Saturday, July 12, 2008

The First Scene is Over Eighteen Minutes Long

We knew that the film's very first scene, which pits out hero against a rather large and unexpected charge on his utility bill, would be a bit of a set-piece, involving five different shoots-- four of which have been completed.

With most of the footage in the bag, we started putting it together, and we came to the realization that, as the title of this post says so succintly, the first scene is over eighteen minutes long. That benchmark was arrived at by reserving three minutes for the portions of the scene that will be shot on that mysterious fifth shoot (more details about that when it happens). That is, by the way, a very conservative estimate, that three minutes; it could very easily be five or six and, to be frank, probably will be. In which case we'd be looking at a scene that was over twenty minutes long-- all before the opening credits.

You're probably asking yourself, "Are these people crazy?" And, last I checked, we were not.

"Does anything happen in this scene?"

Yes! In fact, a lot happens in this scene. There might not be any explosions, but it moves quickly, in its way, starting small and gradually building up momentum like a boulder rolling down a hill.

And-- I'd like to think-- it's funny. What we're attempting here, and what (I dare say) we're accomplishing, is to take a very ordinary event and, step-by-step, pile one detail or complication on top of another. Each detail is credible on its own, and each step from one to the other is equally credible, but by the time you reach the scene's apex, the difference between the beginning and that climax is starkly ridiculous.

"Isn't eighteen minutes plus way too long?"

And the answer to that one depends on the scene. In the case of this particular scene, I think, the answer is "no". So much of the Funny here derives from reactions, timing, and hesitancies that to excise them would not only make the scene less funny (and thus the film as a whole) but would also damage our carefully constructed structure (and thus the film as a whole).

So, we're very proud of this "little" scene. At the same time, we're a little conflicted about the length. Yes, it is as long as it needs to be, but at the same time, an eighteen minute set piece revolving around a mysterious charge on a utility bill doesn't exactly command the attention of festival committees or potential distributors.

It also doesn't help to win over most audiences. We're not really "arthouse" people-- we're very populist in our taste and our approach. Populist, I suppose, but also admittedly somewhat peculiar. Which has also proven to be a problem in the past: not weird enough for the crazy festivals, not "respectable" or dumbed-down enough for the prestigious ones.

We've got a niche, I think, and I think that means that once you've seen one of our films, you won't soon forget it. And those that dig our films are going to dig them more than your ordinary run-of-the-mill movie, and those that don't won't with a vengeance.

And that's fine-- that's well and good.

The problem is, of course, before you can see the film and fall madly in love with it, we've got to get it out there.

Hopefully, however, the presence of the fifth actor in that first scene-- the part that hasn't been shot yet-- will at least get those festival judges to give us enough time to win them over. Who is this mystery guest star? Well, until we're sure it's on we're not going to try and jinx it by putting his name out there.

But our fingers, as always, are crossed.

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