Bon Voyage!

We have here, for your viewing pleasure (or ambivalence), the official, completed, in before the deadline Franks and Beans Comic-Con Independent Film Festival submission.  This sucker took an extra long time to perfect, so it gets several blog posts about it.  I sent this package in the mail yesterday, but beforehand I took this picture of the entire submission packet.  Feel free to download the picture and stick it on your fridge!

Included in this mailer, we have (numbered for your convenience):
1) the “Double Delivery” synopsis and creator bios
2) a cover letter
3) the official entry form
4) a production still
5) a stack of four DVDs, each with “Double Delivery” burned on them
6) a priority mail USPS envelope
7) a checkered tablecloth.  This isn’t included in the envelope.  But just in case, it’s labeled.

Being as neurotic as I am, I spent 75 cents on tracking information, and as I am a generous fellow, we can all follow along as our hopes and dreams are mailed all the way to sunny California.  Just click here to be whisked away to the postal service’s tracking website.

The postal worker promised me that the package would get to the PO Box in San Diego by Wednesday, February 1st.  If it doesn’t, I will be sad.  But hope spring eternal.  Good luck, little package.

…that’s what she said.

Blog 10 – Tree Hugger

Originally posted 5.24.08

Episode 9, “Tree Hugger,” is now online, and it represents a role reversal between myself and Larry in more ways than one.  Bucking the usual trend, Larry took the initiative on this episode and came up with the starting plot points.  This is not to say that all of the writing is usually squarely on my shoulders, mind you.  Our usual routine begins with a stupid idea on my part, some scribbled dialogue on a blank sheet of computer paper, and some half mumbled camera shot suggestions.

As we work through the loose shooting script, Larry will chime in with his ideas on how to improve the scene or how to reword the joke so that it actually makes sense.  Not all of his suggestions are used, not all of his suggestions make sense in their own right, but most of them are and do, and there you have it, the secret to the success of Franks and Beans.

For example, Larry is the one who insisted that I modernize the dialogue in the first episode and refer to my video game system not just as a Nintendo, but as a Nintendo Wii, which I do have in real life and will beat you in tennis if you ever meet and play me.  This addition seemed inconsequential to me, but dammit, Larry wanted it in and that’s what he got.  In an episode soon to be aired, Larry once again threw his substantial weight around and brought into the scene a humongous megaphone, and it actually did make the scene funnier as a result.  So that’s collaboration for you if I’ve ever seen it.

Another way in which this episode represents a role reversal is that Larry is now playing the fool, rather than the calm, sometimes dismissive “mentor-like” figure he plays in many of the other episodes in which I’ve done most of the scripting.  It’s interesting that we’d each choose the role of hyperactive idiot for ourselves rather than the voice of reason, but I guess there’s a reason everyone liked Curly over Moe.  At any rate, I found that I am quite good at getting into the role of someone who is haughty and self righteous, but I try not to think about it too much.

What I think is my favorite joke in this episode is also probably the most out of place scene.  To show the passage of time (in which Larry does little more than vulgarize his idea for a great t-shirt) we cut to a scene of a winding clock – which probably hasn’t been used in a ‘real’ production for six hundred years, only to pull out to find that I’m actually winding the clock on my own (gasp! He’s breaking the fourth wall!).  I love this sequence but it was actually inspired by an obscure camera foul-up a number of years ago on The Late Show with David Letterman, and for the life of me, I can’t imagine why I still remember it.  The show came back from a break and the camera panned over to Letterman, who was standing behind his chair, adjusting its height.  When he realized that he was being filmed, he angrily dismissed the camera with several waves of his hand.  Why I still think about this throwaway moment in time (because of this I’m probably forgetting something actually important) is a mystery, but I’ve always thought that brief moment of candor was particularly funny.

Finally, this episode features swearing for the first time ever, and oh man, we chose the mother of them all.  The reason it was blurred and then bleeped out is not necessarily because we’re prudes (though I don’t think anyone thinks of themselves as a prude…even prudes), but simply because I think that a censored curse word can sometimes be funnier than an uncensored one.  There’s a scene in the first season of Sealab 2021 where people from the FCC let out a big long string of curse words, all of which are, of course, censored.  A provided DVD extra allows us to hear the scene without the censorship, and I think most would agree that the censored scene – when more is left up to the imagination – is the funnier of the two.

