DID YOU READ

The short filmmaker’s guide to short filmmaking

The short filmmaker’s guide to short filmmaking (photo)

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They may not get a lot of press, but short films and short filmmakers are the lifeblood of film festivals. They are the place to discover great new filmmakers. Before Steven Spielberg blew up with “Jaws,” he was a 22-year-old kid with a short called “Amblin.” Before Martin Scorsese reinvented the gangster genre with “Mean Streets,” he was a film student with a six minute movie called “The Big Shave.” Before they were famous filmmakers, they were short filmmakers.

Short films are a great way to get your foot in the door of Hollywood, but if you’ve never made a short before, it may be tough to know how to even open that door in the first place. With that in mind, we recruited the team behind the Fantastic Fest short “No Way Out” — actor A.J. Bowen (a.k.a. one of the stars of the multiple Fantastic Fest award winning feature “You’re Next”), writer/producer Eric Vespe (a.k.a. Quint from Aint it Cool News), and director Kristoffer Aaron Morgan (a.k.a. the director of the upcoming feature “The Home”) — to give us five tips for aspiring short filmmakers. Here’s some great practical advice from a couple guys who know what they’re talking about.

TIP #1: Be prepared.
Kristoffer Aaron Morgan, Co-writer/Director: “Storyboard. Have backup plans to your backup plans. Having a solid prep and battle plan will let you sleep well the night before your first day shooting, and give you the confidence you need to do your job. Direct the storyboards while you’re fully rested, so the sleep deprived bastard on set at 3:00 AM can ask your former self for help when he needs it.”

Eric Vespe, Co-Writer/Executive Producer: “There’s a term in poker: set yourself up in the best position possible. There’s always going to be problems when you’re shooting. It took two hours on the first day for A.J. to get into his appliance. If you’re prepared and you know what you need, you’ll be able to handle it.”

A.J. Bowen, Star: “I live in a movie world largely of improv. That can’t exist if you’re not prepared and don’t already know exactly what you’re trying to say. These guys showed me artwork, they showed me video. We spoke beforehand about everything we were going to do. That let me go in and be free to find happy accidents that occur on the set.”

TIP #2: Focus on performance.
KAM: “At the end of the day, the greatest resource you’ll have to make your short successful is a motivated and talented cast. While important, don’t let technical craft and aesthetics distract you from the most important thing you should be worried about: is your actor telling the story the best way he can? Are you giving him the resources he needs to do so? That’s your job. Let your crew worry about the other things, that’s why you recruited people smarter than you in those positions to begin with.”

AJB: “We shot on a soundstage, which is atypical for shorts. It was a rich environment. I didn’t have to work hard to imagine anyting because they created this amazing playground for me. My job was just to hit that light and then that light.”

TIP #3: Make sure you have a dedicated support system of producers to help you with logistics.
KAM: “This way you can focus fully on the creative. My suggestion is to have, at the very least, one producer that helps you manage the technical/creative aspects of filmmaking, and one to oversee general resource and logistical management. Make sure you get along with them very well, they’re going to be your emotional and logistical foundation during the entire process. You have to trust your producers, otherwise you’ll be up all night with a worry-ape slugging away at your chest.”

EV: “You know that saying that no one will care more about your movie than you will? We didn’t find that. These people were sweating their butts off for three days like it was their own project. It was as if it was their project.

AJB: “That’s the thing; it was their project. Everyone just wants to get behind something that they believe in.”

TIP #4: Be an actual short.
KAM: “Know what you’re trying to say, and say it in as concise of a manner as you can. My rule, keep it under fifteen minutes. Ten is better.”

AJB: “A short should be, in my mind, under ten minutes and you’ve got to tell a beginning, middle, and end of a story. I don’t see the point in making a short film that’s supposed to tell part of a different story unless it’s episodic. Shorts fail when they treat the medium as a lesser version of a feature. I don’t want to see the first act of a feature film as a 30 minute short. Just get your shit together and make the feature.”

TIP #5: Don’t be intimidated and too shy to ask for help from professionals.
KAM: “Even the biggest names want to practice their craft in their off hours, that’s what makes them the best. Also, be humble when asking for favors, but bold when pushing for people’s best work.”

AJB: “I was getting ready to go shoot a movie and Eric called me and was being way too kind, acting like I had the ability to turn anything down. He asked if I’d read the script and I said of course I would. Any chance to work with people whose opinions you respect who you think are talented, it should go without saying: that’s why you do this.”

KAM: “People think we legitimately spent $30,000 on this thing and we didn’t. What we spent was a lot of hard work and passion and favors from some very, very talented people here in Austin.”

