Usually the Straight is regaled with tales of terror, panic, and more terror when we talk to the sleep-deprived survivors of the Crazy8s short-film competition. Not this year.
When a chipper Christopher Graham gets on the phone with us, a mere 48 hours after wrapping, he’s hard-pressed to remember anything that went wrong during the (albeit intense) eight-day production of “Extra-Ordinary Amy”—which is astonishing, given the quality and seemingly opulent production values that went into the 15-minute film.
“There were times when I was frustrated, sure, but people really pulled through,” says the filmmaker whose résumé includes a handful of horror shorts.
“Crazy8s put me into a different scope of filmmaking than I’m used to. When I came on, I thought, ‘Oh, we’re just going to make a thousand-dollar film.’ But it was huge. I got the chance to direct an almost union-level set, in a very short amount of time. It was a gigantic learning experience. A better film school than film school.”
Graham adds that the animal wrangling, catering, and on-screen limo came via sponsorship—“Just because of the name ‘Crazy8s’; it carries that far”—on top of the workshops, $1,000 budget, and production/tech package supplied to each of the six qualifying teams, chosen this year from a whopping 228 pitches received by the competition.
Technically, “Extra-Ordinary Amy” achieves a stately blend of effects with live action, while Graham manages to sustain the macabre fairy-tale quality required by screenwriter Zlatina Pacheva’s tale of a young girl’s arrival at the “Walton Wallace Home for Disturbed Children” after losing both her parents to a mysterious fire.
If Graham’s biggest challenge was scaling up, Melanie Jones appreciated the chance to dial things down a little after touring the festival circuit with her feature (and 2016 Georgia Straight cover story) FSM.
“I was very attracted to the idea of coming back and making a particular kind of short,” the writer-director tells the Straight. “A little bit weird and a little bit stylish—or so I hope.”
“Shuttlecock” is, indeed, weird and stylish, and very funny. Cowriter Rhona Rees plays former Olympic badminton hopeful Winnie, on the comeback (and revenge) trail years after being sidelined by an on-court injury. (“Until you’ve taken a cock to the eye at 200 miles per hour,” she tells a group of school kids, “you don’t know what pain is.”)
Besides Rees’s very game performance, “Shuttlecock” boasts some real technical chutzpah in the shape of its slow-motion sequences and a painstakingly choreographed, uninterrupted minutelong take set to the Pack a.d.’s “Battering Ram”.
“There was only a couple of scenes where we had to rush a little bit and maybe lose one piece of coverage that we would have liked to have. But we got every piece that we needed,” reports Jones, who otherwise praises the "invaluable" script advice provided by Crazy8s’ story editor, Rudy Thauberger.
“It’s part of my aesthetic to write the way that I want to cut the film,” Jones says. “What I can credit Rudy with the most was his advice about how we could use the cutting between scenes to actually enhance the comedy. That’s feedback that we can’t possibly fathom because we’re too inside of it.”
So, insane schedule aside, did the “Shuttlecock” crew encounter any real problems at all?
“It was really hard to find a location that would let us get into their space without losing any business,” Jones answers with a chuckle. “We had no idea that badminton players were so passionate and intense.”
The 19th annual Crazy8s gala screening takes place at the Centre in Vancouver for Performing Arts on Saturday (February 24). More information is at the Crazy8s website.