Two weeks ago, I met up with Micah, the co-lead of my new film, Wait, at a bar in North Hollywood. A few drinks into our conversation, he asked me if I would help edit the 48 Hour Film Festival short he was about to make with his friends. I said I was game, and a few minutes later (around 8 p.m. on Friday Feb. 7), Micah and three of his friends attended the opening ceremony of a 48 Hour Film Festival, where several teams of eager filmmakers were given the rules.
2. Must be 4-8 minutes long
3. Must contain a plunger
4. Must contain the line of spoken dialogue: “The opera chef cooks and sings.”
5. Must contain a character named Maxwell Geanalkoplis
6. Must stay within the genre randomly assigned to the team
Micah and his crew pulled the musical genre out of a hat (no, really…) and were off and running. At 2 p.m. on Saturday Feb. 8, Micah asked me if I would shoot the movie, rather than edit it. They were going to start shooting at 2 a.m., technically the morning that the film was due. And after wrapping my head around the fact that I was going to be shooting an entire film in the middle of one night, I anxiously agreed.
In the interim, Micah and his crew prepped the story. They quickly came up with a humorous reimagining of Les Misérables, which included Micah rewriting the lyrics to a handful of songs from the musical.
At 2 a.m., I began the whirlwind experience of shooting Les Merde, starring Micah Parker, Matt Brown, Colin Flynn and Luca Perito. The result is a purposefully absurd send-up of a classic. One made by five guys who love making movies, and love playing it straight within a story that is anything but.
The filming of this movie was unlike anything I’ve ever done. The five of us were engaged in a fully collaborative process. Everyone tossed ideas around freely and was heard equally. I was very careful not to direct the film, as I was only its cinematographer. This was new to me, because I had never been involved with a film that I wasn’t directing. But I loved it. It was liberating and educational, without the burdens that so often accompany directing.
It was also fast. The strict rules of time dictated that we waste not one second while filming Les Merde. We shot a scene, and moved on. Shot, moved. Shot, moved. And around 8 a.m., we wrapped production and Matt and Micah, hazed nearly blind with exhaustion, headed home and cut the thing together.
Less than a week after the film was submitted for competition, it was awarded with four honors at the Stuart Rogers Studios 48 Hour Film Festival: Best Picture, Best Screenplay, Best Actor (Micah Parker) and the Audience Choice Award.
|From left: Matt, Luca, Colin and Micah with their awards|
I was utterly thrilled by the unexpected honors, and happy that people “got” what the team was going for with this film. I’ve embedded the film below, and hope you enjoy what I like to call its intentionally melodramatic absurdity.
I’ll always remember Les Merde as a film of firsts. It was my first 48 Hour Film Festival, my first musical (and I never thought I’d be involved with a musical), my first comedy, and, perhaps most significantly, my first film experience that I wasn’t in full control of. That loss of control was unexpectedly freeing, and it’s something I’ll seek out again and again. I never thought I’d be a part of a film like this one, but I’m so happy that I was. Because really, if you told me a year ago that I would spend one early morning laying on the filthy ground of a shitty North Hollywood bathroom, pointing a camera up at an actor pretending to tense up with diarrhea, I would’ve laughed in your face. But, you know, welcome to Hollywood.