Dan Milstein and Bonnie Duncan, a married couple, can’t help being creative. Dan is an actor/director/theater company founder/computer programmer. Bonnie is a dancer/puppeteer/costume designer/trapeze artist/arts educator. But those labels are too limiting because every time I hear from them they are cultivating new slashes. Most recently, they have become indie YouTube filmmakers. Their debut short is Killing Time, soon to become a cult classic, I’m sure. They’ve got two more in production and I’ll post those as soon as they’re ready.
Here’s the film. Following it are excerpts from my email Q&A with the filmmakers. Wait to read it until you’ve seen the film as it kind of gives away the plot. I apologize for the funky spacing below..some kind of Blogger glitch I can’t seem to fix.
Why make this film?
Bonnie: Tim Gallagher (my dance partner) and his housemates asked us to be involved. They are a wildly creative, very smart group of friends who all went to Tufts and the School at the Musueum of Fine Arts together. They felt like Dan and I had some skills that would make their project stronger and that we all had a common odd sensibility.
Dan: In addition to everything Bon said, in case it’s not clear from the
YouTube page, it was also an entry in the 48 Hour Film Project –
which was a total blast. We were challenged with a genre (Horror),
and a bunch of story elements, and had from Friday night to Sunday
night to write, shoot, and edit the whole thing. 11-person team.
Bonnie: Dan can speak more to this than I can so I will leave this answer to him. I was only present at the initial brainstorming session where we hammered out what we did not want and what we were drawn to as a group.
Dan: Dunno. The initial story idea came out of some fun brainstorming.
One of the other team members had the basic idea of the people in the
office, one of whom has the hobby of killing people on the weekends.
And I can’t resist turning everything into a love story.
Also, before the weekend started, we had (as is allowed by the rules
of the project), lined up a handful of different albums we had
permission to use to score it. And the one we did end up with was
just so fun, and so strong, I think a lot of the piece came together
in that delightfully strange counterpoint to the tone of her songs.
What roles (other than the obvious — Bonnie plays the female lead) did each of you play?
Bonnie: I helped with initial brainstorming but was then sent home to go to bed since I would be busy acting the next day. That was my basic job but I also got to do sound for some scenes I was not in and I was the dog handler. For our other movies, I help with costumes and other visuals. While everyone has a specific thing they work on, this group is so great because we all want to make a great movie and we jump in and fill in with whatever is needed.
Dan: One of the very cool things about the group was that it was very,very openly collaborative. So the roles were loose — everyone did a good bit of everything. That said, I did a bunch of writing (which was very fun). After the initial brainstorming on Friday night, I and two other guys stayed up until 3 or 4 am writing out the gossipy dialogue and ways of killing. Which were then further developed on Saturday, and cut this way and that on Sunday.
So, what is the story with the music? I just loved it.
Bonnie: Kristen Andreassen is a friend of Patrick’s. Patrick is a musician and worked on the movie as well (he has his head bashed into the ground.) Patrick did a lot of the editing and he listened to her music while he was working. We were a little dubious about it working with the horror genre. It, of course, made the movie what it is.
Dan: As Bon said, Kristin’s music made the movie.She is up on MySpace with at least one of the songs from the movie (Your Ex Life Calling, which is brilliant). She seems quite the slash person herself.
You are both already leading creative lives. How does dabbling in film fit in?
Dan: Speaking for me, it feels like it fits fairly neatly into the theater side of my life. I mean, it’s a different set of people, and I have a different role, but it feels like a part of my theater/writing/creating career, where I’m always wanting to try new things, and work with new people. And I have been thinking pretty seriously about making a bid to write for TV (Kristin and I are working on a spec script right now, in fact), so this also fits into that. It does feel a bit like it sits on the boundary between Something I Do, and Something I Happened To Do This One Weekend, but I’m okay with that ;-). And heck, it’s been viewed over 700 times on YouTube (!). That’s more people than have seen almost any of my plays, so whose to say which is more serious.
Bonnie: Film seems like a new challenge for me artistically. Acting in dance and in theatre is very different so I’m really enjoying this style of performing. I’m really enjoying having to use the beginner’s mind. And, working with a new group of people is so inspiring. I feel like I have been artistically complacent in the past year so it is really nice to be excited about something totally new.
Artistically, the first scene we filmed was strange for me—I was looking at a camera, pretending to watch TV (while Dan flickered aluminum foil in front of a blue light bulb) and giving it my all. At this point in a performance, I am usually being held upside down and looking at hundreds of people who are quietly staring at me. Filming was odd and kind of thrilling—where was the audience? Once I began to relax, I could really play with what I was doing—it was a joy. And, seeing the final version and sharing it with so many people is fun. With live performance, you just get to remember what it was like. With film, we actually get to see exactly what it was like and share that exact thing with people. It is just great.
I’m definitely interested in pursuing more film projects and sharing work via the web—there’s a whole new audience out there.
Any interesting reactions?
Bonnie: Some people were surprised at how professional it seemed—they did not know what to expect. And, everyone has their opinion about what happens to the characters after the movie—there are the optimists and the not-so-optimists.
Dan: As Bonnie said, everyone has their own opinion as to the future of
the two main characters. My hunch is they live together quite
happily, and he has his hobby (killing) and she has hers
(needlepoint). But other people think she doesn’t survive the first
date. Who knows?