One of these days, I will get my old videotapes out of storage and post some of my old student films online — not because they’re anything to write home about, but just because it would be handy to have them out there. In the meantime, I recently got back in touch with an old friend of mine who starred in The Great Borscht Kidnapping, a video that I shot back in November 1989 for my introduction-to-film class at UBC. My friend asked if I was going to post this film online, and I said I couldn’t at the moment, but he still had a copy handy, so he posted it instead. And here it is:
Click here if the video file above doesn’t play properly.
I sure hope my copy hasn’t deteriorated as much as this one has; then again, the film is supposed to be a sort of silent movie, so perhaps all the signs of age just add to the pseudo-antique charm.
Some of the gags in this film didn’t work out anywhere near as well as I wanted them to, and there are some continuity problems with the lighting near the end because we didn’t have time to go back for another day’s shoot. But I think it’s okay for a video made by a bunch of teenagers running around in the pre-digital age.
Two things I definitely learned from making this film:
You have to be really economical with your dialogue when you’re making a silent movie. My professor did not permit the use of synchronous sound in our videos, and this forced me to focus on the structure of the screenplay, rather than on the dialogue, and to communicate as much as I could through the visuals.
That said, music can really make a film. I remember sitting in my parents’ living room and watching my friend Jason improvise the score on my mother’s piano as he watched the video. I was in awe then, and I am in awe now. I wish I had that kind of skill, and I simply cannot imagine this film without Jason’s contribution. If I ever had a sense of how the film would sound, before I actually made it, it has been completely supplanted by Jason’s music.
Two further points:
Yes, that is my sister Monica playing Anna. Some of her outtakes are very, very funny, and yes, that footage is also in storage.
Plus, any resemblance between this movie’s characters and my own mixed roots — as a half-Mennonite, half-British kid born and raised on a continent of cowboys — is not exactly coincidental.