Profile: Chubby Productions
Guerilla Filmmaking 101
Thanks to the ever-decreasing price of quality digital filmmaking equipment, making your own movies has evolved considerably from 'Dance Recital 7', and Toronto's myriad film festivals provide everyone from the newest neophyte to the most avant-guard with a curious and willing audience.
It also means that while filmmaking of yore takes ages - shooting, developing the film, cutting by hand, etc etc - all this modern technology means movies can be made chez-toi cheap, fast and dirty (should you so desire).
I, and a couple friends, recently got our hands dirty with Bryan Piitz, a local filmmaker of the guerilla persuasion - his production company goes by the name of Chubby Productions (you can, and should, watch some of his work on the site).
We spent Monday running around High Park, playing with Bryan's Sharp VL-NZ50. After breaking for a root beer float and lemonade, he showed us how to cut the footage using Adobe Premiere (years of practice greatly expedited the process - all of the equipment is user friendly, but speed comes with practice).
Not wanting to keep all the good times to myself, I asked Bryan a few questions so you blogTO kids can run out and make a movie if you should find yourself twiddling your thumbs on a slow weekend (and you have yet to stumble across a similarly D.I.Y. enthusiast with an afternoon free to give you the tour).
Katherine: When did you start making shorts?
Bryan: I'd made a few shorts with my friends when I was in high school. We did a lot of wacky stuff with voices stolen from TV shows and movies. After I got kicked out of acting school (Humber Theatre), I had wanted to make movies featuring my acting, to sort of go, "Kick ME out of acting school? I'll show you!" but instead I really just discovered that I liked the process of making movies. So the next year I attended Seneca College and took a broadcasting course to learn the technical process of video. I think everyone has one or two bad movies in them, and luckily I was able to make those movies at school, and got them out of my system. Then I worked as an editor for a while, doing a lot of stuff for The Second City. When I left there, I felt as though I was ready to make stuff of my own, and so "Chubby Productions," was born.
Katherine: Where did you get your camera?
Bryan: I use the Sharp VL-NZ50 that I purchased for $350 at factorydirect.ca. It was the cheapest camera I could find at the time. I had intended it to be used mainly as a MiniDV deck for editing, but has become my main camera. I like it because it is small and easy to get places. It has almost no special features at all, which really cuts down on shooting time, as there's really only the ability to turn it on and go (for better or worse). It also only has one mic, on the front, which is why we do a lot of close ups for dialogue.
Katherine: How long does it take you to finish a project, and who helps out?
Bryan: It's very rare for me to take more than an afternoon to shoot anything. That's partly because our movies are so short, but also because I can't sit still long enough to light anything properly. Most of my films are made in the Midland, Ontario area (my hometown) with my friends, whom I trust. Trust is very important when you work quickly, as I do, often without a "script." You've got to be able to say, "Okay, you're a priest who shoots himself in the head...GO!" and know that it will work. Trust is important. Also, my friends know me well enough to put up with my crazy ideas.
: What's your favourite piece so far? And what have you been working on lately?
Bryan: Of all the stuff we've done on the website, I think "Dr. Kip's Clinic of Pummelology," has been my favourite.
I just like all the silly, silly violence. We filmed it in the back of a kitting store, which is something I find too amusing. But, of course, I've also got a big soft spot for Albert Evanston. We'll be seeing him again really soon.
I did a project called, "Rocket: The Twelve Hour Commute," which is a thirty-minute documentary in which I travelled to every TTC subway station in a day. It took about 12 hours to do all 64 stations on all 3 lines. I had intended it to be a cheerful travelogue of sorts, but it instead turned out to just be a lot of shots of me looking more and more disheveled as the day went on.
I had submitted the film to the TIFF and Cinefest Sudbury. TIFF turned me down (very politely, I should add), but I haven't heard anything from Cinefest yet. Their extended deadline isn't until this Friday, so I'm sure it'll be a while before I hear anything.
The only festival that Chubby has been involved in is "Darryl's Hard Liquor and Porn Party", which is a showcase for fake adult film parodies. They seek out big ideas with low production value, which is perfect for us. They're really nice folks, and the festival is always a blast! (We've had a few movies in that festival over the years, including "Albert Evanston Shaves His Balls!" "Deliveries At Rear," and, "All About the Love.")
Katherine: Finally, do you have any advice for wannabe filmmakers?
1. It's "guerilla," not "gorilla." If you get them mixed up, you'll get teased.
2. Start small. Do something that's 1 minute long before you do something that's 1 hour long. If you bite off more than you can chew, you'll just have to spit it out and then no one will want to eat it.
3. BE POLITE! Some people think "guerilla" means you have to break rules and be a jerk about property and such. You'll find that if you just ask people nicely, they will most often give you permission to locations, costumes, music, etc. If they don't give you permission, try to respect their decision. They may warm up a bit later on down the road and give you permission for your next movie. Be creative and obey the law.
4. Do what you can with what you've got. I know a lot of people who don't make movies because they "Don't have enough money," or some such thing. It doesn't always matter what kind of equipment you have, it's how you use it. Be creative with your script (if you have one) and don't be too rigid with the details. If you have to shoot in a park instead of on a soundstage, then do that. The $10 movie you make will ALWAYS be better than the $100 000 movie that you didn't make.
5. HAVE FUN. If you don't, your crew won't. Neither will your audience.
6. FEED EVERYONE! I can't stress that enough. A $20 pizza goes a long way to keeping your crew happy.
7. Don't try to be the next Kevin Smith, Quentin Tarantino or Peter Greenaway. Be the first (insert your name here).
As far as I'm concerned, Bryan certainly has a singular aesthetic - check out Chubby Productions and get inspired - I highly recommend "Albert Evanston Shaves His Balls."
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