According To Whim: Season 0: Sniffles
North Texas: Public Access TV - Comedy - Writing - Music - Screenplays - All sorts of creative junk!
A (Sniffles) Show History
Part 3: Back to School
They Cute - Another little idea we had come up with while making the chase scene. Two women happen to see us on three consecutive days working on the chase scene. They think we're attractive but don't want anything to do with us because of the fact we're slobs who wear the same shirt three days in a row. We got our significant others together, Kim and Melynie, on a Saturday and we decided to throw in an inside joke that I don't expect anyone to ever get. Chris' wife finds me more attractive, while my girlfriend likes Chris better. Another irony was the fact that we hadn't thought about getting them to change shirts for each supposed day they were seeing us, so it kind of makes them look like slobs too because they're also wearing the same shirts on three consecutive days.
The New Work Ethic - Chris had become fiercely determined that the time for the b.s. was over. We had let ourselves slip over the summer and we hadn't gotten done what we had needed. We were going to finally start cracking down on ourselves. We were going to come up with a rigid schedule and we were going to stick to it. This meant that we needed to find specific times every week when we could write, storyboard, and shoot. On top of that we would also impose deadlines on ourselves.
So for at least two weeks that I can remember, Chris made the long drive to Denton from Fort Worth so that we could get together in the computer lab in my dormitory in order to write scripts. Actually he did most of the writing. I think I had some papers to write. Once he was done with the scripts, he would print them out and hand them to me so that I could work on the storyboards. From these sessions, part of Wandering Bard was written as well as a good portion of the original show 2.
Public Access Edit of the Chase Scene - One of those deadlines that had to be met was the public access version of the chase scene. Here I had to go back shot by shot and re-edit everything like I had done back in June. The only real difference between the two is the catalyst for the big chase although as I have said before I kind of like the Sony version better. Also this one didn't have the music. We tried to edit the music from the original version onto the new one, but there was enough of a difference, minute as it may seem, in the pacing that the music didn't fit quite as it should have. We would have to get together some time to rescore the scene.
Trying to Get Other People - We also talked about bringing other people into our mess. We had limited success with this. Most of our friends thought trying to get a show done was a cool idea, but were downright unenthusiastic when it came time to actually shoot it. And a lot of times they weren't very interested in it creatively. What the problem was, we figured, was that we were only using them because we knew them and they were therefore convenient. But the reality was they weren't as interested as we were. What if we could find people who were as dedicated to the show as we were? It was perfect. I lived in a dormitory full of artists and film majors. Surely there would be someone else we could bring in to the fold.
To that end we made up a couple of flyers advertising for people to join us in our quest to make this public access show. We went around to all of the dorms on campus and put them on the bulletin boards. We got a couple responses, including one from the school newspaper.
Our First Newspaper Interview - One of the reporters for the school newspaper, The NT Daily, had seen one of our flyers and thought it would be a good idea to interview us. I set up a time when Chris could be there as well and we met with this guy who asked us questions about public access and what we were trying to do. The article appeared a couple days later. Our egos were stroked a bit. On top of that we got more responses in our quest to get other people for the show.
Meeting the New Sniffles Candidates - I got a few calls because of the article. Whenever possible Chris and I tried to meet them together. One guy was an aspiring screenwriter and had brought a script he had written for Mad About You that he was going to try to sell. The only problem was that upon talking to him, he didn't seem to have time at all for the show. To us it seemed more like excuses than anything. His deal was that he was going to school full time, but so what? I was going full time as well. You don't actually spend that much time in class. Maybe the truth is that he just didn't like us once he had met us. It's been fairly common.
Chris and I had the idea of trying to assemble everyone that had called at one place at one time. I set up the date and told everybody to be there. Chris recently told me that he is the only one who will not flake when it comes to artistic pursuits. Whenever you set up a place and time, he will be there. Well not this time. So had to handle these few people who showed up by myself. It just so happened that I knew some of them anyway. One guy was in my pre-cal class and another was Eric Chuang whom I had seen around campus and with whom I'm still acquainted.
I brought them to my room and I put on the chase scene. They didn't seem to be very interested in it. I could tell and I made the suggestion that we could turn it off and one guy agreed more enthusiastically than my ego would have liked for him too. The guy from pre-cal hung around for an hour and we tried to come up with some ideas. I don't think anything clicked and I haven't talked to any of them ever since, except for Eric although we've never formally worked on the show together.
He did make an indirect contribution though. About a year later he would ask me to play a cop in his final project for the beginning film styles class which I would in turn use as what Chris is watching on the tube in my final project(Un Nuit..., episode 4)for that class the next semester.
