TOP 5 TOM HANKS FILMS: RYANKED

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Ryanked has a silent Y, but it’s a Y nonetheless. Just take that in and then move on. It will be for the best.

RYANKED is a column in which I’m going to rank things. I’ve always enjoyed the art of ranking. And brackets. Holy heck do I love brackets. March Madness isn’t even that interesting, but it has brackets, so I’m so crazily on board. I use brackets for everything. Choosing places to eat, places to visit, things to throw, people to hate; everything!

And for my first Ryanked experience I’ve chosen a topic close to my heart: Tom Hank’s movies. The Hanks is a once in a generation talent who has made so many good movies it’s hard to pick your favorite let alone put them in order. I have to say for the record now; this is not a list of Tom Hank’s best movies. It’s a ranking of my favorite Hanks flicks. Ones that are close to my heart for one stupid reason or another. I’m not here to speak for you or your thoughts and opinions. I don’t know what those are because I am, to my dismay, not you. PS: I include animated movies because, well, because of a little story about toys coming to life. But I’ll get to that later.

Here’s my top 5 Hank’s films!

5. Saving Private Ryan

If you’d like a masterclass on how to begin a movie, Saving Private Ryan is a great example. The stakes are high right off the bat. And no, I’m not talking about the awe inspiring Normandy D-Day invasion scene. If you remember, that is what happens second. What happens first is an old man falls to his knees in front of a grave at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial in Normandy, France. He is overwhelmed with emotion and he is crazy old. I don’t know about you but I sure as heck wanted to know more.

Tom Hanks is Captain John H. Miller, company commander, 2nd Ranger Battalion, U.S. Army. His job is to go find Private Ryan, who is the last surviving brother of four serviceman and also Matt Damon. By the way, Matt Damon got this role because Robin Williams took him and Ben Affleck over to meet Steven Spielberg while they were shooting Good Will Hunting and Mr. Spielberg was shooting Amistad. Upon meeting Matt Damon, Spielberg was taken aback as he recognized Damon from his brilliant performance in a Denzel flick called Courage Under Fire. Except, in that movie Damon was skinny as the dickens. When Spielberg realized that was only for the movie and Damon was in fact a normal sized human being, he was basically Private Ryan on that spot.

But anyway, if you want to know why Saving Private Ryan is on this list it’s because of this scene right here:

4. Catch Me if you Can

Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks come together to make a movie. It’s a good one. That’s a story you can tell a few times. In fact, not putting Bridge of Spies (a 2016 Oscar nominee for best picture that shouldn’t win but is pretty good nonetheless) was tough as it was another Spielberg/Hanks joint. But Catch Me if you Can is special. It’s two titans of the industry: Leo v. Hanks.

One of the greatest con men of all time played by Mr. DiCaprio and his arch nemesis, FBI agent Carl Hanratty played to perfection by Hanks. The back and forth, the long monologues, and the chase to end all chases. Hanks is as versatile as any actor that has ever been on screen. If you’d like to prove that watch Big and Philadelphia back to back. But when he dons a pair of glasses and a watchful eye on the law, he really shines. He’s the authority figure with a heart that you can root against and for simultaneously. Also, for both effect and heart string fodder, Carl Hanratty misses his daughter and still wears his wedding ring. What’s not to root for?

3. Apollo 13

In 2010 I watched Apollo 13 every night for four months. It was what I used to fall asleep. Thankfully I’d usually be asleep before Houston found out about a certain problem; otherwise I would never fall asleep. The moment where I was usually drifting off into space was the same one Hanks playing astronaut Jim Lovell, along with his wife, look up at the moon as he points out the mountain he named after her: Mount Marilyn.

Directed by Richie “narrator of Arrested Development” Cunningham, Apollo 13 brings you into space with Hanks along with the guy who yells as Helen Hunt in Twister, and the center of a large bacon themed actors connection game. Hanks again plays the guy in charge, always level headed and focused on the task at hand. Even in the toughest of times you feel as though a Hank’s character will pull you through safely. But can he do so even when his vehicle explodes in space? I don’t know, but I will probably have to watch it another 4 months in a row to reacquaint myself with that particular answer. Here’s a clip of Hanks explaining a tragedy to Aaron from Full House.

2. Toy Story

Toy Story launched Pixar into the stratosphere, much like Buzz Lightyear could also definitely do. Hank’s performance as the local sheriff slash Andy’s cowboy slash guy in charge jumps off the screen and into children’s hearts. Toy Story showed eight year old me that a whole other world of movies could exist and be executed to perfection.

Fun fact: because Tom Hanks is super busy being Tom Hanks, all of the Woody voiceovers minus the actual movies, are done by Tom Hank’s brother, Jim. There’s a Jim Hanks and his main job is to sound like his brother. That’s such a bummer for him. Someone should ask Jim if he’s sad and while wiping tears away with money he will reply, “Of course I am.”

Toy Story is the greatest animated movie of all time and in my opinion should have been nominated for Best Picture in 1996. It would have gone up against Apollo 13 and Braveheart, but you tell me how many moments in cinematic history make you feel happier than Buzz and Woody falling with style? Also, Apollo 13 and Toy Story in the same year, Tom Hanks? That’s not even fair.

I’d still give it to Braveheart by the way. That movie is so dope.

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1. Forrest Gump

This Christmas my family sat down and watched one of my favorite movies of all time: Forrest Gump. When you talk about movies that narrowly miss impossible perfection, Forrest Gump is on that list.

I won’t quote this movie to shreds, although you could. I won’t expound upon the fact that Tom Hanks won his second Best Actor Oscar in two years for this movie. I won’t dive deeply into how that part near the end when Forrest asks if Jenny’s son is smart makes me break down faster than an old Honda. I won’t even mention that Forrest shows his ass to President Lyndon B. Johnson  OH WAIT I JUST DID but anyway – I won’t elaborate on all of those amazing things. Because this movie doesn’t need elaboration. It covers the spectrum. From heartfelt to hilarious. From sincere to silly. This movie has something for everyone.

The coolest part for me about this movie is that during all of the initial screen tests, Tom Hanks wasn’t that good. I’m not kidding. You can go find them on the internets but I wouldn’t recommend it. As Tom Hanks was preparing for this movie and doing screen tests with Robin Wright (Jenny/Claire Underwood) he had to break out his first impression of Forrest Gump and it was god awful. If I was the director and watching these screen tests, I would have chosen someone else. Which is why Robert Zemeckis (of Back to the Future fame, another nominee for near movie perfection) is a stone cold genius for choosing Hanks anyway. Watch this interview about how Hanks found Gump’s voice. Hanks instinctual compromise created one of most beloved characters ever. That’s talent, people.

 

Not including movies like Castaway, Philadelphia (which he won Best Actor for), BIG with the piano(!), A League of Their Own (crying and also baseball), the underrated Charlie Wilson’s War, Polar Express where he voiced practically every character, and The Green Mile for gosh sakes, plus many more….it burns within me not to have these films on this list. But they’re not so good riddance to them! Translation: I’m genuinely sad about it!

Have something else you’d like me to rank? Write it in the comments. And until next time, this has been Ryanked. The Y is silent. Later days.

River Manor: Behind the Series!

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My friends and I created a season of television for the internet. I guess you could call that a web series. Or a miniseries. You can call it whatever you want. I wrote 6 intertwining stories and then we filmed them and now we’re showing them to the world to see if the world hates them. That’s the gist.

Here is where I’m going to post all of them and then write about each one along with adding behind the scenes photos and videos, mostly for my own enjoyment, so if you happen to take something positive away from this or are entertained in any way, that’s all gravy to me. Okay cool!

Oh also, S1E1 means Season 1 Episode 1. We’re all learning!

S1E1: “The Deli Caper”

I’m not good at writing pilots or introducing characters. I don’t like spoon feeding exposition and that is what a pilot wants to be most of the time. I had to be reminded the whole time we were filming this to make sure and say everyone’s names so the audience knows what to call us. Even that makes me uncomfortable. I don’t like insulting an audience’s intelligence, although in retrospect I should have bowed to that whim a bit more than I did.

I decided as I was writing the season that I was just gonna throw the audience into a whirlwind and see how they like it. Which is what this pilot ended up being. Also, the pilot sets up a big theme for the series which I call “filling the shot.” I wanted most shots to have 2 or more things happening in them at once. I wanted the audience to have to watch the episode a few times to catch everything. One of my favorite movies is Ocean’s 11 – I’ve watched it around 25 times and I still catch new things to this day. It gets me going, so I assumed it would get other people going as well. If you’ve already watched this, watch it again and see what new things you find. In fact, that applies to all of these episodes. Watch them all about 10 times if possible.

