It all started when Aunt Chris had her movie transferred to DVD, and then showed it at my Dad's birthday party.
Well, to back up even more, it started in 1971 when Uncle Fred was taking a film class and shot a silent movie on 8mm film starring his young wife (Aunt Chris) and best friend Byron. The story of the film is that a man breaks into an apartment to try to rob it, and ends up getting shot by the occupant. As kids we cousins used to spend our time during family holiday parties in my Grandparents basement watching Grandpa's old home movies, and this one. It got to where we knew every scene by heart and would shout out sound effects and commentary on the background images (look at those gas prices!) on cue every time. Then time and technology changes took over and the movie was lost but for our memories of it, until now.
So with the whole family gathered we watched the movie once again and everyone shouted out the same old lines, and the new generation of young cousins were mesmerized. And then it was said: "We should make a sequel!"
Next thing you know I am writing a screenplay of a CSI/cold case type story that included many of the props from the original movie that are remarkably still in the families possession, and begins with Cale finding a bone on the beach. I cast most of the family members in the various roles, and sent out emails with their lines and the day we would be filming.
We shot all of the scenes in two days using my father's 12 year old hi-8 video camera and the video feature on my Kodak. The lighting design consisted of a shop light clipped to the camera tripod, and an extension cord. It all took way longer than I expected it to. There is so much involved in setting up every scene such as camera angles, getting good sound, arranging the props and rehearsing. There were lots of mistakes and bloopers making for an entertaining outtake reel that is as long as the movie!
Almost every family member readily agreed to appear in the movie, with the exception of my two brothers-in-law. So we put their names on missing persons files to be added to the background props. There was a lot of ad-libbing, and we changed the script to fit the situation. Matthew got a new puppy? Write it in! Even my dad got in on the action, and completed his scene in one flawless take. We joked that was because his background as a Lawyer was acting all along.
As we lugged equipment and props across her house Mary Beth commented that "Normal people aren't doing this today." Very true but normal people weren't having this much either!
The difficult part came when I had to transfer the videos to the computer. There was much more involved than I thought when I noticed our computer had Windows Movie Maker that came with Vista when we got it. I had to use special cords and a converter box, and Timmy downloaded a free trial of Sony Vegas that would accept all of the different formats we ended up with.
Vegas turned out to be a very powerful editing program that is extremely difficult for a newbie to learn and use. With the help of my brilliant son I eventually got to the fun part of selecting and arranging the scenes, and adding sound effects, transitions, and music. I very much enjoyed working on it until the project got so big and complicated that the more I did the more I messed other parts up. That's when it was time to call it a wrap.
After even more ado we were able to format and transfer it to a DVD, ready to show the family at our Easter party.
I was so excited to watch each person straighten up a bit as their scenes came along, and to hear everyone howl with laughter at all of the inside family jokes we had thrown in. Of course they were all full of compliments for the almost professional quality of the production.
Looking back, it does seem a little bit crazy to go through all of this just to amuse the family for a half an hour. But it was really more than that. Just like the original film, this movie and the experience of making it are now part of our legend. Each person is forever preserved exactly as they were that weekend, digitally immortalized into a silly story that's as entertaining to watch as it was to make.
My mother commented that it was a shame that I wasn't in the movie, but I don't see it that way. This thing, the whole project of it, is my creation, from a part of me that is more personal than the image of my face or the sound of my voice. It is my art. I have found that I have a need to create, whether its through my profession, or scrapbooking, or even this blog. I made a movie!