“Bro, we gotta raise it.”
That’s the phrase that launched the The Newest Pledge. To elaborate let me take you back to 2008; Ridiculously Emo was in the can and receiving all sorts of accolades, Wet Cigarettes was in the pipeline and had high expectations, and Sean Tsaconas, Tombstone Stinton, and myself were at our peak in regards to our post-Karaoke Night “immature-galore” styled humor.
One day, while making fun of how “bro” one of our peers was (something we did all too often in those days), we threw out the idea of a baby being left on the doorstep of a frat house. The next thing to spurt out was “bro, we gotta raise.” I remember we all broke into tears laughing at the concept, mostly because the picture in our heads of that particular peer raising a baby was hilarious. A few minutes later we evolved the idea from “The Youngest Pledge” to The Newest Pledge, and the idea solidified itself in my cognitive bank of ideas. It fit my brand of modern-retro comedy really well, and it was specifically attractive to me at that point in time given my passion for the college lifestyle.
You see, in 2008 I wasn’t in a fraternity, but my friends, roommates, and I partied harder than any frats. In fact, our parties became some of the most well-known on campus. Not to brag, no one was really coming to party because of me (maybe a handful were), but mostly we provided a decent sized space to party, and more importantly the cops never came to our house. At one point we had 200 people in our home every weekend, and cleaning up a never ending mess became a Sunday morning routine. It was a blessing of youth that my body couldn’t withstand today no matter how hard I tried, but inevitably it lent itself to a large part of my psyche.
Anyway, one day I pitched The Newest Pledge to Bryson Pintard, the producer of Wet Cigarettes, and watched as he began laughing as hard as Sean, Tombstone and I did that day. Bryson, Tombstone, Sean, and I continued pitching the idea to our friends and peers and most of the time we acquired the same reaction of amusement. We knew we were onto something, we just didn’t know what format to execute the idea on. Was it a TV series? Was it a feature length film? Was it another short film?
Fast forward to spring semester 2009. Bob Burton was editing Wet Cigarettes and Bryson and I pitched him the idea of The Newest Pledge and Bob, like everyone else, began to laugh. He thought it would make a great web-show, and suggested that we attempt to film it that Spring Break. I immediately got to writing and came up with what I still think was actually a really funny season outline for a good web-series.
Fast forward to Spring Break 2009 came where we executed everything about as poorly as we could.
In regards to wardrobe, no one wore any fraternity related clothes. In respect to production design, nothing was done, we shot in a house that looked nothing like a frat house, and we had no Greek life props. As for cast, it could have been worse. Bryson, Tombstone, and I all acted in the series, Sean went home to Hawaii so we replaced him with an old man. Daniel Barber and Andreas Robichaux from Ridiculously Emo and Wet Cigarettes joined us, and we rounded out the cast with Konish Dutta, Mark Carroll, and Vince Graves, all of whom were good for what they were there to do.
The problem with our web-series was that I don’t think anyone really wanted to be there. As a team we had lost all of our morale in the first quarter. We lacked any form of leadership and there was nothing to motivate us, no common goal. We all believed in the idea, we just didn’t have the energy to guide it there. That Spring Break was hot, and we had some exterior scenes in the sun that were painful. As a production, we simply didn’t have enough planned out to really take our goal seriously. When we wrapped shoot there was a sigh of defeat, as opposed to the shared-exhilaration that normally became present in those moments.
That projects end result never saw the light of day, and to be honest we don’t even know where the footage is. At this point I’m far enough removed from it where I’d love to take a look at it. I’d even love to piece it together to see how it plays.
The defeat of The Newest Pledge was disheartening for everyone involved, and I feel it created a taste of unfinished business in the mouths of the people who were truly passionate about the project.
Fast forward to December 2009; Bob, Bryson and I were still working on finishing Wet Cigarettes, this time preparing ourselves for the screening of the film which would take place during finals week. At the time I was fulfilling my science requirements at a nearby community college: Orange Coast College. At the time I was also working with Nate McGarity, an aspiring producer and actor, who had access to some money and wanted to make a movie. He was thinking of making a horror movie, and we had agred on a concept until one day it hit me: we should do The Newest Pledge.
I called Nate and pitched the idea to him. Like everyone before him who received my pitch, he laughed. That afternoon I couldn’t stand to stay in class and left early, driving straight to Bob’s house. I pitched Bob the idea and he was all in, so was Bryson, so was Tombstone, so was Sean, and so was Trevor Wineman, who served as cinematographer on the web series. We decided to shoot the film Spring Break 2010, a year after the failure of the web series.
The perseverance of The Newest Pledge concept is likely a result of my refusal to dismiss it, and that part of my ego that refuses to let me fall short of my goals. I think on some level or another Bob, Bryson, Tombstone, Sean, and Trevor all felt the same way.
Needless to say filming in 2010 went a lot better than filming did in 2009. The failure of the web show allowed me to realize what parts of the concept played well on camera, and what aspects needed to be removed. Had we had not attempted to make the web series, The Newest Pledge film would likely be a lot less likable, and likely a lot less successful.
The web-series had some great ideas which served as the backbone to the early drafts of the feature script. We knew how important getting the right house and believable props and wardrobe were. Sean didn’t go to Hawaii for Spring Break, and we cast the old man to play his dad instead of a frat guy. Bryson and I stayed behind the camera, and I made sure I took on a leadership role. Bob kept us organized, focused on controlling and creating morale, and Trevor was given the opportunity to be more creative behind the camera. In the end, our failure in 2009 became our Battle of Long Island, where Gen. Washington and company were decisively defeated by the British in 1776. But Gen. Washington, Gen. Knox, and my beloved Col. Alexander Hamilton didn’t give up after losing one of the most important ports in the war; instead they re-tooled, sabotaged the British in Trenton, and turned the war and world history upside down in Saratoga. They just needed a few months to reposition.
As for “bro, we gotta raise it,” unfortunately that line never made the final cut of the film. We spent a day and a half trying to get it, but in the end it never felt right. It wasn’t the performance, the execution, or even the scene itself (on its own it’s a strong scene, one of the best to make the cutting room floor). It was a matter of pacing, and due to unfortunate circumstances that trailer-worthy line never made the final cut, but the truth is, whenever I pitch the idea of The Newest Pledge to others “Bro, we gotta raise it” always tends to make it, and people still tend to laugh.
Jason Michael Brescia
June 5, 2012 1:29 A.M EST
P.S: Here’s a photo of Daniel Barber and I at the ORIGINAL Kegger 4 Kegston from the web series version of TNP!