Oh, and the shot of us running across the backyard and Marc getting pummeled? Jo really hit him. Hard. Don’t be fooled by her tiny stature. She hits like a monster and we did that 6 times. Marc was sore for a week. It was hilarious.

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S1E2: “Everyone is Poisoned”

This is the first episode we shot which was purposeful. I wanted our first go at making this series to only have the 4 main characters in it so that we could build some semblance of chemistry and then carry that over to other episodes where there are more characters with screen time. This is also the day we realized GBaby’s character is wonderful in his simplicity which would be a constant theme throughout the season.

I go back and forth between what episodes are my favorites and this one always seems to pop up in my mind. I love Steph’s makeup, I love the Frasier scene & the good cop bad cop with Marc and Elliot, I love the dubstep Frasier at the end and how GBaby keeps eating the poisoned food the entire time. In fact go back and watch this episode and just watch GBaby. You’re welcome.

Marc and I acted out the good cop bad cop scene most nights for 4 months prior to shooting this. In fact that is the way most of this series was fleshed out. Marc and I sitting on our porch and acting the entire episode ourselves. We rewrote the entirety of episode 4 that way, but more on that later. Also, as a last note, this is the episode we had Alex Meeske on set for and you can tell if you know him that he was there. That warbler line G says? That was his. Fun facts!

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S1E3: “Elliot Finally Shuts the Fuck Up”

This episode was to do 2 things. First off I wanted to show that Elliot’s character is basically the house scapegoat and secondly I wanted to introduce every character the audience hadn’t met yet.

At Elliot’s forced wedding we meet his insufferable brother Peter played by one of our Executive Producers, Johnrobert Vergati. You also get to check up on our local cockneyed talking delusion ridden Milk Toast played by our EP/DP Dylan after meeting Milk in episode 1 along with the ever quiet and mysterious Olive Druthers played by Stephanie Vergati who has a nice lil’ monologue in this episode. Then we add Olive’s best friend Lola Montez played by Allie Rivera, one of the funniest humans I know, throw in some Robinson Mahler, who brings a sort of grounded delusion you don’t really get anywhere else in the series played masterfully by Justin Hagen and then Jo is back, no longer tied up and in straight up in the dating game with Marc who is eye banging her most of this episode. Oh, and I can’t forget Abigail playing Elliot’s new Russian mail order bride, Ulyana Larinov!

This is a good time to talk about how we shot these scenes. There was no script. There was a detailed outline – sometimes I would give people lines to say, sometimes I didn’t. That means we built every new scene from scratch as we filmed it, did an average of 6 takes per shot with two cameras running, and usually used the last take.

We talked a whole lot prior to shooting about these characters with every actor who I chose specifically for their ability to make funny shit up on the spot. Some of the best parts of this series are things I didn’t write, and that’s my favorite. I bring this up soon after bringing up Abby’s Uly because she was so super worried she wouldn’t nail the Russian accent that she had me write every word of hers out. She then came in and murdered it anyway at which point I started making her say more things she hadn’t practiced, much to her dismay and much to my delight. And hopefully yours as well.

Also, it was raining that day. All of these shoots were one day long and that day the wedding was supposed to be out in the back yard but it was raining. Turned out to be a blessing in disguise because the garage looks like the absolute worst place to have a wedding, which Lola points out and to me makes it that much neater.

Here’s a behind the scenes video of JR hitting Elliot in the balls a bunch of times:

S1E4: “In Stapp We Trust”

Up until a few weeks before shooting began in the Summer of 2015 this episode was something completely different. Originally this episode was going to be called “Bed and Breakfast” of which the general gist was going to be that the boys opened up a B&B a la those food carts people open sometimes where their man selling point is being mean to their customers.

The boys plan goes awry once the first two people trying out the B&B is Lola and Olive and Lola basically takes over the entire day as GBaby and Marc escape by swimming away down the river while Ryan yells at them to come back and follow through on an idea for once instead of running away. In response, G and Marc tell him to shut up and keep swimming.

In all reality I wanted an episode that explained how good of friends Lola and Olive were and that idea was my chosen vehicle. But from idea to execution it felt weird. It just wasn’t written well and I didn’t like it which is something I made clear to Marc one night after coming home from the bar. And it was in that moment Marc pitched that he start a cult, and then I pitched that it be about Scott Stapp, and then we both improv’d the entire episode in the hallway in about 15 minutes. Then, still a little drunk, I opened up my laptop and wrote the episode, intertwining the Olive and Lola story line into the Stapp story line. Marc gets a writing credit on this one and deservedly so but he also brings a gravitas in this episode that was absolutely amazing to watch from the other side of the camera. He hit his stride acting wise as a cult leader, nonetheless. I don’t know if it’s the best one, but it’s the one we all laughed the most on set and that’s for damn sure.

S1E5: “Step Up Your Hat Game, Fool”

Most of the people around me thought this episode would suck from the beginning and I can see why. This is the most insular idea I chose to do. It’s based on inside joke after inside joke that I had the task of making into outside jokes as well. Step Up Your Hat Game, Fool acts in dual capacities. One is as the 5th episode of the first season of River Manor and secondly it is basically a time capsule for my late 20s. And from the outside looking in that looked like, to everyone else around me on the project, like not that much fun.

Until you see Marc and I screaming at a camera, or G fighting a plant, or Elliot dumping Sunny D on himself – Until you hear the soundtrack that JR put together – until you see that this episode is by all accounts a concerto or dialogue that ebbs and flows with a rampaging sense of urgency – until you see all of those things live I can very much understand how you could think it would suck.

Thankfully I love this episode and how weird it is. AND I HOPE YOU DO TOO sorry that was pushy have a nice day LIKE IT LIKE IT NOW.

S1E6: “Olive’s Low Key Get Together”

Season finales are important to me. When I was being a child I didn’t read enough, and it’s not because I didn’t enjoy reading. It was because Television was so god damn entertaining.

As I started to figure out what stories were and the kinds of them that I liked, I realized that one of my favorite parts of a Television series is that it’s stretched out. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end – and all of them matter. With a movie you can skip the middle sometimes and still be just fine in the last 20 minutes. Television doesn’t allow for that. There are small details everywhere, there are character developments that happen in mere moments, and there is an ongoing decay that you as the audience member are tasked to observe and understand. The season finale is the ultimate payoff for all of it.

River Manor is not exactly like television, though. Character arcs are sporadic, plot details are heavy handed, and each episode can choose to be closed into itself at any given moment it chooses. That is, until you reach the finale, at which point you will perhaps realize it was all connected the entire time LIKE MAGIC. Hopefully. At the very least, that’s what I was trying to do. You, the audience, can be the judge of the success of that.

On a more grounded level, this finale was shot on one very long Saturday that was a day of pure exhilaration for me. We were filmmaking by the seat of our pants that day more than any other time we broke out a camera and hoped for the best. It was so much stupid fun.

If you liked this series at all I would urge you to watch it again. Every episode is meant to be watched multiple times with tiny little details you’ll pick up that you didn’t see before including running gags that wrap themselves up in the finale – one of which goes 6 episodes long and is my favorite thing ever.

But anyway, thanks to everyone who worked on this project and thanks to everyone whom enjoyed it. This is my favorite thing I’ve ever done. Okay cool bye.

 

 

 

 

One Man Show

Yesterday started so normal. Then. In other parts of yesterday. It got weirder.

I’ve had this idea floating around in my brain for like 4 months where I would make a short film about all of the embarrassing but incredibly normal things we as human beings do when we are home alone in our comfort zones. It is being alone with ourselves that I find the most interesting. (that sentence makes me sound like a freshman Philosophy major who sleeps through class because he doesn’t respect the value of a dollar.)

So. Yesterday. Yeah.

I went to work. On a Monday. Because it was a Monday. And you know this thing about Monday’s – and I’m 100% sure no one has ever mentioned this before and I am the genius who came up with this first forever…Monday’s aren’t great.

And you know why they aren’t great? Because on the weekend, if you were lucky, you got some alone time. And alone time is the best. It’s when you get to think. And feel. And love. And hate. And Master….skills. You thought it was going another way there. But I didn’t. Because I’m an adult.

