When it comes to comedic death, more is more for college filmmakers Joe Gariffo and Shane Bissett.
“We were sitting in [Intellectual Heritage] class and he taps me on the back and he’s like ‘I have an idea for a movie where you just go around killing people’ … so everyone was pretty much for it.”
This is how sophomore film major Gariffo, the main character of Downhill, described the conversation between fellow sophomore film major Bissett and himself. The chat, in turn, led to their movie.
From Dec. 8 through Dec. 23, Gariffo, Bisset, and many other Temple students filmed the 90 minute feature in both Philadelphia and southern New Jersey, taking only a five day break for finals. According to Shane Bissett, the main crew of seven Temple students was into the project from the beginning, but Bissett said the student actors weren’t quite that cooperative.
“We had to convince actors to be willing to waste many days of their lives to work on this cheesy, low budget film,” Bissett said.
Typecasting allowed Bissett and Gariffo to expedite the casting process.
“Most of the casting was like: Can you act? Kind of. Go ahead,” Gariffo said.
Interestingly, no theater majors star in the movie. The love interest is played by advertising major Jessica Kienzle. The best friend of the main character, Teddy, is played by film major Chris Galanti.
The cost of creating a feature-length movie was also an issue for the student film makers.
“It was funded out of our pockets,” Bissett said. “Originally my idea was like, everyone throws in $100. There were seven people involved so we’d have $700, which is decent.”
There were several large expenses for the movie including a shotgun and three handmade boxcars. The $700 budget was quickly exceeded.
“Eventually the budget came to be about $1,100,” Bissett said.
The filming method that Bissett and Gariffo used also affected the price.
“We used a DVX 100 … which shoots in a setting called ’24p’, which looks just like 16mm,” Bissett said.
Using digital equipment made the project possible for Bissett and Gariffo.
“It probably would’ve cost us about $30,000 if we used film,” Bissett said.
The movie is now in post-production and re-shooting, according to Bissett. They are making adjustments based on responses from a prerelease screening.
“We showed it to about 30 kids in Annenberg [Hall] and we put together these surveys that they use for big budget films … on the actual grading scale [of the movie] was an 85 and American Pie got an 88,” Bissett said.
Bissett and Gariffo both said the information gathered from the surveys will be used to make the movie more understandable.
“Based on [the survey results] you can kind of see what people liked and what they didn’t like. Based on that, we’re going to re-shoot parts of the movie,” Gariffo said. Much of the editing work for the film is being done in Bissett’s home. Bissett, the film’s director, said he prefers his home computer.
“A lot of Temple’s facilities are a little annoying to use just because it’s Mac based and I’m more PC [oriented],” Bissett said.
Bissett and Gariffo are currently working on making the film available to the student body for viewing.
Although the film was being re-shot on Feb. 21, “the president of Student Activities is going to watch it and tell us if we’re allowed to show it,” Bissett said. “We’re kind of seeing if we can replace a movie at the Reel.” For more information on the movie, as well as to see a trailer, visit www.downhillthemovie.com.
Tom Hinkle can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.