If you told me this week's Future Filmmaker Friday selection was the work of a professional director, I'd believe you. "Caution Wet Floor" is a clever silent comedy that could easily be the centerpiece of a director's reel being used to push a commercial director for his first feature. It's the work of from the team Two Coins at the University of Arizona. It was a Campus Finalist in its own finale and was a nominee for Best Picture and Best Comedy at the Campus MovieFest Hollywood finale. I love the pacing and editing here, and the shot composition is really well-done.
For those not in the know, Campus MovieFest is a wonderful program that goes to college campuses throughout the year and provides students with Apple laptops and Panasonic HD cameras to make short film within one week. Each school then has their own finale to select the best of the best, which then move on to the Grand Finale in Hollywood.
That's right - one week to make a film that can be no more than five minutes. That's not exactly an easy task.
If you like the work, leave comments here or on their YouTube page. Filmmakers thrive on feedback and I know it would mean a lot for the filmmakers I feature if you lent some support.
Watch the film and scroll down for an interview with Team Captain Shon Gale and Director Ethan Moore.
So tell us a little about yourselves. How did you get interested in film? Where are you in your school careers?
EM: I was raised by a family that loved film, especially the comedies of Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, Albert Brooks. I think those comedic filmmakers had a huge impact on the style of my own humor.
As a kid, I went to a filmmaking summer day camp called the Olympic Film Institute. At that time, we didn’t have access to any quality digital video cameras, so we shot all of our work on Super 8’s, got a digital transfer, and edited on an early version of iMovie. From that point on and throughout middle and high school, I used every school project and summer break to write and direct shorts, because why not? It was fun and way more interesting than writing a paper. That disposition led me to make filmmaking my study and career, and I honestly don’t think I would be happy studying or working in any other field.
SG: I spent a lot of my time in elementary and middle school making ridiculously terrible shorts and remakes with friends. I had boxes and boxes of costumes and we would essentially play dress up and make up stories as we went along. I edited on Windows Movie Maker, Pinnacle Studio, iMovie, and eventually Final Cut. In high school I made a lot of videos for school events and kept the ball rolling, tackling larger and more complex projects. It made we want to pursue filmmaking as a career and lifestyle, and I kept the ball rolling when I chose to major in media arts.
Right now, Ethan and I are both about to begin our senior year at the University of Arizona. We are earning our BFA’s in Film and Video Production in the selective production program at our school. Our capstone course has us creating our short thesis films over the entire school year, and we are developing those scripts as we speak.
Had you participated in Campus MovieFest before?
EM: Shon and I co-wrote and co-directed a short for CMF during our Freshman year, called “In Production” about a hopeless director attempting to make a film. We were awarded Best Comedy at the school level and won a copy of the newest Final Cut Studio.
SG: And we basically became best friends. Playing music, planning our next films, hanging out in the dorms.
EM: I was too busy with school to compete during my sophomore year, but Shon acted in our friend’s film “Mike and Megan” that won Best Picture at the school level. We shot Caution during the fall of our junior year.
SG: CMF has gotten a lot bigger on our campus since we participated as freshman. The production quality of everyone’s work keeps improving.
How did you develop the idea for CAUTION WET FLOOR? How did the limitations of one-week to shoot and edit it play into how you developed your idea?
EM: The first spark of the basic concept for "Caution Wet Floor" came when I was interning for a major agency last summer. In those bathrooms, you see a lot of suits walk in and out. I don’t remember what train of thought led me to the idea of a botched hit, but once I knew the hitman would kill his target and would subsequently die by his own device, the rest of the story just started building in my mind. The bag and asphyxiation made the most sense for the bathroom setting, and the motivation for the puddle, the gassiness, the hook, and the pant button followed. My rule was that the chain of events had to remain plausible and properly motivated. The situation could be absolutely ridiculous, as long as every accident could feasibly occur in that environment. In terms of the the film having no dialogue, the story had no need for it. There was no motivation for lines of dialogue, so I didn’t write any. You usually don’t hear much chatter in the men’s bathroom. It’s a sacred, mostly silent place. The sounds you hear in the film are the sounds you hear in any bathroom. Sinks, farts, urination, and flushing. It’s not meant to be gross-out disgusting, but rather realistic.
