Chapter 94: “The Guttersnipes”
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Maine was going to be my basecamp for filmmaking success. At least, that’s what I decided. I mean it’s not as though I could move Deirdre and Kaitlyn to LA…
I toiled away on the Fort Thomas, but the scripts were slowing to a trickle, and I felt that Travis’ work should have been done by now. I was waiting on his finished artwork in order to create the animatic, so I didn’t want to rework the scripts so much that the animatic would be irrelevant.
I decided to propel Travis’ (and my) efficiency by purchasing a Wacom Tablet so he could easily transfer his works into a digital medium. I was exhausted with the paint-by-numbers approach I had been undertaking using Photoshop and dozens upon dozens of hours of time. Travis and I split the expense of the tablet with our respective tax returns.
When it came in, he said his computer didn’t work and that he couldn’t use the tablet. I offered to have him use my computer a few hours a week, but that didn’t go anywhere. I was so frustrated with the situation that I began to put more of my effort into a potential comedy YouTube channel. If I could earn more money through monetization, then I could work less at the hospital and more on the cartoon show.
My idea was simple: To use the Video I assignments as backdoor pilots to the comedy angle. I had enjoyed myself immensely with the “Mainah? No, We’re Mainerrs” and “Jamie Gilligan Interviews His Favorite Band” videos that I wanted to continue the good times (and the good grades).
But it simply wasn’t enough to check the boxes on all of the assignments’ criteria; the videos had to be clever, concise, and most important of all: funny.
I loved my friend, Mike’s humor, and wanted to use him in a video. I came up with a basic premise and had Mike fill in the rest with his sharp wit. The result? “As I Say, Not How I Do.”
This had turned out way better than I had envisioned. The camera definitely needed some work (it was never my forte), but we had a winner here.
The next big class project was a “Horror Story.” The assignment aligned precisely with Halloween on the fall semesters, but for us, in spring, it fell on a cold day in mid-April.
I came up with this idea of a home invasion based off of a morbid curiosity that turns horribly awry. Here’s the logline: “After their reclusive neighbor FINALLY leaves his house, two friends enter the home to learn the mysteries of this private, redneck hick, but what they find will change their lives forever.”
My only issue is that my schedule forced me to finish writing RIGHT before we shot. I had asked my supervisor if we could use her house and if she wanted to be a part of it. She had already expressed interest in just that, so she immediately jumped at the opportunity.
My friend, John, too, drove down from our hometown of Fort Kent to be the “Redneck Hick” in the video. He had been acting and writing comedy for as long as I knew him, and thus, this too was an easy sell.
I tapped away the final notes on her picnic table in the back of the house, and off we went to shoot before the daylight receded. In my rush, however, I forgot to switch off a Neutral Density (ND) setting from the camera, and I couldn’t figure out why the image was so dark inside. I eventually fixed it, and the resulting video was a fucking BLAST. I only wish we had more time to shoot it, then it would have had high quality as well comedic value.
And “The Day of Rednecking” was born.
For my final project, I wanted our evolution to exponentially evolve from single-celled organisms to fully formed human beings. I commenced a short film script immediately after “Rednecking,” and reserved the equipment I would need for TWO whole days, so we had the proper time to shoot it all.
The film was called ‘Arcane Acquisition,’ and it was about a roommate who puts a curse on his lazier counterpart as a prank, and the curse begins to twist into utter chaos. I wrote a part for my supervisor (as the Mystical shopkeep who sells the doll [a la Gremlins]), a part for Mike, another part for my other insanely quick-witted friend, Dan, and of course, for John.
I location-scouted this bar that we used to frequent from the newer owners (Benjamin’s on Franklin), as the ‘shop,’ and even bought voodoo doll props for the project. We had everything and off we went to shoot.
Now, when you sign out equipment from NESCom, you are supposed to personally check each bag to ensure all components are included, and nothing is broken or missing. If something is broken or missing, you are required to pay for it, and that TERRIFIED me. I had thought I did all of that, but the Jib arm was missing its plate to attach to the camera’s tripod. That was the first issue of this shoot.
Secondly, I had no other student to help me (from NESCom) with the transport or operation of equipment, and as I mentioned before, the actual camera operation wasn’t my strong suit.
Another mistake I had made was not sharing the lines with my supervisor in time, and she didn’t know what she was going to say. I gave her a hardcopy while I set up the remaining equipment in the bar, but that wasn’t fair nor enough time to learn them all.
Then, the owners of the bar were there (thankfully), but they had a few friends who were drinking with them, even if they weren’t set to open until five hours from the moment we got there. What’s worse is that they continually played rock music as we prepared to shoot. They didn’t understand that we needed to capture audio AS WELL AS video. We eventually got that settled, but by the time we were ready to roll, I knew how far behind we were and that the project was due by the end of the following week.
I stopped and assessed the situation. Can we even do this? Then it hit me: What if we use this idea to make a comedy video? Let’s trump up my incompetence behind the camera, and my friends’ personalities, and make the worst film ever made. And that’s what we did:
THE WORST FILM EVER MADE.
As I edited the video, I called John, and we volleyed ideas on how it could improve. We just shot random scenes of everything that COULD go wrong, and it worked beautifully. I uploaded an unlisted YouTube link to the edit, and John and I watched the short together over the phone. I had seen it dozens of times as I had cobbled it together, but it gave me extreme pleasure to hear him laugh just as hard as I did. We knew we had something powerful here.
He gave me the required notes, and I went to town on the edit, spending more time than I had ever done before. This was brilliant, and easily the best thing that I had made thus far.
After that video and its positive response, John and I discussed forming a YouTube comedy troupe. This was the type of collaboration that I had dreamed of which to be a part.
Except, there was another group that I was a member: the “new Triplets” of Jim, Spencer, and Brandon. They had been making comedy videos for almost a full school year by the time “The Worst Film Ever Made” was released.
Brandon and I had come around to one another over the past few months. We both copped to disliking the other at first, and we began to talk about potential comedy collaborations.
As we did that, I was able to continue borrowing equipment during the summer, and this cultivated my creativity at astronomical levels. The videos continued on strong. Two videos, “The Johnson Clause,” and “New Cast Members” were without Brandon, but then over a period of two days, we shot several projects from Kyle’s apartment.
The projects with Brandon killed us; we couldn’t stop laughing. We made a short series called “Dick Move” about a dick roommate, then an evolution on the “Hair There” idea a few years ago called, “Pill Poppers,” and finally, an insane video about an addiction to Angry Birds, “Angry Birds Addict.”
By this time in July, we had posted a few of these videos but wanted to move them to their own YouTube Channel. So in September, we pooled our collective minds together to come up with a Troupe name. John landed on the name, “The Guttersnipes,” and with that, The Guttersnipes was born.
We established the YouTube channel, made a teaser video on BOTH the new channel and my old channel explaining the switch, and then at the beginning of October, we went live. In hindsight, it may have been inopportune timing, considering I was getting married only a few days later.
This is an ongoing story of my personal battle with Cancer. My hope is that it helps others who are currently experiencing their own battles (whether it be for themselves or a loved one) or to help with early detection.
The way I’m doing it is terrifying for a writer. I’m writing a publically available first-draft outline for an eventual book, chapter by chapter in weekly form. The only reason I’m doing it this way is to get the story out as soon as possible for someone out there who needs a survivor to visit them during their own treatment. If you’re reading this and need someone to talk to, tweet at me and I’ll give you a call. No questions asked. This story is for you and I’ll help any way that I can.
Stay tuned, as I will be posting a new chapter every Monday until the story is complete.
And remember if you experience any Anemic symptoms– get checked for Leukemia as well.
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