DVC 14 - "A Plumbing Lesson" - Robert Martens at DVinfo.net

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Old November 20th, 2008, 10:55 PM   #1
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DVC 14 - "A Plumbing Lesson" - Robert Martens

Otherwise known as "How My Dad Spent His Sixty-Third Birthday" or "My Mom the Boom Op" or "Establishing Shots Are for Sissies".

First things first, sorry about the language. Some people don't care, some people do, I can't please everybody, but this is what I wanted. Tried softening things up when I shot, but it sounded even dumber than the take I used does. Reading the lines the way I wrote them was the only way I could come up with on short notice to make the character in question sound like the nitwit he's supposed to be.

Regarding the theme, for those who haven't figured it out, it's the mechanical sense of the word. I'm no engineer, but as I understand it, the path a mechanical component follows as it moves back and forth is its 'travel'. In this case, you don't need to know what these valves look like inside, only that there are moving parts in there. They go back and forth, and as seen here they rattle when they're not fully open or closed. Throw in a smartass plumber and an obnoxious customer and there's your movie!

Moving on, all I really care about for this round of the contest is that I shot this whole movie with no pickups or reshoots. This is the first time I've done that. Feels good not to have to keep redoing things you've messed up. To do it inside of twelve hours isn't too bad, either. I forgot to grab room tone, but the music seems to hide the problem areas, so I'm trying not to get worked up over it.

Had the idea last week, didn't think I could do it, but got a last minute chance and started assembling props on Saturday. Wasn't able to shoot then, and fell into that all too familiar woe-is-me depression I keep running into, but pulled myself together by Sunday night and did something.

I'd had my heart set on a camera pan/tilt to open, but couldn't hold the mic at the same time. Working in mind-blowingly tight quarters, there was no place for a stand, and when asked, my mom jumped right in to hold the boom, no questions asked. Yes, I know I'm lucky to have these parents.

Credit for the great music goes to Brad Sucks. All of his work so far is freely available, along with the source tracks for all the songs on his two CDs (plenty of remixes are available). For the record, I'd like to make explicit mention of this FAQ entry: http://www.bradsucks.net/about/#project

With all that nonsense out of the way, let's hear it! Tear me a new one. Tear me as many new ones as you please.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 02:13 PM   #2
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Well, Robert, your 48 hour challenge worked! With the exception that I didn’t understand how it fit in until you explained “travel.”

Your dad. Your dad just kills me because he’s such a natural. Loved your opening shot, and his delivery couldn’t have been better. You already know that I appreciate your acting skills--you two make a good team.

To the one-time or casual viewer this may seem like one of those “Huh?” movies, but after taking time to really consider the intention and nuances, I came to appreciate it very much!

Glad you got this in just under the wire. Your movies always please me.

Tell your mom she did a great job, and give your dad belated Happy Birthday wishes from me and the crowd at DV Info!
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Old November 21st, 2008, 04:12 PM   #3
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Nice, I would say that the language is not a problem, just words and well, they are perfect fit for the situation, most of us would probably react in the same way :)

Your father acts very well. I like the idea you are going with to make things short.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 05:24 PM   #4
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Robert,

The language did not bother me as I was raised on an Army base. When I moved to the states at age 16, a kid in school asked me why I cussed so much. I said "what the F*** you talking about?" without even realizing I was cussing. Long time to break that habit, and it still comes back under tension.

My favorite part of this film is the huge win your Dad takes with the nod and smile. I'd hate to have him for a plumber, but would enjoy drinking a beer or two with him.

I'd kind of liked to have seen the guy that was getting screwed. Maybe even see him treat your Dad badly and have it be the bad behavior that causes him to get the lousy plumbing rather than an abstract thing like money. You could play the jerk, and then we wouldn't need to hear the explanation of the gate valve, just see your Dad turn it halfway and chuckle.

The viewer advisory was interesting. Maybe I need to incorporate one of these. Get Murgurel to design me a logo with a built in advisory. Christmas is around the corner...

Happy birthday to your Dad!
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Old November 21st, 2008, 05:51 PM   #5
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Well, you did warn us at the beginning about the language.

Very nice short. Without the explanation about 'valve travel' I would never have guessed this short had anything to do with travel, which is it's biggest weakness. If you have to explain how it fits... Oh well.

Your dad was great.

Short, sweet and too the point. Nicely done.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 06:08 PM   #6
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Haha, yeah, I think the travel theme was a bit of a stretch here, but it's up to you to interpret it, so in that sense, the requirement has been fulfilled. I liked how you told your story in a minute and didn't feel the need to stretch it out. But no butt crack jokes in a plumber movie?
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Old November 21st, 2008, 07:36 PM   #7
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I wonder if that would work when someone complains about my bills.... I'll have to work on something.

Anyways, didn't catch the travel theme. Nice acting by your Dad again, and a funny storyline.
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Old November 21st, 2008, 08:54 PM   #8
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Yeah, I wanted to show this third party at some point, but I only had the two of us and only the barest semblance of an idea. Nothing new was coming to me, and if I didn't commit to some sort of plan I'd have accomplished nothing at all. I just had to do a stupid voice and cross my fingers.