So I had this video idea of being by yourself but narrating everything that was happening in your brain and I had a web-series that I’m writing. So, I thought hey, let’s destroy two birds with one stone and put those two things together. That’s my life right now by the way. The web-series that we’re shooting in June. I’m writing it and I have been for 6 months. It’s been done for 3 months. I’ve been editing every day. Rewriting entire episodes. It’s sort of all I think about when I’m not talking. Just for perspective.

When I was re-writing an episode I had the idea of making all of the characters do this thing where they narrate what they do by themselves and we see the differences between all of the characters. I thought it was a good idea. But it just didn’t work for me. I got no juice from it. I couldn’t wrap my head about it fully, so I had another idea, and wrote it. But I still liked the by myself idea as a concept.

Then came yesterday. I was bored. Finished my work. Low on creative energy. And a spark hit me which was so cool because it doesn’t happen very often. I texted my talented friend Steph, asked her if I came over her house in 30 minutes if she slap makeup on my face gracefully, she said yes because she’s the nicest. I went there. We talked about the video. She told me what it should be called, “One Man Show.” And then I left. Got home. Got the camera. Took out my new Rode Smartlav+ Microphone that hooks into your iPhone and or Android device. And went for it. 3 hours of shooting. Made it all up. 39 minutes of material. Imported it all. Edited sound on 27 clips. Synced the audio and the video. Edited for 3 hours. Cut it down to 8 minutes or something like that. And it was done and on YouTube. This entire paragraph is a humblebrag that makes me feel uncomfortable.

And I like it the final product of the video, which is a nice thing too.

I think I want to make this a series because it was fun to make and other peoples alone stories fascinate me. The stuff you do when you’re alone is so weird, and gross, and self righteous, and full of hubris, shame, love, hope, fear – you cover every emotion on the spectrum in complete silence looking at popcorn ceilings and sunsets. That stuff is beautiful and normal and so so so so so so funny. To me, it’s the times with no audience whatsoever people have the ability to be the best or worst versions of themselves – and that journey by yourself, I think, is inherently funny.

Also, for the record, I do hope very much that I get at least a C in my freshman Philo class – that Prof is such a narc.

Once Upon that One Time: Chapters 1-5

So…I forgot about this project until last night where I wrote more of it and finished out the outline because I really want to finish it. The idea was that is was a weird post apocalyptic saga that starred my friends and I was writing it like I talk. So. Not eloquently. Like. At all. The new chapters are 4 and 5, but if you’d like to catch up, here is everything that has happened!

Chapter 1

My name is Ryan, I’m 50 years ahead in time of whenever you are right now, and shit has — Just. Gotten. Real.

I know, that’s confusing, and I don’t care. Listen, I don’t have a lot of time. Only like, the next few hours, and then all hell is gonna break loose. Before that happens I’m writing everything that has happened in this past year to me, my friends, and the race we still call human beings. That hasn’t changed. A bunch of stuff has changed, but we still get called that, so there’s at least one win for us. Chock that shit up to the score board, ass holes.

49 years from where you are right now is pretty much the same. It has cars that don’t fly and run on crude oil, it has solar panels that no one uses except for like 3 people and they’re always so uppity about it, and the President of the United States is a white dude and has been since that one time that other thing happened. Then it all went haywire. Because white people are the worst. In case it all goes badly I’m going to write down everything that’s happened as quickly as I can and then put this letter into the time capsule code named “Plot Device” that can very actually go back in time and warn everyone what this planet has become – which is full of ass holes.

See, it all started when this science lab where scientists were paid to do science did something other than science. They might of accidentally sort of started a chain of events that ended in all of the remaining animals on the earth to evolve into genetically enhanced versions of themselves that you could tame if you had the balls. After that, the rest of the animals (who were not already paired up with a human being) were killed off or went to the woods or something, point is they are gone. Now the only human beings and animals left on this earth have their friends and each other. Some notes that are important to the story and that I won’t explain because there isn’t time and also fuck you is that some of these animals can talk, and some can’t. The ones who can’t talk aren’t called dumb to their faces cause that’s just mean but…they are. Sometimes that matches up with the human riding them, sometimes it doesn’t. Whatever blah blah so on and so forth.

Other important things include that there are about 1000 people left alive on earth, the sun is getting hotter each and every day, Pangaea is a thing again so the land is just all mushed together, and there is an ongoing war between the two factions called The Colony and The Disciples Inside the Calamity Kingdoms. I didn’t choose those names, someone else did. Also there are The Outlaws who aren’t really a faction, they are just people who don’t give a shit and are on their own side. That’s where my friends and I come in.

We are the leaders of The Outlaws. Pretty sweet, right? Yeah, I know it totally is.

Are job is to fuck shit up. For everyone. All the time. No matter who is doing what, we fuck it up. We figure the sun will roast us alive, the seas will swallow us whole, or everyone will end up getting stabbed in the face – so we might as well have some fun before any of that happens.

Before I go on with all that has happened in the past year I have to tell you about my crew. I can’t just start using names and telling stories without you knowing some background on these people. First off there is no leader, there are alphas and betas but we all decide what to do together. We aren’t some group of douche bags with one biggest douche bag who thinks they know best. No one knows best. People who think they know best is what got this planet into the situation in the first place. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I’ll tell you bout my peeps.

There’s Abby and Mike who are married to each other. Abby, the cunning and the bold, rides Sepharoph (Seph for short) who is the king of the eagles. Mike, the logic and the balance, rides Jasper, the aging moose who is as wise as the amount of years he’s been alive grant him to be. Elliot, the wildcard, rides the Emperor Penguin Duo Koo and Stew who are strapped to his feet and make ice with their belly’s so he can slide around everywhere. Koo and Stew and stronger than most penguins and don’t like each other or change or learn lessons. There’s also Pat, who is on a brown bear that hasn’t changed at all.

Stephanie and JR are here too, they are engaged to be married on a mountain. Steph, the no bullshit go-getter and JR the deceptively kind ninja scientist ride on an albino Jaguar named Bertram and an Elephant the size of a house named Flounder, respectively. Marc, the hungry and bearded, rides a Rhino named Carl with steel for a horn that Marc forged himself in an erupting volcano. As for me, I’m on my trusty flying polar bear named Ralph who shoots acid out of every hole he has in his body. (that includes his butt)

Adam is on an iguana. GBaby is on an Emu. Kate walks. Also there are others who I will get too later as their story wouldn’t make sense yet.

So all of us are in the outpost like a year ago and then some shit got to shakin’, and I mean shaking bad. The earth basically had a fuckin’ heart attacked and changed all of its shit up. The Chancellor, the dick head leader of The Disciples, built a gravity device that brought all of the continents together again because, and I’m quoting Mr. Chancellor here, “Who needs friends when you made the continents friends once more.” Sad as shit, I know.

As all of this is going on my friends and I are all sitting around, probably intoxicated, and being all like, “woah what’s going on?” Then we found out everyone was going nuts and dying and we said to ourselves, “let’s ride our animal friends into the night and see what’s to do.” So we all jumped aboard our animal friends except for Kate because she walks and went to the biggest building we could find immediately which was a liquor store that was made to look like the Lincoln Memorial. Inside we see the guy standing behind the register who is set atop a big fucking lion.

“Whatchu doin’ fools?” said the guy with the big fucking lion. Then we proceeded to explain to him what was happening outside and he was like “we should drink” to which we were all like “yeah that makes sense.” So we all start getting fucking wasted and next thing you know we sleep through the next few weeks and wake up, only to go outside and see a barren wasteland with nothing left standing as far as the human eyes can see. Seph, Abigail’s eagle friend, flew into the sky and told us that she could see something so we all hopped aboard our animals and headed off once more.

Except Kate. She got stabbed by that Lion.

CHAPTER 2

So, to get us back on track after that jubilant stabbing, we moved away from the giant liquor store that looks strikingly like the Lincoln Memorial and everyone is having a grand ole time watching Elliot ride around on his penguins who are using rusted out cars and broken sidewalks as their own personal half pipes.

“Be careful!” I yelled ahead to Elliot, Koo, and Stew, “The sun is hot today and all the ice your penguins are making will turn to puddles!” I yelled again.

Elliot said, “I don’t care about puddles, I live in puddles, I am a puddle, no one owns me!!!” Then he fell down. It was hilarious.

Abby, from far above everyone on her eagle king except me cause my polar bear Ralph can fly, called out that we were coming up on a building. GBaby sped up on his Emu and it started a race of epic proportions. Adam was in last cause his iguana didn’t give a shit, Kate was still dead, Elliot slipped, Abby and I flew, and Marc and Mike trampled on their rhino and moose respectively. Pat was on a bear. Steph and JR had time to perform a transcendent interpretive dance to the classic “My Heart will Go On” and still managed to beat everyone there on their mighty JagEphant duo.