The Results Are In - The month of October brought a double-whammy to my artistic ego. On the Sony contest we didn't even place as a runner-up or honorable mention or anything. They did send a blank Sony VHS tape as a consolation. I also got a rejection letter from the Dallas Video Festival. It was signed specifically from Bart Weiss whose name I had heard around my campus when he came to do a lecture one time. He said that he liked the video(I bet he says that to everybody), but there was no place he could find for it in the festival. Hopefully, he said, it might have chance in the Texas Show portion of the festival which would be starting next month
This was the big wake up call for me that told me that we weren't as good as we thought we were. While it did bring down the ego quite a bit, I think that at least has had a humbling effect.
Finishing the Laundry Thing - One Sunday afternoon, Chris and I went to find Shello so that we could finish up her part in the sketch we had begun a couple of months before. By this time she had moved out of her mother's house by the nature center and was living with her new boyfriend. We almost had to drag her out of the apartment. She seemed kind of reluctant to leave the apartment at first, but she relented. We went back to the house which had changed a bit since we had last been there. Their picnic table had been moved so that it was in front of the garage, and that was kind of a good thing since it became more apparent how we could set up the second part of our dialogue with Shello. We would just sit at this picnic table and talk. Not as inventively staged as I would have liked for it to be, but at least it works for me.
Recording the Theme Song - We were still showing the chase scene to anybody and everybody who would watch. Among my college friends, it was met with blank stares. Mike Fonseca who had just moved into the room down the hall from me remarked that it started out okay and "kicks a lot of ass, but it just goes on and on, and you're like goddamn! It's funny at the end when you're falling, but you have to go through all that other stuff to get to it." Nevertheless he expressed an interest in doing the music for the show if we ever wanted. He happened to play drums and when it came time to record the theme song that Chris had been toying with for over a year, we enlisted his services.
One night we dragged his drums into a cubicle that my dorm had set up in the basement for people to practice in because with the close proximity of the dorm to the music school there were a lot of music majors living there. We recorded him hammering his drum track for the theme song on my 4 track which Chris is still borrowing to this day. We took his drums back to his room and for the rest of the night Chris and I recorded all of the other parts which were essentially both of our guitars and we went ahead and used the piano that was in the cubicle.
Hostage Scene Day 4/Piece of Meat/Show 1 Completed (Almost) - And so we trudged on with the hostage scene. We could never seem to get everything done all on the same day. I met Chris out at Randall's apartment complex. When we had been doing the second day of the Native scene, he had pointed out what is probably the most useless staircase ever built. It leads right directly into a fence. Chris figured that we had to do something with it. So we used it as the staircase that leads directly into the plane of the Hostage scene. We also used it for this idea that Chris had to shoot fake outtakes of the chase scene. In one of those scenes, he chases me up the staircase from where we are transported into an alternate universe. We haven't gotten to the alternate universe part yet.
From there we went back to my mom's house to shoot the closing sketch of the show. In that scene I'm seeing Chris out to the door but before he leaves I go to the fridge to get something for him. The idea was to do a sketch like this for every show. It was based on this thing I had seen on the door of one of my professor's office. It was this article telling about often confused lyrics of popular songs. One of those lyrics was to that song that goes, "every time you go away, you take a piece of me with you." The article said that people often confuse it with, "everytime you go away, you take a piece of meat with you." I had told Chris about the article. He thought it particularly funny and wanted to incorporate it into the show. So there you have it. Chris might not like that I gave the joke away, but if you've ever been wondering what those sketches are about, that's what it is.
With everything that was needed to be done for the first episode effectively complete, it was high time that we started working on our opening credits. Before Chris had to leave for work, we inputted the 4 track into the VCR and recorded the theme song right after the re-edit of the chase scene. We also hooked up my Tandy 1000 computer that we had used to do the credits for the original chase scene and did a screen featuring everybody's name that had acted in the show. We then went and found individual shots of all the cast members and put that in as well so that each image of the person preceded their name. We've pretty much stuck to this method although now we don't use the Tandy computer anymore.
Write A Script! Night 1 - We had gotten a little lax in our "rigid" scheduling, but Chris came up to Denton one night, having just finished a script based on all of our conversations we had been having over the summer. We both knew that what had went wrong with the three minutes a day thing was that we had nothing to do all of those times. I knew it then, but I finally convinced Chris of it(That's just my viewpoint. I'm sure the truth is somewhere between his viewpoint and mine).
We went out to the middle of the campus. We didn't have a camera operator to walk with us as we're talking which is the way I would have liked to have shot it, so instead we opted for shooting each other's close-up as we're walking and talking. If you'll notice there's never a travelling shot with the both of us in the frame together. We managed to get some external camera movement when another guy who lived down the hall from me, Brian McIntosh, passed by us while he was riding his bike through campus. We got him to do the long panning shot of us as we're passing by the bench. He did that for us and then he rode off on his merry way.
