Independent Digital Film Project Chosen for Door County Short Film Festival
MMI is proud to announce the first project from the Independent Digital Film program, titled “The In Tandem Show” has been accepted into the Door County Short Film Festival. The script was written by Sean Little and produced by a team of MMI students, staff and alumni. Sean Little fills us in on how "The In Tandem Show" developed from an exercise in writing into a short film. I wrote a script for a sitcom in hopes of submitting it to a contest. I don’t remember the name of the contest, but the mother of a former student emailed me with the information that Scott Hansen, a comic and comedy promoter from Minneapolis, was running a contest for a sitcom located in the Midwest, with the hopes of producing it locally for the internet, or possibly a small television station. Being a writer and always looking for a new project, I jumped at the chance to expand my horizons with this challenge. I had written screenplays before, of course. In my undergrad work, my senior project was writing the pilot for a sci-fi show, and then doing all the groundwork toward figuring costs in production. I had written sketches for comedy shows, and I had dabbled in playwrighting, but I had never written a sitcom. A sitcom has its own set of rules and structure, yet the story still has to be obvious, and there needs to be a beginning, a middle, and an end.
I came up with a premise that I understood personally-- a thirty-something dude in a semi-aimless existence looking for a new direction-- and found a way to sculpt a cast of interesting people around him. I spent two or three weeks writing and rewriting the script before I showed it to anyone. The first person I showed it to was my sister, and she suggested one joke for it. I polished it up a bit, and prepared to submit it to the contest. However, the rules for the contest were sketchy. When I sat down and read through the legal wording, it was evident that I was basically giving my script to the producers of the contest. If I won the contest, I retained no rights to my work. It was theirs. I was basically giving up any money that might come from it, any future production rights, and it was likely that my name wouldn’t even be attached to the project if it sold to a larger company. Even if I didn’t win, my script was still their property and they could take my jokes and characters. Anything I submitted to the contest, I essentially lost. This was an important lesson: Read your contracts. Know what you’re giving up. The contest wasn’t a good deal, so I had a script that was essentially an exercise in writing. I was proud of the script, though. I thought it was funny. I thought it had legs, as they say in the industry. I showed it to director extraordinaire Nella Citino, and she decided that she wanted to film it. The nice part about being a writer, I didn’t have to deal with all the headaches of production. Nella assembled a cast, figured out a shooting schedule, found some locations, and over the course of three weekends, shot the script with a mixture of MMI students, MMI faculty, and local Madison-area acting talent. They edited it, did post-production work, and in a few months’ time, had a finished product. The In Tandem Show, as it was called, was debuted at a screening for family and friends at the High Noon Saloon in Madison with a selection of other locally-produced short films. I was a nervous wreck, as it is always hard when your work is being displayed publicly where you can hear and see others’ reactions to it. The debut went well, though. People laughed in the right places, and overall, I think it was successful. My sister’s suggested joke got the biggest laugh. (No one tell her, she’s already got too much of an ego, and I don’t need her waving that over my head, too.)
The story of the show is that of a 30-something guy who gets fired from his dead-end job. He is without direction and without a plan. He has a roommate with equally dead-end prospects, and an upstairs neighbor who thinks he is a DJ. A chance meeting with a local bike shop owner gives the guy some direction, and he ends up taking a job at the bike shop. It may not seem like much, but it’s a new starting point.
To me, the show is about the struggle with the aimlessness of not finding the sort of success you thought you’d have when you were younger and more idealistic. It was about meeting the hard reality of life, and then finding out that life is really what you make of it. I wrote a second episode of the show. I like the characters. I like the pacing. I think it would be a fine show to see produced, but I doubt the second episode will ever make it past the script stage. That’s okay, though. Sometimes, one is enough. The In Tandem Show will have a second public screening when it will be shown at the Door County Short Film Festival in Sister Bay, Wis. on February 14. Congratulations to everyone who worked on The In Tandem Show! Nella Citino (Director), Sarah Dopf (Assistant Editor), Ray Ibsen (Assistant Camera), Sean Little (Writer), Travis Kasperbauer (Original Music/Composer), Alex Kudrna (Cinematographer/DP), Eric Jon Larson (Lead Actor), Sean McMahon (Post Production Audio), Jonathan Schaub (Sound Mixer), Dan Stoffels (Original Music/Composer) Cast includes: Ainsley Anderson, Alexandria Odekirk, Andrea Kleiner, Anna Pfefferkorn, Brian Belz, Casem AbduLughod, Eric Jon Larson, Francisco C. Torres, Jim Stuaffer Click HERE for more information about the Independent Digital Film Program at Madison Media Institute.