Thursday, December 31, 2009

Vlog Star: Christmas Special

About two weeks before the week of Christmas, I met up with Vlog Star producer/writer/director David Duman and he proposed doing a Christmas special. I feared there wouldn't be time, but liked the idea. We started batting jokes and concepts around and decided it would be worth a shot. Put out the call to our cast and guest stars, rounded up as many as possible, and started knocking around various bits built around the concept of Nate shooting his own Christmas special. And that's how, in the show's shortest lead time, we ended up meeting the week before Christmas to film the show's longest episode. (Good thing more guest stars weren't available or it would have been too long!) Despite the length, the fact that it's funny makes the special play pretty briskly. It's basically a series of sketches, so it's jokes all the way through, which is what we should always be doing anyway. It also has some of the show's dirtiest jokes. I wasn't sure about them since they go farther than the show has in the past and I am a big prude, but they made us laugh that first night we were pitching out ideas. No one else had a problem with them, but I wonder if we need to pull it back a little before Nate becomes a full-time sexual harasser.

This episode also had our biggest crew, including a student from my English class who is interested in film as PA/boom operator, and Chase's parents, who watched us film and beautifully wrapped the boxes that would contain our dirtiest jokes. Thanks to everyone who came out on short notice. We had an awesome time and made something that stands with my favorite stuff from season 3.

Still, getting it done before going home for the holiday was a killer. So I was right about that.

Vlog Star Outtakes

More outtakes from season 3. Some bloopers and some fun alternate improv that cracked us up too much to be useable.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Vlog Star: Sister Parts 3-4

So, what else is there to say about the concluding parts of Vlog Star's "Sister" story arc? Though one of our missions this season was to make the show more self-contained, that doesn't always mean avoiding multi-episode arcs (indeed, there is another multi-parter coming soon). Instead, it means that when we do multi-parters, they'll be more focused and contained within themselves. So, "Sister" spans several episodes, but it's not something you have to keep track of all season. That's a slight difference, but I think it makes a difference in how accessible the show feels.

4 parts for this story might have been too many. But we've also been trying to wring more comedy from the story, and sometimes this means bits got expanded. My favorite is the exchange at the end of Part 3, when Nate obsesses over Nicole's freckle while claiming not to be bothered by it. There's a nice, natural, realistic rhythm to the bit that is also really funny to me since Nate is ostensibly agreeing with Nicole, yet obviously can't let it go. So, Part 3, long as it is, may not advance the story much, but the whole bad/awkward seduction is the reason you go to the trouble of setting all this up, so we might as well stay awhile.

Also, we had to rush these episodes out so that they would finish in time for the Christmas Special, which references the events of this story. Editing two of these, plus a nearly 10-minute special, in half a week, was pretty brutal and wouldn't have been possible at all if it weren't for the holiday. We'll be taking a break this week so you can get all caught up. No, not really. The break is for me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Vlog Star: Sister

I'm really excited about how this episode turned out. I feel like a lot of the things I've been trying to achieve in season 3 are starting to really come through. In both scenes here, I feel like the timing and the energy of the performances have a spark that I've found lacking in the past. That is, even when the editing was brisk, there was something draggy or artificial about the performances (mainly mine, but sometimes others, usually because we were rushing to get our footage and not taking the time to rehearse and refine the scenes), and here they feel fresh and spontaneous. The other thing that works well here is the extended improv riffing that we did in multiple takes, which this time were actually usable and cut together pretty nicely. Again, the looseness of these bits results in some of my favorite moments -- in this case, it's everything after Nicole's "compliment" to Nate in the first scene.

Other happy surprises: I think this is the first time the show has had a scene where three characters are bouncing off each other at once, and having Nicole caught in the middle of Nate and Max's escalating nonsensical argument worked really well. What's more, I think we're finally finding something that works for Max. In the first two seasons, Max was a nice guy despite being constantly put-upon, but we failed to get much comedy out of it. In season 3, we decided that Max would be fed up with Nate, and the hostility between them would come to the surface much more. This has given the character a lot more room to breathe, and in this episode and "Overdose," we get good stuff out of it. I'm pleased since, outside of Professor YouTube, we've strained to give Max stuff to do and now I feel like we've found a direction that's interesting.

The other change this season is that we gave ourselves permission to let the show be a little edgier and dirtier. Looking at past episodes it kind of felt like we were holding back and not always letting the show be as funny as it needs to be. We felt like the show could stand to be a little more fucked-up, and I think this comes across in the episodes so far this season ("Makeover," "Overdose," and "Hit Me" all have elements that are weirder and darker than we've done in the past) and continues in the multi-part story launched by this episode.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Vlog Star: Hit Me

For a show with a premise that's often (twice?) described as "meta," Vlog Star is usually not all that meta as a show. This episode actually is. Obviously there is the fact that Alexa criticizes Nate's intent to make another crying video in hopes of getting noticed by weirdos as "fetish bait," while the episode itself could be accused of the same thing. (Side note: When writing this episode, I assumed that there was probably such a thing as a crying fetish, but I'd never heard of it specifically and didn't bother too look it up. Even so, I was still kind of shocked when Dave looked it up and so quickly confirmed it. The most hilarious thing we learned was that you can get porn where the sex is actually interrupted by the participants breaking down crying and holding each other for twenty minutes. I assume they just make this out of outtakes from regular porn.)

Anyway, in addition to that meta joke, this Vlog Star episode could also be considered a (very, very) in-joke, since this actually happened to us, not with Vlog Star, but with a certain episode of Kenny Bloggerly's Internet Life, which is now the most watched video on my account (viewers: 100% male, ages 55-64) for reasons not entirely unlike those described in the episode. But hey -- most-viewed video! Yay?

Not that we're expecting lightning to strike twice, but hey, if it happens, it happens. The Internet is an amazing thing.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Makeover Outtakes

One of the things we're trying to do in the new season of Vlog Star is leave more time during shooting to do some improv takes and find fresh new variations on jokes. You can see the results in our first two episodes, and I think the improvised segments in each end up containing some of my favorite moments.

The problem is, it can be tough to actually make the additional material fit in the episode, not to mention to find a way to edit it cleanly. Example: all the jump cuts in the latter part of "Overdose." Starting from the point where Max exits for the first time, everything was written or improvised on set. (I don't know, maybe that's obvious.) Anyway, we end up with a lot of stuff that is not quite usable, even though it's pretty funny. Especially when we have to get back to a point that joins up with the ending as written.

For example, take this run from our first episode of the season, "Makeover." We couldn't use all this stuff in the episode (only the joke comparing Alexa to a disfigured supermodel made it in, and then only partially), but putting it all together here, I like it a lot. It's almost funnier than the actual episode, which makes me think I should have found a way to use more of it, or to better integrate this style in the future.