Once we all reached the building, except Adam who was way back screaming obscenities at his iguana and Kate who was dead, we realized it was a giant yellow fortress, like if a castle was thrown up on by the yellow brick road. The gates opened immediately and we were met by a beautiful man on a metallic demon horse. The man had baller ass armor on and lifted his visor to show that it was in fact Dylan, who we totally knew from back in the day when the world wasn’t shit.

Dylan was all like, “Welcome to The Colony where the bitches flow like wine and the wine flows like blood.” Everyone thought that was weird. All 20 of the peasants came out from their homes to pet GBaby’s Emu. The rest of us, including Adam now who was now whipping his iguana with Twizzlers, went into the main gates and down a long hall way filled with empty dip and dots carts that lead to a big fucking door. The door opened and inside was a bright white room that had a bunch of chairs and a table in the middle of it. At that table there were no chairs, just 4 people sitting on their genetically mutated animals talking about whatever.

Among them were Jess and Jo whom rode Lelu and Lela the conjoined and hyper smell sensitive pandas as well as Allie “The Knife” Rivera who rode a robot crocodile with machetes for arms and Cain Xavier who has an awesome name and is cute until she and Allie stab you in the face and rides an orange bobcat with machetes for teeth. They were all like, “whatchu peeps doing all up in the Colony?”

So we told them this was the only place left and they were like yeah we know and Dylan was all like, you guys want wine? And I was like, totally.

Then we all sat down to talk and we found out Dylan was the head of security for The Colony and the council of 5 run that shit like it’s their job cause it for serious is. They were in an all-out war with The Chancellor of The Disciples and needed help from us, The Outlaws. To which we were all like, “stahp, what?”

They told us that anyone who isn’t factioned with The Colony or the Disciples were considered Outlaws and that we needed to choose a side.

Firstly I said, “I don’t even know what the other side is! I didn’t even know we were in a war, how can I pick a side if I don’t know anything about what’s going on?”

Then Abby said, “And furthermore why is there a war in the first place?”

Then Jasper the wise old Moose said, “Is this fighting really necessary?” To which Mike high fived him cause he made a good point. Steph sorta cringed on top of her Jaguar cause moose freak her out, especially moose who can talk.

Then GBaby said, “I’m on an Emu.” Everyone agreed. Also during this Elliot was just using the walls to penguin board, Pat was playing checkers with his bear, Marc was destroying columns with his Rhino, Adam was teaching his Iguana to love, and Kate was still very very dead.

Jess and Jo then said something in unison which was weird, “You guys should all join us and we can take down The Chancellor together” to which Allie and Cain were all like, “yeah that makes a lot of sense, The Chancellor is a douche nozzle and is trying to eradicate everyone’s existence including his own while he rides his giant squid and constantly playing “The River of Dreams” by Billy Joel on a boom box he holds to the sky in defiance of all things sacred.”

“I like that song” said Adam. Almost everyone agreed except for GBaby’s Emu. That Emu is a real prick, but he’s good at being an Emu, so I respect him.

Jess and Jo said (still together like those girls in The Shining, and still weird) “You peeps gotta join us or were not gonna be friends, straight up, dawg.” Cain and Allie sorta agreed. Apparently since the fall of man The Colony changed their main language from English to Ebonics. A bold move on all accounts.

Marc said, “Yall Panda ridin’ pucky poppers threatening us?” His Rhino sneered with delight from the thought of fighting some hooligans. Then Allie pulled a knife, like she pretty much always does.

Pat’s bear didn’t say anything because he was a bear and was busy getting the shit kicked out of him by Pat in checkers. Pat was getting better at checkers every day. The Bear was not. Cause he’s a bear.

Elliot painted the wall with puddles. “Puddle power!” He screamed.

Allie and Cain were waving around sharp objects and Cain was all like, “Dudes you gotta join up, if you’re not with us you’re against us. We’re trying to take down pure evil and see no reason why you can’t see that for yourselves. Everything we do is to try and save this world from pure destruction. The Chancellor will be truly happy to see this world be eaten up by itself!”

Then Cain followed that up with, “And to see the people devour one another before the sun explodes, ending us all including him and his squid. All he wants is to be the last one dying. Standing by himself on this earth until his Squid ingests him for nourishment, dawgs. Is that what you people want?”

“You people?!” Screamed Steph from her now translucent Jaguar that changes colors based on what Stephanie’s mood is.

“I’m offended I guess? I don’t know. Do you guys have any milk shakes around or maybe a pack of dogs for Flounder the giant elephant and I to frolic with?” asked JR with a perfectly reasonable question.

“No, sorry, we don’t.” Dylan pouted, as he was super sad about this too. Everyone was disappointed by this seemingly arbitrary news.

So we got outta there fast. While leaving, Dylan brought us out on his jacked up metallic horse with hoofs as strong as plastic packaging electronics come in and said unto us, “I’ll give you bros a day to get away, but then we gotta come after you, yo. The peeps are all pissed. So it goes, ya know, daddio?”

No one understood Dylan’s jacked up jive turkey Ebonics so we just left in a hurry. And that’s what it is.

CHAPTER 3

We didn’t eat or drink anything while we were at the castle and the world was a barren wasteland. So we all cooked Kate’s stabbed body outside the castle and made coats from her skin, which totally helped us out. Everyone was psyched minus GBaby and his Emu but they were skin hungry and asked to eat all the skin themselves and we were like, no we need coats, so we didn’t care that they were sad. Marc called dibs on the torso. Everyone obliged.

Ralph, my flying polar bear that spits acid out of its butt and mouth and sometimes ears and nose took off along with Seph and Abigail, leaving everyone else on the ground. For the record, at some point in this story everyone starts flying as all the animals have the ability to fly but they must become in tune with their master in order to do so. Ralph and I were tight, so he could fly already. Seph and Abby were like two peas in a pod who could tear apart antelopes, so they were good too. Marc and his Rhino “Carl” were close but they were always fighting about who has the better beard/horn so they just weren’t there yet.

So we all were heading towards The Disciples layer to see what’s what cause we figure we need to see this evil guy for ourselves if we are gonna choose a side although the thought of choosing a side other than our own left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth. Abby and I spotted a pack of other people at a camp from afar in the middle of the barren wasteland with tents set up and fires going somehow.

We both went down to hovering above the ground and then told everyone to speed up. Adam could not keep up so we left him and his regular iguana there. When we got to the camp site it was empty and the fire that was just lit was now doused. As we entered the center of the encampment, several human beings came out from behind the tents and surrounded us. From the crowd of maybe 20 human beings, all riding some sort of medium sized mammal, 3 mid-20’s gentleman came forward who were the leaders of the group we would come to know as The Range Riders. Their names were Collin, who was riding a Silverback Gorilla with laser eyes, Mitch who was chillin’ in the pouch of a giant kangaroo, and The Steve was riding a brilliant red bull named China Shop. I walked up to Collin cause it turns out we knew these guys, especially Collin because he’s my younger brother and his longtime friends Mitch and The Steve were now leading The Range Riders who live off the land and have no faction, like us. Also they set fire to most things.

Collin said, “Hey, what are you guys doing?”

I replied “We’re heading towards The Disciples layer to see what’s what.”

Elliot said, “We heard The Chancellor is a real dick.”

“Yeah,” said Mike “We want to see it for ourselves.”

“I’m on an Emu!” exclaimed GBaby. Everyone ignored him except Pat who gave him his patented stern nod of acceptance.

“Well,” said The Steve “I wouldn’t do that if I were you guys. It’s a total poop shoot.”

“Why not, also hi. I’m JR. It’s very nice to meet all of you. I really like your Gorilla, he looks top notch.” said JR, the ninja scientist. His giant Elephant Flounder high-fived him with his trunk.

“That shit sucks over there” said Mitch “Ole Chancy Chancellor is a real dick. His cult and him do weird shit all the time like move the continents back together. It’s a real drag. ZING.”

“That all sounds stupid.” Said Marc while poking his Rhino in the face to make sure Carl the Rhino knew what was what. Carl did not approve.

“Stop poking Carl, Marc. He’s going to retaliate.” Abby said making a solid point.

“He knows the rules,” Marc said “I’m the king of this here domain.”

“Alright then, just wait for him to impale you I guess.” Abby said while teaching her eagle about the importance of hydrogen bonds.

