Crashing the Super Bowl

For the past few years Dorito’s has offered a competition called Crash the Super Bowl to create a commercial that will be featured during the Super Bowl.  It is a genius marketing idea.  Thousands of entries will be submitted, Dorito’s pays pennies to the winner (compared to a normal advertisement agency) and the winner gets a chance to be famous for 30 seconds. The contest began in 2007 and had a local winner.  In 2009 (for the 2010 Super Bowl), the winners were a local group, as was one of the other finalists.

A couple of people in my Let’s Make a Movie group suggested that we do a Dorito’s commercial this year.  Well, people suggested it last year, but we never go around to it.  When it was suggested just a few weeks ago, it didn’t give us much time to get something created.  We had a meeting on Nov. 5th, took about a week to find a location and then shot it the following Monday.  Then I had to get the film from my two camera men, edit it and then submit it.  While some of the past commercials have been off the wall funny, ours isn’t that crazy.  I’m sure if we had more time we could have come up with something more out-of-the-box.  While looking through other videos however, I managed to come across multiple zombie, vampire and people acting like birds to get Dorito crumb videos.  So, even trying to be different, you end up being similar.  I guess you really have to dig deep to come up with something that might be truly unique.

I don’t know the exact number of entries, but it is at least over 1,000.  The panel of judges get to select the top 5, then everyone starts voting on January 4th, 2012.  Maybe we’ll get lucky and be in the finalist group.   For your viewing pleasure, here are the 3 entries that I submitted : The Divorce

48 Hour Challenge with filmSPARK

A few weeks ago, during our monthly meeting, a member of The RTP “Let’s Make a Movie” Meetup group mentioned the SPARKcon Festival coming up in Raleigh.  SPARKcon has been going on for 6 years and last year they added a 48 Hour Film Challenge to their filmSPARK.  At first I was a little hesitant about doing the challenge for a few reasons.  One, the 48 Hour Film Project, cost over $100 to enter, so I didn’t know how much this would cost.  Second, it was very short notice, so I didn’t now how many people I could get to do the film.  And finally, I had to okay it with the wife, since she enjoys spending time with her husband on the weekends.  Well, I found out that the challenge was free, the wife was okay with me filming for the weekend and so I set out to get recruits from the group.  I was surprised to get more than a handful of people signed up, even if I had some communication issues.  Also, my main camera guy said he was available for the shooting day, which would make life easier for me.

On Friday Sept. 9th, I drove down to Mission Valley Cinemas to pick up my team packet.  The pickup time was between 8:00 and 9:00 pm.  This is a late starting time, but then it gives you more time on Sunday for editing.  I was the first person there and had a nice little conversation with the challenge hosts before picking packet number 7 for my team.  I headed on home to beat the crowd that was supposed to meet at my house for brainstorming and writing.

The were some more communication issues, but eventually everyone showed up and we started kicking around ideas.  The packet contained or film elements, which were an oven mitt as a prop and the line “God, I love being a turtle!”   Apparently this was from a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, because each team had a different movie line, but the same prop.  This was different from the 48 Hour Film Project, where each team had the same prop, line of dialog and character, but drew different genres.  The challenge only had a few genres and we selected Action/Suspense/Thriller for ours.  The time limit for the challenge was also shorter, only 5 minutes.  When the brainstorming started, we had several ideas, but it seemed a little impossible to tell the entire story in the short amount of time.  Most of our ideas when down the path of The Tortoise and The Hare, due to the nature of the line.  We even pondered doing a car chase.  In the end, we decided to go with a simple story of a person suffering from agoraphobia attempting to make her way outside.  After coming up with the basics of the story, the writer and I hashed out what seemed to be a barely over 2 minute long movie.  I wasn’t very pleased with the length.

On Saturday morning, I woke up at my normal time and started prepping my house for the shoot.  I had to clean out my kitchen of stuff and set the stage.  The benefit of this was, after the movie was done, my kitchen was picked up and clean!  After everyone showed up, we gave the actors their lines to go over and I walked out the first shot with the camera guy.  After a few walk through shots, we put the actress in her spot and started filming.  The great thing is, we only did a couple of test shots and then we were off to the races with the rest of the shots.  A couple of our actors had to wait around until 2 pm to say their lines, but that gave them more time to rehearse. In fact, the other female actor was rehearsing while looking through the sliding glass door at the back of my house.  At first we thought she was trying to say something to us, but then realized she was just going over her lines.  After a while, it seemed a little creepy.

Since the camera guy has a bunch of equipment, we setup a spot light and put a mic on the main character, just in case the volume from the camera wasn’t good enough.  In the end, we used only the sound from the camera.  We completed filming before 4 pm and tried to wait for the sun to get in a better position for a particular through the window shot.  Unfortunately, it didn’t work out and the shot wasn’t used.  After downloading the files, the editor started to work on the shots.  I download the film as well, but not the audio. Thinking that I would wait and get it from the editor, I didn’t do any editing, instead I cleaned up the house and called the wife to let her know we were done for the evening.

