At present there is one major instance in our video-production past that stands untouched, un-blogged, un-discussed, and relatively underlooked. And that instance is the The Yin of Gary Fischer’s Life. Our movie.
I’m gonna cover it in three four different entries; one for introduction, one for pre-production, one for production, and one for post-production. What I will present to you is an attempt at an unfortunately truthful representation of the events that took place, with only so much deviation as attempts at flourish will dictate and only so much wandering as my wandering nature demands. And so, boys and girls,
Instead of digressing later on, I’ll just start off-topic my mentioning Susanna Clarke’s book Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It is a very unusual read and either very good or very bad, depending on how you like that ‘unusual’ flavor. In the early part of the book she introduces a society of gentlemen who proudly title themselves as theoretical magicians – they know magic. They do not practice it, but they certainly know it. They get together and discuss the various workings and meanings and effects of this spell and that spell and talk often about great magicians of the past and the interesting ways they used a certain spell here and there. But they do not practice it.
It’s a great analogy for filmmaking. It’s very easy to sit around and talk about the effects that different color temperatures give to a project or the various ways to unfold a narrative and praise this director and boo that director but, while that certainly shows that you know a lot, at the end of the day you’re still just a theoretical filmmaker at best. And there’s a vast difference between theory and practice in filmmaking. I suspect that the same is true for most fields, but I can only testify for filmmaking. And I also think that while it may be true for many fields, there are few fields where it’s as easy and acceptable to never make the move from theoretical to practical. It is very easy to talk. Talk is fun. Talk is helpful. But talk is talk. Talk is cheap. And talk lacks action by its nature. And the realization of that cheapness and that inherent lack of action can either come as slowly and painfully as an orthodontist “adjusting” your teeth or it can come as quickly and jarringly as pulling a tooth out with pliers. Either way your mouth feels different, and every time you open your mouth to talk you can’t not notice the difference. I’m not sayin’ you don’t keep talking. I’m just saying it’s suddenly like eating bologna once, ya know, you know. It’s just not quite as enjoyable.
All that said, it still seems like a lot of film folk are perfectly content with bologna. We were not. It was a constant source of teenage-like angst for an “us” consisting of Paul David Benedict (whom you readers may already know and love through your reading of this blog), Matt Clark (whom you readers will become familiar with through this short YogaFly series) and myself (Chris Cook…please keep your feelings private, I have a fragile ego). The three of us were best of friends during our high school years and we had banded together to create Centaurus Media Group (CMG)!
It was as CMG that, on and off, we spent our junior year of high school shooting footage for our post-apocalyptic action/thriller Redshift. It was bad. An hour and fifty-two minutes of bad. Epic. And bad…
…but not so bad for juniors in a rural Iowan town. It was, if nothing else, ambitious.
Well, Paul graduated early, and a year later the three of us were at three different universities studying the closest thing we could find to movie makings (which was, to one degree or another “Communications”). Though miles apart, our desire for production kept us united (if only in spirit). Each of us tried for production at our own universities, saddened by the fact that rarely did we three meet a fellow student not content with bologna.
This was the setting we found ourselves in and one we did not wish to stay in. We wanted to move to the practical.
The end of one’s college career is a marking time in a person’s life. Years seems to slip by afterwords and all of a sudden you’re driving to work for the 500th time and you’re hit smack dab in the face with depression because two seconds earlier you were elated by the fact that you had somehow found an open lane! and to see yourself so excited over such a thing just sets you back a few…
That’s the assumption at least, so it’s fairly common for graduates to give themselves one Last Hurrah. Some people go on binges of liver-bursting proportions. Some see the parting-of-ways coming and finally muster up the guts to ask out that someone they’ve had their eyes on for the last two years. Some take the GRE so that their college (hopefully) won’t have to end. Some run off and tour Europe.
What did we do? What was our “Farewell” to book-laden-arms? We made a movie!
. . .Well, I also ran off to Europe. . .It was a good time. Saw a lot of old buildings. Drank some beer. And honey vodka. Mmm, honey vodka. How wrong can communism be if it brought about the perfection of honey vodka… Anyways, that’s not really what I’m trying to get at. Back to the movie.
DEVELOPMENT & GREENLIGHTING
We decided that we were going to make a movie. We didn’t know what we were going to make, but we decided we were going to make something. Project = greenlit. Done deal done.
. . .What? Don’t raise your eyebrow at my blog post like that! You know how it goes. Sometimes you just need to commit. Sometimes you need to have the pressure pushing down on you. You need to have the option of waiting for “the right” thing removed from your table of operations. No more if’s and when’s. Just, “We will.” It makes things wonderfully simple and pulls things into sharp focus.
We had a lot of video-chat sessions between January and April of 2008. We tossed around ideas and locations and this and that. We were fairly serious about doing a documentary for first parts of our talks. But we eventually came back to the idea of making a narrative. It was scary. Redshift was really bad, and we didn’t want to go through shedding blood, sweat, and tears to come out the other side with a project we were ashamed of. Again. But narratives are where our passions lie, and at one point or another I tossed a story-concept onto the metaphorical table and Matt & Paul were intrigued.
The Yin of Gary Fischer’s Life was a pitch and treatment that I had put together for a digital narrative class I took during my sophomore year at UNI. It contained a few interesting ideas for scenes, five undeveloped characters, and a “story arc” in the very loosest of terms. Conveniently, it took place in a small college town as so many student films do. It was shootable; a low number of players, character driven, controllable scenes, et cetera. It was a comedy. It wasn’t too complex. Essentially, it had as much potential as we could hope for. Done. It, The Yin of Gary Fischer’s Life, was our movie!
I don’t remember when the decision was reached. I really don’t specifically remember when any of the plans were made. We were going to shoot it from July 6th to the 21st in Cedar Falls, Iowa. Other than that, the only other thing that was known before May 10th was the house that we were going to say in and shoot in. I can say May 10th because that’s when I flew off to Poland.
I can tell you that the script wasn’t written (not Not Finished, but straight-up Not Written).
I know that the cast was not known.
I know that the locations (other than the house) weren’t decided.
Pretty much everything about the movie was unknown except for what the movie was called. There was a lot of planning to do (and not much time). But, hey, that’s what pre-production is for, right?
Right. Well, that’s next time. Thanks for reading.