“My roots are growing out!” Steph yelled out of nowhere, “which makes me look like I’m not even trying.” Steph said even louder while looking at her hair through a mirror that she made out of crushed limestone while riding full speed on her translucent jaguar on the way to this moment like a true boss.

“Does that really matter right now, ladyface? We’re over here trying to save what’s left of this weird world.” Asked Michael.

Steph replied, “Uhhh yeah it does Mike, I’m over here lookin’ fierce, and it’s the main reason we’re constantly doing so well, so, like, whatever shut up.”

“Yeah,” Collin said “Just maybe never go over there bros. Nothing good can come from going over there and messing with that crazy dude.”

“This guy seems like a real ass hole” I said. “Someone should sick a large animal on him to eat him while he is still living.” Everyone concurred. “What do you guys say? You wanna go fuck some shit up for the sake of fucking some shit up?” Everyone cheered except for Adam because him and his iguana had just gotten there in time for us to start walking again.

“This is bull shit guys” Adam said while wearing shorts all the time.

“Hey Adam,” Elliot piped up for the first time in a while cause I forgot he was here for a second, “When you gonna finally teach that iguana to be at all useful?”

“When you don’t cry at the end of Toy Story 3, dick.” Adam said with malice, punching at the sky in heat.

“Shut up ya good gosh darn fuckface!” Elliot boisterously threw his words like anchors into the sea, “It’s a sad story about love and loss. WHATEVER DON’T EVEN. SHUT IT WITH THE YA KNOW. I CAN’T EVEN RIGHT NOW.”

“BUT CAN YOU EVEN?” Steph cheered.

“NO. I CAN’T EVEN. THAT’S THE POINT OF TALKING IN CAPS LOCK.” Elliot took a breath and calmed down. Koo and Stew, his penguins who were underneath/attached to his feet looked up at Elliot like he was a crazy person which is an unsubstantiated fact maybe.

“You guys should go before the sky turns off the light.” Collin said.

“That was a weird thing to say,” I replied “But you’re right. Let’s head out.”

“I’m still on this Emu!” GBaby once again said out loud for some reason. No one cared still and we all moved on. But GBaby didn’t care cause he lives his life like nobody is watching except for his Emu who is always there so it’s a pretty straight forward system for living that he is comfortable within and he doesn’t have to explain that to anyone, so he doesn’t. Then the Emu made a face like he was saying “whaaaaaaaat.” We all laughed and we went on our way.

CHAPTER 4

So we kept on trekkin’ towards The Disciples layer. Abby and I were up in the air scouting long into the night. At some point all the humans except for me fell asleep while the stars shined, both in the air and on the ground. The animals stayed the course and would ride through the night unless told otherwise.

Suddenly above me the sky got darker in only way area, which happened to be moving closer to me. It was about 500 feet away and way higher up than I was. Slowly it crept towards our pack, like the dark shape had nothing but time. Out of the clouds a giant mouth opened, and it became clear very quickly what it was.

At some point most sea life out evolved the sea and moved right past the land and into the sky. This gave the riders who put time in under the sea a special leg up on the competition who now had animals that could traverse all the ground and air you put beneath them.

As the clouds were pushed out of the way a giant white whale, at least the size of 8 VW buses and the weight of 72 trucks full of GoGurt shipments, broke through with its mouth open wide, trying to catch SkyCrill. On its back was a terrible teenage girl who talked vaguely on the internet back in the day, but now that there was no internet she just trolled the skies looking for people to annoy. She was known as the MobyDonk. I peeked around the specimen who paid no attention to me to check on the rider. She was asleep. Thank goodness. If she was awake she would have made her white whale do all sorts of things whales do to us, which no one knows what that is, it’s a mystery that very literally no one knows the answers too. Hence the word mystery.

When the burning sun came over the horizon The Layer became clear. Unlike The Colony, The Layer was not a castle but instead a series of underground tubes used like mazes that all feed back into the sea so that The Chancellor could take a swim whenever his giant squid felt like it.

As we approached the series of tubes we stopped short as a large fire bolt shot up from the horizon. Everyone woke up in an instant while Abigail and I flew downwards to meet them and consult in their endless wisdom. In the distance a swarm of killer bees the size of couches flew upwards in a helix shape – all of them surrounding the biggest god damn squid I had ever seen, black as the night, and with The Chancellor on his back. I could almost recognize the man riding the squid but it was too far away. Marc spoke up behind me.

“Huh. Well. That looks. Awful. I don’t think we can beat all of those dick bag bees.” Marc said.

“I concur.” Said Mike, “That seems like more bees than zero, so, I concur.”

“Well poo.” Eeked Steph on the ground “That sucks nuts.”

“Yeah, but whatever” Elliot said, petting his penguins who were finally getting some much needed rest, “Maybe we just go off and keep doing our own thing like we’ve been doing? I’m sure if we stay out of everyone’s way they will just leave us alone and we’ll be fine.”

I squinted harder to try and figure out where I knew The Chancellor from right as the killer bees shot towards the ground, eating the dirt and quickly making a whole new tube – out from which came another fire bolt that shot miles and miles to our left, scorching the earth as it went.

“I feel like this is Elliot’s fault.” GBaby said. His emu started break dancing in agreement.

“Well, it’s pretty clear” JR said, “We are going to need more people to help defeat this dude or we do nothing. Which one are we all feeling? Maybe we should vote?”

“Voting’s for nerds!” shouted Marc.

“You’re a nerd!” Steph said.

“Okay! We’re all nerds!” screamed Abigail, “But we still need to vote. All those in favor of doing nothing and just sorta chillin’ like villains?”

GBaby raised his hand, as does Elliot.

“All those in favor.” I said. Everyone else raises their hand.

“Well fuck us I guess.” GBaby said.

“True.” I said.

“Alright, well I think we should split up to cover more ground.” Pat said while punching his bear in the stomach because that’s how you have to scratch a bear when it has an itch.

“Pat is a dick and also he’s right.” I said.

“BUDDY SYSTEM!” JR said while slinking up next to me and Ralph while Adam finally arrived on his very tired iguana.

“Really JR? You’re gonna ditch me?” Steph said as her jaguar turned red.

“We’ll be together soon, and I want this god damn elephant to fly, sorry Flounder for talking about you like you’re not here, but, I figure if one of us starts to fly around we’ll both be better off and the best way to do that is to pair with a flying creature like Ralph to learn it’s ways.” JR smiled real big and gave a thumbs up. Steph was like, “You’re such a nerd.”

Adam spoke through his teeth, “I call Ryan or Abby, someone who can fly. I can’t do this anymore. I’m at my wits end. I just want to die. Please, be considerate, and have me go with someone who can fly!”

“Okay cool, Adam, you go with Pat and his regular bear.” I said. Pat and the bear bumped fists in triumph.

“Yeah, and JR can go with me that’s fine.” I said, “And Steph you go with Mike and Jasper the aging Moose.

“What!? You gotta be shitting me you dingus. You KNOW I’m deathly afraid of moose why in the balls would I ever do this?” Steph was shouting and hitting her Jaguars head every time she made a point while the Jaguar nuzzled the ground unaffected.

“This is a perfect time to face your fears, Steph. Maybe it’s the last thing you need to do to make Bert the Jaguar who sleeps through you hitting him fly his ass off? Ever think of that?” JR grinned, walking the thin line, cause he was still in trouble for ditching fo sho.

“Fine. I’ll do it. But not because you told me to or you asked me too but because I am an independent woman and I’ll fuckin flip this moose a gosh darn new one if it gets close to me especially when I’m asleep that’s just gross.” Steph pursed her lips and crossed her arms in protest.

“Cool” I said, “And Elliot you go with GBaby because you two are the best of friends.”

“That’s false.” Elliot was shaking his head and making a frown face.

“Yeah, we’re not huge fans of each other. I think he stinks like piss.” G said.

“Right, and I think G should live with his head up that Emu’s butt all the time.” Elliot said while the Emu scoffed at the idea but then gave it a little bit of thought which was slightly concerning from G’s perspective.

“Okay perfect I’m glad we’re all in agreement” I said. “Now, Adam and Pat, you go back to see Mitch, CollBollPoliWOG, Steve, and the Range Riders and tell them we need them to come help with a bunch of killer bees…you know what, maybe leave out the bees. Tell them there’s gonna be pizza.”

“Got it.” Said Pat. The bear and the iguana looked at each other like this might as well happen as the Iguana climbed on the bears back with Adam still on it.

