Thursday, February 19, 2015

Tucker Garborg on "Adderall"

What was your filmmaking background before making Adderall?

TUCKER: I have been making videos as class projects for a couple of years now. I started out focusing entirely on just being silly and making my peers laugh. I used whatever camera I could get my hands on (sometimes just my iPhone) and iMovie to edit it.

Eventually, I became interested in producing more high quality videos. I started to acquire the necessary equipment to make everything look nicer in my projects, but I still was just making funny little videos for my classmates. Adderall is the first thing I've ever made that I would call a "short film."

I've also been an actor since I was very young and used to audition for movies and pilots quite a bit. I've been on a few professional sets, but at that age, I was never interested in anything outside of acting.

I have never had the opportunity to take any classes on video production or screenwriting. I read a few chapters of the "Filmmaking for Dummies" book my mom bought me over the summer, but almost everything I have learned has been by my own experience or observation. For this reason, I'd say I had no filmmaking background prior to making this short, just some experience in basic editing and a love for comedy and acting.

Where did the idea come from and what was the writing process like?

TUCKER: My junior year of high school, I was the Vice President of Student Council. I had the job that my character had in the short. I was told to "write what I know," so that's exactly what I did.

Just to be clear, none of the characters or specific events that take place in the film are inspired by anything or anyone real. None of the teachers or staff at my school have ever been anything but helpful and supportive, and no Student Council VP cares that much about relish. I just took my situation and replaced everyone in it with ridiculous characters to make the story interesting and funny.

I wrote a few drafts, each time adding new characters and seeing how they affected the situation. I always had the stern, unamused principal and the jerk teacher, but the story didn't really come together until I came up with Kyle. By adding this lovable idiot, I was able to come up with a reason as to why the police were notified (which is the reason why Tucker's adventure became such a big problem in the first place) and I could now think of an ending that wasn't as empty and predictable as the principal simply telling Tucker whether he could keep his job or not. On top of this, Kyle is just a really funny character. After I added him to the script, I was able to tie everything together.

What was your goal for making this movie?

TUCKER: I made this movie to use as part of my creative portfolio in applying to film schools, so ultimately my goal was to make something that could hopefully get me into college.

However, I made this film exactly how I wanted it to be. I wanted it to be an accurate representation of me, my sense of humor, and the kinds of projects I'd like to make in the future. In the end, I made something that shows my best writing, directing, filming and editing abilities and I'm very proud of it. Whether the admissions counselors are impressed or not is terrifying but it's out of my hands.

What kind of camera did you use to shoot the movie -- and what did you love about it and hate about it?

TUCKER: I used a Canon 5D Mark ii.

I love how easy it is to use this DSLR and the impressively high quality footage it is capable of recording. I also REALLY love how my dad owns it and lets me use it for free. That's the real winning reason behind why I used this camera.

The only characteristic I dislike about it is the small screen, which makes it hard to make sure all of my shots are 100% in focus. However, this is a stupid complaint because a bigger screen would not fit on the camera. Also, it's my dad's camera and I have to be grateful in order for him to let me use it again. Thanks dad.

What was your process for directing yourself?

TUCKER: I had been planning and thinking about this short film for months, and I planned how I wanted my character to act and speak. When it came time to film, I had practiced lots of my lines and narrowed down how I would like to deliver each of them. Still, I had no idea how difficult it would be to direct myself. I would watch each take of myself after we finished filming. Whenever there was an issue, I would go back and try again immediately.

It was hard directing myself as an actor when I wasn't able to see and adjust what I was doing on camera as I was doing it. However, I didn't know anyone else my age with any screen acting experience. Along with this, I shot lots of random scenes at very odd hours and I would have felt bad putting another high school student through that, especially since they would have been working as an unpaid actor.

How did you cast the other roles and how did you work with the actors on the set?

TUCKER: Josh Carson, Andy Kraft and Jim Robinson are all people I have met doing shows for the Minnesota Fringe Festival. They are all very talented actors and comedians who helped me find my own passion for comedy, writing, and narrative storytelling.

