It’s Your Birthday – The Film that Never Was
Now before you ask for it – I didn’t actually shot “It’s Your Birthday”, I shot a mockumentary about shooting a short film in 72 hours. And as the careful observers in the crowd will note that the “film camera” I am using in all the shots is in fact a Nikon D80, great camera and all that jazz but it doesn’t do video… well only at 4.5FPS if you hold down the shutter button.
So after Digi60 where Julian, Vincent and I submitted Excrucior so Vincent and I both wanted to enter Ottawa International Film Festival’s (OIFF for short) 72 hour film challenge, but of course there was some discontent on who gets to enter (we were before this taking turns wearing the “Director/Producer” hat) but I solved that by just paying for two entries. I can’t forget what Nina told me when I said I’d like two entries, “Okay, but both films must be uniquely different and not overlap”, well they didn’t sorta…
The catches were released:
- Must Use at least 2 songs from a list of 5 we got on CD from Ottawa Rock Lottery
- Must have the dialogue “Dam Right your dad drank it” while showing clearly in the shot a bottle of Canadian Whiskey.
- Last shot of the Film must be of the exterior of the Lieutenants Pump on Elgin Street
- Mention ParkTown Productions a Local Film Company in the Movie
So now with two entries and catches in hand came the hard part… brainstorming two completely separate film stories and tearing Julian (resident actor) in half so that we can both you him. Of course Vincent’s idea was singularly focused on a single main character while mine required a slightly broader cast so Julian opted for Vincent’s Film. Now I’m not bitter, as I had already recruited before the catch-drop a fine group of actors – well people who I knew that would go in front of the camera, and a professional actress. My film’s cast was my brother’s girlfriend, her sister and the amazing talented Victoria Jung – Vincent’s Girlfriend’s Daughter (who is actual a real actor, however you want to define the word real).
So off went Vincent and Julian to shot his film with the promise we would meet up late Saturday to shot the Lieutenants Pump requirement. Now I know that Vincent shot in his apartment with Julian until we meet again… and I basically did the same thing (shot in my apartment building).
Kinks To Work Out
Beyond the regular craziness of shooting a short film in 72 hours is getting people to commit to a time-slot and being happy with whatever they can give you (especially when you ask on a Wednesday to own their Saturday). I did have one conundrum, Cheryl was only available in the morning and Victoria the afternoon. Well my normal modus operandi when it comes to solving actors problems like this is that their characters suddenly and inexplicably die… but for the story I was conceiving I came up with a better idea (one that fit the mockumentary) which was to fake the shot over two days and have Victoria as Cheryl’s replacement; that in on itself at the screening got the most laughs.
In reality they almost (so close) walked by each other on the way in/out that in order to ensure continuity we broke for lunch when Victoria arrived, with me sitting Victoria in front of my TV and having her watch all the footage from the morning with the direction “act like that…”, which she did for the rest of the day without further prompting.
The other issue I had was shooting the elevator scene, as anyone who has every shot in an elevator know its tight and if you don’t control it 100% (which I didn’t) it has a tendency to move up and down to pick up people. Not a problem I thought, its a quick scene so what could possibly go wrong? Apparently 2 out of 3 elevators, that’s what! So with my building down to one elevator and Tanya and I trying to shot a quick 15 second scene I’m sure I meet half the building in 30 minutes… didn’t mention who I was but smiled and said I was filming a 72 hour challenge. I swear I’m amazed there were no complaints afterwards (or if there were they may of gone to Richard at ParkTown who is located in the same building as me).
So after a long day of shooting Tanya, Victoria and I headed over to Vincent’s to see whats up, and to head over to the Pump for finalizing our shots as per the contest requirements. I walked in to the apartment with papers flying everywhere (you can see that shot in Vincent’s film), I was able to grab some footage of Vincent editing in a panic (here is the accidental overlap, he is actually editing his film which I showed in mine, but I’m sure Nina wouldn’t notice/mind – I also noted that Victoria and Vincent had shot its the night before and I was actually all up in arms about him stealing my actors… in jest of course but WTF Vincent!) then we gathered up Vincent and Julian and headed out.
Outside the Lieutenants Pump was a traffic jam of film teams all trying to shoot their scenes over top of each other, its was quite interesting and frustrating at the same time. We had shown up with very mobile equipment (Nikon D90, Canon 5D Mark 2 and portable lights) where as some teams had full on cameras and dolly tracks set-up. We waited potentially then as fast as we could we shot our bits, and took off.
So I paid both entry fees of $20 for a total cost to me of $40, I also paid for some on-set food and starbucks (about another $40 in total) for a total cost of $100. Of course we got two bottles of whiskey out of it, I gave mine to Cheryl and Vincent kept his. So all in all a very inexpensive shooting weekend; although the inside joke stood that Vincent actually made money on the Challenge 🙂
For posterity’s sake, here is the Film that Vincent Valentino submitted featuring Julian Luckham as the Lead Actor.