The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library had so much fun participating in last year’s Boston 48 Hour Film Project (making Los Locos Manos) that we decided to participate again in 2013. Sophia was interviewed about our participation by Wicked Bird Media!Character – Bonnie/Brian Higgins, Inventor
Prop – A net
Line – “Believe me, it’s worth it.”
Can you find the references (some explicitly referenced, some less so) to: The Prisoner, Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Land of the Lost, Terminator, Star Wars, and of course, Los Locos Manos?
Our written recaps below, but in case you like moving pictures and sounds better than words, here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at “El Loco Ojo” (contains spoilers).
We initially drew the genre “horror” (video of the pull), but as we’ve just been working so much on our feature film TEN, we decided it would be far more interesting to take a crack at another genre. So, we drew again from the wildcard selections and got “spy,” which happens to be another genre (maybe the only other genre) that we’ve also already worked in frequently (Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling – Episode 1: Arrival, Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling – First We Take Manhattan). In fact, our last 48 Hour Film Project film was a spy thriller. As such, we wanted to at least take spy into a realm we hadn’t yet explored.
I’ve been really enjoying Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Star Trek: TOS, and the original Battlestar Galactica series recently. [In fact, we’re in very early, top-secret development of a sci-fi feature inspired by these (and “related” films like Barbarella, Star Wars, etc.).] As such, we thought it would be fun to move our spy caper into space. So we did. The behind-the-scenes video shows some bits of our writing process. It took about 2 hours to generate the full concept and write the script. Read our unformatted shooting guide script (spoilers of course).
We thought it would be fun to include the character, line, and prop from last year in our film as well. We had Susannah reprise her role as Ivana Wright, decorator – 200+ years into the future. She criticizes the same painting that she criticized in Los Locos Manos, and she recites some parallel dialogue. Lisa reprised her role as the chocolate-eating, aviator-donning, head of the criminal organization, Los Locos Manos.
Friday night, Cathy and Susannah spent a lot of time writing a pair of songs for the film’s score (“Cantina Theme” and “Cantina Fight Song”). We tracked them into the early hours of the morning. I think I got to sleep about 4 AM on Friday, which was a solid 2 or 3 hours earlier than the previous year. I filled in some additional, hurried incidental music during the last hour of editing and sound work (“From Earth to Mars“). All in all, it was not quite as elaborate as our Los Locos Manos soundtrack work in 2012.
We asked around for a bar that we could use as the Saint of Glass Worms Cantina, but came up empty, so we resorted to a 9 AM trip to iParty (their opening time) – in fact we sent Jane to two different iParty stores, to collect enough silvery tablecloths to build an entire enclosed space. We flipped up our couch as a bar, covered it in some Space Balloons decorations, put some recently acquired mannequins up, and filled the place with Christmas lights (and any other strange lights we had). One of the complexities of our shoot was that it required full 360-degree movement in a single shot, so there was virtually no way to hide lights in the space. So, we lit as much as we could using lights that seemed appropriate for the space, hid a pair of 500W work lights behind the “bar” and blasted a 750W tungsten light through the door. I had to make sure never to give a direct view of the light outside the door, but was able to figure out a path of movement that made it work.
While finishing up the prep for the main space, we shot a scene of The Leader speaking that would later be projected on the wall during another scene. It gave me a little time to get used to working with the Canon XF305 camera that we had rented. I wanted to try out an XF300 series because I thought it might be a fun camera to try and own and work with in a wide range of scenarios. I ended up liking working with it, but found that it wasn’t quite as good in low light as I had hoped. I also had some operator error issues when I was trying to shoot myself in a scene and didn’t put my glasses on to check the settings. I ended up shooting some shots with too much gain (accidentally on auto gain control – oops), and I couldn’t see the graininess on the view screen without my glasses. I had thought it was looking okay. Anyway, a few of our shots ended up being a bit grainy. I fixed a couple of the shots in post-processing, but realized I did not have time to do as much fixing as I had wanted. Not a huge deal for this, but a good mistake to learn from. It’s also challenging to direct, shoot, and act in a scene. Another fine lesson! Admittedly, I had not planned to act in the film, but once we decided on a first-person perspective for a portion of the film, it made the most sense for me to just play the part and use my own arm in the perspective shots.
Once the set was completely built, we launched right into shooting the walkthrough, single-shot scene. It’s approximately a 2-minute scene. I think we did it about 15 times before I was happy enough with the performances and my camera handling. We probably could have done it another 20, but my wrist was certainly happy to stop. Walking through with an 8-pound camera and no support system while trying to keep all of the movement extremely smooth and seamless was about as fun as it sounds.
