I began the year 2007 as someone who saw himself as a dramatic filmmaker. Not because drama was what I cared or felt passionate about, but rather because it was all that they taught me in college.
You see in film school they don’t really discuss “comedy” all that much. In fact, some professors will look down upon it. My take on those who don’t like comedy is that they just weren’t good at it themselves, so they wrote it off as a genre.
But the professors aren’t the issue, given that film school’s would study comedy more if the students themselves cared about comedy, but to the common film student Animal House is old and unfunny, Bill Murray is only good if he’s in a Wes Anderson or Sophia Coppola film, Judd Apatow is a conservative demon, and Adam Sandler doesn’t exist outside of nightmares and Punch Drunk Love.
Naturally this rubbed off on me in my early film school years. My first student films were all intended to be serious, but once I got on set, the part of me that still laughed at the utterance of anything that sounded like it could be a private part came out. Thus, I had short black and white silent films about the true meaning of Christmas turn in to my friends playing homeless people getting beat up and thrown down steps, and my friends making silly faces in hotel rooms pretending to order hookers as if they’re Dominos Pizza. Silly stuff that has since been lost.
This drive to be a serious filmmaker lead me to write a dramatic and ambitious project that I intended to undertake as my Advanced Film Production, the prelude to Thesis. Unfortunately for me then, bur fortunately for me now, that project got rejected for being too grand in scale. Disappointed, but realizing opportunity in rejection, I dug inside myself and out came Karaoke Night, my first comedy, my first real film, and the project that still serves as the Bible of the Jason Michael Brescia Cosmos.
The truth is that Karaoke Night was sitting inside me for awhile. I always enjoyed the “art” of karaoke, and all of the songs in the film are based on one’s that I had actually performed at various karaoke outings. Lame, yes, but fun as well, and at least it was personal. That’s my motto that I always stand true to when making films; Make it personal. There’s so much sanitary stuff out there, especially in comedy, making it personal is the only way to make sure that I remain motivated throughout all the countless hours that go into making a ten minute short, let alone anything bigger.
In past entries I’ve discussed the casting of Karaoke Night and the personal failures in making the film, but there is something to the film that makes it absolutely perfect to me. A lot of heart went into making it, and we were by far the youngest and least experienced team making an AP (Advance Production) that semester. That’s the definition of making it “personal.”
I’d love to discuss every beat of writing, pre-production, production, and post-production with you, but before I do that I figure it may be best for you to just watch the film first. So do that, and then read on. It’s only 10 minutes, 10 very weird, amateur minutes, but 10 minutes that will allow you to actually care about what I write the remainder of this entry:
That Neil, he’s definitely the best character in any of my movies, and “Do you want chips? With that?” is still my greatest moment as a writer, director, and actor, and in case you were wondering, yes, that’s me as Clark.
I still think the film has great end credits, and I love the 1997 A.D intro. That was the touch the film needed. So silly, to the point where it should make me cringe today. But it doesn’t, which is why I love it.
We shot the film in the basement of a dorm building on campus. In retrospect we probably should have just shot at a bar, but it’s hard to get a bar to allow you to shoot during any reasonable hours. It’s my fault that the film looks like it’s in outer-space. I had the bright idea to black out all the walls.
The way it looked, that was all correctable. I wasn’t too worried about it long term. It was a bit of an ego cancer for me, but it gave me the determination to make sure my stuff always looked good after that. For some it was easy to blame Dillon, the DP, but that’s unfair and totally wrong. Dillon just did what I asked him to do, and he couldn’t make the location better, or the walls not black. All of that was fixable, and it was good that we made those mistakes on Karaoke Night while we could afford to make any mistake we could make.
What was euphoric about Karaoke Night was that when it screened people ate it up. When I put it online, people ate it up. It didn’t matter that it didn’t look great, because the material was good.
And that’s the hard part.
What Karaoke Night was really about was confidence. With Karaoke Night I finally had something to show people to state that I was a filmmaker. It was something I was proud of. I thought it was funny. Others thought it was funny. It wasn’t great, it was barely even good, but I was on to something.
Since then I’ve done nothing with my life besides build off of that film. I’ve taken the stuff that does work and built on it, and I’ve learned how to fix the things that didn’t work (a budget for locations and production design is pretty much the best remedy).
Had I had done that ambitious drama I probably still would have gotten into comedy, but it wouldn’t have meant as much to me as it does now. Thanks to Karaoke Night I basically got my degree in comedic film.
I plan on doing a re-cut of the film really soon. The entire first minute of the film is pointless. The film can and should be cut down. I’ll do that soon, and one day I look to bring further closure to Karaoke Night by doing a remake.
I’m not stupid, I know the film itself isn’t very good. I knew that in 2007, and I know that now. But I learned a lot while making it, so much so that I’m still making films about 5 years later, while a lot of my classmates have since quit the film-making game altogether. I know that without this film there’s a good chance I’d be joining them.
In making Karaoke Night and by having Neil’s bare-ass shaking back and forth over my face, I found my calling, and surprisingly it wasn’t gay porn… It was comedy.
Jason Michael Brescia
December 26, 2011 11:45 PM Eastern Standard Time