I said before in my previous post, On Screenwriting, that I began writing scripts by trying to revive Jimmy Neutron. Well, that’s technically not true. I kind of blocked it out of my mind, but after a discussion with my friend Jason the other night, I realized that I did make one attempt at screenwriting before that.
Jason had wanted to be a director as long as I’d wanted to be a writer. We’d both honed our skills in high school; I’d spent my spare time working on fanfiction while he’d made nonsensical comedy videos.
Occasionally I would pop in to look sexy (1:37 in).
Even though we’d both gone to the same college, Jason and I had kind of drifted apart during undergrad. During our senior year we tried to rectify this and ended up deciding to combine both our talents. We didn’t have the time, money, or equipment to create a movie or anything, but we figured we could shoot a high-quality sketch video. We also figured this would be a great opportunity to get back in touch with some of our other friends from high school. So I started to work on a few scripts for a new comedy series; Three Guys and a Wizard.
The basics of the series was, similar to real life, four friends from high school had drifted apart and were now growing back together. Myself, Jason, and Ryan (a different Ryan) were just normal college kids. Corey, however, was secretly a wizard who had absolutely no control over his powers. In each video we’d hang out and Corey’s powers would flare up, driving us into some insane situation. This always resulted in Corey being horribly injured and having to go to the hospital to see Dr. Fakedoctor, played by Travis.
Some of you may recognize that last name. Travis is my old archnemesis that I mentioned in several old posts. (As in those old posts, we’ll keep calling him Frank to avoid using his real name.) I figured that, four years after high school, it was finally time for Frank and I to shelve our feud. So I suggested he play Dr. Fakedoctor and the rest of the group agreed. He signed onto the project and I wrote a full script.
I’ve lost that script since then, but I do have a copy of the sequel video that we never shot. Here’s a little peek.
Long-time readers of my blog or people with any knowledge of screenwriting will quickly realize that everything about this script is wrong.
This is before I’d done research into screenwriting to revive Jimmy Neutron; I’d only written fiction before. You can see that I’ve come a long way since then. So anyway, I wrote a roughly 6 page script and sent it to my friends. Basically, we would all go hang out in the woods and shoot a BB gun. Jason and Corey made a bet about whether a shot to the leg would make Corey cry. So Jason shot Corey and his leg flew off, encompassing the woods in a river of blood and explosions. We struggled to understand how this had happened while bringing Corey to the hospital. Along the way Corey’s magic keeps flaring up and injuring him even further.
To me, even now, that doesn’t sound like a bad idea. It’s an original concept and there’s plenty of room for jokes in that narrative. My friends agreed, even though my script was far from professional. Over winter break we all met up in Woonsocket and filmed in the back of the closed-down Wal-mart that I used to work at.
I wasn’t expecting Spielburg-quality, but I figured between our natural comraderie, Jason’s technical skills, and my writing, we could get something that would at least be competent and funny. That didn’t exactly happen.
The finished product. (Might want to watch this to understand the rest of the post.)
Everything about this shot went wrong, and it actually culminated in me having yet another mental breakdown. (For those keeping track; I’m pretty sure it was my fourth. There was the OCD in 7th grade, biting a girl in 8th grade over a pencil, stabbing Frank in 9th grade, and then this fiasco). Let’s list all the mistakes made in this shoot.
- We started shooting in late morning instead of first light, which cut the light available by a few hours.
- We’d all agreed to wear white shirts to better showcase the fake blood, but I forgot and wore a grey t-shirt.
At least you can see it’s damp.
- Even though I had a hot girlfriend who always looked her best, at that time in my life I couldn’t even be bothered to shave.
Two equally attractive people right there.
- We stupidly let Frank hold onto our back-up camera while we filmed the shots without him. He ended up wasting the entire battery fooling around shooting useless behind-the-scenes footage, further cutting our available shooting time.