SG: This was truly a guerilla shoot. We shot in the public bathroom of the media arts building. Ethan, Brad Wong, our DP, and myself were in the middle of the most demandingly scheduled semester of our BFA program, and Brad was actually shooting his own CMF film as well (It went on to win Best Drama at the school level). Our hitman could give us Thursday and Friday night to shoot and had to come directly from the preview of the show he was in for the BFA theatre program. We were all completely overstressed.
How much time did you spend shooting the film?
EM: So we shot from about 6pm till 3am I believe on Thursday and then shot from 6pm till 5am on Friday. We had a $0 budget, a Canon T3i, a Tascam and boom mic, only the natural bathroom lighting except for one Opteka LED, and one PA at a time. We all covered the rest of the crew positions. Luckily, the bathroom was our only location. This allowed a 1 week shoot to become a 2 day shoot. Even if we wanted to, our school schedules wouldn’t have allowed any more time. But most importantly, there was such minimal production design needed. We really wanted a sterile quality in our design and color scheme. We didn’t develop the idea for the film around the time constraint, rather, the concept just happened to work perfectly for the time we had. Regardless, this film would not have happened if it weren’t for our amazing cast and crew. They worked their asses off in many physically uncomfortable positions and conditions. We couldn’t have paid them enough for their commitment to this project.
SG: After the shoot, we got to editing immediately, taking an over 24 hour marathon session to log and sync the video and sound, cut the film together, compose the soundtrack in soundtrack pro, foley what we needed, create a sound design (yeah that didn’t happen), and color correct (that mostly didn’t happen). We worked non-stop up until the deadline, got it submitted on time, and got back to work on our school projects. We both agree, It was honestly the most stressful and equally gratifying shoot we’d ever worked on.
Was there anything you wanted to do, but couldn't, due to time restrictions?
EM: There was a lot more editing to do on the film, but we just didn’t have time and we know it could be a lot tighter.
SG: If we “coulda”, we “woulda”, but we've learned that you have these types of regrets after every shoot.
What - in your opinion - makes for a good short film?
EM: To me, a good short film needs to be truly inspired from the get go. Everyone always preaches “Write what you know,” but that’s because it’s true! You are the leading expert on your own life experience and perspective. Granted, there are many variables that combine to create a great short, but if it’s not inspired from the beginning, then it’s not going to work.
SG: The process of making this film has redirected my focus to pacing, and how incredibly important it is to keep your audience engaged—to allow them to get lost in your world. Its difficult to get a lot of anything across in a short film, so I think a good one finds a way to connect with its audience quickly and holds their attention.
What have you taken from the CMF experience? What were your impressions of CMFHollywood?
EM: The CMF experience really illustrates what we, as student filmmakers, are capable of under pressure, and I mean, the structure is really simple, “You have 1 week to give us 5 min. of your best. Here’s everything you need. Go”. You dig deep under that kind of pressure and can make some truly amazing work. This is what I feel, is the foundation of CMF’s success in showcasing student filmmaking talent. It’s not only that a lot of these films are really good, but that they were also made within a week or less! That displays a hell of a lot of passion and diligence. CMF truly gives us the ability to exceed the expectations of our work. As a student, you push yourself to a level that you just don’t get on a long term shoot. You learn new things about your abilities and accomplishments, and overall, you learn to have a lot of faith in yourself.
SG: CMF Hollywood was an amazing experience. We had taken Caution to Cannes with 29 other films from CMF, and had a great time there, but I honestly preferred the experience of CMF Hollywood. Every panel was valuable, insightful, and inspiring. Beyond the industry education provided to us, the whole event was focused around all of us as student filmmakers. Every aspect celebrated our filmmaking efforts and I think I can safely say that everyone felt very honored to experience this event. Even though we didn’t win Best Comedy or Best Picture, we were incredibly honored to be nominated and to be in the midst of so much talent. We can’t thank CMF enough for the amazing opportunities they have provided.
EM: In the words of the late-great Patrick Swayze, “Ditto”.
You can find Shon Gale's Vimeo page here.