Explain the Cat: Adventures in Filmmaking, Vol. 1

So, this weekend, frustrated I would never make the movie, I went out with my Sony Handicam and made my own featurette. I should explain how this adventure began.

I showed my thesis film in public at the UCLA Hammer’s “Open Projector” night. As cool as I thought the concept was when I posted this event on my blog, something in the air that night poisoned the audience. Each of the six movies before mine were either booed off the screen or they were about to be and then they ended. In fact, the only longish film I remember that made it to completion was an unedited video of a dude car-dancing. Car-dancing! Unfortunately, my movie did not meet a positive reception and I left in shame. If the Hammer Museum is singlehandedly discouraging new directors from making films they have done a good job.

Well, in truth, they encouraged me. I decided it was time to make a new movie and make it so short that the audience would not have time to boo it off stage.

Thus, the early start on a Sunday morning and the short film. I do not want to over explain the concept but suffice it to say that it is a silent subject about walking my girlfriend’s dog, in the vein of a Donald Duck short or something by Harry Lloyd. My girlfriend, ever the willing collaborator, agreed to film me doing silly things with the dog, with the caveat that we not bother her neighbors.

Unfortunately, there is one scene where the dog chases away a neighborhood cat. How do you just walk up to a cat and start filming? They just run away, right? My girlfriend convinced me that we could find a cat on the way and I listened. Sure enough, we happened upon Emeril, a lazy gray and white spotted cat up the block.

Although a little confused, the cat stayed put and I was able to get a few great shots of her. At this point, Lacy the dog goes a little nuts and approaches the cat. Enter the cat’s owner, who greedily scoops up Emeril; he has been watching us this entire time and at this moment comes for the cat. He goes a little nuts too and we back away. As the cat runs behind his car in fear, he asks us, “Is your cat aggressive to cats?”

I answer, “No, we didn’t wake up early on a Sunday morning in suburban Los Angeles to make a kitty snuff film” in less snarkier terms. Whenever at a loss, I tell people I am making a “student film,” which while meaningless makes them feel that at least whatever it is we’re pointing a camera at is educational. While unhappy, he was hip to our purpose and let us film his cat run away, which is here:

Wrapping up, I want to tell you that it is easy to make a movie. Anyone can do it, even a lowly screenwriter with a Handicam. You don’t need to wait ten years to have your screenplay read by the Big Guy or Gal. You can write right now and you can direct. Of course, if you want anyone else besides yourself to star, I suggest you find a budget to pay that person, unless he or she is your friend and then I guess it’s OK, if only slightly manipulative. My second piece of advice: People will agree to almost anything as long as you ask them in advance (not that I endorse the Secret or some other New Agey idiocy). When people do not know what is going on they turn ornery. If you know that in advance of making your movie, you can get a lot more done. So, “Explain the Cat,” not in terms of Save the Cat (the screenwriting book) but in terms of providing a little advance notice. This will open many a door as you make that movie.

3 responses to “Explain the Cat: Adventures in Filmmaking, Vol. 1

  1. Booed off? Oh my god.

    Maybe Emeril’s owner ought to keep the cat inside, or fenced in, because cats and dogs and big white trucks don’t mix…plus it’s illegal to let a pet run free like that.

    “So short there’s no time to boo it offstage”, I love this concept!!!!

  2. Ha ha. It was even worse than that. No boos–the code word the audience used when they didn’t like a film was “purple.” Lots of purple.

    You can tell I am throwing out anything purple.


  3. Haha, if someone was like, Can we film your dog, I’d be all, HELL YEAH MAKE HIM FAMOUS! 😛

    Ah the adventures of an aspiring artist (of any kind).

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