Blog 15 – iChat

Originally posted 6.16.08

Some things to ignore about this post: 1) my mention of episode 13 being our final episode of the “season” (however we define it).  It’s not.  Also, don’t worry about it.  2) My references to Wilmington, NC as the place I live.  It’s not anymore.  3) The strange “man boob” appearance of me without my shirt on.  I don’t have man boobs.  The camera lies.

It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention, and newly uploaded episode 13, “iChat”, bears that out.  This latest collaboration between Larry and myself came about due to the unavoidable circumstance of our distance apart from each other.  But don’t cry for us, faithful viewer – we get by just fine.

I am currently living in the wonderfully congested city of Wilmington, North Carolina (look me up sometime) while Larry hides out in Somewhere, Pennsylvania, which puts us roughly 600 miles apart.  We film our episodes on my sporadic visits, usually cramming in as much camera time as we can stand before eventually strangling each other.  After episode 12, though, the well was dry and another trip to lovely PA won’t happen for at least another week or so.

As I am now the happy owner of a brand new MacBook, complete with the iChat application, and as the character known as “Larry’s Mom” has a similar model, we knew that we had the possibility for a long-distance episode.

Larry did a tremendous job, I think, of hiding the camera in this shoot.  Because don’t let his fancy disguising techniques fool you – we didn’t magically record the computer images on the new program iRecordmycomputerscreen.  No, the angle is just right to capture the action without the pesky camera sitting behind Larry’s shoulder or anything like that.  So kudos go out to Larry for his work here.

The episode starts out innocently enough – I once again admit my apparent ignorance of technology, in which I must disclose that here I channel a little of my dad’s prevailing sentiments.  “Why would anyone want to use something like this?!”  It’s an honest question, I suppose, but I imagine that many technological programs that are used today, at least the ones used primarily for communication, are their own answer.  You use them because you want to use them.  But I digress.  For whatever reason, my character is growing into one with an unavoidable fear of technology, and I accept that.

Larry and I filmed a good number of takes with this episode.  Most often we’d have to stop because unlike some other episodes, “iChat” is really just the one shot and takes several minutes to get through.  I’d usually get tripped up on a word or forget what to say and fall back into my regular routine of laughing at my own jokes – and we can’t have that here.  But every time someone would screw up, the next take would get longer, incorporating something from the previous take that worked and/or was funny.  Larry’s out-of-the-blue “So, they’re prosecuting tomorrow” is genius and every bit unintentional.  It started out as “So, I’m getting a hysterectomy tomorrow” and worked its way to the more acceptable.

Another pat in the back goes out to Larry for his job in editing in that pesky black censorship bar.  No matter how much I embarrass myself with these episodes, broadcast online for the whole world to see, I don’t want to show up naked on the Internet.  I just don’t.  And even though everyone else would probably like to, it’s just not going to happen.  At any rate, this is just another example of how censorship can actually be funnier than if I had been shown free swinging on camera for all to see.  If that were the case, the shock value would have been there, but that would have overshadowed anything else in the episode.  With that saintly black bar, we still maintain some façade of humility while letting the overall joke – “Jeff’s taken his pants off!” – slip through.

Our ending scene, the familiar “No!” that accompanies every episode in some way or another, was also a difficulty considering the distance between Larry and myself.  We discussed a number of different ideas, many of which will be kept and used later, but it seemed that every one involved me intervening in some foolish way.  We ended our conversation without reaching any conclusions, but then, late at night as I hung on the edge of sleep, I said to myself, ‘say it in Spanish.’  And thus this ending was born.

I’d like to point out that I don’t speak Spanish, nor do I know any second language well enough to use it in any meaningful way.  So take that into consideration when watching my butchery in interpreting “Next time on Franks and Beans.”  It’s interesting when I think about the programs being implemented in schools today, focusing on teaching a second language early on.  In forty years, when both Larry and I will be pushing seventy, I imagine that my monolingualism will be a source of ridicule and probably rightfully so.  Of course, I could take the initiative and learn a second language any time I’d like, but…maybe tomorrow.

You’ll notice that Larry’s sombrero is teetering carefully on top of his head in this cut.  This is, I’ve been promised, not because Larry’s head is so big (though it is), but because this hastily borrowed sombrero was much too tiny.  But Larry does a good enough job of pulling it off, big head and all.

With this episode, we’ve officially come to the end of our backlog of completed features.  It is a shame, because we’ve been having so much fun these past few weeks with the continuous stream of new material.  There may be a lull, but Franks and Beans is far from gone.  My hope is that filming of new episodes will take place in as little as two weeks, and July will bring that elusive 14th episode and beyond.

In the meantime, thank you to everyone who has taken their time to watch our stupid little internet show, and a special thanks to anyone who has taken extra time to comment and give feedback, which is what we thrive on.  Well, that and sandwiches.  Mmm.