Channel Life is a movie Rach made on a (one strand of a) shoe-string budget in two days for a film making competition that he had been planning to participate in for three months. You can read his post on Channel Life on his blog, and / or watch the movie here.
Now since it was a short one minute movie, he couldn’t fit in the credits, and with his permission, I give them here:
(mis)Directed by: Rachit Agarwal
Produced by: Rachit Agarwal (erm…maybe that should read ‘Rach’s parents’; or maybe we should just flag down the first flying saucer and escape before the telephone bill comes in)
Cinematography by: Rachit Agarwal, A.S.S. (yes, he’s got a higher certification that those Hollwood cinematographers who are simply A.S.C.)
Cast (in the order of appearance): TV Watching Kid – Rachit Agarwal; Popcorn Munching Kid – Rachit Agarwal; Cookie Crunching Kid – Rachit Agarwal; SMS Language Subtitles Kid – Rachit Agarwal; Shielding Eyes From Bright Light Kid – Rachit Agarwal
‘B’(ad) Camera Operator: Srishti Agarwal
(good parts) Edited (out) by: Rachit Agarwal
(pathetic) Story by: Ankur Banerjee
(terrible) Screenplay by: Rachit Agarwal & Ankur Banerjee
Soundtrash suggestions by: Ankur Banerjee & Srishti Gulati
Technical (goof-ups) Advisor: Ankur Banerjee
(im)Moral Support (aka pestering to complete the project) by: Ankur Banerjee & Waris Jain
Here’s whom Rach dedicated it to:
To all those people who helped me on The Movie That Never Got Made
And here’s whom I dedicate it to:
To Pony, for teaching me a thing or (forty) two about vidddeos
There. I think we have that settled then. The story of this movie begins long long back…far in the mists of time when mice were only just paying for Earth’s construction with their Galactic Gold Credit Card (for which you need to earn seven pnedes a week)…
Maybe not that far back. It started when Rach said he wanted to participate in a movie making competition, and the topic was the Fine Line In Art. I told him to take a blank sheet of paper with ART written on it and draw thin lines over it using a 42 cm ruler and number 2 pencil. And forgot it all about it.
Several movies with cacophonous soundtrash and ham acting on cable television later, he called me up one week before tomorrow’s submission deadline. Apparently, he hadn’t cared to read the whole guidelines yet, and found out there was more to it. It was something pretty boring and restrictive to me, and I couldn’t think anything useful up (loads of trash, yes, but useful…). Can’t work with my creativity straitjacketed. Rach did come up with an absolutely brilliant idea, only to have it all shattered by some ‘technical difficulties’, so The Movie That Never Got Made never got made.
And then, he noticed that there was another one-minute movie segment too in the competition with no topic, and asked me for ideas (again). Maybe Almighty Marvin was in an altogether really depressed mood that day for I came up with about ten story ideas for him in 42 minutes.
My original idea was on the Virginia Tech killer story, and on the Columbine High School shoot-out tragedy. It was on high computer games might potentially be turning kids to violence these days. The story went like this:
- Open with scene from a first person shooter (FPS) game, like Doom 3 (play original soundtrack).
- Transition to scene where you see a boy’s hand only, FPS style, holding a gun and walking away from his computer. All scenes after this, unless otherwise mentioned, are FPS style.
- Show him going around the house, dodging obstacles like chairs by going over them, not around.
- He goes to shoot his dad (only back is shown), watching TV. Shoots, and dad slumps sideways.
- Boy goes to kitchen, where his mom (again, only back is shown) is washing dishes (humming a tune?). She too is shot, and falls sideways. Alternative – face down into the sink.
- Boy climbs stairs to go to roof. Perspective is still FPS. Show him looking down the roof ledge (and climb too?).
- Next shot is of boy lying dead on the ground (pool of blood near his head using ketchup?). Shot is taken from roof.
