Students shoot, produce, edit shorts in two days time
By Julia Gabbert and Megan Favignano
Twelve minutes before deadline, four film production students turn in their project, “Sleight,” and quickly forgot the weekend’s tensions. Dave McDonald motioned to his teammates for a group hug after they wrapped up the 48-hour film festival.
Eight teams of five competed in the festival. The festival started on Sept. 30 and ended on Oct. 2 at 6 p.m. when all films were submitted to Tyler DePerro. Dave McDonald and his teammate Kristin Rolla came together for one of the eight teams. The two won the competition last year for their sci-fi film, “Perception.” The trophy sits on McDonald’s living room table. McDonald and Rolla, along with Lindsy Lyner, James Westbrook and Dan Debrey, formed Five Film Guys.
Katie Adams, a festival rules moderator, gave the teams guidelines on Sept. 30 at 5 p.m. Adams stood on the Winifred Moore stage holding out a hat. Team members lined up to randomly choose their genres, objects and characters.
Five Film Guys selected mystery, daisy and wizard/magician.
They also selected a Casablanca quote.
“…I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”
Friday 5:28 p.m.
The four squeeze into a booth in Marletto’s Marketplace. As they eat dinner, they speak quickly as they suggest ideas for the story.
Lindsy motions with her hands as she describes opening with a murder, then flash back to the scenes leading up to the character’s death. The end would imply who had murdered him. James is worried the story focuses more on the characters’ relationship than on the mystery.
“This is a good story where we can keep it simple,” Dave says. “But it’s also adaptable.”
They try to think of other options, but most of the group feels confident in their story concept.
“If you have an alternative, definitely throw it out there,” James says. “But until then, I think we should work with what we have.”
Less than two hours into the competition, Dan says the script doesn’t seem like a movie he would make. His team encourages him to think outside his comfort zone.
Popcorn, Jolly Ranchers, Kit-Kat wrappers, Milano cookies and a box of Legos are scattered across Dave’s coffee table. The blank white walls sport a single “Doctor Who” poster.
Uncomfortable with the original storyline, Dan calls his father, a writer, for advice on a new story for the film. He thinks they can improve the mystery elements of the script. He leaves the room to talk in private.
“I think we need to start writing this script,” James says. “I get what Dan is saying, but we need to get started.”
Dave walks into his room, plugs in his ear buds and starts typing the script at his desk.
Lindsy, James and Dan plan the next day’s itinerary. Lindsy suggests using her parents’ home in Chesterfield for one of the scenes. She sketches a floor plan of the room. Dan and James become more enthusiastic as she draws.
A record player. A library. Wood paneling. Dark red vinyl chairs.
“That might be a good place to kill a man,” James says.
The team contacts actors. They have a general idea of where to film with their almost-completed script.
“I was a bit worried there for a while,” Dan says.
“I could tell,” Lindsy says.
The pile of candy wrappers sits on the coffee table. Lindsy worries about her junk food consumption.
After two hours, Dave finally emerges from his room with a completed script.
Lindsy, Dan and James read in the living room. James chuckles at the pages. Dan reads in detail and suggests cinematography for a scene. Dave encourages him to read the whole script before making judgments.
“I don’t care about cinematography,” Dave says. “At this point I’m just worried about time.”
The team discusses the attitudes of each character. For example, the main character Tim is supposed to be “as douche-y as possible.” He is a magician who has made a significant amount of money from a profession most people couldn’t, which made him smug and condescending.
They discuss in detail the characters and storyline. The team loses focus.
Stay on topic. Get back to the script.
“Dave, your battery is running low,” James says. “You’re at nine percent.”
“Oh, I thought you meant his brain,” Lindsy says. “He’s getting pretty tired.”
For the opening shot, Dan wants slow, artsy visuals before showing the murder. Dave wants quick, choppy scenes to shock the audience. After debating for several minutes, Lindsy offers the suggestion — shoot it both ways and see what’s best in the editing process.
Dan and Dave haven’t settled their disagreement, but Dan and James leave the apartment to take a smoke break.
“This is why I didn’t want to have five film majors,” Dave says.
Dan and James return. They call it a night.
James and Lindsy arrive at Dave’s apartment, followed by Kristin. Kristin immediately requests a copy of the script to catch up on what she missed the day before.
Dan arrives a few minutes later.