Look at this, so much thought put into a nonsensical episode of a nonsensical two-to-three-minute-per-episode series.  See?  We don’t just push record on the camera and say whatever comes to mind.

Well, okay.  Sometimes we do.

“Double Delivery” photo shoot & production still

One of the requirements for the Comic-Con film festival submission was a production still from our film (or as I like to call it, “episode”), “Double Delivery”.  The episode itself is coming together and is now completely edited – all that’s left to do is burn the DVDs, stick everything in an envelope and ship it off to the folks in San Diego – and it’s as complete a package as anything we’ve done here at F&B headquarters (Larry’s house) since its inception, so we’re both pretty excited.

Above you see the finalized production still that is heading off with our submission.  We snapped a number of pictures a few nights ago and this seemed to be the best one.  A few other takes can be seen below, though…including one of Larry kicking me in the groin, proving that we’re all class at Franks and Beans.  On a completely unrelated note, “Double Delivery” includes both a long burp and a fart in it.  Oh, how the mighty have fallen…

Comic-Con International Film Festival submission introduction

I’m posting this video a bit out of sequence because I want to get it as much exposure as possible as soon as possible.  As I mentioned a little while ago, Larry and I are submitting a Franks and Beans video to Comic-Con International’s Independent Film Festival taking place during the convention (which we’ll be attending).  What you see before you now is not, in fact, the episode we’re submitting.  This is merely an introduction to that video for all to see…well, I suppose by “all” I’m really hoping for “the judges in charge of the film festival”, but then again I guess I’d be okay if everyone else in the world saw it, too.

This was a fun extra episode to film, and the lack of transitions or a depth of scenes made it not so bad to edit, as well.  While we aren’t technically counting this as an episode, you can rest assured that this will make it into the season 3 DVD, which we’re planning on having out for the convention in San Diego.  I’ll bet that if F&B winds up being accepted and screened, we might even sell one or two.  Fingers crossed.  Hey San Diego Comic-Con Film Festival Committee!  Look at this video!  Watch it!  LOVE IT.  And screen Franks and Beans at Comic-Con!

Blog 09 – Rushed Commentary on “You’ll Never See it Coming”

Originally posted 9.21.08

As I sit here and write this production blog, I realize that if someone would take the time and read all of these things back to back (I struggle to believe that anyone might give it a try, but hey, knock yourself out), it would take that person longer than if he or she decided to watch every episode of Franks and Beans in existence.   This thinking is probably the reason for the very creation of episode 8.1, “Commentary on You’ll Never See It Coming”.

Picture this scene: Tropical Storm/Hurricane Hanna is quickly barreling down on Wilmington, North Carolina, and the townspeople are worried enough that the classes I was scheduled to teach that day are canceled.  Seeing this as an opportunity to catch up on some other things, I take my car in to have two of the tires replaced – as much out of a good car care mentality as it is the desire to be able to outdrive a hurricane if necessary.  As I live probably one even mile from the shop, I drop the car off and walk home, and a couple hours later I leave to retrace my steps and pick up my newly treaded automobile.  On the way there, while facing gusting winds and stinging rain, my thoughts turn – as always – to Franks and Beans.

A few days earlier I had written a blog for the episode “Milkshake”, in which I talked about putting together a theoretical DVD release for the show.  I’m a bit picky when it comes to movies and shows being released on DVD – I’ll purposely put off buying a movie if I think there will be a special edition release a few months down the road, because even if I don’t watch many of the special features (depending on what it is), I at least want them to BE there.  I hate it when TV shows are released and there are just the episodes.  Where’re the commentaries?  The ‘behind-the-scenes’ featurettes?  The making of an episode?  The awkward and often not funny blooper reel?  I’m not asking for much – just an immersion into a fictional world that I’m probably not all that excited about in the first place.

I decided right there, as I crossed through the parking lot of some hobo cuisine restaurant, that if Franks and Beans ever would create a DVD for sale, I’d make sure that it was stocked with all of the extra features that could fit on the disc.  That’d start with commentaries on all of the episodes – but then I started thinking – what the hell would we talk about that would impart any kind of insight?  “Message Board” might be pushing seven minutes, sure, and a few others are around three minutes in length, but what about the rest of them?  What about “You’ll Never See It Coming”, which clocks in at a miniscule 30 seconds?  We’d have enough time, I thought, to introduce ourselves (for Larry and I would always offer joint commentary), cite the episode title, and then we’d be out of time.  There’d be no time to talk about anything!  It’d be the most worthless commentary ever!

