We are pleased to present A Change in Brunch Plans, one of several silent comedy experiments we are making in connection with our new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube. Our goal was to learn a few things about the making of comedy films both now and a century ago. For the purposes of this particular experiment, we worked within several intentional limitations:
For this one, I was interested in looking at what Andre Bazin called “filmed theatre”, the shooting style of Charlie Chaplin: long takes, with the camera placed far from the actors for the purpose of seeing their whole body in performance. I was inspired by seeing the great clown Hilary Chaplain’s drunk routine at Triskelion Theatre, which reminded me of Chaplin’s “One A.M.” The idea was to have her re-create it on video, with a couple of brief establishing scenes to frame it and make a story. Joining Chaplain in the film are her terrific fellow clowns Audrey Crabtree, Deborah Kaufman and Mik Kuhlman. This technique is necessarily more effective projected large in a theatre where we can see the clown’s facial expressions and body work than on the tiny Youtube screen.
Other parameters in this experiment:
- The video is at natural speed; not sped up for comedy effects
- The video is in color, as opposed to black and white
- The story is contemporary, not period
- No effort is made to artificially distress it or make it look like old film
- The entire shoot took less than two hours
- The rough assembly of shots was done in about the same amount of time
- And obviously, no spoken dialogue
Many of these variables will likely be changed (and/or changed back) in later experiments. For example, just about all of them are different in our next experiment Too Much Nutcracker, which we’ll be releasing in a few days (that one has shorter takes, is sped up, in black and white, and is a period piece.)
This video was shot about a year ago in Park Slope, Brooklyn; an earlier edit (thanks Frank Cwiklik!) was screened at the Brick Theatre earlier this year. And thanks Billy Schultz, who sadly (through no fault of his own) wound up on the cutting room floor!
For more on silent and slapstick film don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc
For more on the variety theatre, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.