5 Second Films: Wasting Your Time, But Not as Much as This Article
(posted by t.j. peters)
“Who can draw the best penis?. . .”
“Practice it on a piece of paper and then we’ll put it on his face. . . “
“Should it be circumcised?. . .”
“Let’s just put an actual dick on his face and trace it. . .”
“With veins, or just your basic cock and ball?s. . .”
“Do you think we should draw some jizz on there?. . .”
“Eh, I don’t know if anyone will catch it. . . ”
“Somebody always catches the jizz . . .”
“T.J., you’re the new guy, you can be the jizz catcher. You’ve got to start somewhere at 5secondfilms.”
Well put. I mean, not about being the jizz catcher. That’s fucking gross and I’m not going to do it. I was referring to the “got to start somewhere” part. For 5secondfilms, every joke, every off-hand comment, every “jizz catcher”, could potentially become their next sketch. And nobody, not even them, seems to know how or when the next one will come (or be caught).
Last week I tagged along with the 5sf crew on their weekly Sunday shoot, which took place at the Silver Lake, CA house most of the members live in. The day was spent shooting the shit and shooting the films that have made them, in my eyes, one of the most interesting and entertaining comedy groups out there today. But before I begin with my observations, let’s do a little 5sf history lesson.
5secondfilms is, collectively, Brian Firenzi, Jon Worley, Ben Gigli, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Michael Rousselet, Erik Sandoval, Kelsey Gunn, Michael E. Peter, and Daniel Hollister. The idea began with Firenzi and some friends at the University of Southern California, developed into a method to enter school film festivals, then eventually, years later, took its current form—5secondfilms.com. The site as it exists now has been up-and-running for roughly a year and half, producing one five second film every day, Monday through Friday. They are a self-described vaudevillian showcase of one-line-and-out, irreverent comedy, which, in my opinion, is an entirely accurate description.
Now let’s take eight seconds (that includes the titles) to watch the first 5sf shot on Sunday.
I arrived at the 5sf house a little after noon to generally lackadaisical greetings, the kind you get from a long time friend or one who understands that introductions aren’t really as important as the conversation that follows. (Well, except for Rousselet. That guy is just a bundle of sunshine.) After getting settled and working through the what-kind-of-dick-do-we-want-on-Gigli’s-face discussion (I’ll explain later), it was time to buckle down, get the troops in order, and shoot the 5sf above. . . or whatever. Realistically, what happened was incredibly simple. The camera was set on the porch we were already hanging out on, Brian readied himself with a wireless mic, Worley kept reading The New Yorker, Kelsey left her feet up on the table, I jotted down notes from out of frame, and a 5sf was born.
It may seem haphazard, but I assure you it isn’t. This 5sf was simply the result of knowing what needed to be done and executing it efficiently. Basically, no one got in the way. Once the camera was rolling, Brian took about six takes, nodded with approval, and said, “That’ll do it” without asking any questions. Well, except the one in the sketch, which he answered by himself anyway.
How quickly this 5sf could have gone from sketch comedy to public service announcement. There was a rogue antenna on set and it had a thirst for blood. Despite its best efforts to attach itself to Erik and kill us all, we escaped with only a couple poked eyes and one near strangulation. Regardless, we’re all using wooden clothes hangers from now on.
Shooting “Setting the Mood” was a fun reminder that sometimes the best parts of creating something are the problems you face while trying to complete it. Erik and Brian built the radio antenna for the 5sf from a couple wire hangers, one of which was straightened to extend down the back of Erik’s shirt. From behind, it was Kelsey’s job to operate the device. (This was not fetish porn, I assure you.) However, beyond anyone’s control, the contraption swung around wildly, always seeming to strike the person who had let their guard down for that very moment. The nice thing was, it actually ended up playing well in the sketch since Erik and Olivia had to scramble to catch it. Now I’m not trying to say it was the funniest moment in the world—nor was it the funniest 5sf we’ve seen in awhile—but the point is, it’s those kind of intangibles that take something from simply being funny to being memorable, even if only for the filmmakers. 5sf is full of these moments and it shows.
The third film shot on Sunday is a bit of a sneak peak and the subject of the conversation that began this article. It will debut as part of 5sf Oscar Week, in which they parody every Best Picture nominee of the year. The film 5sf spoofed on this shoot is Inglourious Basterds and, without giving too much away, I’ll say this: when the Basterds party, it gets a little more intense than leaving a guy’s hand in a warm cup of water.
This sketch represents the higher end version of the 5sf. It has makeup, costumes, set design, interior lighting, etc.—proof that making a 5sf requires more than a joke, but skills as filmmakers. Just as everyone knew their role (or lack thereof) in “A Perfectly Innocent Question”, the same rules applied for the Basterds sketch, only with a much more active approach. Without needing to communicate much, every member assumed his or her duty to rig lights, set dress, black out windows, or prepare costumes.
However, this doesn’t mean that they crossed every ‘i’ and dotted every ‘t’ before hitting the set. Needing anther body to fill the frame, I was drafted to throw on some fatigues and do my best to resemble B.J. Novak. (Trust me, I nailed it.) The cool thing was, they had no reservations about doing it. Granted, it’s hard for one background actor to ruin a five second sketch, but still, to me it showed a level of trust and confidence that you don’t always see from filmmakers or comedians.
As I’ve thought about it more, I believe my involvement in the Basterds sketch is pretty representative of how 5sf operates. The idea was in place, the crew was assembled, and then they used the resources they had at hand to make it happen(which in this instance included me). It’s that approach that allows 5secondfilms to pump out a funny product five days a week.
“I’m sorry. We’re usually much more drunk by now,” Olivia said to me late in the afternoon during a lull. Then we all got hammered. The rest of the afternoon is pretty much a blur to me, so I guess I’ll just wrap this up. In closing, I’d just like say that you should watch 5secondfilms.com or something. Also, my fucking head still hurts.
Okay, that’s not what actually happened, but I did appreciate the sentiment because it was a good symbolic gesture. Personally, I always prefer getting drunk in the company of close friends, and I think 5sf would agree with that. Whether intoxicated or not, the Sunday shoot is to 5sf what poker night is to most of us—a chance to hang out with the gang and do something they love. They tell jokes, reminisce about long nights and early mornings, and are genuinely affectionate towards one another. It might be hard to catch this connection in their daily five second products, but it’s what has driven the success of 5secondfilms to this point and will continue to in the future. And you know what? I’d be their jizz catcher any day.
My name is t.j. and five seconds later, I regretted ending my blog that way.
Check back tomorrow for my interview with 5sf founder Brian Firenzi!