Summer of Skeeter Bite Shorts

Summer. It’s almost here.

So, what the heck, let’s make some shorts.

While Never Been to Graceland is wrapping up post-production before the big premiere in August, there’s really not much left to do on that end, so I’ve spent the last month and a half wringing my hands out of sheer boredom.

Finally, I couldn’t take any more (and neither could Deana, who has to put up with my fidgeting on a nightly basis) so I have decided that Summer 2017 will be a summer of Skeeter Bite Shorts.

Each month for the next five months (May, June, July, August and September) I want to produce AT LEAST one short film in a different genre or style with a variety of self-imposed restrictions to push my creative boundaries where they have yet to go. I’m going to tackle these with the same level of brashness with which I tackled a short film we did back in high school called “Pocket Lint.” The raw footage to this is still on my hard drive, and was labeled “outofourasses.wmv” because that’s exactly what it was.

We’ll try to do better than that, though. No promises!

-SHORT SHOOTS: Each short is only going to be shot in one day or one night, with the allowance of one possible pick-up day per film if something goes wrong or something gets missed. Scheduling is hell. Actors are often restricted by day jobs or distance, so we’re going to mitigate excuses not to jump in the fray.

-NO STAKES: We might end up filming and completing every single one. We might film half of each of them, all of half of them, or none of any of them. Doesn’t matter. We’re not submitting these to festivals. We’re not looking for reviews. We’re not looking to compete with anyone else or show off some amazing bold new idea that we are deluded in thinking will change the world of cinema. This is pure passion.

-DON’T TRY TOO HARD: I’m gonna do these the way I shot stuff in high school; that is, very quick, very loose. Short turnarounds. Imperfections. These may not be well produced on a technical level when they come out. What we film may not even represent the scripts I write. Doesn’t matter because we’re going to…

-TRY NEW THINGS EVERY TIME (AND PROBABLY FAIL BUT MAYBE SUCCEED): Some of the shorts may not be in the same vein as things I’ve done before. They may not be comedies. They may not be adventures. They may not even be family friendly. Maybe they will. I don’t know yet. I’ll let you know. Look up a couple on the list again. “NO STAKES.” I’m not counting on everyone to see these, or even like them. The only things that will matter is if me and my collaborators…

-HAVE FUN AND LEARN THINGS: We have to. It’s the only way we grow as people and as filmmakers. I’m hoping I make shorts with people I’ve wanted to work with for a while but have never had the right project for. I’m hoping I make new projects with people I’ve become great friends and collaborators with.

I’m excited to try this. Let’s make some stuff.

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New Old Video; or A Very Random Thing

Tonight I just finished the last of what remained of the footage we had shot long, long ago. This was just prior to Jesse, Matt, and Justin’s graduation, approximately early spring. The transferred file shows a creation record of March 7, 2007, so it couldn’t have been particularly long before that.

Basically, the Les Chanteurs (www.myspace.com/hotspringshighschoolleschanteurs) and Mixed Choir from Hot Springs were at the Civic Center as part of an annual competition, so Billy and I were there as well. I brought my camera to film not only the performances there, but also to maybe make something spur-of-the-moment. Indeed we did. Just after Aaron Horner’s performance on guitar, we headed back to the main room where all the students from everywhere in western South Dakota were, and since Billy and I were pretty much just waiting to board the bus and go, we made this little video.

Looking back, the plot defies all logic. The goal was to have Drake be in the background of all the scenes where Billy is being stalked, and then for him to be mistaken, and then Aaron turn out to be the real stalker. Strangely, we shot the beginning with Aaron playing guitar when Billy gets his first two stalker calls. So Aaron in no way logically COULD be the stalker, but somehow still is.

But when you’re on a whim, plot seems to fly out the window for the sake of funny business. We thought that we had a pretty good, solid video to stand on that we could edit when we got back home. Well, when I got home and transferred it, I realized that there was a LOT of background noise from all those people, and not only did we need to dub in the mysterious caller, but when Billy was onscreen I could not SHUT UP and stop directing during takes. (something that I used to have a big problem with, but have gotten better about) So I had this real aural mess, and I didn’t want to touch this video with a ten foot pole if I didn’t have to, regardless of what content from it might be funny.

And for two years this went on. Even when I went through stages where I would finish editing other videos and even go out to film new footage to salvage the rest of the old, this project always managed to get thrown back into the scrap bin just because the work seemed too hard. Actually, at one point I had recorded dialogue for the stalker in the style of Heath Ledger’s Joker while I was doing most of the Adventures In Hot Springs series. But the sound thing overwhelmed me again.

So here, tonight, I finally just sat down with this footage and said, damnit, let’s do something right with this. If I have to take every split second of crowd noise where either me or a main character isn’t talking and use it to cover up what audio I have to cut out, then I damn well will.

Turns out it wasn’t really that hard. Yes, I did have to do a lot of audio editing because in the raw footage I talked A LOT behind the camera. Thankfully, it’s pretty much seamless now, and I’m not sure how I managed that but, oh well.

So here’s to finally finishing something I began!