“How’s everyone doing today?” he asks. “Get enough sleep?”
His teammates groan.
After reading the script, the murderer’s motive confuses Kristin.
Lindsy offers Kristin a different view of their story.
“Think of this (the script) as a section of the story, and not the whole story,” Lindsy says.
“We can’t tell the whole story in five minutes,” James says.
Kyle and Lindsy realize they forgot a required aspect of the project — the daisy.
They conclude that the daisy will imply who the murderer is as he/she places it in the victim’s (Tim’s) pocket. They high-five.
The team arrives at Lindsy’s Chesterfield home. They see in person the immaculate home Lindsy described to them the day before.
“This is the ultimate room to have Christmas in,” Dan says.
The team moves furniture and carries in wires and lights. Kyle Acheson, a senior acting major playing “Tim,” wears slacks and a black sport coat over a dark red dress shirt. He purposefully left the top of the shirt unbuttoned.
The team loves it.
“I love your chest hair!” Dave says.
Kyle sits in the dark red vinyl chair. Dave, with a fuzzy boom mic and big headphones, asks Kyle to practice choking sounds to test the audio.
“All right, let’s get ready,” Kristin says with a few impatient claps.
Lindsy mixes apple juice with a few drops of purple food coloring to create fake Scotch. She rummages through her house in search of props, finding an acoustic guitar.
“How do you feel about getting choked to death by a guitar string?” she asks Kyle.
“Sounds good to me,” Kyle says.
“What kind of magician is this, smoking American Spirits?” Kyle, a non-smoker, jokes.
He practices sleight-of-hand tricks with cigarettes.
“If I actually smoked cigarettes I would have a lot more cool tricks to do with this,” Kyle says. “We’ve got to reveal his character through his behavior.”
Scene 1. Take 1.
“Ready. Rolling.” Dan says.
James snaps the slate in front of the camera.
On the fifth take, they proceed to film the murder. Kristin stands in place of the murderer, whose identity is not yet revealed onscreen, and pretends to strangle Kyle with the guitar string. Dan prepared Kyle for his death.
“Imagine that tomorrow you get your paycheck of a million dollars,” he says. “You really want to live. This is the worst time for you to die. Really fight with her.”
After wrapping up the murder and another scene, the team is ready to leave Lindsy’s.
“We need to go get food now,” Lindsy says, walking out of her home. “I haven’t eaten anything since that candy last night.”
After going through the drive-through at Chick-fil-A, the team films another scene at the Cyber Café in Emerson Library.
Hunger strikes the group again. Frustrated with a ticking clock and the film’s time constraint, Dave feels it is an appropriate time for a break.
“We don’t have that much time,” Dave says. “I feel like it’s really hard to make an effective short mystery.”
The group relaxes over dinner.
They start filming in Kristin’s apartment while she energetically moves around the room.
“How do you still have so much energy?” Lindsy asks. “How much sleep did you get?”
“Seven hours,” Kristin says.
“Yeah, that’s why,” Lindsy says.
After the team finishes filming their last scene, they hug.
The team heads to Sverdrup 256 to transfer the footage.
Kristin and Dan edit in the video lab.
The entire team discusses the opening scene.
Dan edits the opening his way, and the rest of the group edits it their way. As a group, they compromise to create a new opening scene using half of each version.
The team shuffles into Dan’s Land Rover. Steak ‘n Shake fills their stomachs.
Dan naps on the floor of 256. Dave and James leave soon after to sleep at home. Kristin and Lindsy keep editing.
Lindsy becomes ill from all the unhealthy food she has eaten throughout the weekend. She heads home with Dan and Kristin.
The team, minus Lindsy, resume editing. The white board in the room displays doodles and a message.
“I slept for 9 hours last night. U mad, 48 hour bros?”
— “you bastard.”
— “sleep deprivation: the best high you will always regret”
Dan says the team’s compromises from the night before produced a better result.
Dan, Dave, Kristin and James watch their movie one last time.
“It feels like noon,” Kristin says after going to bed and waking up at odd hours.
At 5:48 p.m. on Sunday, Kristin, Dan, Dave and James each placed a hand on the DVD before handing it to Tyler DePerro.
“Put your hands in together,” Dave says. “One. Two. Three.”
It was finally over.
A sense relief overcame the group as they left room 256 to celebrate over dinner — a hot, wholesome meal at Weber’s.