now. (Crisis averted!)
The covid pandemic not only knocked out the usual 48 Hour event last year, it delayed this year's too. The weekends chosen were not well-aligned with when our usual team was available. (Mike has a more colorful way of describing the planning.) Mike was out, Bob was out, Patrick was out. So much for our cast! Fortunately, my college roommate and all-around awesome dude Rob was interested in joining us (even though it's a pretty long drive down for him) and Dave remained on-call as our intrepid music man, so surely we could figure out something.
We were off to an auspicious start when we drew the genre "Film de Femme", and had not only had no female actors lined up, as far as we knew we had no female team members at all. Our backup category came up "Revenge", which I don't remember ever even seeing on the list before. The ride home from the kickoff was filled mostly with bewilderment over what we'd do. Ideas were not forthcoming.
When we got home and Kim joined in the brainstorming, our luck changed. She'd planned to work during the weekend, because she always works too hard, but her psyche needed to give her job a rest and engage in something creative instead. And boy are we lucky and grateful for that!
Idea after idea sprung out of all of our minds and we had just about our silliest concept yet. Usually, there's some partial pseudo-plan in place -- let's shoot at the theatre, let's involve the kids, let's use junk puppets -- but this time everything was spontaneous, and tailor-made for the required elements. Speaking of which...
We had a few starter ideas that sputtered out quickly. The silliest one, however, was just so much fun (and so funny) that we couldn't help but keep going back to it. Kim floated the idea in an attempt to get the ball rolling ...and roll it did! Eating utinsels, out for revenge against a telemarketer. They could rappel down from the table to the floor with a charging cord. They could bicker about how to kill a guy without their fallen friend the knife. Whom could be named "Knick the Knife". With a hard "K". Clearly, it was meant to be.
The first night of conjuring was so much fun that I decided to sleep that night instead of storyboarding the whole movie and making checklists of required scene coverage. We were going to keep being spontaneous, and keep leaning into whatever made us laugh.
(I did stay up a bit, to write a rough script. It was little more than collecting into a small text file all the best bits we'd already thrown around.)
The next morning we went out to pick up Kim's decidedly telemarketer-looking headset from her office, and buy a $6.98 box of plastic cutlery. The rest of the morning was spent in arts and crafts, everybody drawing faces on cutlery (best expression: Rob's screaming knife) and iterating on each other's ideas (Rob made a spoon sweating with effort, I tried a hot glue version that turned out great) and pondering what would be the best post-credits shot. (Kim's knife burial idea, complete with her fork's crooked+bandaged tine and mourning veil could not have been more perfect.)
I sent Dave the script, and he dug up and arranged some terrific material wich was easy to massage into the edit. His music and my editing style are made for each other. I hope that's a compliment, and I hope his music gets some recognition one of these years!
One thing he already got, while we wwre out spending a pittance on props, was an expensive set of speakers to replace the ones which crapped out on him while we were planning and brainstorming. It wouldn't be a 48 without some kind of crisis or another!
From lunchtime (well, we skipped lunch) until dinner (we ordered pizza and wrapped moments before it was delivered) we crawled, hunched, reached and contorted ourselves and our middle-aged bodies however was necesaary to shoot tiny little utensils capering around. So much taping, stringing, poking, squeezing, and in my case lots of old-man grunting.
Our kitties were shockingly cooperative! I left a small note in the "ad-lib fun and games exploring" section of the script that it would sure be neat if a cat could feist and imperil one of the utensils. Autumn was interested in what we were up to the whole time, and managed a couple of background cameos in addition to her main gag's setup and payoff shots. And snuggly Book was a good sport, though his nap we interrupted was in a room we didn't have time to light before he got up.
Technical quirks like dark shots or the occasional obvious cutlery-support structure weren't of any concern to us. We were making this movie for the joy of it, not to impress anybody.
What was concerning was the physical toll we were taking on poor Rob! He's got pretty sensitive skin, and after a few takes of being choked by cutlery weilding a charging cord, his neck was beet red. Our house also managed to scrape open his arm when we were scrambling to get a kitty shot. Worse, the first choking take was the best one, and the shot he dodged out of frame and bled for didn't work out either. Sorry buddy! He's the most positive guy I know, and never complained, but next time I will be much more careful not to wound the talent!
The cutting process was fairly front-heavy this time around. It's sometimes a bit surprising which bits eat up disproportional amounts of time in editing. Once the opening sequence was together, the rest of the movie got faster and faster. The endgame and post-credits bonus just flew together.
Dave's music selections were incredible as always. Introductuons, capering, the big bad climb, impending doom, big climactic ending+credits, it was all there. Even a Lawrence of Arabia nod. Once more, the music made the edit easier and provided solutions and opportunities where lesser material would have provided challenges.
I've done this before but never mentioned it... Dave has this amazing mixture between strong rhythm and melody and much more nebulous music. I hesitate to call it "ambient", but whatever it is, it lends itself incredibly well to cheating. If a piece fits perfectly at point A, but I need it to start swelling up or end on a big punch at nearby point B, and the piece contains all the right pieces but not within the needed order or timing, I can crossfade some of the non-melodic music into a copy of itself to skip or stretch out a section. You hear this done badly all the time in commercials where they want the song they licensed to come in with their lyrics at just the right moment -- it always sounds jarring and horrible when there's a catchy, obvious melody and beat involved. By definition the music's flow is disrupted. But Dave's music flits between the catchy melody+beat stuff and music which continues supportinng the mood but has a more flexible flow, which can be shaped without ruining it. I think I've taken advantage of this in every one of our 48-hour movies.
After some audio leveling and color balancing passes, it was time to mask out as many hands and wires as I felt was worth it. We wanted the movie to have a zero-budget charm, so it was not a priority to fully hide everything, but I wanted to at least get the worst finger/hand offenders edited out. In most cases that meant only a few frames of rotoscoping a mask and tiny touchups on top of that. For the big revenge-moment finale, there was a fair amount to remove for about half a second. Rob woke up and came down in time to witness me doing very tedious stuff frame by frame. He joked asking if I could add some muscle mass to him, and minutes later I found myself making a layer with parts of his shoulder entirely removed, to accommodate other Kim's-hands-removing mask work. Kind of went the other way there, sorry again man! In the end I'm super happy with the effect of utensils magically leaping up to get their revenge. If you look closely at Rob's glasses, you can see Kim's hands refracted holding skewers supportimg the fork and spoon, but that is such a fun little easter egg that I couldn't bear to remove it.
There were 16 entries this year in Minneapolis as opposed to the 40-50 of a "normal" year. Perhaps as a result, the screening happened not in a proper theatre, but a curious little nonprofit performing arts studio. Someone needs to have the talk with them about running audio and power lines together. And about how it sucks to have only obstructed viewing available. And how to do multiple-choice voting. And how to start on time. And, and, and...
So the screening itself was a dud, but the room full of reactions to our movie was still beautiful and nourishing, as was seeing all the other top-notch entries!
Snubbed! :^) No award nominations this year. In my opinion, that says more about the other amazing submissions than it says about Revensils! I could not be more happy with or proud of our movie. I hereby award us "most fun had during creation" and "best inanimate casting"!
Rob wants in again next year. Kim had a great time and a much-needed break from work being a full-fledged milk chunk. We've had pretty minimalist teams for years now; maybe we're starting to grow our little curdled family!
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