Looking Back: "Suicide in The Modern Age"by Rob Kasel on 09/07/11
I find it hard to believe it's been over a year since our last short film. It was 2010's Suicide in The Modern Age, an award-winning short film that lingered more on the serious side of things in comparison to the rest of our body of work. Up until that point, Amendment 1 Productions meant only one thing: Screwball comedies with a ridiculous premise, ridiculous characters, and an even more ridiculous ending.
Most people would find it hard to believe that "Suicide" was originally written as a classic Amendment 1 comedy. The original suicide letter/voice-over was far more ridiculous than what you see in the final version of the film. The character portrayed by Mike Kasel was going to be seen in various settings and situations, observing people going through the motions of a typical day and outlining his disgust for these things in his suicide letter. One example in the original screenplay was for the character to be enraged by certain things that occur on Facebook. Other examples were cell phone behavior and other new activities in mankind brought on by advances in social media and technology. This is why the film was originally titled Suicide...in the Modern Age.
As I continued to write and rewrite the early drafts of this story, I began to discover that my heart wasn't in it. I couldn't bring myself to make the story funny. It was early 2010 and I was in the midst of one of the most trying years of my life. I was just coming out of a divorce and had nearly lost everything. I had spent the last seven months in a 10x10 room in my parents basement crammed with every earthly possession I had left. To paint a picture, imagine this room with a computer desk, entertainment center, mini fridge, my old bed from high school, my clothes, boxes, me and my dog all stuffed into this tiny room. Did I mention it was only approximately 100 square feet?
Now don't get me wrong. I was thankful to have the love and support of my parents. My divorce blindsided them and everybody else; they weren't exactly planning for their 25 year old son to show up on their doorstep at one o'clock in the morning asking for a place to stay. I had a roof over my head. I felt fortunate to have that. But whenever I would think about the factors that brought me there... how the divorce wasn't my fault... how my reputation was being dragged through the dirt by the most outrageous lies I had ever heard. I spent many of my days down in that room feeling very sad or very angry.
I quickly realized the film was going to inevitably reflect what I had been going through. I completed the final draft of the story in early April. It was now darker and far more serious than anything I had written up to that point. Only two traces of humor from the original screenplay made it into the final film. They would be name of the rope (Cowboy Jim's Wranglin' Rope) and the infamous line "I bought the rope...and a box of Skittles."
In the long run, it was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my "film career." The film received the award for best short film at the Elkhorn Valley Film & Media Conference and received more intimate praise than I'd ever experienced with any of our previous works. I've been told that this film has made some people cry.
I wasn't expecting or looking to make that kind of impact on anybody. I also wasn't expecting the impact it had on me. This film allowed me to break away from everything I was feeling at that point in my life. It was the first time in almost a year that I could finally stop bottling my emotions and holding my breath. I could finally exhale and let off some steam by being a little creative and doing what I love the most.
Before I put the final touches on this particular posting, I wanted to say a few public "thank you's" to the people that made that film special.
My brother Mike and my girlfriend Mackenzie probably deserve more praise for direction in this film than I do. My personal life was obviously a major distraction for me and I lacked a lot of focus when we made this film. If it wasn't for these two, this film would have suffered greatly due to my lack of vision while filming this thing. It was Mike that came up with the idea to spray his face and eyes with a water bottle to create the appearance of his character profusely sweating and crying as the rope was around his neck. He literally brought this idea to my attention as he was standing on the chair with the noose on. He couldn't see into the viewfinder of the camera but somehow knew what we were missing. It was an ingenious call on his part and he deserves a lot of respect for it. A little H2O made a world of difference.
Mackenzie was absolutely crucial in keeping my dog Easy focused during the final scene. Easy is a lazy basset hound, period. That, or perhaps she is the most demanding actress I've ever known. She will not work for free. Food is her only motivation. Mackenzie helped me capture those shots of Easy looking up at Mike in the noose by finding creative ways to keep her focused on the task at hand. On top of that, she was absolutely essential in helping me organize the entire production.
Matt Patterson recorded my narration of the suicide letter at the recording studio at Metro Community College's Elkhorn campus. Matt is extremely talented in all things audio/video. I hope to work with him again on future products.
I apologize for such a lengthy blog. I had fun spending the wee hours of the morning writing this. It is now just a few minutes after 5am. In the next day or so, I will have a blog regarding this new short film we're working on with all of the details we have at this point. Thanks for reading and thanks for supporting Amendment 1 Productions.