And thus, the episode you see before you was born.

Although the above was enough justification to create our commentary, our newest addendum was a child of expediency.  As with the episode “iChat”, Larry and I were faced with living hundreds of miles apart and running on our stock of reserve episodes from my end-of-the-summer trip home.  As any long hiatus can never be good for viewership, we were once again forced to improvise and rely on technology to help us bridge the physical gap.  We knew that we didn’t want to rehash the past with another iChat-themed episode (not yet, anyway…okay, don’t hold me to this), so the commentary idea made sense.

To actually make the episode, Larry and I discussed the logistics of it together through the aforementioned video chat.  The most difficult thing was allowing for the inevitable transmission delay, but we also had to figure out how to keep the other from showing up on our own audio source – if you could hear Larry in the background of my recording and me in the background of Larry’s recording, it would be a disaster to try and clean up in post.  As it was, creating two audio tracks and lining them up during the editing process probably worked out better than either of us could have imagined.

I recorded my lines on the “Garage Band” program that came with my MacBook – it’s one of those programs that looks so cool but you can never figure out what to do with it – and Larry went with the old reliable “Sound Recorder” program on his PC.  Aside from the fact that Larry seems to be eating his microphone at one point, the audio turned out clear enough for us to use.  Success!

The reason why I think “Commentary of You’ll Never See It Coming” works so well, if you’ll agree that it works at all, is that we get not one but two opportunities to run out of time.  I begin to talk about wearing one of Larry’s spare shirts and then, all of a sudden, we’re out of time.  Being able to try – and fail – to regroup shortly after helps to accentuate the chaos that we tried to portray: “Oh no!  We didn’t accomplish ANYTHING!”  Larry’s “Aw, man!” really puts the finishing touches on what I think was an irreverent but fun episode.  A nice change of pace!

As you may have noticed, there is no original “No!” ending on this episode, and that is by design.  The way I look at it, it’s obvious that we put this together as a joke, but I’m still trying to get across the idea that if we would actually make ‘real’ commentaries for this show, this is what would happen.  Whether that works or not in the big scheme of things, I don’t know…but I have my hopes.

Blog 08 – You’ll Never See it Coming

Originally posted 7.01.08

The original paragraph referred to a bunch of stuff that doesn’t make any sense anymore…so I cut it out.  I trust that we can all move forward in our lives.  And so, we join this blog already in progress:

Episode eight, “You’ll Never See It Coming,” is simple in its own right but deals with what I think is one of the most important aspects of comedy – timing.  I know I’ve talked about this before, but I can’t stress it enough.  Telling a joke – even the simple act of punching someone in the stomach – is worthless if the timing is off, which is why I stress it so much.  The semi-long pause to begin the episode and the snap-quick cut at the end are both examples of what I think are crucial to the timing process.  Nothing’s happening, nothing’s happening, and then – boom! – the joke is told and finished without anything left lingering.  True, it’s just my interpretation of it, but I think it’s something that works.

I wanted to call this episode “The Punch,” but Larry (and everyone else I talked to, for that matter) didn’t want to give the ending away, which in hindsight was the only way to play this.  By calling this episode “You’ll Never See It Coming” you still expect to see something, but just what that something is is still a mystery up until the last second.

Our fake preview for some phantom “next time” finally begins to noticeably break out of its familiar role with this episode (though episode eight’s ending is still one of my favorites), as the joke is maybe a little obvious, but still pretty fun.  There are a number of variations of the joke where a man denies his dyslexia by saying “on!”, and this is just another of those, but just to make it completely obvious as to what we were doing, we put the title phrase backwards as well.  The best part about this particular sequence, which I think some people might miss, is the fact that Larry actually walks back through the doorway and shuts the door behind him.  Again, it’s the timing that makes it work.

Even though this episode registers under a minute in length, a number of people have commented that “You’ll Never See It Coming” is their favorite, or at least it was up until the point where it was the most recent episode on the block.  This follows a similar theme with “The Gift” where the humor was almost entirely physical.  It also follows the theme where I feel bad because some of the better dialogue-based jokes go under the radar.  But those are the sacrifices we make, I suppose.