Behind the Scenes: Short Cuts

“They say you shouldn’t put too many quick cuts in your videos.” It’s generally a good rule in filmmaking, and so we took that premise and flipped it around. The end result is “Short Cuts”, a fast-paced and over-the-top short which had numerous obstacles barring its completion before we even started to film. The goal was for each cut to be less than two seconds long, with only a few exceptions for effect.

The Idea

Unlike “32 Chances”, the gimmick for “Short Cuts” came about a little later on than the original video plans, with no more planning than Ixchael’s opening line which explains the premise. It was an interesting idea, although not nearly as complex as “32 Chances”. Still, I leaped at the idea when it came time to write a video for April, merely because I still haven’t put back enough money to upgrade my equipment.

Pre-Production Difficulties

Right after we uploaded our first video, we had already set a date and determined our next filming project. I went straight into writing a short script, which I completed in a mere two days as it was only five pages long. It contained more planned cuts for a single scene than anything else I had ever attempted, but I knew that wouldn’t be difficult to film and more of a nuisance to edit. The original cast of Graham, Ixchael, and Aidan all gave me some feedback and I made a few tweaks, and then everything seemed set for filming on Saturday March 24th. I had requested the day off from work and everything.

Script

Then the plan changed.

March 24th was, of course, the day of the student march in Washington D.C. Ixchael is currently in his last year of high school and had coordinated a walkout earlier on through his school, and there was no way that he would miss this march. There was talk of Graham and me coming along to film, but I was unable to leave home for that long with my poor dog left alone.

Nevertheless, we merely shifted the date and decided to film the Friday before in the evening time. It fit the setting of the video, and everything was just fine on paper. But come the week before the shoot, Graham was forced to change his plans for the entire weekend. He couldn’t go to the march, and he couldn’t film at all on either day.

That left Ixchael, Aidan, and me as the only potential actors. I wanted to be behind the camera due to all the handheld shots that I had planned, and it was looking like we would have to push the short back. It got so bad that on the 22nd I was desperately trying to plan a different video entirely, but the morning of the 23rd Ixchael found a replacement for Graham. Enter Theo, our guest star.

Filming Day

We didn’t have to set aside an entire day for this short, but we did have to push it back until the late evening to get the desired nighttime setting. The location wasn’t nearly as difficult to coordinate with such a tame script in terms of action, and as such we ended up filming in my actual apartment. As customary, I took everyone out to eat before we started to film. We met at roughly 7:00 and killed time until it was dark enough to film. At 9:30 we were ready, as everything had been cleared in the apartment and the actors’ roles had been determined. In the original script, Ixchael was set to play Cindy while Graham was cast as Isaac. As our guest star Theo had never worked with us before (and hadn’t even met Aidan or me), we switched Ixchael’s role to Isaac and Theo to Cindy. I figured that Ixchael would be quicker to forgive the abuse that his character Isaac had to receive at Aidan’s hands.

choking

Aidan is one of the most polite people that I know, and he refuses to do anything at all if he thinks it will upset someone. At this point, his record on 32 Cuts has been playing two villains. It’s simply hilarious to see him play, as he puts it, “complete assholes”. The other reason that I chose him to be Gary in this video is simply his height.

The filming went smoothly enough. At the beginning I had to keep rushing people. Everyone’s lines had to be delivered extra quickly or in segments. The goal was for each cut to be less than two seconds long, and several shorter lines were planned to be said without cutting away. As we went along we gradually became used to the annoyingly quick takes.

The storyline follows Gary serving dinner and dessert. I prepped the pudding beforehand, but was actually missing a key ingredient and I simply went along with it, resulting in a gooey mess that actually enhances the grossness factor in the video. The chicken dish was literally just a single chicken breast. In the first shot it was completely raw, and then we threw it in the microwave for five minutes for the eating shots. It looked nasty, and nobody dared to actually eat any of it.

The longest part of the filming process was the very first line. Ixchael had so much trouble trying to remember it and get it exactly right through so many takes that we briefly considered switching Theo and Ixchael’s roles right then. It took up a good fifth of the raw footage when I went in to edit, but everything afterwards went by at a good pace. We started filming at 9:30, and finished up a little after midnight. It was a quick shoot, and gave our guest star a glimpse into the ‘excitement’ of filming conversation scenes.

Editing and Review

The editing was a lot simpler than I thought. When I put all the digital files together as a single video they kept becoming out-of-order. If I had cared enough I could have gone in and manually reorganized every take, but I just imported each of the cuts on its own like I had done with “32 Chances”.

Most of my time went into sound editing. Next time we film with audio, I’m breaking out the microphone again. I considered it briefly before we started, but the prospect of running video and audio alone was annoying enough that I skimped on the project and just used the camera microphone. I’ve done this before in a variety of project and usually have had enough wisdom to record some static background sounds as we go along, but I didn’t even do that.

Furthermore, there are two cuts in the video where the tripod is visible around the corner. They both aggravate me to no end, as the tripod is in a space of the shot where I couldn’t trim it out of frame. I also couldn’t put a cheesy effect to cover it up, such as plastering the background over top the tripod, because there’s enough subtle shakiness to eliminate such a simple solution.

tripod

Overall the video is funny in the right spots and succeeded in translating the gimmick to screen, but the errors on my end stand out to me with every viewing. Mostly I look at “Short Cuts” as a learning opportunity. From here on out, I won’t make any of those mistakes again.

 

 

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