Third time’s the charm, right?

Last weekend, we scheduled our 48 Hour Film Project practice session. What we didn’t count on was that mother nature also scheduled a blizzard for that weekend! Rather than waste a good practice weekend (we only have a couple left between now and the actual event), we decided to take a different attitude:

At 7:00 Friday we hit my 48HFP Test Script Generator and it gave us the following specifics:

Name: Michel / Marina Donahue

Occupation: Cost Analysis Engineer

Prop: a gate

Line of Dialogue: “The future will be better tomorrow”

Genre: Dark Comedy

Dark Comedy is one of those genres we’re not at all confident with. All the more reason to practice with it, right? We noodled with it a bit and came up with a cost analysis engineer making budget cuts that affect veterans.

We got a script written that was right around 8 pages long, which is obviously too long for a 4-7 minute short. We made a copy of it and went through ripping things out left and right, but keeping the story intact as much as possible. Then we decided to keep the shorter script. Here it is:

Modern day Denver
Vicki is just arriving home after getting out of the 
military.
EXT. BUS STATION - DAY
VICKI steps off the bus wearing fatigues, carrying her 
duffel bag on her back.
EXT. PEDESTRIAN BRIDGE - DAY
Vicki crosses the bridge.
EXT. APARTMENT GATE - DAY
Vicki passes through the apartment gate. Apartment 
buildings are seen in the background.
INT. APARTMENT - DAY
Vicki comes home to an empty apartment. A pile of letters 
sit on the kitchen counter. She sighs, shrugs out of her 
duffel bag with some discomfort, and drops her duffel as 
her phone dings.

Insert: Text Message: Sorry I didn't pick you up. Welcome 
back! We need to talk. I've fallen for someone else.

VICKI
No need to talk. Go suck a dick.

Insert: Text Message: About that...His name is Clyde.

VICKI
Are you kidding me!?

She throws her phone onto the couch.

VICKI
Asshole. I dodged that bullet.

Vicki flips through the stack of letters. Most of the mail 
is junk, but a few official letters stand out. She opens 
one.

Insert: Reference letter #1

VICKI
Is this a joke?

Vicki opens another letter.

Insert: Reference letter #1 again

VICKI
This can't be right.

Vicki opens the next letter.

Insert: Reference letter #2

Vicki opens several more letters, each repeating the same 
standard message. Each is signed by M. Donahue.

VICKI
No no no no no. This is a mistake.

Vicki calls the Transition Assistance Office. She hits 
several buttons to get through the automated message. While 
navigating the menu, she shifts position in the kitchen.

VICKI
Vicki Delgado.
(beat)
I just got back. I have some letters.
(beat)
My medical benefits were revoked and my pension was cut. Is 
this a joke?
(beat)
What do I do next?
(beat)
Sit tight? What do you mean, "sit tight?"
(beat)
You already transferred me to that department.
(beat)
I was shot! You could get a real person to help me.
(beat)
I would love to calm down, but you're not making it easy.
(beat)
Yeah, well, I hope you stub your toe.

Vicki hangs up.
INT. VICKI'S LIVING ROOM - DAY
Vicki is on her laptop looking up M. Donahue on the 
internet. She pulls up images and his work location. She 
writes down the address.
EXT. TALL OFFICE BUILDING - DAY
A tall office building is shown.
EXT. TRANSITION OFFICES HALLWAY - DAY
Vicki waits in the office hallway. MICHEL DONAHUE enters.

MICHEL
Hi, Vicki?

VICKI
Yes. Nice to meet you, sir.

MICHEL
Please it's Michel.

Michel directs Vicki to his office.

VICKI
I received several letters. I think by mistake.

Vicki and Michel disappear behind a door.

INT. MICHEL'S OFFICE - DAY
Michel shuts his office door and sits at his desk.

MICHEL
I hear you. Budget cuts. There's nothing we can do. My 
cost analysis shows that this is the best way to-

VICKI
Treat your veterans? I assure you, it's not.

MICHEL
We have a few things lined up for you, interviews, 
meetings. If you could just...

MICHEL/VICKI (Together)
Sit tight.

VICKI
Got it.

MICHEL
Have some water. The future will be better tomorrow.

Michel hands Vicki a water bottle.
INT. CAR - DAY
Vicki drinks from the water bottle. Michel crosses the 
road in front of her. She drives at him. He bounces off 
the front of the car and she drives over him.
INT. CAR - DAY
Vicki scratches out the idea of hit by a car and writes: 
"Witnesses??"
INT. MAIL ROOM - DAY
Strangling - Apartment mail room - Starred on pad
EXT. BIG LOTS - DAY
Shot - Airsoft - behind big lots - "Cost analysis - 
expensive"
EXT. BUS TERMINAL - DAY
Pushing in front of bus - Bus scene - "More witnesses??"
INT. MICHAEL'S OFFICE - DAY
Poison bottled water - Office - "Where to get poison?"
Stabbing - in office - Starred on pad - circles it
INT. MICHEL'S OFFICE - DAY
Vicki stalks Michel into his office. As he is entering 
the room with his back turned, he sees Vicki's reflection 
wielding a knife and spins around.

MICHEL
Whoa! Hey there! Whoa! Can we talk about this?

VICKI
Talk is cheap. It fits into your cost analysis.

MICHEL
I'm serious! We'll get you fixed right up!

VICKI
Today?

MICHEL
This minute.

VICKI
You turn me in, I'll give you a budget cut you'll never 
forget.

Vicki brandishes the knife at him.

Michel gulps and types on his computer. He changes her 
status from "inactive" to "active." A different military 
member gets status changed from "active" to "inactive."

MICHEL
There. All fixed.

VICKI
Thank you. Was that so hard?
INT. APARTMENT - DAY
There's a knock at the door. Vicki answers. We don't see 
the courier. She takes the letter. "Deployment Orders" is 
printed across the envelope.

VICKI
Son of a bi-

Cut to black
EXT. BUS STATION - DAY
Vicki gets back on the bus, dressed in fatigues, carrying 
her duffel bag.
INT. MICHEL'S OFFICE - DAY
Michel is shown murdered- stabbed

For anyone who’s stuck with it this far, here’s the final video we shot:

There were many things we liked about this one:

  • The first is that we shared it on Facebook! This is a huge step forward as we’re willing to let people see what we’ve put together. The first attempt (Sycamore) was almost totally private. And terrible. The second (Shiny Side Up) was shared with a very select, small audience.
  • I mentioned getting the script down to five pages before we started.
  • Our over-the-shoulder shots looked a lot better than the conversation we included in Shiny Side Up.
  • The drive-by scene timing was perfect.
  • There’s more motion in the camera this time, and our composition has improved.
  • The foley on the walk over the bridge (mostly muted in the final version) was good.
  • Although I didn’t like the reason we had to do it, I liked the editing to mask the second text message to get a shot of just the first one.
  • This also included our first attempt at ADR dialogue (“Hi, Vicky? Please, it’s Michel.”)

What didn’t go well:

  • We used 8 locations
  • It took 54 hours to get to the final
  • We could have done the bus logistics better
  • Our food plan wasn’t the best
  • The snowstorm really slowed us down. Did I mention 8 locations?
  • We were still filming scenes Sunday morning, which cut into our editing time.
  • We’re still looking for a good solution to the audio issues. We basically need someone holding a boom pole to get the mic in place.

All in all, we were pretty pleased with the outcome. Looking forward to the next one. Hopefully there will be more than the two of us at that one.

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