On the Set of the Chad Vader Season Finale
Post by Emily Mills on 3/27/2007 11:44am
By now the vast majority of us have heard, seen or read something about the Ã¢â‚¬Å“Chad Vader: Day Shift ManagerÃ¢â‚¬Â series of short films. TheyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve gotten millions of views on YouTube and MySpace, write-ups and interviews in everything from Isthmus to The Wall Street Journal, and appearances on VH1 and Ã¢â‚¬Å“Good Morning America.Ã¢â‚¬Â ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s one of the top internet success stories of the past year, and it all started right here in our very own fair city of Madison.
The creators of the series, Aaron Yonda and Matt Sloan, had been working together as Blame Society Productions for a few years by the time they did Ã¢â‚¬Å“Chad Vader.Ã¢â‚¬Â The duo had also helped found the local chapter of the International Kino movement, Wis-Kino, a group dedicated to making short, independent films. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s how I met them and their other, behind-the-scenes partner in crime, Tona Williams. And thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s how I came to be a grip and general helper monkey on the set of the latest installment of Ã¢â‚¬Å“Chad Vader.Ã¢â‚¬Â
I got the email on Wednesday asking for help with the shoots on Friday and Saturday night. They were both to be at the Willy St. Co-op, as usual, which is just a few energetic prances away from my apartment. Naturally, I agreed to show up.
I had no idea what, if anything, IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d be doing. I am not a professional filmmaker, nor do I have much experience working on film sets any more complex than one person with a camera and a whim. I showed up, waited in the Ã¢â‚¬Å“green roomÃ¢â‚¬Â and nibbled on craft services cookies for a minute before being put to work.
The term Ã¢â‚¬Å“gripÃ¢â‚¬Â is pretty much a catch-all. When you see the grip credit at the end of a film, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s saying that that person did a variety of completely unglamorous odds-n-ends jobs on set. I held electrical wires out of the way so no one tripped during a scene, I fetched chairs and step ladders and a coffee (which is technically more of a PA duty, but who was I to complain?). You may even see the top of my head or me staring at rows of juice in the background of the episode when itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s finished.
When you watch episode 8, I will have had a hand in making those Jedi mind tricks come to life: a floating broom, boxes of shaking lemons. It was harder than it sounds, too. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have you know that shaking boxes full of lemons in a convincing way while lying down with no leverage is hard work.
IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m being intentionally vague so as to avoid spoiling what will be the final episode of the season. What I will say is that lemons will be used as projectiles, lettuce will be smashed, brooms will be floated and Harry Potter will die. One of those is a lie. IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll leave it up to you to figure out which one.
What I was most impressed with, out of all the stunts and hilarity and one excellent Sith Lord costume, was how smoothly things ran. ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a rare beast indeed when a group of creative types can get together and make something happen quickly, efficiently and with a high standard of quality. Yonda, Sloan, Williams and John Urban have worked together on the whole series (and beyond) and it shows. Transitions from filming one scene to the next were remarkably fast, people knew what they wanted and things got done. Even the traditionally unruly extras were wrangled with aplomb, especially during one large-scale scene that included something like fifteen people.
On Friday, they filmed until two in the morning. On Saturday, they went until three (I admit to ducking out early that night). A lot of hard work goes into making these shorts and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a shame that so many people only ever see them online. The quality of the original images and sound is far better than what you see on YouTube. But theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re obviously still getting plenty of notice and recognition. In my humble opinion, and especially after seeing the process that goes into them, itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s all well-deserved.
You can see episode 7 now: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jEzLrMQC5GE
But youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll have to wait about a week for episode 8!
For more delightful Blame Society films, visit http://www.splu.net/
Tona Williams makes good stuff, too: http://www.bigbite.org/
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Emily Mills is Editor-At-Large for Dane101, as well as Editor of Our Lives Magazine. She is also a freelance writer, photographer, actor, and musician (drummer and singer in local band Little Red Wolf). Originally from several states up and down the Midwest Emily has called Madison home since 2000. Contact her at