Regardless of what you think of Robert Rodriguez and the quality of his more recent work, you can’t deny that the man is an innovator. Having started at a young age and making his first movie El Mariachi for a mere $7000 through raising money by essentially becoming a guinea pig for medical trials, Rodriguez then turned this into a profitable breakout independent hit. Following this we got the likes of Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn and The Faculty.
Around the turn of the century Rodriguez founded Troublemaker Studios which spawned the enormously popular Spy Kids movies and lead to Sin City. Rodriguez’ adaptation of Frank Miller’s seminal noir comic book was a game changer because it was stunningly faithful to the comic in a way that people just weren’t doing at that time and it took advantage of some cutting edge green screen filming technology to bring the seedy world of Basin City to life. Rodriguez also took the ballsy step of resigning from the director’s guild so that he could share a director credit with Sin City creator Frank Miller.
This brings us nicely to Two Scoops which takes the basis of green screen technology and how it works and ties it into what we as an audience can do with all our HD camera enabled portable phone technology. Two Scoops is a short film which Rodriguez shot with the backing of Blackberry as part of their ‘Keep Moving’ campaign with the intention that certain elements of the film would be greened out whilst shooting like weapons, missing person photos and most importantly one whole character’s exposition scene. It would then be up to the audience to submit their own designs for weapons, monsters and their own photos to complete the movie and fill in those green gaps as well as videos of themselves performing lines to take the place of the two main characters’ boss seen on video link in the film.
Blackberry held the world premiere of Two Scoops in the trendy location of Old Street, East London recently. We were treated to free ice cream and also exposed to a short presentation on how Robert Rodriguez pulled this off. Then it was time for the film.
Two Scoops is a short in every sense of the word, it revolves around Rodriguez’ twin nieces Electra and Elizabeth Avellan (from Planet Terror and Machete) who play ice cream truck workers by day and heavily armed secret agent/master assassins by night. Their father is mysteriously missing and they are approached by the mother of another missing child to help find who is stealing all of these missing people. This leads them to a warehouse and a fight with some rather poorly rendered one eyed beast. That’s about it sadly. If you thought that this would be a Planet Terror like treat thanks to the Grindhouse like poster, then you would be wrong. Two Scoops is totally from the Rodriguez who brought you The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl and is so lightweight it barely registers with its three odd scenes. To be fair though, the elements that have been inserted by the fans are seamlessly integrated and had we not been exposed to the ins and outs before hand then we would never have known what was fan sourced and what wasn’t. Whoever the fan that plays the girls boss is, he does a sterling job and should be proud of himself. Two Scoops is an interesting way to pass ten minutes if you have that spare, but probably wouldn’t work as a full feature and its natural home is online. Most amusing were the end credits where we got to see many of the submissions that didn’t make the cut. So many were so far out there, with people really going to some elaborate lengths to make their work stand out. Arguably this was the most entertaining part of the film.
After the film Rodriguez joined us via video link from his base in Texas for a brief Q&A.
Starburst: Can you tell us a little bit about what the experience was like of collaborating with your fans in this way?
Robert Rodriguez: It was a fantastic idea to collaborate with fans in this way. That’s how I work, to bring a lot of collaborators on, actors, artists etc. and you don’t always know what the result is going to be at all. You develop a playground for people to bring their ideas and the audience interacting with me is the same way I work with my top collaborators. I’ll give them an opening and a piece of paper and say I’ll say “I know what the story is but some parts are missing, can you fill those in with your ideas?” and it always enriches the project. When you watch the movie it’s kind of hard to tell because it works so seamlessly with everything. Everyone had such terrific ideas and in the end credits you can see how difficult it was to choose from so many great ideas. You can see with the guy with the helicopter firing away, he did that in less than a week! I think I am going to do all my movies this way! Here is what we need, send in your ideas, send in your performance and finish the shots for us. They did such a good job for us and I really enjoyed not knowing what the pieces were going to be and then being as surprised as the audience that they integrated. I think that’s part of the magic of the movies is that we could give them little information, in fact no one saw the movie they just had little clips that showed what was missing and they had to go on instinct. Somehow magically it all flowed and that’s what happens in collaboration, it just works out so that was what was most exciting, that people I had never met could come with the right mind-set and freedom. It was really moving to see people work that hard.
We know that you had over 8500 submissions; some were tweets, pictures and videos. Did any really stand out to you and what was it like going through so many submissions?
It wasn’t so much daunting as it was exhilarating to see how many great ideas there were and that it could go so many different ways. At my peak I am working on a big movie with maybe 125 people on a crew, to have that suddenly increase to 8000+ was pretty amazing, we had that much of an influx of ideas and ways to do it and everyone’s idea was different, 8500 different ways to skin a cat, it was amazing and has opened my eyes to possibilities for the future in terms of crowdsourcing and giving people a shot. So much of my interaction with people on social media has been hearing people ask for a shot and asking for me to read or view something so this was my chance to say yes and people really stepped up, there wasn’t much talking people really walked the walk. It was great to see that dedication and people putting themselves out there.
From a cinematography point of view, working with green screen technology, were there any big challenges that you had in your efforts to incorporate a lot of these submissions?
No everything worked out really well, we sent people the green screen blank space and they filled it in and really understood. I didn’t get any submissions that were off the mark, it was amazing how little information you had to give people to make it work and people watched and read what they were supposed to do and it worked really well. So often the ideas were completely different from what I had in mind and it made it better and things just lined up. The way the creature was destroyed lined up really well with the creature that was chosen, it was really interesting to see. It was hard to pick which is why there were so many runners up because everybody did such good work.
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