Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Dramatic Exit: A Stupid Dad Joke Short Film

I have long enjoyed sharing Dad Jokes. Heck, long before I became a father I had been a connoisseur of eye-rolling puns and stupid humor.

I'm also fascinated with adaptations of elements from one form into another.

The first example of this is a cartoon from Leigh Rubin.

My cousin sent it to me. It's a funny cartoon, but the guy in it also looks a little bit like me. (Same head and hair facial style, at least - I'm not quite so thin).

I thought it might be funny to translate the cartoon into a short video.

And came up with a new series that I'm calling A Stupid Dad Joke Short Film.

Yes, that's 35 seconds of your life that you'll never get back.


Monday, May 11, 2020

Making an Omelette from Broken Egg Yolks

Liz and I have been enjoying writing parody lyrics, recording them to old karaoke tracks, and then making a music video to go along with them.

There's nothing like knowing that you've inspire smiles and laughter from others.

We'd only done it once, but it came from a half dozen ideas we'd been kicking around during quarantine.

Image of couple on stairs looking bored with text: Stuck in This House Here With You
"Stuck in the Middle with You" Parody

So we looked for a duet that we could do.

One of my favorite all-time duets is "Islands in the Stream" written by the Bee Gees but made famous by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton.

We toyed with the lyrics, wanting to tell the tale of a couple that learns how to share their home workspace, and their often struggling home internet connection.

It was, to us, a nice parallel to the previous parody we'd done "Stuck in This House With You" where a couple comes to terms with being isolated together. Whereas that one was about personal relationships, this new parody would be about discovering that same respect for the other person's new "work from home" life.

The song was titled "Sharing Broadband Streams."

Sharing Broadband Streams comic style panel of screen shots from the video
Sharing Broadband Streams stills from video

We recorded it a few weekends ago, but we couldn't get over the fact that there were parts of the song that, no matter how many times we tried to re-record it (and trust me, we re-recorded it dozens and dozens of times), we just couldn't get it.

I tried to do some audio enhancement to adjust the lyrical tracks, to at least try to slightly mask my off-key caterwauling, but not even auto-tune programs could resurrect this "The Singing Dead."

Liz wanted to scrap the entire project.

She is a perfectionist. I take more of a "it's good enough, let's throw it out there and see if it sticks" kind of guy.

We clashed creatively. As we do. I relented.

I was frustrated; because I felt the song was pretty good. (And by that, I meant, the parody lyrics were pretty good. The singing - well, it was my singing after all, it almost approached what one might say "not too nauseating.")

But then Liz came up with an idea. A brilliant idea.

She said that there were parts of the main chorus that weren't that bad. She wondered if we could use that, and also create a few other songs and present them together in a medley format.

As we brainstormed further, the idea of doing a K-Tel spoof commercial arose. We must have watched about twenty minutes of those hokey commercials from the 1970s and 1980s.

Then we set about recording the different tracks, and Liz began scripting out how the corresponding video would work.

We came up with Kay-Tell (a fake imprint based on the original) and a compilation album called STILL STUCK, STILL WITH YOU, STILL IN THIS HOUSE.

Kat-Tell Parody Album Cover: Still Stuck, Still with You, Still in This House
Kay-Tell Presents: Still Stuck, Still with You, Still in this House

It's something that turned out not that bad, in my humble opinion.

I suppose the lesson in this creative exercise is that I had initially been wasting energy being frustrated with the broken egg yolks I had when I'd planned on preparing a dish of over easy fried eggs. It was difficult for me to see past that, until Liz, looking at those eggs, looked around the kitchen for a few other things to throw into the dish, to turn it into a marvelous omelette.

Hope that you enjoy this omelette, and also that the lesson inspires you to think to look around your own kitchen for how you might be able to do the same thing with your own creative projects.

(Oh, and the original title for this used the term "broken egg yokes" because I was trying to layer in a play on words. Yoke as in an alternative term for a joke. But then I changed it because I was worried the mis-spelling might be too confusing.)

Tuesday, May 05, 2020

Spud Wars: A New Hopelessness (A Star Wars Parody)

As a writer, I have, lately, been recognizing the value of recycling, or re-using, old material into newer forms.

