AFI: The Movie

Editor's first stint with moviemaking turns out to be a fun, rewarding experience.

Ah, to be a movie star. Craft service provides the finest in catered finger foods. Of course, there’s a bevy of up-and-comers and hangers-on at your beck and call. With a simple snap of your index finger and thumb, here comes the rush of some star-struck Hollywood hopeful, as they apply a dab of makeup or hand you an espresso with delicate European dipping wafers or thrust an open appointment book into your waiting palms so that “your people can call their people” or “you can do lunch.”

Well, I found none of this to be the case in my first foray into moviemaking. In fact, my recent experience at the BowTie Studios was not even remotely similar. Yet I still learned a lot, and it was a fun experience. And judging by my 9-year-old daughter’s reaction to an early cut of “AFI: The Movie,” starring her dad, it delivers that entertainment punch I envisioned from the get-go. Hopefully, the more aged of you will also be entertained and perhaps even consider subscribing to AFI, if you don’t already, after checking out this movie short.

The genesis of this Aquarium Fish International sneak-peek mini film began with an email from our editorial director asking that each editor of our company’s various magazines put together a short, informative celluloid overview, or sneak peek, about their respective titles; the final cuts of which were to run on each magazine’s companion website, which would be FishChannel in the case of Aquarium Fish International.
While entertainment is hopefully one of the byproducts of these cinematic efforts, the primary goal of “AFI: The Movie” is twofold: 1) bring the editor off the editorial page and to life and 2) garner interest among FishChannel regulars, especially those who may not already be getting AFI in their mailboxes each month, to consider becoming regular subscribers of the magazine. While there is some crossover between the magazine and our website, most of the magazine content does not run on our website. Internet sites are storehouses, or libraries, for vast amounts of information, so there’s a lot of stuff that tends to be a little more cursory in nature. Magazines, on the other hand, tend to take a more in-depth approach to content. Why not subscribe to both?

The Art of Moviemaking
The first thing I needed to do was to conceptualize the film through the use of storyboards. I also had to choose a style. Do I go film noir; maybe I try for something Jason Bournesque, how about a docudrama? I settled on more of a humorous PSA kind of thing. “And the winner in the Short Film-PSA category goes to. . . “

Besides the storyboards (pictured), I had to generate a script as well as determine if I could carry the film on my own, or if I needed a costar to take off some of the heat. I opted for a costar. I needed a real scene-stealer, someone who would work for chicken feed.

I am a big fan of those amazing novelty toys Screaming Rubber Chickens, so much so that a few years ago I ordered one for myself. Picking my costar was a no-brainer. So, now, we had the star, me, and the costar, the chicken. I now had to somehow weave my down-on-the-farm second into a narrative about aquariumkeeping. I decided to “borrow” from famous “Star Wars” Director George Lucas and open the film with a crawl of various aquariumkeeping doomsday scenarios, replete with ominous voiceover (they modulated my voice) and creepy music.

After several edits, my final storyboard and script was forwarded to our company’s Multimedia Manager Greg Charkoudian, who is in our Lexington, Kentucky, office and who would schedule a time to come out and shoot “AFI: The Movie” (at least that’s what I’m calling it). Greg doesn’t just jet around the country shooting movies starring fish editors and rubber chickens; he came out for the week and tended to lots of other business.

A few hours before shooting was to begin, I transcribed the script onto large cue cards. I also edited out a couple of tongue-twisting words (at least they were for me) so as to make my in-front-of-the-camera delivery as smooth as possible. Because we were shooting in front of a greenscreen (a giant cascading roll of green butcher paper suspended vertically), I wore gray slacks and a blue blazer. If I had worn my green car-salesman jacket, my torso would have disappeared and you’d have seen my bulbous talking head floating above a disembodied pair of legs. Entertaining perhaps, but kind of a train wreck, too. The most-difficult thing for me was getting a clean, sequential read of the cue cards. There were numerous retakes as I verbally stumbled and bumbled. We even edited out some polysyllabic words on the spot. KISS (keep it simple stupid).

Of course, before you can ever release a film, you have to deal with the ratings board. And “AFI: The Movie” was no exception. After the “ratings board” determined that our film had an excess of gratuitous chicken violence, a second chicken scene ended up on the cutting room floor. Once the film was re-edited it was released to general Fish Channel audiences. And you are seeing its world debut here on Fish Channel for the very first time.  

Besides myself and my costar, there were six other film crew members in the studio watching and helping “AFI: The Movie” come to life. Should any awards be forthcoming, I would like to thank Auteur Greg Charkoudian for his masterful film direction, and where would we be (straight to DVD that’s where), if not for the deft handling of the set by the film’s Production Coordinator Gina Cioli (her day job is BowTie Studio Manager). Others I’d like to thank include Gaffer Frank Esteinou (also a Digital Prepress Specialist), whose lighting prowess helped get the best results; there was Serial Lurker Shawn Fung (Digital Prepress Specialist), who offered some timely advice; there was Assistant Director Ben Weiner (former AFI Associate Web Editor), who ably turned cue cards and kept things flowing; and, some might say, most importantly, there were the invaluable contributions of Chief Chicken Wrangler Paul Rosales (also a Digital Prepress Specialist); there were also the special-effects magic added by an unnamed freelance video editor.  Thank you all. I hope everyone on Fish Channel enjoys “AFI: The Movie.”  

Watch “AFI: The Movie here>>


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