After the first-person single-shot scene was done, we moved on to the fight scene. We hadn’t written out a formal shot list, but I planned it all in my head and hurried through the shots, as we were about 8 hours behind schedule. Surprisingly, it took a lot of convincing to get Rachel and Jane to actually kick me hard enough to make it look reasonably real. In the end, we subbed in a mannequin in my outfit for the serious kicking insert shots, which ended up a bit of a mess in editing, but I ran out of time to fix them. That is the one scene that I am really not too happy with the editing on.
We busted down to the basement (the same room that the interrogation in Los Locos Manos was shot) at about midnight to shoot the eyeball installation scene. In order to make my life easier, Sophia served as a stand-in for my character, donning my jumpsuit while I got to work the camera and shoot the scene. Sophia is pretty much an expert stand-in actor at this point, having already done two stand-in scenes in TEN.
We finished shooting and tried to complete a third song that we had started for the score, but it proved to need too much work to finish for the film. Sophia drove everyone home around 3 AM while I dug in hard to the editing. I got a near assembly done and then went to sleep for 3 hours before waking again to finish the movie.
Everything was about 8 hours behind schedule, so needless to say, that had a profound effect on editing. I don’t remember much, but I probably spent all day Sunday muttering curse words under my breath while scrambling through the footage to get the film cut together. I had never previously used the XF305 file format, which I found problematic in many ways. A lot of manipulations on it resulted in glitches and problems in Premiere, so I was somewhat limited to just cuts, speed changes, and sizing.
Sophia worked all day to create the computer overlays as still images, which I turned into really basic animations (the two guns, the scanning animation, etc.). I also quickly made the final shot (which I won’t spoil) in about 10 minutes. I only had 1 hour to edit all of the sound, sync the music, add necessarily incidental music, sound effects, manipulate the modified voices, and record Sophia’s computer voiceovers. Again, there was some stressful scrambling (and muttering under my breath), but I managed to get something that worked done. There were a few sound issues – some noise from a source that I am unsure of that needs to be cleaned up (I ran out of time to do this) and a missync in the kicking scene (again, out of time).
For all of the digital overlays, I planned to do image manipulation highlighting the areas being scanned (retinas, briefcases, etc.), but just simply could not get this done because I was so far behind in coming to the post-work stage. Apparently, I prioritized reasonably well because I was able to rush and get Premiere exporting in time to get a version of the movie done to deliver to the 48 Hour Film Project administrators.
There is something great about being forced to decide which compromises to make and which major tasks to still try and tackle in the very limited time/scope. All in all, the whole thing was a blast to do and I really love working with all of the members of the band. Everyone ended up playing quite a big role in this production and it certainly wouldn’t have been the same without any of them.
|Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal|
It is not often that life presents a person with the opportunity and prodding to wear high-wasted silver-sparkle shorts over gold leggings, topped with a multi-colored sequin tank top.
It is not often. Unless you’re in the Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library. Who will film you wearing it with the rest of the Library also wearing equally as sparkly outfits among a silver backdrop. And then show the film in a movie theatre to a crowd of people. And eventually post it on YouTube.
Generally and usually, I can be found wearing one of three dozen different black tank tops and a rotating selection of cardigans I’ve pilfered from the Gap. I’ve made wardrobe choices that tend to shun sparkles and things that shine (to the dismay of my boyfriend, who really thinks I’d look great in something that sparkles, to which I can only reply open-mouthed and wide-eyed and without words, seemingly floored, aghast!, to which he then says, You’d really look good in something flashy! …To which I shake my head).
|Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal|
But I like jeans. I like sneakers. I don’t think I own one item of clothing with sequins on it.
But being part of MJEML sometimes means taking off the black tank top, putting away the jeans, and wrapping yourself in battery-powered Christmas lights. It sometimes means stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing your own limits, more specifically, pushing the limits on how much sleep is necessary to accomplish something creative.
And, while I laugh a lot about what we did for 48HFP (we put a MONKEY HEAD on a MANNEQUIN and lit up ITS FACE), I’m impressed over and over by the lines we’ve crossed as a band. We made a movie in two days. A MOVIE. TWO DAYS. From script writing to set building to music recording to film editing, we managed to actually make a sequel to our previous 48HFP. A SEQUEL. And we’re a band? What is this? I just signed up to play bass, man!