We dubbed him Disappearing Brian because at one point Chris and I were deep in discussion about how to set up the scene. Meanwhile Brian was circling the platform we were on on his bicycle. We weren't paying attention to him because we were into our own thing, but we were highly aware of the sound being made by the bike. Then all of the sudden the sound stopped. Chris and I realized that it had stopped rather abruptly and we looked around only to find that Brian had vanished. He showed back up a little while later so it's not like he went through some cross-dimensional vortex or something, but we still can't explain it to this day.
Anyway we shot all the way to the part where we go sit on the bench at the bus stop. We only got half of the long shot done before the tape ran out. I hadn't thought to bring an extra blank tape with me so production was effectively shut down for the night. We could have went out for another tape, but we figured by the time we did all that it would be way too tired.
Write A Script! Night 2 - Chris came up the following night and we finished up at the bus stop. There was also another scene we needed to shoot outside and in the dorm. While we were outside, this girl took an interest in what we were doing and asked if she could help out. Her name was Dawn Bartek and she ran camera on all of the shots at the dorm.
Larry Maher - He was one of the guys who responded to the article in the paper. I don't know what he's doing now, but at the time he was a recent graduate of UNT and he had just started his own production company, shooting promos for law firms and that sort of thing. He got together with me and Chris in my dorm room one night and we watched each other's stuff. Chris and I liked him and his work and we thought he thought that same of us, but we've never seen him since. I had even left a message on his machine, but he never called back.
Show 1 Moderator Sequences - Chris and I decided that since Dawn had seemed interested in working on our show we would go ahead and use her as a camera operator whenever Chris came up to Denton. So one night we got her to shoot the moderator sequences for show 1 with us although there wasn't any camera movement so it didn't really matter if there was anyone behind it anyway. I guess we just kind of wanted to have Dawn hanging around with us. It's not very often that we get a female presence on the show.
Will You Go Out With Me Now? - On another night we had Dawn act in one of our sketches. It was an idea we had kicking around for a while since the previous summer as I recall. It was based on one of my usual rants at the time about how I wasn't getting laid and it never seemed like I would ever have a girlfriend. This was how much of a loser I was. There was this girl Christie who was part of our little neighborhood clique back in high school. She had managed to date every guy in the neighborhood, except for, of course, me. So Dawn's character in the sketch is kind of based on Christie except for the fact that I had never put the serious moves on Christie to begin with, so that's why I probably never scored.
Dawn seemed a little nervous about being on camera and it kind of shows in the footage a bit. On top of that I'm putting my arm around her so that probably wierded her out even more. We had only known each other a short while and that was the closest we had ever been. But it all kind of works in its own favor. My character is invading her private personal space and so it comes off a little more naturally.
El Redundant Burritos - This sketch was something that was going to go on the Original Show 2. It was a commercial for a product that is so cheap that single guys living on their own will eat them so much that they'll get sick of them, but they'll have little choice since it's about all they can afford. We went to my mom's house on a Saturday afternoon. I storyboarded it when we got there. We shot it and that's about it.
What is a Texas Show Without Our Show? - My tape came back from the Dallas Video Festival. It had been rejected for the Texas Show. J.R. sent a letter with it. She hadn't seen the tape, but had remarked that there must have been something to it because the judges even watched it twice to see if they could find a place for it, but they just couldn't. I wish I knew what that had meant. Was watching an entry twice a rarity? Did they watch it twice because they liked it, but it turned out that it didn't fit in with a time length or even political posturing of the festival? Or did they watch it again just to see if they could figure out what the hell was going on. Here's my impression: "I can't believe those idiots actually tried to enter this garbage into the festival. What were they thinking? Let's watch it again to see if there's something we just didn't get."
Roommate from Hell Day 1 - Part of the Original Show 2 was a segment dealing with two roommates, one of whom is very possessive of their friendship to the extent that he does not like outsiders whatsoever. Chris plays the possessor and I play the possessee. The sketch involves what happens when my character tries to go out on a date.
For this sketch Chris had managed to base it on separate experiences that both of us had. Mine was a couple of years ago with a particular friend who didn't like me hanging out with other friends. During my junior year of high school, I had started getting acqainted with a girl. The thing about it was that this was a girl that he had not known or had tried to set me up with which was highly unusual. He told me point blank, "I don't like the idea." The fact of the matter was there was nothing to like or dislike about it. He didn't know her so it wasn't like he was trying to protect me from her evil ways or something. It was simply a matter that he had to be in control of every aspect of our friendship and in this case he had none.
Chris' situation happened a couple of years later. There was a girl he had started hanging out with. They weren't dating or anything since at the time Chris was probably still very committed to his marriage. It was just a friend to do stuff with. Well she had a male roommate. He was just her roommate, nothing going on, just someone to share the rent with, but apparently he had a possessive streak in him too. Chris had went by their apartment to pick her up because they were going to go bowling or something like that. He was talking to the roommate about their plans. After a short time the roommate said, "well, I'm ready," practically inviting himself along for the excursion not really an ideal situation as far as Chris was concerned.