“Fuck yeah” said Adam, “this is next best thing!” The bear bucked up and threw Adam off of it. “OH COME ON!”

“Good, now” Abby said, “Marc and I will go to the forest to talk with those dirty dirty forest people –  perhaps Carl can get on board and start flying as well. Carl’s horn turned bright red in delight at the thought of fuckin’ flying through the sky. Marc’s beard also turned red with excitement – the heat from both warmed everyone up instantly which was also a nice thing.

“We’ll go around and to the sea I guess? It seems like the closest and easiest so I choose that ya dumb dicks.” Said Elliot while GBaby agreed.

“Good, you guys go guzzle sea men and Steph and Mike you guys go to the Mountain and see if those weird alternative human and animal people will join up with us.” I said.

“Where we gonna go?” JR asked me.

“We’ll go back to The Colony and tell them we now understand what they were talking about and they don’t have to try and kill us anymore. When everyone is done, meet at The Colony and then we will march on the swarm” I said.

“That’s sounds pretty dope.” JR said.

“Yeah. It totally is. Dope.” I said.

And with that everyone dispersed in their own general directions.

“I just want to point out that I’m getting shafted harder than shaft gets shafted when he’s getting a hand job.” Adam said. No one was paying attention. But the iguana laughed and that’s all that mattered to Adam.

Another fire bolt flew up from the horizon and an evil laugh was heard permeating throughout the world. I couldn’t shake the feeling that I knew that bro on that squid but I would have to put that behind me for now. I had 5 psychopaths to convince to fight a war against super icky bees. Flounder the Elephant and Ralph made noises at each other as animals do. Little did I know that was the last time I would see one of my friends. OH SHIT CLIFFHANGER WHAT.

Chapter 5

“Do you get the feeling that they put us together because both of our animals can’t fly or speak like they’re dumb shits?” Adam asked as him and Patrick walked over the wasteland while the sun rose over the edge of the world.

“Probably. I don’t know” said Pat. His bear snuffed hard out of his nose.

“Talking to you has been like pulling teeth and we’ve only been walking for like 8 hours. For the love of shit say something more.”

“Say some interesting shit and maybe I will.” Pat stuck his tongue out at Adam as did his Bear.

“I’m going to impale you up your turd hole with a blunt hammer.” Adam said.

“See, now that would make for some interesting shit.” Pat said, smiling wide.

“This is balls.” Adam said.

About 500 yards away from the Range Riders encampment the bear and iguana started to pick up speed as Adam and Pat mushed them along, creating a dust cloud behind them. Out from the camp came Mitch in his Kangaroo pouch, CollBoll on his laser eye silver-back, and Steve on his RedBULL (not sponsored) along with all 20 of their friends – all riding towards Adam and Pat.

“Well shit, do you think they’re coming over here to tell us they are big fans of ours and that we are welcome to stay as long as we want?” Adam said.

As they gained ground Pat squinted and saw CollBOLL wielding a katana from atop his Gorilla. “No. I don’t think so. Battle stations!” Pat’s bear opened its mouth wide and picked up its pace with his fangs twinkling in the rising sun light while Adam’s iguana stayed as like, a regular old iguana.

“Pat! Don’t leave me behind! Pat?! Are you listening? You’re not listening. I’m gonna die. Great. I’m gonna die on top of a ding bat iguana who can’t even talk. That’s just great.” Adam mumbled through his teeth.

As they reached each other Pat’s bear stood on its hind legs while Pat stood on top of his bears head, making him tower over everyone. Mitch, PoliFOG, and The Steve sauntered on over to PatBear.

“Whatchu turkey’s want??” said Mitch.

“I’ll get straight to it,” Pat said, with Adam finally reaching them all on foot, his iguana far behind whom he totally sorta abandoned.

“We, The Outlaws as we are calling ourselves now not my idea I think that name is stupid for the record, rode over to see The Chancellor.”

“How’d that go?” Steve said. “I bet it went badly. Dumb ass.”

“It was fine except, well” Adam spoke up, “We saw all the killers bees and the fire balls and the whatnot and thought to ourselves, ya know what, maybe we might need some help killing all of these things to keep them from destroying the world ya know? So. That’s why we’re here. To ask ya’ll mother truckers to get all up in our grill and help the world out.”

Mitch, Steve, and Collin looked at each other and started to laugh, as did the rest of the rough riders behind them when the lackeys realized their leaders were laughing to make it look like they agreed but in all reality it was kinda windy and the lackey people had no idea what was going on.

“Listen, this doesn’t have to be complicated. Help us or we will all die.” Pat said.

“We’re gonna die anyway ya dumb ass,” Mitch said, “the sun is going to explode like, any second, and if that doesn’t happen then that giant squid will eat you when it chooses too. There is no chance to defeat that dick bag.”

“Also, there’s that whale.” Steve said.

“Right, the whale. Also the ghost.” Collin nodded.

“Yeah I don’t know about any whale or ghost or whatever. My point is if we don’t try what in the name of cheese curds is the point?” said Pat.

“The point is to live as long as we can and not go on a stupid suicide mission where 20 of us face hundreds of bees with teeth and those weird eyes and the stinger with fire in it, ya know, the god damn things of nightmares” said Mitchell.

“Okay, then let me make this clear.” Adam said now also standing atop his iguana’s head which is working less than what Pat was doing in fact it was sorta just squishing his iguana, “we are all going to die. So we are all going to fight. And that includes you douche nozzles. Now. Either come with us to help or I will straight fight you fuckers and you’ll die right here right now. Die now, die later. Pick one.”

“Come at me fluff nut.” Steve said while petting his Bull’s face.

Pat leaned into Adam, “I feel as though you just made this get real.”

“Yeah” Adam said.

“Your iguana is suffocating. Get off its head.” Pat whispered for no reason.

“Oh shit! Sorry dude. That was my bad.” Adam exclaimed and got to the ground to try and reshape his iguanas flattened head.

The iguanas eyes lit up as it shook it’s head and said, “No, that’s cool, I freakin’ love when people put their entire weight on my nose. It’s the best.”

“Holy shit you’re talking!” Adam screamed into eternity.

“Yeah, your courage did it? Maybe it was you being a dick to those guys? Like standing up for yourself in a weird maniacal way? That could be it. Honestly, I’m just glad I can tell you out loud to get the fuck off me cause I’m not even a fully grown lizard, there is no way you should be riding me. Like. At all. Also, for the record, my name is Todd. And I’m the best and only iguana there is. Look at my moves.” Todd shook his shoulders a bit. “It’s all in the shoulders nillas.”

“What does nillas mean?” Asked Pat.

“It’s like the N word for white people.” Yelled Todd.

“Oh. Well. Okay. Then make sure never to use a hard R or I will be straight pissed about it.” Pat said.

“Dually noted” Said Todd.

“Are we fighting or what?!” Collin was shouting over the crowd behind him and the bear in front of him with his katana still high up in the air. “My arm is getting tired, I want to rest this sword in someone’s eye socket.”

“Cease them!” Mitch said as the 20 troops behind them came around and took Adam and Todd away.

“Oh god damnit Adam! I just learned to talk and they are going to murder us, that’s just great.” Todd was so peeved while being dragged away across the dust and dirt.

“I’m not psyched about being tortured either you idiot. I wish you never started speaking. At least before I could ignore you and stand on your head.” Adam wiggled as much as he could to try and break free but the mongrels carrying him away were stronger than one person was so that math just didn’t add up. While the 20 dudes carried Adam away, Mitch Collin and The Steve looked back towards Pat who was now coming at them, claws out.

Collin swung his katana left and right as his Gorilla shot a laser from its right eye towards Pat who dodged it as he was now running in a circle around the 3 Ranger Riders. Collin tried to bring the katana down into the circle but narrowly missed Pat who was kicking the bear in the side and whispering sweet nothing’s in its ear about honey to make it go faster.

Mitch took his giant kangaroo pouch and pushed it forward, like he was holding the reins on a horse and entered the circle, giving chase to Patrick whose constant running was starting to kick up more and more dust, making it harder to see and breath. The dust hit the back of Steve’s throat making him flail wildly and accidentally hitting the top of ChinaShop’s head, sending him off in a frenzy toward the shack town where Adam was being carted off too while screaming obscenities in the distance.

ChinaShop ran faster than the rest of the Riders gang and ended up beating them to the shack town, gesticulating in a large way, quickly knocking down most of the houses and putting of the one fire they had which had taken them two months to start. With nowhere to hold a hostage now the Riders started to cry uncontrollably and dropped Adam/Todd to the ground. Steve and ChinaShop, tired from their escapade, fell to the floor and instantly started to nap like nothing was happening. Adam and Todd turned around and started to run back towards the fight.