- Transition to scene where a man (face not shown) is working on a computer in a dark room. He’s a journalist, which is implied by making him speak on the phone and saying “Yes, I’ll have it ready for tomorrow’s paper in 42 minutes.” He was a word processor open, with picture of boy lying dead on ground with the headline ‘Boy Goes On Killing Spree, Doom-style’. He’s typing out the beginning of the report.
- This scene to be done using screen capture software. Change orientation to landscape in word processor, blow up font size to 60-70. Show the words ‘are video games turning our kids to violence…’ being typed out. Only 1-2 characters should be shown at a time. Fade out to black.
There. I gave everything. And the idea was not done, because he chickened out of asking his parents to do such gory roles, but mostly because it’d take more time. But we both accept this was a more powerful, darker storyline very well adapted for a one minute duration film.
There were more ideas (write to me if you really really wanna hear those other ones too), which were far more tame (and much less gory). There was one which we liked, that of a kid growing up (face never shown) and how there’s a voice-over telling him that he should study now so that he can have fun later in life. And then, we show him growing up, as a teenager, as a college student, working at a job – and each time he’s working himself to death while a voice-over tells him form behind that he should slog now to relax later in life. And then we show that by the time he retires, he doesn’t have the urge or the will to do crazy things he wanted to do anymore. It was a good story, but pretty linear.
We finally settled on this story of a couch potato who doesn’t know a life beyond TV, and then one fine day, comes to face with the fact that there’s a life outside. It’s about how he discovers that he wants more out of his life than being a couch potato. My original idea was not to show the face (did I ever mention that earlier?) of the person. Ah, I confess. I liked the recent HP Shaun White ad which doesn’t show us the person’s face, and yet the whole things looks so good and artistic. You can see that ad here if you haven’t seen it yet.
Also, I had some other ideas too for the endings. One version had the boy enjoying a bike ride outside (shown in slow motion) while autumn leaves are falling down on him (shot in sepia tone?). The other one had him standing in front of a football, and kicking it towards the camera. As the ball whizzes past, screen fades to black. A second version of the second version was that after he kicks the ball and it’s mid air in flight towards the camera, the scene is continued on TV. Ultimately, both were dropped in favor of just showing him outside because mine would’ve taken time to execute (and I admit they were difficult shots). The words at the end were different too – Rach had first used ‘Wake up. There’s a LIFE outside…’; but at the last minute when it was about to be saved we came up with ‘Take (remote) control of your LIFE’ to add a dash of humor to it.
We then had to think up a title. For Rach, who’s always worked by thinking up a title and THEN making a movie around it, this was something new. He first suggested, and shot with the title Couchy. Not that I liked it very much, but I said that since he was thinking up bad titles anyway, why not call it Couchy Couchy Coo. After much deliberation, we came up with Channel Life. There was a fun moment – we were trying to expand ‘TV’ and make it the movie title, and Rach said Totally Virile. He didn’t know the meaning of virile, and when I did tell him, it more than convinced him it wasn’t suitable.
Coming to the video itself, I must commend Rach that he did a superb job of it. The dark scenes in the beginning (no, I don’t think it’s too dark) are amazing, including the perspectives / camera angles. The ending is good too, except I’ve a major grouse that he kept it too short. The original idea was to keep it 35-25 split between TV and non-TV sequences, but at 45 seconds for TV in the final cut, it almost seems like a commercial for cookies / HBO. I must say that the beginning did raise my expectations, but the very little time devoted to the outside scene did take a bit of shine away. Maybe some scenes from the beginning could have been cut out, say to make a movie 42 seconds long, but then I guess we both need to work out communication gaps a bit. Maybe, as he said, we should have tried out with a preview audience. After all, it was our first creative project!
Rach executed the story idea expertly, which shows how talented and multi-faceted he is; because he directed, acted AND edited the movie all by himself. He works really well (that’s when he really wants to do something and CONCENTRATES); it was for this multi-tasking ability and flair for direction that I had taken him on the annual day vid team. I’d love to work with him on projects in the future too. Kudos to Rach for a job well done, and I wish him luck!