As part of our new YOMYOMF Network series, The Short List, where we present short films we love every Friday at Noon EST, we’ve reached out to the filmmakers of each highlighted short film, which is part of this ongoing series. It’s a way for them to revisit their film and get an update on their next projects.
First up, we have Blueberry, which you can watch right here:
We caught up with the filmmaking team, comprised of director David J. Lee, actor/writer Randall Park and producer Neil Sehgal.
1. How did you come up with the concept for this short?
DAVE: The three of us had wanted to collaborate on a film (this was around 2008) and were actually developing another project at the time. One night, someone mentioned the Project: Direct YouTube/Sundance short film competition, and the contest deadline was coming up so we decided to have a go at it. The rules of the contest required us to feature three out of a list of props (Moviefone’s red phone and 2 other props representing memorable Sundance films.) When we presented the list to Randy, who had an idea for this story, he said, “This is going to work. We can use the red phone, the orange thong, and the beehive wig.” And yes, it sounded just as weird hearing it back then as it must be reading it now, but we were like, “Okay, sure!”
Personally, I’ve always been proud of the fact that most people don’t even remember these props after watching the film.
RANDALL: I don’t know how I came up with this idea. It certainly didn’t come from a real life experience, because that would be completely insane. Seriously, that would be crazy. Nothing like this has ever happened to me.
2. Any challenges or setbacks during the production?
NEIL: For such a simple short, this was a bit of a challenge to produce (who knew it’d be so tough to track down a red phone)? For financial reasons we decided to shoot on location over a weekend at a motel in Phoenix, which we were able to use free of charge. We hauled ourselves and all of our gear 6 hours from LA to film, and I’m particularly proud that we were able to make the entire film for less than $300 (I think the beehive wig was our single most expensive item in the production). Due to time constraints we shot into the wee hours (with our actors napping between setups), slept for a few hours, and then made the long drive back to LA. I’m immensely grateful for everyone involved for keeping a positive attitude through a really rough weekend.
DAVE: The long hours and lack of sleep were definitely a challenge. Luckily it was an incredibly fun set, but the core of “Blueberry” (and most all of Randy’s comedy, for that matter) is its heart. And while it was no problem for Randy or Marques to keep being funny while we all became more exhausted (if anything, they got even funnier and weirder), we had to stay vigilant and make sure we never lost sight of the heart that the story builds to.
RANDALL: At the time of production, I had this thing called Bell’s Palsy- where you basically lose control of half of your face. It sounds scary, but it’s fairly common. It’s a temporary condition with unknown causes, though it is often linked to herpes. I don’t have herpes, I swear, but at the time I did have Bell’s Palsy. If you notice, in the short, half my face is kind of dead and droopy. I looked terrible, but I figured it might bring another dimension to my character. Like, maybe my character had herpes or something. Because I sure don’t. Honestly, I’ve never had herpes. Marques Ray has stage 5 gonorrhea though.
3. Any funny stories from the making of this film?
NEIL: Randall and Marques are hilarious, and it was nearly impossible for us to keep from cracking up during takes. In fact, as the shoot went on I think Randy and Marques were trying to get each other to break — if you look closely you can see some of that in the final cut. Filming the scene where Randall… umm… ‘touches’ Marques took hours because we couldn’t get through a take without laughing. And, for the overhead shot of Randall and Marques in bed we constructed a platform out of furniture we swiped from other motel rooms and some lumber from Home Depot.
DAVE: It’s a funny story because it didn’t collapse. Plus it’s the setup that gave us one of our publicity stills for the film.
RANDALL: Neil got all the hook ups. If you need a motel for a shoot, Neil has one. If you need a makeshift overhead camera rig, Neil can make it happen. If you need a warm kiss on the lips after a long night’s shoot, go to Neil. Not really a funny story, but basically, I kissed Neil.
4. Where has your film played? Festivals or other places around the world?
NEIL: In addition to the initial YouTube screening, ‘Blueberry’ has screened at VC Filmfest in LA and the NBC Short Cuts Film Festival.
DAVE: Since Neil has pretty much answered this question, I’d just like to take this opportunity to say that I’ve never given another man a warm kiss on the lips after a long day of filming. I’ve only given out firm, masculine handshakes, and very brief side-hugs.
5. What’s been going on with you, filmmaking wise since the completion of this short? What are you working on next?
DAVE: I just finished my MFA in film production at USC (I started the program not long after we completed “Blueberry”.) Neil and I are preparing a feature film which will go into production within the next year.
NEIL: I’m working on my PhD in an unrelated field at Berkeley, and still producing shorts with Dave and Randall. As Dave mentioned, we’re planning a feature to shoot in early 2013.
RANDALL: I just finished shooting an independent TV pilot about a group of multicultural superheroes that join together to fight hate crimes. I’m editing it right now, and it’s pretty awesome. Also, my wife and I just produced a baby.
DAVE: That’s awesome, dude! I mean, this means you’re not a virgin anymore, right?