Shorts Program 2, including:
EFFED! and BEASTS OF THE REAL WORLD
Saturday, April 5 @ Angelika
Sunday, April 6 @ Angelika
It’s OK to admit it. That as you drift into the sweet land of sleep, weird little things sneak into your mind. Late at night, the darkness becomes a canvas for your brain, and it spits out surprising, random images like a proud pet cat plopping a squirrel’s head at your feet.
DIFF’s Late Night Shorts are a chance to get in touch with your inner oddities. This year, the shorts include anthropomorphic food items stabbing each other and the crumbling of modern society as we know it.
In EFFED! the apocalypse we’ve all been waiting for has finally come, but instead of a blaze of hellfire, it’s in the form of something much more frightening to the modern American: no more gas for our cars. With peak oil having come come and gone, humanity is reduced to depravity and desperation, and best friends Levy and Hitchbourne must pedal their tandem bicycle through the California desert, fighting off rival humans along the way. With witty dialogue, hilarious cameos by Ted Levine and Zach Braff, and perfect chemistry between the best-friends-in-real-life actors, director Renny Maslow’s film makes Armageddon seem not so bad after all.
DIFFAfter directing lots of successful (and funny) commercials, EFFED! is your first short film. How was the process as producer, editor and director?
Renny Maslow: Wearing all those hats certainly made it personal. In terms of producing it, I had to be the biggest advocate and source of passion behind the project which is not something normally asked of me in commercials. As the director and editor (and editing is where I got my start) I was really able to shape the story and see my vision through. As a result, the film feels like a very pure expression of my sensibilities.
DIFF: The location where you filmed, with an old gas station and abandoned church, looks perfect as post-apocalyptic America. Where is it?
RS: We shot about three hours outside of LA in the Mojave desert in a town called Amboy. This is one of those Route 66 “towns” that’s barely hanging on by a thread. Not sure if the church is truly abandoned, but it was certainly in total disrepair. We tagged up the outside and helped it along, but the cross on the steeple was naturally crooked.
DIFF: Was the church abandoned? If not, how did they feel about using the location as a site where Levy is seduced and robbed?
RS: Using the church as a key location for, yes a hand job and thievery, was a conscious decision to indicate how even our most sacred societal institutions will crumble as part of our de-evolution. We were trying to expose all that we take for granted about the apocalypse. It’s become such a celebrated genre in entertainment, we tend to ignore the actual signs of the apocalypse that are clearly staring us in the face, like peak oil.
DIFF: Along with smart dialogue, the dynamic between Levy and Hitchbourne makes EFFED! feel very believable. They’ve got a touch of Harry and Lloyd or Bill and Ted to them.
RS: Ethan (Levy) and Adrian (Hitchbourne) are old friends of mine from Northwestern University. They have been writing and performing together for years and that chemistry is an incredibly powerful thing you just cannot break. It was vital to the project. While civilization crumbles and people switch into survival mode they will become understandably selfish and eventually ruthless like the other characters in the film. The friendship between Levy and Hitchbourne (while all the while bitching and moaning) was meant to symbolize the last hope that society can weather the storm.DIFF: Had you reached out to Ted Levine and Zach Braff prior to the project, or how did they get involved? And how much did you enjoy having Zach shot in the face?
RS: We reached out to Ted Levine with the script and he quite surprisingly was interested. This was an incredible get for us, as we needed a truly textured character for this role. We wanted to play against type, and interestingly Ted was looking to do more comedic work. He was incredible just to have around. His presence is felt whether he’s acting or just being Ted.
Zach was a friend from film school who we reached out to, and again he was generous enough to come and play with us in the desert. The scene with Zach being held at gun point was almost entirely improvised. The script went out the window, and this intense barrage of dialogue came out that I only fully realized the brilliance of in the edit room. He was a great sport to shoot himself in the face.
DIFF: Did you hope December 2012 was really going to be the Apocalypse? You could have gotten even more material.
RS: Don’t you worry, the apocalypse is happening. We’re in it right now. It’s gonna be a slow burn
DIFF: If modern society were to fall apart, when and how would it happen?
RS: I have total faith that modern society will crumble apart. I can’t say specifically how it will unfold or how long it will take. But there’s no doubt that mankind is completely capable of making it happen. We are the cause.
DIFF: What’s at the top of Renny Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?
RS: Top of my Maslow’s hierarchy is to shoot another 80 minutes of EFFED! so we can see what lies ahead for Levy, Hitchbourne and rest of us.
In BEASTS OF THE REAL WORLD, director and animator Sol Friendman creates an unusual experimental piece that starts out innocently at a sushi restaurant then veers into animated and paranormal encounters with ghosts, robots, skeletons and, as mentioned, a battle of food versus … other food.
DIFF: What exactly does the film’s title refer to?
DIFF: Who are the “beasts”?
SF: I would say that the characters are all a bit beastly.
DIFF: Did you start out with a specific idea or experiment as you went along?
SF: A bit of both. I had planned from the beginning to play with footage from the camera on the conveyor belt, and I had some other ideas for experimental camera treatments, but for the most part, we just kinda set things up and let them flow.
DIFF: How long did the animated and 3d animated portions take to complete?
SF: The 3D animation sequences were fairly complicated and took about a month or so to complete. The 2D animation sequences, on the other hand, came together (from drawings to completed animations) in about 3-4 days.
DIFF: What was the most challenging part of making this short?
SF: When the camera falls in the forest and things go a bit out of control – the shot is continuous for almost a full minute with a bunch of overlapping VFX elements. The complex compositing (digitally-layering elements to create a composition) for this shot; factoring in the timing, choreography, performances and various other considerations, made it one of the most complex and challenging VFX shots that I’ve ever worked on.
DIFF: This film finds a visually creative and funny way to highlight the violence at the core of most cuisine. What is the most violent experience you have ever had with a meal?
SF: I had been a vegetarian for about 10 years, and in 2007, as a rite of passage before I started eating meat again, I killed and ate a chicken in Nepal.
DIFF: Late one night, when my sister was about five years old, she snuck downstairs and started digging around in the refrigerator. When my dad found her, she claimed a ghost had told her to eat a hot dog. It’s a story we regularly tease her about on holidays or casual get-togethers. Based on your experiences with food and otherworldly creatures, do you believe she may actually have been telling the truth?
SF: Yes. The exact same thing happened to my wife.
DALLAS STAR AWARDS
Cheryl Boone Isaacs is the first African-American President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and only the third woman to hold the office.
John Kricfalusi, the creator of Ren & Stimpy, is the recipient of the 2014 Texas Avery Animation Award presented by REEL FX.
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