But that’s the fun part of MJEML. I could just be the bass player in the band, but in this space, we get to be more, get to move beyond being defined only by these instruments we play. MJEML offers itself to us as somewhere to showcase a lot of our individual talents outside of musicianship, whether that’s film or writing or photography or whatever. It’s kind of like wearing my regular old black tank tops while also donning those high-wasted silver shorts. Like sneakers with sequins.
Maybe I’ll bedazzle a pair of jeans.
|Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal|
In the nearly three years of the Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library’s existence, we’ve done so much more than play music at bars. From squeezing out more than 20 songs over a weekend for every speaker at TEDx Somerville to writing new strangely-themed songs monthly for the Encyclopedia Show, from pulling together a 25-minute silent film on a frigid weekend to touring the country – twice! – with minimal experience, we’ve packed a lot of intense projects into tiny spans of time. It feels like endless summer camp: barely sleeping and barely bathing while in close proximity to each other for days on end while producing amazing memories. I love that we’ve been able to make film such a huge part of the band as well, not just music.
This was our second year participating in the 48-Hour Film Project, and I can only imagine that we’ll continue to do it every year – forever and ever! – until our accumulation of sleepless hours accounts for years of time. Last year, I powered through and stayed awake virtually the entire time, but this year, real life took a toll and I passed out relatively early on the first night. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank the band for not drawing obscene Sharpie pictures on me, although I kind of deserved it for being the first to give in. (Pro tip: When someone says “I’m just going to close my eyes for a minute,” do not, under any circumstances, let those eyes close.)
|Photo by Rachel Leah Blumenthal|
I was well-rested for the next day, though, and happily spent hours prancing around in silver spandex, a lavender wig, and glittery accessories. I was excited to play a somewhat villainous role, getting to tell Mike to “go fall in a black hole” and then kicking him repeatedly. (Under the illusion that I’m a strong kicker, I was terrified of actually hurting him, so this part was pretty difficult. Eventually we put his costume on a mannequin and kicked that instead, which was, of course, tons of fun.)
I was a little sad that we chose to go a non-singing route this year as last year’s project was a musical, which was so fun to create. I would have loved to at least break out into song during the fight scene this time around. But time is limited, and you have to pick and choose where to focus for this kind of project. I’m thrilled with how everything came out; instead of spending time composing many songs, we instead spent hours creating a silver-shrouded space cantina in Mike and Sophia’s living room. For awhile, it looked like we wouldn’t be able to pull it together in a convincing way, but the end result was actually amazing.
So, in summary: Silver. Glitter. A little bit of mannequin violence. More silver. I love this band and every insane thing that we get to do together.
I know that once I say “YES” to anything Mike and Sophia propose, it’s going to be a wild creative ride with a fabulous group of fun, smart, clever people (Mike, Sophia, Lisa, Rachel, Susannah, Jane, and the absent, but very present via costumes, Johnny Blazes). Movies! Music! Videos!
As a newly minted member of the MJEML and a 48 Hour Film Project newbie, I was excited to be part of the action. I was was quite familiar with last year’s spectacular MJEML film, Los Locos Manos and was looking forward to seeing what would happen at the end of this year’s effort.
Arriving at MJE and Sophia’s at 7:30 on Friday, I was briefed on the drawing (what genre we pulled, what they traded) and next thing you know we’re talking space, sparkles, nipples (we all heard it Sophia), spies, glitter, plot, characters, and music.
Truth be told, I was dealing with a nagging cough and back injury, so my biggest fear was not being able to hold off a cough long enough to film single shot scenes with multi-character lines/interactions. I didn’t want to be taken out in the yard and shot with the laser, so I pulled it together.
Overall, this was a FUN, a unique, never did this before type of experience. I’m going to recap my favorite/least favorite parts.
1 – I didn’t have to squeeze into tiny sparkle shorts or tops (phew!), but I did get to wear a PURPLE SILVER SPACE JUMPSUIT with the BEST WHITE X-RAY SPECS, and I was twinsies with Sophia (ok – not giving away plot, but we were the band in space).
2 – Sitting around brainstorming on plot, motivation, characters, and script. It was all delicious, especially when the laser gun and eyeball got pulled out and demonstrated.
3 – MUSIC – working from just a description of the scene rather than viewing the action=awesome, but we only did 2 compositions, the third one needed too much work to have it be listenable in time. Susannah and I worked on the music and Mike recorded, while Sophia, Jane, Lisa, and Rachel were designing sets and turning a crucifix and a sparkle ball into something deadly (that last part might have been Sophia’s work!) What teamwork from EVERYONE!!
4 – Watching the transformation of a normal room into a wacky, silvery, glittery, futuristic space cantina complete with monkey man mannequin. And lights, lots of lights.
