Mutually Assured Productions

Early 2009 a couple friends and I started a weekly writer’s meetup. Three of us met at the Westside Tavern every Wednesday, drank too much booze, and wrote short film scripts with the goal of eventually producing one of them. We added a couple people to the team, and late that Summer we shot The Van Job. I completed a bloated 2o-minute edit of the short. We rented the Capitol Theater, sold tickets, and had a ridiculously fun time premiering our film in front of a crowd of almost 200. We did a little Q&A afterward, then a bunch of us spent the rest of the day getting boracho. The feelings of accomplishment, pride, joy I felt that day are pretty unparalleled before or since. It was a phenomenal experience, and I’d love to feel that again, or top it. With the hindsight, wisdom, experience, of 10 more years, I released a 10 minute “Director’s Cut” in January of 2020. There were a lot of sections that ran long in the original cut, and they’d always kind of bugged me. One day I sat down on a whim and got rid of ’em. Looking at the run time, I challenged myself to get the film under 10 minutes, resulting in a vastly superior version of the movie. Though I was writing, producing, and editing, the entire Mutually Assured Productions phase of my filmmaking was primarily focused on cinematography and lighting.

Mutually Assured Productions expanded our team to include many of the team from The Van Job, and we went on to make 5 more short films, host a film festival, make a bunch of promotional material for the festival, and eventually disband due to a number of conflicting personality concerns. Not the least of which was my own inability to manage my own emotions, let alone a team of people. I saddled the blame for MAP’s collapse solely on my own shoulders for many years. Eventually I realized that I wasn’t operating in a vacuum, and I forgave myself. I wasn’t the only reason MAP disintegrated, but my immaturity was certainly a big factor.

Senator Feelgood was our entry into The Grand Cinema of Tacoma’s 72 Hour Film Challenge in 2011. We wrote, shot, and edited the film in 72 hours. It was the first of only 2 such challenges I would do, as the value of “racing” to make a film no longer holds any appeal for me. I’d much rather take the time to craft something I’m proud of than rush to create something for the chance to impress a few other filmmakers. Impressing other filmmakers in general is something big to remove from your radar the first chance you get. Filmmakers are a terrible audience for micro-budget fare. We’re literally the worst. Anyway, Senator Feelgood was fun. We won an Honorable Mention for the movie, the first such award ever given in The Grand’s 72 Hour Challenge.

I haven’t revisited “Missed Connection” with the goal of shortening it’s 25-minute run time, and I probably won’t. Even though the movie could probably stand to lose at least 10 minutes. I don’t think it’s very good, but there are a few stand-outs; Kortney Molle was delightful, and I think the film itself fails to live up to the charisma she brought to the screen. I’m still pleased with the cinematography and/or lighting in a few sequences. The bar scene is sticks out as one I’m proud of, as well as the climax of the film, where Kortney’s character is performing her final act of “magic.” I’m still quite happy with the photography and lighting in that sequence.

I’ll say a few words about some of the other films we made, but I won’t link them. They’re out there, and easy to find if you’re so inclined.

“A Bullet Riddled Atheist and the Man Upstairs” was MAP’s second film after The Van Job. Atheist was a bit of dialectic between an atheist and a christian who have just fatally shot each other. As they bleed out, their conversation wanders from philosophy and theology into the twisted reality of betrayal that led to them shooting each other. It still has a few shots that I’m very happy about.

“Pacifica: The Biggest Stick” was the product of a plan to produce a dozen short films taking place in a bleak totalitarian future state called Pacifica. I wrote the original Pacifica script after being inspired by a documentary about North Korea. I wondered, how far did you have to push people before they rose up in revolution? The first script was a tragic story of young love lost in a brutal world of hyper-surveillance. I presented the idea to the MAP team – let’s each write a script that takes place in this world, and film them all. Everyone wrote Pacifica short films. I wrote several. I did not write the one Pacifica film we did end up making, “The Biggest Stick,” though I was the Director of Photography. I’m still proud of my work on P:TBS, and I think it has some strong acting and a decent story. I’m still toying around about what to do with the other Pacifica scripts I wrote. I started thumbnail sketching the first as a comic book, so we’ll see where that goes.

OAFF – The Olympia Awesome Film Festival. The above is a promotional video we made about the film festival we created. OAFF was inspired by the continued rejection of our films from our town’s only film festival at the time. The biggest drama of OAFF came when we heard our chosen venue would be shut down before our event could happen there. The person who rented us the space for the event assured us that everything was fine, and the venue would not close down before our festival. Still, we were seeing it in local newspapers, hearing it from people – the event space above the Fish Tail Ales brewing facility was being reclaimed by the Fish Tail, and would no longer be used for events. Our contact again assured us this was not the case, that everything would be fine. We needed assurance, as we were going to purchase advertising and promote our date and location. A week before the festival Fish Tail Ales closed down the event space above their brewing facilities. Our contact said “Guys there’s no way I could have known.” We should have fucking sued her to recover our advertising costs, which weren’t significant enough to bother with, so no, we shouldn’t have sued her. But goddamn if it didn’t piss us off. OAFF was fun, we ended up making a profit on the event, but not enough of a profit to make hosting film festivals a worthwhile endeavor. It’s possible that we could have grown the festival into something bigger and better, but in the end, none of us wanted to host film festivals – we wanted to make films.

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