On Sunday, the editor and writer came over and we started cutting everything together.  After getting the rough cut down to a almost final cut, I got a hold of my F/X guy and we headed over to his place to add special effects.  Well, he had computer issues the week before and the editor’s computer kept putting out glitchy versions.  After attempts to do this and attempts to do that, we loaded the entire footage on to the F/X guys computer and he put in the special effects.  We didn’t have time to adjust the color, but I thought it looked fine.  With about 20 minutes to spare, I headed back to Mission Valley to drop off the final product.

The most frustrating part of this was the fact that we finished filming early on Saturday and Sunday was spent waiting for files to load.   Lesson to be learned, downsize the footage before editing.  The play back of the video submitted seemed to skip and jitter.  However, when the F/X guy played it again later and uploaded it to YouTube, everything seemed fine.  So, I just put the thought aside that there was something wrong with the film and waited until the screening.

On Sunday Sept. 17 at Kings in downtown Raleigh, they showed the 14 entries of which 12 qualified for.  Some of the films seemed much longer than 5 minutes, some had stories that didn’t seem to go anywhere and then there were some good films.  At most, I didn’t think we would win, but possibly be in the top of the group.  And that’s what happened.  A mockumentary about reality tv’s won the overall award, deserving so.   Our film, plus two others won honorable mentions.  I’m very proud of this film and I think it is my best film to date.  After a year, I think I’m getting a better at this movie stuff.

For your viewing pleasure : A Step Outside

Filming Heist H2O

The weekend of June 24 I got together with a The RTP “Let’s Make a Movie” Meetup group of people and we filmed a short movie in 48 hours.  We were part of the 48 Hour Film Project, a filming competition that requires teams to write, film, edit and submit a 7 minute film within a 48 hour time period.  This is the second year that I have competed in the contest and this year’s effort was much better than last year’s.

The contest starts with team leaders drawing film genres randomly.  If the group doesn’t like the genre, they can take their chance at drawing from 5 wild card genres.  This is what I did, since I thought ‘Romance‘ might be a little hard to do.  The wild card that I drew was ‘Heist’, which I was very excited about getting.  This year a team resource had a full sized RV to use for filming and editing.  Doing a heist in a RV seems like a funny sort of thing to do.

On Friday we all gathered at a house in Raleigh and discussed options for the movie.  We had 3 main characters and a couple of other people who wanted to do some acting.  We had a secondary location of my brother’s house, which had a small pool  A silly thought of steeling the pool came to mind and we started working on the Heist.  I decided to make our two relatively recent to America actors into sort of stereo typical roles.  Looks and accents really helped with them being “Ninja Girl” and “Voodoo Priestess”.   To throw a twist on the main character, I set the adult female actor to be the plumber.  My returning child actress was aged up 6 years to be a disgruntled teenager.   With help from a couple other group members, writing was done by midnight.

Saturday morning started at 6 am for me.  I opened up the script and did some minor edits on the lines and made sure that the script was 7 minutes long.  The minimum length allowed is 4 minutes, but based on last year’s competition, the closer to the max of 7 minutes, the better.  I headed over to the house in Raleigh were we started figuring out the opening shot as the actors arrived.  By 10 am, we were shooting film and getting the actors ready for their first scenes.  I had initially hoped to have multiple cameras going at the same time so that I could use Adobe Premiere’s multiple camera tool to quickly put together different camera angles in the same shot.  Unfortunately we ended up with a prosumer camera and my BlackBerry PlayBook as cameras.  Later we would determine that the camera was set to SD instead of HD and the heavy duty protective cover on the PlayBook caused film quality issues.

By 2 pm we had the inside RV scenes done and we go ready to hit the road to head towards my brother’s place about an hour away.  After a little detour and delay, we made it there by 4 pm and started shooting.  We quickly figured out some shots to take of the RV rolling up to the house and got those done.  Then we hurried through multiple takes to get the rest of the scene done, plus a flash back scene of me playing “The Scot”.  We finished filming by 7 pm, which was better than last year.  The actors from the other side of the state headed home and the rest of us piled into the RV and headed back to Raleigh.

With only the editors left, we tried downloading the film to start picking shots and unfortunately it didn’t go well.  The electricity in the RV was having glitches and causing my editing software to crash.  After a few hours, we gave up and I went to sleep in the RV.  I woke up at 6 am and started trying the film again, but noticed we had other issues, the video sound was out of sync.  Mel had to re-download the video from the camera, which took another 2 hours.

As time ticked away, we got the shots we wanted and Mel started working on the special effects, only to be slowed up by compiling.  We were past the stop time of 5 pm to get to Greensboro on time and I was getting nervous.  Other issues included my Jeep’s transmission acting up and having to ask my wife to drive me to the drop -off location after she just drove back from the beach.  In what seemed like forever, the compiling was done, put on a flash drive and a dvd, checked, tagged and ready to go.  My wife got me to the drop-off with 3 minutes to spare.  Whew!!

Since I had a few other opportunities to practice directing and making a movie, this year’s attempt was much easier.  Also, the overall product was put together much much better.  Mostly due to shooting the entire scene, unlike I did last year.  The movie was well received at the premiere night, which made me very happy.  Hopefully you will enjoy it as well.