How would you like to be in the pictahs?

Read this in your best rumbling basso, movie trailer announcer voice:

Garfunkel is a courier who needs to deliver some fancy beer to a rough saloon, against the advice of his faithful steed, Tutu. Garfunkel discovers the delivery is for the very man who killed his paw, a villain with discernible tastes by the name of Il Postre (he ain’t sweet, that’s just irony). Bullets, spaghetti and hooves fly in a dramatic showdown. Revenge is served al dente.

It all started fairly simply.  Towards the end of January, I saw a listing on Dogfish Head’s Facebook page saying that they were now accepting submissions for the 2012 Off-Centered Film Festival.  There were only three requirements: 1) each film had to be under 5 minutes 2) there had to be some reference or product placement  to Dogfish Head beer, and 3) a “Western” theme had to be incorporated.

After reading the listing, I thought to myself, “I like Dogfish Head beer, and I’ve been itching to score a film,” since my last scoring gig was in the fall of 2011.  So, I made a few calls to see if I could get a crew together.  The next thing I know, I’ve got an accomplished director, animator, editor/director of photography, special effects compositor, and the beginnings of a cast.  And to my surprise, I became de facto producer.

Since I often collaborate with my good friend Brandon Cater on all things funny, I also called him to see if he would like to figure into the mix, and how.  Our brainstorming session went into overdrive, and it was decided that since this needed to be a Western, that we had to at least try to secure Frontier Town as our location.  For the uninitiated, Frontier Town is a Western Theme park in Ocean City, MD.  Having grown up there, I have many fond memories of going on bank robbing train rides, playing with lassos and whips, and in general feeling like a cowboy (emphasis on “boy”).  

Being the indispensable jack of all trades/formidably persistent dude that he is, Brandon locked down Frontier Town as our location.  He also built a bar from scratch.  He also secured costumes.  He also helped with casting.  He also starred in the film.  Brandon runs on Red Bull and cigarettes.  This is not an endorsement, but maybe I should try it considering all he can accomplish in a short period of time.

Our cast was a mix of trained and untrained (but willing) talent.  Brandon played our dubstepping hero, “Garfunkel,” foiled by Charles Keenan, our villain with a sweet tooth who goes by the name of “Il Postre.”  It should be noted that the devotion of Charles to the role did not include shaving his head or eyebrows.  He was, in fact, battling cancer during the shoot.  In February.  In a theme park with no heat because they are only open during the seasonal warmer months.  When he wasn’t shooting a scene, we huddled Charles in front of a heat lamp and piled blankets on him.  What an inspiration.  As a fantastic footnote, I’m also happy to report that Charles is now cancer free (!!!).

Garfunkel’s trusty steed Tutu was played by my good friend and neighbor, Martin Wellard.  From the moment I read the script, I thought of Martin.  We were making an absurd/acid Spaghetti Western where the horses are played by people, so naturally my British friend was the perfect man/horse for the role.

Katie and Jeremy Bohall from The Hard Times Magazine stepped in as Loretta the sassy barmaid, and “Sumplace Else,” the dim but lovable friend of “Here,” played by me (our original choice for “Here” did not show up, so I had no choice but to fill in).  Our actress for “Cute Horse” was only secured the night before shooting, and it took a few pints at the local brewery to convince her that playing a horse in yoga pants in the freezing weather for some unidentified film with a bunch of people she didn’t know was a good idea.  n.b. In retrospect, taking the entire crew out for beers the night before a 12 hour work day wasn’t the smartest move as my debut job as a film producer.  But it was fun as hell.

It was a mild winter in 2012.  So the last thing I expected when I was the first to woke up on the day of shooting was finding snow on the ground.  There would be snow in our Western.  OK, let’s roll with it.

More road blocks came up: our 82 year old “Paw” called out due to heart palpitations (he is fine now).  Brandon pleaded with his own father to come play “Paw,” who begrudgingly obliged.  Our dubstep dancer flaked – Charles and Brandon came up with their own choreography on the spot for the “duel” scene.  It really seemed like nothing could stop us, because we truly had a fantastic cast and crew with that perfect dynamic and mix of personalities that all wanted to see a great end product.

It was windy and bitterly cold.  I honestly can’t believe how overwhelmingly awesome the cast and crew maintained during the whole, grueling day.  At one point, I counted 17 people, all working with their specialized talent towards one common goal.  

Post production was equally fruitful and fun.  Jonathan Dubrowski is a Final Cut wiz.  His former student, Johnny Sullivan, gave us bullets, gun flare, and other effects that were simply incredible.  Morgan King lended his animation talents for an awesome opening segment, credits, and other surprises during the film itself.  Matt Martin did such a great job with the location audio and lighting that minimal post work had to be done (and the planets aligned for us to get Matt on the gig anyway – he’s busier than me).  I had a blast with the music.  It allowed me to go from a cheesy 60’s Western TV show style theme to woozy honky tonk piano to Morricone inspired underscoring to my first forray into dubstep.  I love a good challenge.  And all of this was done under the careful direction and supervision of Dom Hilton, who also wrote the hilarious script.  Dom and I have similar taste in comedy and art in general, and it was a real pleasure to work with him on this project.

This was an amazing experience for me.  The culmination of different aspects of performance, production, film, music, and overall execution was simply addictive.  I’ve totally been bitten by the film bug.  Stay tuned for more developments on my next production.

And lastly, I really hope that you enjoy our silly film, “Trouble’s A’Brewin,” which received its premiere at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, TX on April 21st, 2012, as part of the Off-Centered Film Festival.

Also, check out some production photos.

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