Come to think of it, perhaps I have regularly taken that approach. I'm only just starting to recognize it now.

"I, Death," a 1000 word short story I wrote in the mid 1980s in my second year of high school was re-imagined into a serialized horror story in blog format in 2006. That same story was slightly revised and rolled out again in 2012, and then it was later adapted into a novel that came out in 2014.

A ghost story that I made up to scare students when I was teaching drama as part of a summer program at Carleton University (Prospero's Ghost) was re-adapted over the years to be set within the context of almost every new bookstore I worked at between 1992 and 2008, to entertain and frighten fellow bookstore employees. That story then got re-envisioned to take place at McMaster University when Kimberly Foottit and I co-authored "Prospero's Ghost" to be included in the anthology Campus Chills, which was released in 2009.

And yesterday, for May the Fourth, 2020. I released a silly parody video called Spud Wars: A New Hopelessness.

Spud Wars: A New Helplessness Title Image
Spud Wars: A New Hopelessness

I spent a few hours on Sunday May 3rd working on the parody, which basically stars me playing every role, with not much in terms of costumes, makeup, or even acting ability, a Darth Tater Mr. Potato Head, and our dog, Maya. I then added in a few visual effects.

It is, of course, silly, and self-reflective, and produced with virtually no budget and a hastily written outline.

Of course, the parody video was based on the Spud Wars series rolled out on this blog, originally in 2006, and then re-vised and re-edited/crafted in 2011.

Text SPUD WARS: A NEW HELPLESSNESS in a Star Wars style font
Spud Wars: The original text/photo story

That original Spud Wars series was a text and photo based serialized story inspired by a a simple photo I'd taken of myself unmasking Darth Tater.

Picture of a man unmasking a Darth Tater doll

The original storyline, of course, actually had somewhat of a plot, which involves Darth Tater wanting to get revenge because I ate his father (as a plate of French Fries the night before) - he attacks, I am knocked out. The story continues in The Carb-Eater Strikes Back where I seek help from the wise old Yoda-figure mentor, Mister Bunny. He advises me to "use the forks" which I do to defeat the spud. The story continues in Return of the Spud-Eye where Darth also seeks help from the same old master, who advises that he clone himself.

At that point, the story devolves in terms of storyline and trying to parallel the original Star Wars movies, because the next chapter is Darth Comes Knocking - and then trying to adapt cloning into it (in recognition of the Star Wars prequel movies), with titles like Darth's Revenge Part I and Part II, followed by Mark's Last Stand where I am defeated by the clone army of Taters.

I then, of course, adapted a picture of Alexander man-handling my camera when he was about 18 months old . . .

The story continues with Alex Attacks and then more episodes, including images of Alexander fighting a bunch of the Tater clones in The Final Standoff, then coming to a truce and playing video games (because all this violence makes them want to play video games) in All This Violence.

It was supposed to end there, but I'm a sucker for cliffhanger endings, and so had someone creeping up on them at the end of that one, and the story ends with Spud Wars: The Conclusion and Spud Wars: Epilogue.

It was a fun 12 part serialized story.

Of course, writing a parody script to a few images and shooting an entire sequence of these things are two different things. Alexander most certainly wouldn't participate in it with me, and he's no longer 18 months old. He is 15. Most of the additional Star Wars Mr. Potato Head figures are in Liz's office at the school, so I only had the one Darth Tater in my office at home to use. Not to mention, I had less than 24 hours from conception of the movie trailer parody to wanting to release it on May the Fourth, Star Wars Day.

That is why the recent adaptation is so different than the original scrip.

The lesson, of course, is a concrete example of why the movie version and the original text-based version are so different.

No wait, the lesson is that re-adapting and re-imagining an idea can take many different forms and formats, over the years. It's all part of the creative process of being a storyteller.

Well that's neat. I started writing this thinking there would be a lesson about re-using and re-cycling ideas into different forms and I also ended up exploring one of the many reasons why a movie adaptation of a book, or comic can't possibly be the same thing, that it has to become it's own unique  entity, it's own unique experience.

Two conclusions for the price of one.

I'll take that as a win.