Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Day 28 - The Speech

This is what I went off of as I spoke in assembly at Minnehaha today. I ad-libbed quite a bit, so it's not a verbatim copy of what was actually said, but this is at least the road map that I followed while I was talking.

[Clip #1, HP Trailer]

I've had since August or something to write this speech, so I started about 8:00 or 9:00 last night. Not because I don't care, but there's something about that last minute pressure that can really produce some great stuff.

My senior year at MA the publicity interns started making monthly comedic videos, partly to talk about what was going on in the school, mostly just to make people laugh. As the year went on, I became a recurring role, and it was a lot of fun. None of thought we'd keep making films beyond graduation, though.

That spring of my senior year, Mr Seeley played the lead in a local theatre production of the Music Man (over the same weekend we did the show here), and one of the times we went to see him I met one of his fellow actors, someone who would become one of my best friends; an actor / comedian named Matthew Feeney, who does a lot of work with independent film in Minnesota. He basically brought me in to the MN film world, and as a result I've been blessed with the chance to work behind the scenes on a bunch of local productions, including as an extras casting assistant on Prairie Home. Most of the time I work behind the scenes, every now and then I'll branch out and step in front of a camera.

But to the topic at hand. I started writing Harry Putter back in 2004, probably July or August right after graduation, after one too many comments about how much I looked like the Harry from the movies. The story's about the "real" boy, Harry Putter, upon whom JK based the books. But of course she and Warner Brother's took a lot of creative liberties, changing all the details around, so Harry wants to set the story straight.

That's the premise behind Harry Putter. It's a loving "mockumentary".

So I wrote the first draft in 2004, and then it just sort of sat. I didn't pick it up again until last January, then I just said, let's do this. Matthew agreed to produce it, he helped me get a crew together, and we shot it last summer. I really didn't know if it would turn out at all, but seeing the almost-finished product, I'm pretty happy with what we have. Personally I actually think it's funny, which is good. When we watch the two clips today, though, I'll ask you to keep in mind that we haven't finished mixing the audio or adding the soundtrack yet, so just be aware it is not totally 100% finished.

So let's go back to June 25, 2006, the first day of shooting for Harry Putter. I'm sure you all know movies aren't normally shot in sequential order, I think Putter is almost a perfect epitome of that: the very first day of shooting we shot the very last scene in the movie, and we even shot the second part of the scene first because our actor who played Draco Milfoil couldn't make it to set until later in the afternoon. We'll watch that in a minute, I just want to give some context about it first.

Harry's just gotten out of detention, and Professor Bumblesnore has sent him on a quest to get the golden snitch back from Draco and his goons. Now, if you're observant, you may notice that Draco's cronies, Crabbe and Goyle, are actually not boys, but girls named Crabby and Doily. We had 60 people come in to audition for the part of Hermione, compared to maybe a dozen for Harry. Normally not a problem, except unfortunately a lot of them were really good actors, so we ended up rewriting parts of the script and adding in more female roles so we could use some of them on camera as something other than just extras. Hence, Crabbe and Goyle became girls. With breadsticks as wands (and if you look closely you can see Harry's wand is actually a marshmallow roaster)

That's where we'll pick it up.

[Clip #2, Quidditch Field]

Some of you may have recognized that sound we used when Draco screams. There's this rather infamous scream that's been used in countless movies since the early 1950s, including every Star Wars and every Indiana Jones, called the Wilhelm scream. Actually, there's a video on YouTube that's compiled a bunch of those scenes, it's hilarious, you should watch it. The wilhelm scream is one of those sounds that, once you start listening for it, you hear it everywhere. One of my roommates was playing a video game the other day and we heard the scream in there even. We knew we had to use it in HP, so, well, there it was.

Back to Putter. This is my first "real" film, my first time directing, so on the first day of shooting I really didn't know what the heck I was doing. Honestly I didn't even remember half my actors' names that day. I remember a couple times when the DP (director of photography, he's the guy who runs the camera) would say rolling I'd wonder to myself, "why aren't the actors acting? Oh right, I need to say action".

But I eventually figured out what I was doing. Both the cast and crew were super, and I think we all really bonded over the shoot.

So we've got this film, well, almost finished. What do you do with that? We'll have a premiere, then get it put up on the website and YouTube, submit it to film festivals, and then, this summer, if all comes together, shoot number 2, "Harry Putter and the Chamber Pot of Secrets". But why? What's the point?

Partly for fun. Being on set with such an awesome group of people was a lot of fun.

Partly to give people a chance. Most of our actors were new to the camera, and it was such a rewarding feeling to be able to offer them their first role. I look at it like this: someone gave me my first chance, this is sort of my way to give that back to society.

And for me a large part of it is ministry. Okay, Harry Putter's probably not the most religious theme you can think of, but it is a stepping stone toward other projects that will be. I really feel like God put all these people, all these chances in my life for a reason, to help me grow for what I think I'm being called to as part of my ministry. When I asked Mrs Johnson if I could give this presentation, I had high hopes that I'd come up with something profound to say. That was my best attempt, I tried.

I have one last clip to show you, this one we filmed here at Minnehaha. We actually had several MA people work on the film: a few current students, a couple alumni, and one teacher, who you'll get to see in this clip playing Professor Snape. Thanks for listening everyone. Roll it.

[Clip #3, Potions Class]

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