Friendship Discount : An Unpublished Film Observation

In February, we ambitiously filmed a 7-page comedy sketch within a four hour period. As a result, things didn’t go as planned and we weren’t able to bring the piece to the level we were hoping for. There is, however, something incredible that came out of it: a hands-down great collaboration, which I hope will continue in future projects as soon as we’re allowed to.

The film we shot was called Friendship Discount and is about a young man that attempts to take advantage of a special discount after eavesdropping in on a customer who just received it. He personally doesn’t know the manager of the store but nonetheless forces it upon him in an overly exaggerated way. Eventually, through a serendipitous moment, he gets the discount from the highly reluctant manager.

For our cast, we had Michael Kidd as the store manager, Hashim Hassan as the first customer, Rob Jeffers as the second, Julia Bentley as the third, and Richard Sanghera as the fourth.

Photo by Julia Bentley

We had Frank Fernandez as our producer and all-around helpful guy, Elizabeth Merced as our script supervisor and alarm clock for when we need to get the hell going, Jesse Banda as our boom operator, and Steven Kochems as our script editor.

We shot at the Scraps Shop location in Downtown Fresno that Frank locked in. As a side note: They have some really fashionable shirts, cards, keychains; everything really. It’s worth checking out if you haven’t already in Fresno.

All of these people were absolutely wonderful to work with and I cannot wait to collaborate with them again.

The lessons learned are pretty clear.

Production Time

A 4-hour shoot for a 7 page script with many characters was overly ambitious. It would have been much smarter to plan the production across at least a couple of days. We were limited in time with our location and knowing that, it should’ve been planned accordingly.

On the same day, I even forgot my monitor in my office and we still had to set up, leaving us with 3 hours to shoot. That surely didn’t help. Then finally, we were shooting at our own pace until we found that there were only 20 minutes left. Everything went all over the place. I was missing inserts, script beats, and didn’t know what to look out for in performances. We still had to run through half of the script in a wide angle. In these last few minutes, I scrambled to get the cast to act out the entire script like a theater play and filmed what I could all with a disgustingly shakey long lens. It was a disaster at best, but hey, we still got to the end and through all 7 pages.

Photo by Julia Bentley

There’s no doubt that productions in the future will allow for multiple day or full-day shoots. Sure, continuity needs to be more aggressively observed, but that’s a much lesser cost than a subpar end-result.

The Writing

The biggest issue here, in my opinion, was that the writing and script was never fully fleshed out with regards to the situation and characters. Character questions weren’t answered, causing discrepancies for the performances that actors were having on set. This helped result in a film that wasn’t succinct.

Photo by Julia Bentley

In my opinion, the story didn’t end up fitting the location, the characters, and their actions, which was key to producing the jokes and comedy. How could this have been prevented? I already had my doubts in pre-production and rehearsals about these and should have addressed it immediately instead of waiting to do so on set.

Photo by Julia Bentley

I think these discrepancies resulted in a mediocre comedy sketch, which had the potential to be much funnier if the screenplay had been more of a focus.

The script should have been written as more of situational comedy piece versus focusing on specific characteristics of the characters to make the sketch funny. I think by having the situation already funny on the script, it would allow the actors to add to the sketch their own qualities to make it an overall stronger, funnier piece.

I enjoyed tremendously working with all of the actors in this production so much. However, ultimately, I didn’t have a clear vision for what I was looking for in the performances. In rehearsal, this should have been clarified.

Maybe I’m being overly critical here… but I think these learnings ought to be considered for the future to improve the way we work. I will say that all of this is on me.

As I said, I think everyone still did a phenomenal job with what we had, and you can see it in the snippets we’ve decided to release separately. That is some good stuff. I cannot wait to work on another production with this team and I thank them all very, very much for their time and effort in working with me on this day.

If you found this article interesting and would like to help us continue producing comedy sketches and short films, please consider becoming a regular supporter of 511 Films. It would help us a ton in getting new productions off the ground and at a higher level than ever before.


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