Back behind them Mitch and Pat had caused such a dust storm that you couldn’t see inside of it from what once was the shanty town. Inside the dust storm the battle brewed as Mitch and his Roo got off track for one moment and ran straight out of the storm to see Adam and Todd running towards him. Adam was losing ground as Todd ran faster and faster.

“How are you running this fast?” Asked Adam while breathing heavily and with a twinge of anger on his breath, “Could you always run this fast? Have you been short changing me ya god damn dick?”

Todd’s tongue flopped out of his mouth and his eyes opened wide as his weird feet went quicker and quicker in front of him almost to the point of him tripping over his own new speed. “No! I swear. I’ve never been able to run this fast. In fact, I’ve never fought anything in my entire lizard life. This is exciting!”

Mitch and Roo locked in on Adam and Todd and stood ready to fend them off quickly, hopefully squishing Adam’s head in, and being done with them.

Adam was still losing ground to Todd who was now glowing from the tip of his tail to the front of his neck, making it look like his head was going to pop off at any second to reveal a fireworks show.

“What the crap is happening to you ya god damn lizard?” Adam started to fast walk while Todd kept going, “You got this man! I’ll be right there. I’ve been riding a lizard for a year and not running, this was such a poor choice, I did NOT plan this well.” Todd’s feet were getting bigger and bigger – at one point he vaulted up completely, going from a 4 legged creature to a 2 legged creature, his front legs retracting slightly to become arms. Adam scoffed at this change until he realized what was happening. Within 5 minutes he went from having an iguana that couldn’t talk or carry things or pretty much do anything to an exponentially growing and talking Todd lizard.

Inside the dust cloud the bear and the gorilla finally met in the middle. On top of them Collin was swinging towards the bears ears hoping to clip Pat in the forehead and end this shit. Underneath all of that though, Pat scrambled near the Gorilla’s feet, getting off within the dust storm so Collin couldn’t see.

Through the fighting the laser beam shooting gorilla didn’t notice Pat climbing up it’s back – getting closer and closer to Collin as he swung violently towards the bear, once hitting and scraping across the bears entire face, opening it up – only to close together once more as the bear screamed into the dust and went into overdrive, punching straight forward as hard as it could. The Gorilla from Manila started to fall back, losing its balance as Pat reached its apex and donkey punched Collin off his monkey.

The Gorilla fell to the ground in pain while the bear raised up in triumph as the dust cleared. When the Gorilla looked up towards the town a dumbfound look washed across his face and he got up on all fours as fast he could, picking up Collin in the process, and started running the other way.

“Yeah, you better run!” Pat said, high fiving his bear who apparently can regenerate instead of talk which was awesome for Pat because he didn’t wanna talk to his bear at all, he mostly just wanted to keep mumbling and having the bear understand what was going on. That was sorta perfect. Pat grinned from ear to ear, happy to have won that battle all by himself. He turned to make sure Mitch had been taken care of, but as he pivoted he was met with a leg. Just a giant, fuck off leg. Right in front of him. Green, and scaly, with sharp jackhammer looking nails coming out of its feet. As Pat looked up he saw Todd, the once iguana, now standing 3 stories tall and Adam on top of its head screaming as loud as he could with his arms spread like he was Leo on the Titanic.

“I’m the king of the world!” Adam screamed while shaking his head side to side in amazement. Todd had Roo and Mitch in his clutches and after he shook them like you shouldn’t a baby real quick he put them down, freshly dizzied. When he knew it was safe, Collin’s Gorilla stopped running and Steve woke up from his power nap. All of them slowly gathered around Todd’s feet and looked up at the towering Godzilla like lizard and the psychopath on its back punching the sky.

“Well” said Collin, “I know when I can’t win. And this is one of those times. Cause, ya know, giant lizard. So. Sure, we’re in. Wherever you wanna go, we’ll go.”

“TIGHT!” Adam’s guttural plea to the world rang out over the lands as Todd’s much more intense scream shook the land around them and further wrecked the shanty town.

“Plus” Steve added “You guys destroyed our home that took a really long time to make because you’re very inconsiderate. So. Sure. I’m in.”

“Yeah” Mitch said, “Whatever they said. Sounds solid. Let’s go fight a squid with evil in its heart.”

“Cool,” said Pat. “Very cool.”

“OH MY FLUB THIS IS NUTS!” Adam squee’d while hugging his giant lizard friend. “I don’t have to walk anymore!”

Todd reached around with his tiny and shitty arms and grabbed Adam by the shirt, putting him on the ground. “For that you have to walk eight miles.”

“Well….shit.” Adam said as they all started to walk towards The Colony and his shorts grew to pants, marking the end of his only short wearing era and the beginning of his rebirth.

Buried

Before you read this I’d recommend you watch the film because I’m about to spoil it below:

In 2011 I wondered if my friends and I had it in us to make a film. Now we’ve made 3 while also having a large ensemble cast web series being scheduled to shoot in 2015. Stay tuned for updates on our Facebook page.

Making movies with my friends is the favorite thing I’ve ever done. Last night one of those good friends asked me how I get all of these insanely talented people to help me every time. I told her I have to trick them into it, which is half true. When you are writing and directing, the first step outside of yourself is convincing people that the thing you want to make is going to be good even when you aren’t 100% sure of that fact. But they keep saying yes. So. That’s incredibly nice of them.

Buried was created around a table of friends at my apartment in 2013. The premise was that a guy accidentally kills his best friend’s girlfriend who no one likes and then decides that if he can convince his best friend to murder his girlfriend before he finds out that she was already dead, he’d be off the hook for the accidental death he caused. Or at the very least, he’d have some help with the situation from a sympathetic party.

It’s a super weird premise that just made me keep laughing and laughing. Just a guy grasping at strings in the most intense moment of his entire life trying to convince another dude to kill a girl who’s already dead. That is my sense of humor in a nut shell.

When it comes to the actual film itself, I as the director ask the audience to go along with a premise that is all or nothing. Whether or not the audience ends up jumping on board is still to be seen, BUT even if they don’t there are a few things in this film that I think will be for everybody.

First off there are shots in Buried that are crazily pretty. Dylan (my EP, Editor, and Cinematographer) came in to the shoot day after a few brief conversations about the shot list and with a whole lot of jet lag as he had just gotten back from a month in Asia. I’m telling you that because the sequence where Marc is doing the actual burying has a shot while the sun was going down that is so freakin’ gorgeous I want to cry and Dylan was sprawled out in the mud to capture it while somehow not falling asleep.

Dylan, as my Cinematographer, is there to add his sense of aesthetic to my shot list. So basically, he’s there to make me better than I am. While operating within that framework he consistently goes above and beyond and the camera work in this film proves that. As for our second camera run by Adam Carner, I use him as a wild card. I don’t give him a shot list. I tell him to find a cool shot and go with it. The side shot of Marc kicking the corpse prior to dumping it in the hole is all Adam. Every time he works with me he does something I’d never think of by myself. You need people like that if you want to make something cooler than you could ever make alone.

The second thing I wanted to highlight from this film is the music; particularly the music during the burying sequence. The way we at BFF pick music is a long and tedious exercise that our music supervisor, JR, performs beautifully. Every year South by South West (SXSW) releases about 6 gigs of free music for the purpose of filmmakers using it in their films royalty free. It’s an amazing service that has helped us immensely on all 3 of the films we’ve made. It’s JR’s job to get an insane scene note from me like, “I want the song in this burying sequence to be ominous but in a weird and quirky upbeat manner” and then subsequently make sense of it.

Then after he does that impossible task, he listens to all 6 gigs of the music (51 hours of songs for those of you wondering) and makes a ranked list of his choices that I, with the help of him and the EPs, use to pick the song. The song in the burying sequence, in my mind, is perfection and I hope you guys like it too. And even if you don’t, it makes me all warm and fuzzy every time it comes on and that’s all I could ever ask for.

Before I go I will add that this film is better because my other EP Abigail, who is my script editor as well, killed it on every note she made during this entire process. Add to that the three actors in this film whom all had multiple jobs within the process when acting is hard enough all came to play on the day of the shoot (of which we only had one) and laid down solid takes that made picking only one tough to do the entire time editing this film. I’m almost bored when it comes to talking about how good Marc is because it’s just the truth and, hell, Steph had to hold herself above the ground and then let go so her face slammed into it 3 times in a row for this film and didn’t question it once. (All in the gag reel btw) That’s insane. Friendship is insanity.

