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|This surreal short comedy is a delight of dirty words. A young faerie-queer aggressively pursues a tough butch guy, who's verbal rejections are of a depth and breadth that would impress even the most ardent frat boy. But wait! Is all as it seems? Could the story have a happy ending?
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After years of fooling around shooting VHS tape and editing it by dubbing from one VCR to another, I finally got up the gumption to take the free Public Access training to learn how to use professional equipment. If you complete basic training then you're authorized to operate cameras, run the mixing board, or use the editing booths. But to produce and broadcast your own original material, it was necessary to take producer training, and submit what was essentially a student film. After that was completed you could do whatever you wanted.
I had a strong intention to push the limits of Public Access programming, so I decided to come out swinging. Pard' Me was what I came up with. The foundation for the concept was the notion that there were no language restrictions in the realm of Public Access TV. I wanted my piece to be a tour de force of profanity. Given that I also wanted it to be gay-themed, it practically wrote itself. The premise was simple: one persistent nelly fag; one foul-mouthed, butch homophobe; throw in a surprise ending and voilá.
The trick was coming up with all the verbiage. The germ of it all was the term "bone smuggler." I wanted to employ similar derogatory slang, but I wasn't hip enough to really know any, and I preferred that it be mostly original anyway. What I did was write up a long list of body parts, bodily fluids, and perverse activities, flesh it out with as many synonyms as I could think of, and cross reference it thematically and alliteratively. Each theme was prompted by the respective request of the nelly fag, and from there the explatives were simply strung out into complete sentences.
With a script in hand I was then stymied by what would come to be the biggest, most pervasive obstacle for every production to come: assembling a cast. The piece only called for two actors, and I was going to be one (my video productions were more than a creative outlet for me; it was a way to get my mug on screen). I only needed one more performer, and it was hard to come by. I had one guy in mind. It was a cute guy I knew nominally from the local gay bar. I didn't know if he could act, but I didn't care. I liked his look and his energy. I figured I could work with whatever talent he had. I approached him about it, and while he was surprised that I asked him, he agreed to do it. And he then proceeded to stall, procrastinate, and avoid me. When I finally cornered him he admitted that he was way too shy to go through with it. That was fine, but I wished he'd said that from the start and saved me all the wasted time. In the end I did what I should have done from the start, and that was draft my friend Monté
The next task was to secure a location. I decided on the aforementioned gay bar. I approached the owner. He was a little hesitant, but ultimately said it would be fine as long as I didn't get in the way of his customers. We scheduled the shoot for immediately after opening time when the crowd was at its leanest. I came up with a couple costumes (thankfully I'm a total pack rat), reserved the equipment, loaded up my car, picked up Monté, and headed up to the bar.
The next lesson that I learned was what a pain in the ass a video shoot could be. Setting up the camera was a hassle. Arranging the lighting was a pain. And reciting the lines was impossible. The original concept was for the whole thing to be done in one continuous take, but there was no way in hell I was going to be able to get all that verbiage out. And even if I did, what were the odds that Monté would be able to spit out his final tirade without error. We wound up shooting it twice, once with the camera on me and once with the camera on Monté. Each of us would hold up a cue card off camera for the other. It wasn't what I originally intended, but it worked well enough.
Finally we were done and I struck the set. When I shut off the bright light, one of the barfly queens at the far end of the room exclaimed, "Finally!" making sure to say it loud enough that I could hear. It was a sting that would make me uneasy about every public shoot I would do for the rest of my days.
Next I brought the tapes into the studio for editing. I was immediately aghast to find that there was no audio. The technician at the studio recommended that I use a proximity zone microphone (PZM) because I could just lay it out next to us and it would pick up everything that was said. What he failed to point out was that unlike other microphones, it had to be switched on. After all that hassle, I had to re-shoot the entire thing.
At this point I was totally exasperated. I just wanted the project to be over with so I could get my accreditation and move on. I didn't have the gumption to shoot out at the bar again, so I decided to just shoot it in my house. It really didn't make any sense that this nelly fag would be following the butch guy around when the two of them were the only ones ambling around this house, but it would have to do.
It was still a hassle to set up all the equipment, but the privacy of my house allowed us to relax and take our time. We did the cue card thing again, and this time switched from location to location inside my house. In a couple hours we were done.
Now I could really get to work in the editing booth. Right away I started learning lessons. One was to keep ever vigilant on continuity. In one sequence a beer bottle kept switching from one of my hands to the other, and in another one my leather jacket mysteriously disappeared only to reappear in the next shot.
Another lesson was how tricky it is to get good audio. Despite the promise of the PZM, the levels were way too low in almost every shot, and the damn thing picked up a lot of rustling and other background noise that I didn't want. Audio would prove to be a problem for me again and again and again as I continued producing vidoes.
Finally, as the piece came together and I reviewed it as a whole, I learned the lesson of pace. The opening exchange, which seemed so funny in my head, just moved way too slowly. I was in danger of losing the audience before the piece even got going. I learned that you need to reach out and grab the viewer by the balls from the very start.
I was still faced with the fact, though, that it made no sense for the two characters to be walking around the house by themselves. In a last ditch effort to cover that, I found some audio that might make it sound like they were at a party. It was actually background noise from video I had shot in the parking lot outside a Grateful Dead concert. It didn't really work, but it was the best I could do.
Ultimately the piece was good enough to submit for broadcast on the Public Access channel, and it got me my accreditation. Despite all the problems, the dialog was good, it was definitely attention-getting, and overall it was an entertaining couple of minutes. That Fall I attended my first film festival, and I submitted it to the Gong Show event which accepted tapes on the spot. To my surprise, it garnered its own little rooting section, and wound up getting third place. It's far from my best work, but for a first stab it wasn't bad.
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