The thing about the money, and it could certainly have been clearer, was that it's the price of the service call: a hundred and fifty bucks for two plumbers to do what's shown is a steal. "It's only a couple of valves" is the predictable response from people; people who have no idea what it's like to run any kind of business, let alone one like this, who have no understanding of what anything actually costs, and who have absolutely no respect for the value of a skill, craft, or trade. The fact that we know what to do, and are taking the time to do it, means nothing to clowns like that. In every field, every industry, every trade, you have customers who bitch about prices without considering for the tiniest fraction of a second what things--particularly people and time--are really worth.

Forgoing my soapbox for the time being, we don't do much residential, and we sure as hell don't advertise in the phone book, so it's not like I've really experienced this myself. I just thought it'd be a funny idea, and the guys in this movie aren't supposed to be me and my dad. A number of you guys know what we do for a living, so I'm not surprised it could seem that way, but to be clear they're only a couple of no-name plumbers. Anyway, the valve thing isn't meant to be mean-spirited vengeance, only playful comeuppance. I chose the method in quesiton both for its relation to the theme (I'll get to that in a moment, calm down) and because it's easily remedied. Screwing with the customer, not screwing him over.

As for the theme, it's not the end of the world if nobody gets it. Our films will still be on Youtube, Vimeo, and the internet at large after the challenge is over, and standing on their own it doesn't matter how well they fit "travel". You would correctly point out that we're in the competition right now, so why enter the film if it doesn't apply? Well, I usually try not to make a big deal out of these criticisms, but with all due respect to all the wonderful work I've seen here, the theme was the word "travel". Not the image that pops into most people's heads when they hear the word travel, but the word itself. The whole point of using only a single word is to keep options like this open; wild interpretations that wouldn't immediately strike you. Good movie or bad, I must respectfully but vehemently disagree with the idea that it's a "stretch". Dismiss it because it's a poorly made, slapped-together-at-the-last-minute pile of garbage, not simply because the usage of the term is one you were previously unfamiliar with.

Sorry to disappoint on the buttcrack front, but that's one of those things you see in movies and on TV that bugs me. The same way you call it a monkey wrench when it's really a spud wrench. You see, a real monkey wrench is a tool used in the automotive world, whereas the plumbing industry has its own version. Both have flat jaws instead of teeth, and are easily confused by the uninitiated, but blah blah blah, etcetera, so on and so forth...
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Old November 21st, 2008, 09:03 PM   #9
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Wow, Robert, I was in the middle of composing a comment that was nearly identical in spirit to what you wrote about the stand-alone aspect of this film! But you said it much better.

By definition your film fit the theme perfectly. It shouldn't be held against it that there don't happen to be any mechanical minds in this audience.

Chris' last phrase, that it was a funny storyline, is all that is needed. That's entertainment! :)
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Old November 21st, 2008, 11:07 PM   #10
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The devilish grin on your father's face as he first turns the valve handles and then removes them made the entire film for me!

Great fun !
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Old November 22nd, 2008, 02:30 AM   #11
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Hey Robert,

I just re-read my comment and realized it probably came across in a different tone than I had intended. By no means was I dismissing your film because of use of the theme. My opinion is similar to James', in that if the majority of the viewing audience cannot make the connection to the theme (without reading your explanation), then that is a point of weakness only within the context of this short film contest. You're right, once the contest is over, the film will stand on its own. I apologize if I offended you in my previous comment.

Use of the theme was something we struggled with in our film as well. We tried our best to come up with something that wasn't a literal interpretation, but we may have ended up straying a little too far off course ourselves.
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Old November 22nd, 2008, 10:12 AM   #12
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No, Eric, no need to worry; I'd been concerned about this very issue before I even finished shooting, and when you brought it up I saw the opportunity to offer the thoughts I'd been mulling over in my head for the past week. I can appreciate how important theme is in the context of the DVC, and that this one might be difficult to put together for most participants, but I figured that since it's a relatively small group here, I do in fact have the luxury of explaining myself. No offense taken.

And your interpretation, well, I say you stayed quite on track. Maybe you could have used a couple of sperm-like streamers attached to the cars' antennae, fluttering in the breeze, but sperm travel is an important topic, and I'm glad you had the courage to tackle it.

Thanks for all the comments, guys, I really appreciate them!
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Old November 24th, 2008, 12:52 AM   #13
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Lol, Robert... since I first saw your short films, I've always enjoyed your twisted sense of humor. Keep 'em coming!
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Old November 25th, 2008, 02:35 PM   #14
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Well done getting it done that quickly! Smooth edits overall. Good job.
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Old November 25th, 2008, 03:02 PM   #15
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Joseph, I'm glad to find out my sense of humor actually works for other people. I'll do my best to keep cranking these suckers out.

Alex, thanks! It was quite a night, putting this thing together. Toward the end, after making the first few cuts, watching the movie with the soundtrack underneath, and finding that it really does fit the way you thought it would; I don't think there's any greater feeling.

I appreciate the editing compliment, as well. Reviewing all my footage is no walk in the park, but I always enjoy dropping my circled takes on the timeline and twiddling with the heads and tails. The Trim Editor in Liquid makes it a pleasure, just dragging left or right on the image to move in and out points a few frames at a time (those so inclined can also use the keyboard). The timeline is a mess by the time I'm finished, J and L cuts all over the damn place, bits and pieces of sound chopped up and moved back and forth. It's as organized as I ever am, though, so I'm not complaining.
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