This film marks the first time I didn’t act let alone play the lead in something we’ve made which allowed for a few things. One is that I had to put all of my trust into the actors to say my words the way they are on the page while simultaneously infusing them with a very real weight and personality to which I was not disappointed. The second opportunity it allowed for was to be ingrained in every single step that occurred from the concept to the final cut. Ian and the Bishop and Zer0s are movies that I adore because for me they tell so many stories both personally and artistically but this film is the first one that is in my voice entirely.

Artists talk about searching for their voice all the time. Finding a way to make a product that genuinely describes an artistic moment in their life. If nothing else Buried will be a perfect reminder or who I was when I was 27, how reliable and talented my friends were, how supportive my family was, and how I have a deep love for the place where I grew up for both making me this person and being a beautiful setting for all 3 films we’ve made so far.

If you have any questions about Buried or anything else let me know. I could talk forever about these films. I like them a lot. If not just enjoy this gag reel of my friends being silly little geese and I’ll cya in 2015 for our upcoming comedy webseries. K cool.

Ian and the Bishop – A Short Film

If you don’t want to read my long winded diatribe about making movies and dreams coming true then here is this movie. I sincerely hope you enjoy it.

 

Oh – You would like to read about my love for filmmaking and how important friends are? Okay. Well then, here you go.

Ian and the Bishop started as a novel. It was about a character that was depressed and started drinking again only to be forced into saving himself by a new acquaintance and his drunken alter ego. It was based off of a very real character in my life that got thrown into a romantic dramedy setting because that’s what I know how to write. I got 4 chapters in before I realized I was writing a screenplay, not a novel.

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to make movies. I saw the film “Tall Tale” when I was a kid and it clicked in my head that this wasn’t just a fun story unfolding in front of me. This was a creative endeavor that real human beings put an incredible amount of hard work into and then came out on the other end with a finished product. I wanted that. I wanted to tell a story. But one person can’t make a movie, or at least, not the movie I wanted to make.

So I called my friend Dylan. He’s everything I’m not. He’s a wildly talented creative mind with a knack for the aesthetic piece of life. I needed him to say yes before anything else could actually happen. I was driving through New Haven, Connecticut on my way to Long Island for work way too early in the morning late in 2012 and called him with an epiphany.

“I want to make a movie.” I said.

“Umm. Okay. What kind of movie?”  He replied.

“I don’t know yet. But I want to make one.”

“Oh….Alright then. Sure.” And Dylan was in. Way easier than I expected.

That week I took my fledgling novel and turned it into the first draft of the screenplay. When it was done I sent it to Abigail. She was the second piece of this puzzle that was absolutely essential to making a movie. She’s my box. And by that I mean, I come up with over the top crap and she brings me back down into a place that can actually happen. Everyone needs that kind of person in their life, and she’s mine. I sent her an email with the screenplay attached that started with, “Hey. Remember when you told me months ago that this novel would be better as a movie? Well…you we’re right.” She was both excited that I told her she was right and taken aback by how much work I had done in such a short amount of time. So, Abigail was in. We’re moving right along.

Then, very quickly, it all became super real. We were scheduling the audition date to fill out the cast. I was filling out paperwork/asking my favorite local restaurant locations very politely to secure locations. I was writing a shot list (basically, making the movie in your head before a camera even turns on) which I had never done before. We were editing the script. A lot. The final version of the script is very different from how it began. Dylan, Abigail, myself, and two script editors (Allie Rivera and Robert Pinney) helped me out a great deal in that department. The entire ending is different from how I first wrote it because all of them knew it had to be.

I asked my roommate Elliot Smith if he could be the Prop Manager because he knew how to get things. I asked my other roommate Ryan Gentner and friend Adam Carner to be additional cameras on the project – which by the way, some of my favorite shots came from both of them plus Dylan taking my ideas and making them better, which is exactly what a talented crew is for. I asked my friend Mike Storiale, the most well organized and level headed human being I know, to run the production from a logistics stand point. He made a calendar, which should not be overlooked. The hardest part about making a movie, hands down, is the schedule. Getting everyone in the same place at the same time. It is a true nightmare and Mike and I threw it at the wall and then hoped it stuck. Thankfully it did. I then asked my friend Marc Gibson to be a production assistant – the jack of all trades on a movie set – and he also obliged. He also ended up playing my older brother Tom in the film and in my opinion steals every shot he is in.

A few weeks before the casting call I realized movies require a hair and makeup artist. It is in this area where I was lacking in the friend department. When I came to this realization I scoured Facebook for people posting pictures of hair or makeup jobs they had done. I came across a friend I hadn’t talked too at length for a while – but her work was stunningly brilliant and I knew she would be perfect. I called Dylan and asked him if he thought Stephanie Gagne would help. He replied with something like, “I don’t know, probably, maybe just ask her?”

That’s something else I learned while making this film. Sometimes, if you just ask someone to do something, they will do it. It’s crazy. So I asked her, and she said yes. And through the movie I started talking to her and her fiancé/current husband JR who became a production assistant on IatB and would later become a Producer on the new film we made this year. But more importantly, he is the most passionate and enthusiastic person I’ve ever met. Through just asking I added two crazily talented individuals who made the movie that much better as well as two amazing friends. I asked her to be a part of the movie in early 2013. Last weekend Elliot, Marc and I were in their wedding party. The crew/my best friends screamed Africa by Toto on the dance floor at Steph and JRs wedding at the top of our lungs. Twice. I fucking love making movies.

The crew was set. But I still needed to cast 6 characters. 4 women and 2 men. Tavis and Marc filled the two male roles, bringing more talent to them that I could have ever imagined, but we still needed the women. Abigail ran casting like a well-oiled machine, and all I had to do was show up with a script and watch strangers say words that were once only in my head. They each read for two parts – the girl breaking up with Ian in the first scene and the female lead whose name was Emma. I was nervous to say the very least. Without an Emma, we had nothing. Just some pieces of paper that resembled a story.

As the auditions were happening we were finding very good actresses. They were beautiful and talented but they weren’t Emma. I knew Emma. She had been in my head for a year at that point. I knew her favorite book was The Fault in Our Stars and that her dream was to be a dancer. I knew she loved her father but missed her mother every day. I knew she wanted to go on adventures but she believed an adventure alone wasn’t an adventure at all. She wanted someone to make her better than she already was. And that person was Ian.

Casey McDougal was my Emma. She nailed it. From the moment she walked into the audition room until the moment we wrapped, she embodied that character. She made decisions that I didn’t write that made Emma real. When she left the audition I resisted the urge to chase after her and beg her on my knees to take the role. Thankfully she took it anyway, minus the begging. When I watch this film now all I can think is, “That is my Emma. And within every wonderful flaw, every matter of fact smile, and every time she hits Ian out of pure frustration, she was absolute perfection.” I thank the stars every day Casey came into our lives and I think Ian does too.

With that I need to take a moment to thank JD, Grace, Sehee, Samantha, Marc, and Tavis. I am incredibly thankful you all took the time and helped me create something so important to me. The movie is better because all of you were in it.

One more technical note before I go. Movies are made up of pictures and sounds. Sounds are half of the experience. We used most of the money from the Kickstarter campaign to buy microphone equipment that has served us well. Problem was, we never made time to really learn how to use it prior to shooting, so the entire shoot was a long uphill lesson in sound design. Some of the movie was only recorded in mono; some of the movie had the mic pointed the wrong way, etc etc. Sometimes it’s just bad. And I had to come to terms with that. A large reason this film took a year and a half to release is because I hated how it sounded. But with some elbow grease and a few hours of Dylan’s magical editing a year later we made it the best it could be. When you all watch our next film (Zer0s, coming to YouTube October 3rd) you will notice the sound is better. That is because my friends (specifically JohnRob, Marc, and Elliot) took it upon themselves to be better the second time around and they succeeded.

Making this film was an incredible learning experience and by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I never went to film school. I just wanted to make a movie. It was my dream. The thing I thought about late at night while staring at ceilings. And then I somehow tricked my friends into helping me do so. AND THEN I asked for donations to get us off the ground which exceeded my expectations and we were funded within the first two days. It was and still is pure insanity.

This film is not perfect. Not even close. But it’s done. And my friends/crew, family, and Kickstarter backers should be incredibly proud of themselves. You guys helped create something from nothing and to me that’s beautiful. Thank you so very much.