What’s the best short film you’ve ever seen? Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Car Notes

Portlandia Keeps Road Rage In Park

Get a lesson in parking etiquette on a new Portlandia.

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It’s the most American form of cause and effect: Park like a monster, receive a passive-aggressive note.

car notes note

This unofficial rule of the road is critical to keeping the great big wheel of car-related Karma in balance. And naturally, Portlandia’s Kath and Dave have elevated it to an awkward, awkward art form in Car Notes, the Portlandia web series presented by Subaru.

If you’ve somehow missed the memo about Car Notes until now, you can catch up on every installment online, on the IFC app, and on demand. You can even have a little taste right here:

If your interest is piqued – great news for you! A special Car Notes sketch makes an appearance in the latest episode of Portlandia, and you can catch up on it now right here.

Watch all-new Portlandia Thursdays at 10P on IFC.

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Naked and Hungry

Two New Ways to Threeway

IFC's Comedy Crib gets sensual in time for Valentine's Day.

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This week, two scandalous new digital series debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib.
Ménage à Trois invites people to participate in a real-life couple’s fantasy boudoir. And The Filling is Mutual follows two saucy chefs who invite comedians to make food inspired by their routines. Each show crosses some major boundaries in sexy and/or delicious ways, and each are impossible to describe in detail without arousing some awkward physical cravings. Which is why it’s best to hear it directly from the minds behind the madness…

Ménage à Trois

According to Diana Kolsky and Murf Meyer, the two extremely versatile constants in the ever-shifting à trois, “MàT is a sensually psychedelic late night variety show exploring matters of hearts, parts and every goddamn thing in between…PS, any nudes will be 100% tasteful.”

This sexy brainchild includes sketches, music, and props that would put Pee-wee’s Playhouse to shame. But how could this fantastical new twist on the vanilla-sex variety show format have come to be?

“We met in a UCB improv class taught by Chris Gethard. It was clear that we both humped to the beat of our own drum; our souls and tongues intermingled at the bar after class, so we dove in head first.”

Sign me up, but promise to go slow. This tricycle is going to need training wheels.

The Filling is Mutual

Comedians Jen Saunderson and Jenny Zigrino became best friends after meeting in the restroom at the Gotham Comedy Club, which explains their super-comfortable dynamic when cooking with their favorite comedians. “We talk about comedy, sex, menses, the obnoxiousness of Christina Aguilera all while eating food that most would push off their New Year’s resolution.”

The hook of cooking food based off of comedy routines is so perfect and so personal. It made us wonder about what dishes Jen & Jenny would pair with some big name comedy staples, like…

Bill Murray?
“Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to… Oh, that’s easy Meatballs with Lingonberry Space Jam it’d be great, but then we’d have to avoid doing any kind of silly Groundhog Day reference.” 

Bridget Everett?
“Cream Balls… Sea Salt encrusted Chocolate Ganache Covered Ice Cream Ball that melt cream when you bite into them.” 

Nick Kroll & John Mulaney? 
“I’d make George and Gil black and white cookies from scratch and just as we open the oven to put the cookie in we’d prank ’em with an obnoxious amount of tuna!!!”

Carrie Brownstein & Fred Armisen? 
“Definitely a raw cacao “safe word” brownie. Cacao!”

Just perfect.

See both new series in their entirety on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Dark Arts

Foot Fetish Jesus And Other Nightmares

Meet the minds behind Comedy Crib's latest series, Quirks and The Mirror.

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The Mirror and Quirks are really, really strange. Deeply disturbing yet hauntingly beautiful. But you really don’t need to read a synopsis of either of the aforementioned shows to understand the exact variety of nightmare-bonkers comedy these shows deliver — that’s why the good lord made links. Instead, take a peek behind the curtain and meet the creators.

Quirks

Let’s start with Kevin Tosi. Kevin does the whole show by himself. That doesn’t mean he’s a loner — Kevin has a day job with actual humans. But that day job is copywriting. So it’s only natural that his suppressed demons would manifest themselves in biting cartoon form, including “Foot Fetish Jesus”, in ways that somehow speak to all of us. If only all copywriters channeled their inner f*ckedupness into such…expressive art.

The Mirror

Onward to the folks at Wham City Comedy.

These guys aren’t your typical comedy collective in that their work is way more left-field and even elevated than your standard digital short. More funny weird than funny ha-ha. They’ve done collaborations with musicians like Beach House, Dan Deacon & Wye Oak, television networks (obviously), and others. Yeah they get paid, but their motivation feels deeper. Darker. Most of them are video artists, and that explains a lot.

See more of The Mirror and Quirks on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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