Josh Carson has written, directed, and acted in all three Fringe shows I've been in and all three years, he's always made me play an idiot. At the same time, he has a natural talent for acting like a loud idiot. In fact, he sometimes acts like a loud idiot when he isn't even trying. Combine this with his comedic timing and the chemistry the two of us have refined over the past three years as well as Josh's very real inability to tie a tie (he's like 34 and engaged to be married) and it's clear that Kyle was the part for him.

Andy Kraft is another actor I have worked with on three different Fringe shows. He has a subtle ability to make everything he says funny, even when it isn't meant to be. I've seen Andy play all sorts of characters, ranging from Snoopy from The Peanuts to Harry Ellis (the cocky coke-addict salesman in Die Hard) to an unqualified high school counselor. He always does a great job at delivering shocking insults to children, so I cast him to play the teacher, Mr. Kraft.

I had the pleasure of working with Jim Robinson in the most recent Fringe show I was in. He is one of the most talented, kind and understanding men I've ever encountered, so of course I recruited him to play the angry, stubborn principal. Jim is very good at making a character his own while also taking direction well. On top of all this, he looks exactly like I would imagine an angry principal to look. Even before I had ever met him, I have always imagined an angry principal to look just like Jim Robinson.

Since we are all friends and have worked together in the past, we all had an understanding on how the scenes were supposed to be. They seemed to understand what I was looking for immediately when they read the script. I would ask them to do one take of each scene strictly following the script, and then we would do another take where we would improvise. While most of it ended up getting cut, there are a few improvised jokes here and there that made it into the final edit. I am exceedingly grateful to have such talented people be so generous with their time to help me out with this project, and I owe a lot of the success to them.

Did the script change much while shooting and, if so, how and why?

TUCKER: I had to cut one scene for time's sake (the colleges required the video to be under ten minutes) but in hindsight, I probably would have cut it even if I didn't have a time restraint.

The dialogue itself is extremely close to what I had originally written, but I cast comedians for each role and they are masters of improvising. If I really liked something they did and it worked with the script without disrupting the flow of the scene, I added it in. Josh Carson (Kyle) in particular had a role where there was more room for improvisation, so a few of his lines were all off the top of his head.

Overall, the few changes in the script were just spur of the moment ideas that weren't inspired until I was actually there working with the actors.

What was the smartest thing you did during production? The dumbest?

TUCKER: The smartest thing I did was shoot the video in my own high school. I was able to plan every single shot and angle before each scene was actually shot, and I saved a lot of time this way. Also, I live ten minutes away and could come and go easily whenever I wanted to get any shots I was missing. Overall, it was just a good idea to write a story about something I am extremely familiar with taking place in a building I know like the back of my hand.

The dumbest thing I did was plug my shotgun mic directly into the camera when shooting the scenes in the principal's office. We were shooting at a separate location and my boom operator was unable to come with us. We were also under a bit of a time crunch, so I just put the microphone right into the camera. I learned the hard way that the white noise in a room changes depending on where you place it, so lots of the audio in these scenes is very choppy and fuzzy.

And, finally, what did you learn from making the film that you have taken to other projects?

This was the first project that was fully mine. There was no topic I had to talk about, no partners with different visions I had to compromise with, just a ten-minute time limit for me to create whatever I wanted.

I made this film exactly how I wanted to make it. I never expected anyone else to care about it because I only made it for me. After I posted it on social media the first night, I was surprised to see how much my friends and family enjoyed it. When I posted it elsewhere and it became more popular, I got a lot of other great feedback from strangers. I learned that I do my best work when I'm 100% passionate about it and don't go out of my way to appeal to anyone in particular.

I also see my technical errors and have learned what I could have done to avoid them. For example, I'm still learning that you can never be too thorough when filming scenes (and recording audio) from every angle and that consistency is very important. I look forward to applying all of this to future projects.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amazing film for a high school student. Very well written and filmed (loved the Wes Anderson influence). Interview responses are nice too. Excited to see what this kid does in the future!