That was essentially the basis of that particular script. One Saturday afternoon while Kim was at work, Chris and I got together at her apartment and shot the introductory bit where he's watching tv and then addresses the audience up to the part where there's a knock at the door and I run to answer it. We also shot the part where I take Chris in the bedroom to confront him on his being ridiculous. That was pretty much all we were able to get that day as the rest required Kim who like I said was at work.
Roommate From Hell Day 2 - We got back together at Kim's on a Friday a couple of weeks later. It was the week Stargate came out as I recall. We shot everything that we could involving Kim's arrival to the apartment and how badly Chris handles the situation and my subsequent anger. We have the same problem as we did the first night we tried to stage the Dr. Pepper bottle fight scene where we got together so late in the day that you can tell how the sunlight seems to disappear faster than it normally would. We let it slide that time since everything was shot inside anyway and at that point I really didn't care and I still don't since it seems as if no one will ever see any of this.
Sneezing - Chris stopped by the apartment on the following Sunday. Instead of continuing on with the original sketch, which would have involved going out to a fast food place, we confined ourselves to the apartment to minimize time since Kim and I were planning to go out shopping and to the movies. The script Chris had was based on an incident that had happened in the summer of '93(a lot of inspiring stuff seems to have happened during the summer).
Chris and Melynie had come over to my mom's house one evening and they had sent us out for something. We couldn't leave because I could not for the life of me find my wallet. We searched just about every logical possible place we could think of. Meanwhile you know how women are. They will hammer it into you until the day you die about how inept men are at keeping track of things and they will use that as a means to give them a superior status especially if they are the ones who manage to find what it is you have lost. Melynie pulled it on me that very evening. I asked, "oh and you've never misplaced anything in your life?" Her response was a way too overly self assured "no." How high and mighty of us.
As it turned out they found my wallet while we were out. It had been sitting under a big giant Webster's Unabridged Dictionary which had been sitting on a stool. Gosh! Why didn't I think to look in that oh so obvious of places? Chris and I had thought of several variations on that idea, but the one hewrote the script for this time involved a married couple whose life is falling apart because they've lost their checkbook, their cat, and a few other things. They're sitting around talking about all their woes(Chris wrote it so that we would try to sound as overly dramatic as we possibly could)when I start having a sneezing fit. As a result I start ejecting all of these lost items from my nose and there is a happy ending. We only shot the first part since there wasn't a lot of time, so all of the sneezing stuff never got done. We'll probably wind up reshooting everything anyway.
Sean Schemmell - Yet another guy who had responded to the paper article. An interesting note: it just so happened that he was the older brother of a girl, Jessica, who I went to high school with. He lived out in Dallas and commuted to UNT. It took us several weeks before we actually got to meet him because he was so busy. But one evening Chris and I went out to his apartment and showed him the entire first episode. He didn't seem to be too impressed with our work. He commented that we weren't very convincing as actors except that he did like Brian's portrayal of the Keeper of the Sign. Nevertheless he still seemed excited to work with us. Of course we never saw him again either due to circumstances which I will get to very shortly.
Death of the Camera - It was another of those nights when Chris had made the trip to Denton. We got Dawn and we were setting out to shoot something. We were walking out of my room when the camera fell out of the bag which I hadn't realized was not zipped up. It only fell about two feet, but the impact was enough so that the thing didn't work.
The Resurrection of the Camera - My mom put it into the repair shop at the Incredible Universe where we had bought it and we waited. "We'll have an estimate by the end of the week." Well two weeks go by and then finally the estimate. "We should have it fixed by next week." Next week, "it's not ready yet, maybe next week." It was about a month before I got it back. It may as well have been an eternity because the opportunity to try to get a lot of stuff done over the Christmas break was lost.
The Death of the VCR - It was New Year's Eve and Kim had a party over at her apartment. I had brought the VCR from my mom's house and I had left it out in the trunk of Kim's car. I had brought it over so that I could show Chris the work I had done editing the Original Show 2. I had set the VCR on the floor which was a big mistake because Chris' son Jude seemed to think that it was a platform for him to stand on.
When I finally came to my senses and got the VCR off of the floor, I put in the Super-VHS master that contained Chris and Miguel: A Hate Story, Episode 1, and the first three minutes of the Original Show 2 only to have the machine start eating it. When we finally got the tape out it had snapped in two. I blamed Jude's having stood on the VCR as the reason, but the truth is, as I would find out almost a year later, is that VCRs have the tendency to do this when they are extremely cold. I hadn't let the thing warm up enough before trying to use it, so it was my error. Sorry Jude.
Of course had I realized this mistake I could have avoided the hell that was the absence of my beloved editing VCR while it too got the repair shop runaround.