Lightning apparently can strike twice at The Loft, as my second monthly trip to the First Friday Shorts competition was just as much of a creative ‘perfect storm’ as the first.
For those of you who still aren’t ‘in the know’, First Friday Shorts is a monthly competition that’s been hailed by the Tucson Weekly as the “Best Local Film Event” and by fans of the program as ‘the most fun you can have in Tucson with your clothes on’.
The competition involves rowdy audience participation, blatant disregard for theater quiet zones, and “Gong Show” style eliminations.
Master of Ceremonies Max Cannon took the helm as our trusty captain, and sailed this month’s crowd into an unwitting Sea of Love, Vomit, and Dick-jokes. First Friday’s veteran Michael Sterner was onboard to co-host the event and add colorful commentary where most would dare not.
The rules for First Friday Shorts are simple: Anyone can enter a film in competition. Every film is guaranteed to play for 3 minutes, but after that the audience can call for the dreaded “GONG” if they’re displeased. If the gong is struck, our intrepid host stops the film and the next movie begins.
The show kicked off with a mock-commercial for the product “Diarrhea-phram” and, it’s exactly what it sounds like. It was as disgusting as it was funny, so it was a personal win/win for this ringer.
The first film in competition for the night was “The New Tucson – Grant to Pima Road” by David Morales. It was an interesting idea, but the execution was pretty sloppy. I’m new to Tucson myself and have observed how certain parts of town are much nicer than others. It’s kind of universal; most towns have areas that are more run down that others. But, instead of exploring this idea and why, the film instead showed us a series of blurry shots from Google maps with some superimposed titles and a soundtrack. I think Michael Sterner said what we were all thinking then he exclaimed that this film was a “Power Point presentation.” And a blurry one, at that.
“Tension” by Lisa Marie Evans seemed to divide the audience a bit, but at a lean running time of five minutes managed to escape the gong. The film showed an artist and the artist’s subject, but the end result seemed more interesting to me then the process itself. I didn’t feel the tension, but I did like it.
“The Cordial Dead” by Jonathan Ziegler was a fun little zombie film that seemed to have the audience won over even before it played. I was skeptical. You can bring as many friends and family as you want, but having your own personal cheering section is no guarantee when pitted again the toughest audience in Tucson. But, the film rolled and was an audience favorite. As a fan of zombie movies, I personally found the film to be fun and fast paced. In fact, I was a little disappointed to see it end with just a punch line after only three minutes. But, the director kept it short and sweet and it totally worked.
“A Sequence of Love” by Nicole Ramos was a very brief meditation of love, and was the first with such theme for the night. Try as I might, and I’m one hell of a cynic…I just couldn’t dislike this little stop-action gem. In just the span of a minute-and-a-half it actually packs a bit of an emotional charge, one that seemed to effect even Max Cannon, who wanted to make it clear he wasn’t joking in the least when he called it “very sweet.”
“My Box” by Armida Lowe followed, and it was a thirty-second flick that started out tantalizing, and ended with a jolt. It was good for a little laugh, but overall it reminded more of a viral video prank than a real film.
“Michael’s Knight” by Horacio Trujillo Jr. was an exercise in redundancy, and apparently served no other purpose than to merely agitate the audience. It just was an endless loop of the same scene played over and over again. Max described it as ‘’Memento’ but with more homoeroticism’ and Michael Sterner said it was ironic how a film with his moniker in the title could actually RUIN his night. It was pretty bad and would have gotten the GONG if it had been even a second over the three minute mark.
“May the Force be With You….And Also With You” by Phil Kerrigan was a one-trick dick joke. But, it was a really funny one-trick dick joke. And sometimes when you have something that’s brainless and ridiculous and it works…you stick with it! And this totally worked. This is one of the few films that I have seen play totally uncontested, and it played for over five minutes without one person yelling out for the gong.
“The Smackdown” by Diana Stapleton was forty-five seconds long and I don’t remember it at all. Finger puppets or something. I don’t know. It was over before I even really got a chance to register what I was seeing.
“John Patrick Donahue” by Beard Harmonica was longer than that and I clearly remember hating every last second of it. To his credit, the artist actually submitted an honest-to-goodness film this month, but then he proceeded to make the presentation totally obnoxious by recruiting ten friends from the audience to play one note repeatedly on harmonicas from different parts of the theater. I understand some art is meant to make you feel uncomfortable, and if this was the intent…mission accomplished, sir. But, there’s also a fine line between being an artist, a pretentious artist, and just being a dick. And, I was totally feeling like whoever made me sit through this ‘art’ was probably just being a dick. It sure the hell wasn’t entertaining or fun. The audience must have agreed with me on some level, as this one got a GONG almost immediately after its allotted three minutes.
“Thank You” by Nico Colaleo and Alex Italics was a fun little exchange between two friends in an apparent politeness contest; one that can only end badly. I really found myself laughing out loud at this one, as goofy as it was…it had a lot of heart and the actors had great timing. The audience applause on this one was off the charts!
“Bushy Report” by David Bushy felt a lot like a family vacation video that also happened to document the “Thrill the World” event that took place at various places across the world last fall. For those unfamiliar with the event, it was a Guinness World Record attempt at seeing how many people across the globe could all do the zombie dance from Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video. And, that’s exactly what this film showed. Oh, not the world wide record attempt, but instead just a couple dozen dancers in a park, somewhere in southern California. Soccer mom’s in spandex…Dancing to “Thriller”. The entire goddamn song. Really. At some point I actually was more entertained by the people and pets who accidentally walked in and out of the frame, than the film itself. What did I say earlier about being a dick? Filmmakers…please don’t make your audience hate you. GONG!
A music video called “Spit Don’t” by Brian Narbut rolled next. I didn’t like the song or the video, and the crowd agreed…giving this one a mighty GONG!
“Tim and Joe’s Products” by Tim Lavoie rolled next, and I immediately knew I was
seeing something great unfolding onscreen. I enjoyed Lavoie and his crew in last month’s “Awkward Situation Mastery” and this film had a similar sort of pace and feel to it. This time out, instead of mocking a self-help type of film presentation, this short was presented as a series of fake commercial vignettes. For the second time that night, a film rolled uncontested. This one got my vote, for sure.
“I Saw You” by John Sende was described as an erotic thriller by it’s director. I’m afraid we never got a chance to really see anything either erotic or thrilling, as it didn’t play out the full twelve minute running time and got the GONG early in.
The music video “I’m that Spic” by director Willie “Poop” Hammer had technical issues at first, giving the audience a sneak peak at a pixilated and scatological animated video with no sound. I wasn’t at all interested, and even when the audio rolled…I was less than impressed. But, the audience seemed to appreciate the video on a level I never did. It was offensive, I guess…but on such a ‘seen it before’ level that it never much moved me to either laugh or cringe. Dicks. Poop. Jesus. Whatever.
Oh, and did I mention the video of the dogs? It wouldn’t make any sense if I mentioned it to you out of context like this, so I think I’ll just not go into it. Suffice to say; whenever Max was unhappy with the audience…he had ways of dealing with us. Ways that involved things that cannot be unseen. It’s a First Friday Shorts thing. You’d have to be there to understand.
The night came to a full climactic peak with three films being voted as the top contenders of the night: “The Cordial Dead”, “Thank You”, and “’Tim and Joe’s Products”. One last surging round of applause later and the clear winner for the month was director Tim Lavoie and his film “Tim and Joe’s Products”.
His film will go on to compete next month in the final Golden Gong Awards!
Stay tuned for an interview with this month's winner Tim Lavoie.