- A relatively minor gripe, but whereas the script called for buckets and buckets of fake blood, the crew only made about half a bucket. Yes it was time consuming and expensive, but I still think having blood raining from the sky and washing us all way would have vastly improved this skit.
- Corey had to leave after only a few hours, reducing our ability to shoot even more.
- The script called for our car to slam into Corey at around 50 miles an hour. We actually shot this with me behind the wheel and it looked hilarious. Unfortunately, it was unusable because the dummy was filled with newspaper and that was too clearly visible when it exploded on impact. Also, I nearly slammed into a wall and killed myself. My brakes would fail the next day; I was extraordinarily lucky to survive this shooting.
- Our microphones were not as powerful as expected, thus much of our dialogue can barely be heard.
- We completely forgot to edit something onto the green screen in one shot.
Also, my line reading of, “Jay! Watch the road!”
- We did not anticipate how hard it would be to shoot inside a car; thus every scene inside my Buick looks incredibly cramped and lots of important stuff is off-frame.
What really sucked about this shoot is what came after. When Jason posted the final version on Youtube, I sent my thoughts about it in a group message to the five of us. I said that I thought Jason did a good job, but I had some editing notes. (I still maintain that putting the explosions on top of us was a little too much.) In a private message, Frank reprimanded me for this, saying that I was being a jerk and Jason had done the best he could.
As I wrote about in my post On High School, I’ve always had a problem believing that people weren’t really my friends. I’d get paranoid that they were just leading me on and no one could really like me. So this was basically the worst thing that Frank could have said to me. I felt incredibly awful and guilty. I felt so bad that I actually deleted my Facebook account and wouldn’t talk to these guys for nearly two years.
Now obviously that is not a normal or healthy reaction, and I only blame a tiny bit of that on Frank. It turns out Frank was wrong; I can see that now. I never attacked Jason; I was just sharing constructive criticism. Even Jason would later tell me that he agreed with the points I raised. But my reaction to it was my own fault. I went through a months-long period where I felt just immeasurably guilty, thought that I’d ruined my friendship with these guys, that they never even really liked me in the first place.
Eventually I got over it, but for a couple months after we shot this video I felt awful. What I’d hoped would be a fun reunion project with old friends, a way to mend things with Frank, and result in a funny and popular video blew up in my face. Frank and I haven’t spoken since, I briefly regressed to my old disturbed self, and the video was a mess.
Or was it?
I still don’t think this is a…good video. It was too rushed to ever come out as a masterpiece. But as Jason said when we were discussing this the other day, it seems so much better now years later. I’m a big fan of absurd comedy, and I think there’s some great ridiculous moments in here.
I adore this screenshot, it honestly looks like two friends just hanging out. Love Jason’s sincere interest in me having fun aiming. Also, Corey’s clearly having the time of his life shouting lines off-screen. “You take all the tries!”
That fake blood burnt my nose, but it was so much fun to cough up.
I still maintain that Jason is one of the world’s funniest fainters.
I’ll always love how Jason makes no attempt to hide he is throwing the dummy down on purpose.
Ryan and Frank climbed like a 15-foot tall fence to throw the dummy off. This is a great shot; you can see it falling in the windshield’s reflection for nearly 2 seconds.
This is another great shot. Jason really looks perplexed, Corey doesn’t move an inch the whole time, and that puddle of blood is awesome.
If I were to go back and rewrite this video, this is the only scene I wouldn’t change at all. I honestly think this conversation about how much of the patient a doctor needs to fix him is funny and well-acted.
So yeah, this thing’s shoot was a disaster and emotionally ravaged me afterwards. But that day was still one I’ll remember fondly. We all hadn’t hung out at the same time in years and we had a lot of fun. If we were to go back and do this again with my improved screenwriting skills, better equipment, and more time on our hands, I think it could be a really good and funny video. But as it stands it’s still hilarious (at least to me) in its absurdity and shortcomings. And anything that gets old friends together can’t be all bad.