5- Got to wear the butcher outfit (from TEN) and it was way, way, too big.
6 – KENTUCKY DERBY: this is my only vice, betting on the ponies on Derby Day, and I was going to miss it by doing the movie (awwwww). Lisa was a Derby buddy – so she made mint juleps to celebrate at the end of shooting on Saturday.
7 – After all was shot and done up all space pretty, the ripping down happened late Saturday night and then it was up to Mike to pull it all together and make it something watchable, which was done on Sunday.
8 – Then, voilà, Sunday night – like magic we were watching El Loco Ojo.
And that was what I did, as a newly minted member of MJEML, over a spring 48 Hour Film Project weekend in May 2013. It’s all true to the best of my recollection. It was FANTASTIC!
I had had a rough week at work and was pretty tired, but as I searched through my house for silver sparkly accessories, I was already in a better mood. As a band we are usually able to laugh our way through our creative endeavors, and I laughed more Friday night than I had in a while.
As we began to imagine our usual practice area as a space cantina, I realized I had even more decorations at home that could help achieve it. I headed home late Friday night to gather them up and prepped for an early iParty run. I’m a big fan of weird lights, and I guess had been inadvertently decorating my home as a space bar for years. You can see my lights in the set, as well as many of the lights used for my wedding. The rental contact for my wedding wrote a post about it, and she called our lighting scheme other-worldly, so I guess I was also thinking space bar even then.
At iParty, I bought them out of silver, shimmery tablecloths and had to go to another one to get more. I walked in to the second one and they looked at me and said you want the silver stuff? How did they know? I also found some great silver dangly abstractions that worked for the glass worms, the cantina’s namesake. Little did I know, I’d also have the pleasure of hanging them all…
Mike and Sophia do not have a step ladder, and as one of the taller members of the band, I got to use a dining room chair to stand on to hang (and then take down) all of our decorations and silver tablecloth wall panels. It was like a crazy step aerobics class, as I must have stepped on that chair hundreds of times. But I was so impressed with the room we managed to create. By the end of the day, I was too exhausted to think, but I had also had such a great time, and I was so impressed with my colleagues who still had many hours to go. I don’t know how they did it.
The experience is so immersive that you forget about your real life. On Sunday, after a long night’s sleep, I woke up and started to think about my week and going back to work. It seemed so foreign, like the last time I’d been to work was weeks ago instead of 2 days ago. It was a great feeling.
ScreeningOur short film, “El Loco Ojo” screened at:
Kendall Square Cinema
Group F Screening Thursday, May 9, 9:30 PM
Screening with: Back Alley Thundergods (Sophia Khan), Collective Subconcious Productions (Ned Scannell), Far Fetched Productions (Caleb Rasak), Fix It In Post (Todd Mahoney), G-Fly and Your Real TV Inc. (Scott Gaddis), Long Shot (David Perez), LTJFilms (Timothy Bonavita), Obnots (Joed Polly), Quattro Films (Kevin Caravella), 24 friends per second (Michael Pallazola), Two Options Productions (David Powers), Wax Idiotical Films (Kyp Pilalas), World From Scratch (Rheri Kenney)
El Loco Ojo (Spy) Boston 48 Hour Film Project 2013
Team: The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library
Director/DP/SFX/Sound/Editor: Michael J. Epstein
Special Effects Assistant/Props: Sophia Cacciola
Written by: Jane Allard, Lisa Battiston, Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Catherine Capozzi, Susannah Plaster, Sophia Cacciola, Michael J. Epstein
Score: Catherine Capozzi, Susannah Plaster, Michael J. Epstein, Sophia Cacciola
Additional Music by: The Michael J. Epstein Memorial Library
Set Decorator: Jane Allard
Art Department: Jane Allard, Lisa Battiston, Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Catherine Capozzi, Susannah Plaster, Sophia Cacciola, Michael J. Epstein, Joe Kowan
Key Costumer: Johnny Blazes
Wardrobe: Jane Allard, Susannah Plaster, Lisa Battiston, Rachel Leah Blumenthal, Sophia Cacciola
Artist: Walter Sickert, Sophia Cacciola
The Leader/Cantina Proprietor: Lisa Battiston
Bonnie Higgins/Cantina Band Member 1: Catherine Capozzi
Ivana Wright: Susannah Plaster
Jane Halley: Jane Allard
Rae Gunn: Rachel Leah Blumenthal
Computer/Cantina Band Member 2: Sophia Cacciola
Number 6/Subject of Painting: Michael J. Epstein
Monkey Man: as himself
Special Thanks: Nick Zaino