My Brief Flirtation with Filmmaking (or The Making of Frizz-B)

The two of you who visit this site regularly know that I write, have been writing for quite a long time, and would love to make a living as a writer. What you don’t know is that I have, at times, branched out into other forms of storytelling, including filmmaking.

I was never too serious about it and, in fact, I only ever completed one full project, a short film title Frizz-B. It was the first thing my buddy Paul and I made and it was really just meant as a test, a means to learning Adobe Premiere, but we actually got it done and a friend put it up on youtube so here it is:

 

 

Now, first, Paul, the adult-sized star of the film, would be uber-pissed if I did not point out that, since the making of Frizz-B, some eight or nine years ago, he has reversed the aging process by losing a ton of weight (figuratively speaking, of course) and growing out his hair.

He now looks like this:

Sorry, ladies, he's taken

Sorry, ladies, he’s taken

 

He also stopped wearing his glasses, so what, in that picture, appears to be a smoldering stare is actually just Paul trying to determine if that’s a camera or a distant helicopter pointed at him.

Okay, back to the movie. Technically speaking, the thing’s pretty bad. Frizz-B was shot before I invested in a proper shotgun mic, so the sound is horrendous, with the rumble of car engines Doppler-shifting through half a scene, only to be cut off by a clumsy edit; the cinematography and direction is just this side of point-and-shoot, though it was done using a home-made steadycam that actually worked pretty well; and there is certainly no color correction.

But it’s not all bad. The stunts, for example, are awesome. That’s 100% Paul. Go watch the movie again (stop whining, it’s, like, 3 minutes long) and pay attention to the few seconds after Paul jumps back up from behind the hedge. Hear him let out a breath like he’s forgotten how lungs work? See him rub his chest? Yeah, that’s ’cause when he pitched over that hedge, he landed flat on the sidewalk and his manboobs (now gone; see photo above) weren’t enough to blunt the results of concrete meeting gravity. He straight-up sacrificed his body for . . . Well, for that video up there. So, if nothing else, Paul totally deserves a golf-clap for his work in Frizz-B.

Now, if you were to search ‘Frizz-B’ on youtube, you’d first find many, many instructional guides on how to get the frizz out of your hair, but you’d also come across a hipsterized version of our film.

I’m not saying they stole our idea; they’ve probably never even seen our film. But the concept is exactly the same, as is the title, except theirs is redolent with hipster. I have to admit, their version is more technically assured. BUT, ours is far more diverse. Hell, 75% of our cast is Black. It’s actually not that much of an achievement. Paul and I were the only white people in our neighbourhood. Our building was more culturally diverse than the average UN summit.

Those kids are a fair representation of the boys in our neighbourhood, though they did not, as a rule, sit by the fence surrounding the parking lot watching us white guys do weird shit. Generally, the boys would run around calling, “Thierry!” Thierry was either one super-popular kid, or a super-popular name bestowed upon many kids. Either way, the sound of “Thierry, Thierry, Thierry” drifting in through an open window was, for us, not unlike the sound of a rooster on a farm or an ambulance in the city, ever-present and oddly comforting.

After Frizz-B, Paul and I made a few more short films, though none were completed. One was a superhero short in which two heroes with invisibility powers fought each other. It was basically a lot of fast-moving camera shots of nothing with the sounds of fighting overlaid. Our most ambitious project, though, was what we called “The World Record Thing” in which Paul and another friend of ours, Eric, try to break a world record. They first try tub racing (this consisted of Paul sitting in a tub with a confused look on his face while Eric sat outside the tub, taking notes; it was pretty funny, but also mildly disturbing), then bean eating, then Paul tries to hold his breath underwater by dunking his head in the kitchen sink (this actually required some fairly clever special effects work), and, eventually, ramp jumping with a one-pedaled bicycle, the film’s single most elaborate scene.

The World Record Thing remains unfinished. We simply didn’t have the computing power required to edit the whole thing, but shooting it was some of the greatest fun I’ve ever had.

Would I ever work on an indie film again? Absolutely. But I wouldn’t spearhead a new project, I’d just help out with someone else’s piece in whatever way I could. There’s much one can learn about storytelling from participating—in any way—in the making of a film, and the thrill of watching the thing come together is hard to beat. Filmmaking also incorporates so many other art forms, from drawing storyboards and costuming to set decoration and soundtrack production, that it will make a space for nearly any artist or creative type, regardless of his or her area of expertise.

Anyway, that was my experience with filmmaking, so if you know anyone who’s planning to make a film of any sort, see if he or she will allow you to participate in some way. You won’t regret it.