Amanda and I have wanted to try a kids film camp sort of deal where we could teach some ‘yoots’ the different aspects of filmmaking, from concept, writing, planning, costumes, acting, editing, all the way to premiering in a theater. When our friend Josh’s son Connor turned 13, we decided it would be a great opportunity to teach him film (he’s in theater and is just about the coolest, funniest, most mature kid we’ve met) via a 48-hour film project. After making the promise back in January of this year, we patiently waited for the 48-Hour Film event in Austin, TX—not to compete, but to teach.
Soon after making our birthday promise to Connor, we learned that there was another yoot in the family who was getting into film: Amanda’s cousin Carter. Carter had just signed up for a semester of film club at his school and he brought along his film fanatic friend John, who spent the weekend making the other boys watch the classics, like Forrest Gump and Tucker and Dale vs Evil.
So that was it, that was the plan, get some family/friend’s yoots, throw them into a 48hr, but help them with every aspect as a guide.
The teens drew their genre: Romance. But after making ‘ick’ noises and groaning, they pretty much immediately opted for a wildcard draw for a new genre. They then drew ‘Mockumentary,’ to which one of them replied, “What’s mockumentary?” Oh boy, this should be interesting, we thought… After a moment, Carter says, “Is it like SpinalTap?” Oh yes, this yoot wearing a Mumford and Sons shirt has seen SpinalTap… We’re good.
On the way home to plan and write the script, we began asking them what they’d want to do a mockumentary on. We pointed out to them that sometimes the most mundane things in life, when fully inspected, are the most funny. John blurted out grass… Grass? Okay, pretty mundane. That could work. Any other ideas? And so it went. We spent Friday night teaching/coaching them on what makes a story funny and complete, while getting them to whiteboard out as many different ideas as they could. Then they conversed with each other on why they liked one idea over another and combined ideas and tweaked things and then made a final whiteboard list and voted. Three kids, three votes. Grass Man, the idea that grew from the word blurted in the car, had grown into a mockumentary about an obsessed old man who steals people’s grass… and it won by a landslide. (2 to 1)
We had our concept, so we spent the rest of Friday night working with the boys on scripting out the story and the scenes, guiding them to keep in mind the resources we had (three yoots, one house, one neighborhood). We settled on a simple story about Hubert (played by Connor) an old man who quit his job due to health issues, who lost his meaning in life, and had become obsessed with grass. He is supported by two neighborhood kids (Carter and John), a neighbor (John dressed differently), and a locksmith named Walter Buckley (Carter dressed differently). The locksmith was a requirement of the 48-Hour Fest, along with the use of medicine as a prop and the line of dialogue “Where did you put it?”
On Saturday we took the boys to Party City and Goodwill so they could design/pick out their costumes. They then spent Saturday afternoon into Sunday morning acting, adlibbing some of the best lines, and spent Saturday night watching movies (as listed above). Sunday afternoon we had all the footage we needed and they then sat down and helped out with editing.
The next week they got to see their film on the big screen at the Alamo Drafthouse Lamar and enjoyed some pretty heart-felt laughs from the audience. In fact, the audience loved it so much, they voted it their favorite film of the night! (And the boys got quite a bit of interest from the other directors in the crowd.)
We’re super proud of the work the teens did, especially considering they had never done anything like this before. They each jumped right in and worked well with one another and stayed through to the end, not a simple feat for a yoot these days I’d guess.
Amanda and I have been so lucky in so many ways in our own lives, it’s nice to share our gifts and experience with the next generation.
Enjoy the film courtesy of Connor, Carter, and John!