The Bentfootes

Here’s a real rarity for the pages of this blog: notes from an actual film shoot.

The Bentfootes is a “mockumentary” about a fictional American family who, for the past 200 years, has toiled in the margins of American dance, all to no avail.  

Why to no avail?  Well, because each generation of Bentfootes, for one reason or another, just hasn’t gotten the breaks.  Sometimes it’s lack of talent, sometimes it’s being ahead of the times, sometimes it’s cruel twists of fate, sometimes it’s over-reaching.  And sometimes it’s because you get hit by a bus.

The Bentfootes was conceived as a dance piece by Kriota Willberg (Mrs. R. Sikoryak), and is now being expanded into a feature-length film, written and directed by yours truly (toddalcott), with a piece of animation by r_sikoryak and starring none other than James urbaniak, with a cameo appearance by Gary “gazblow” Schwartz.  It’s a regular Livejournal lovefest!

Mr. Urbaniak plays Jim Raritan, the “producer” of the movie you’re watching and the boyfriend of Susan Bentfoote, the “last Bentfoote,” whose tragic death is the catalyst for Jim to make a documentary about Susan and her family.  It’s a funny, bittersweet meditation on art, life, and what it takes to “make it” in American culture.

Today’s work consisted of: watching the music documentary Dig!, in order to remind ourselves just how patchy a movie can be technically and still get by on story and content, and watching a rehearsal of two of the dances to get some ideas for camera placement and how many different takes we’re going to have to do for each dance to cover all the action.

Our schedule is very tight and our budget is, well, nonexistent.  We’re shooting James’s days starting on Saturday, and the big crowd scenes where we need everybody in one spot at one time next Wednesday.  That is, unless James has to shoot an episode of “Kidnapped” that day, in which case I will simply blow my head off and not worry about the movie any more.

Wish us luck!

In projector news, the store I ordered the bulb from said that it would take a week for the new bulb to come in.  That was over two weeks ago, and now I’m in New York for two weeks shooting this movie.  So it will be quite some time before I am reunited with my beloved projector.  But I shall my hands quite fulll with this no-budget film shoot.
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28 Responses to “The Bentfootes”
  1. greyaenigma says:

    Exciting! Good luck!

  2. robolizard says:

    I won’t lie. I am madly in love with this mockumentary. I not only wish you luck… I use my magic to get God to give you luck… yay verily…

    [would you need any cheap to free assistance… or a plucky yet annoying intern!?]

  3. Welcome back to New York, Mr. Alcott. I wish you much luck with the upcoming shoot (please pass on my hellos to the Sikoryaks). And of course, you are welcome at The Astrobase at any time during your stay.

    • Todd says:

      That would be great, watching your entire VB output in such a protracted amount of time has made me very curious about your production methods. You must be setting some kind of record for the budget/output ratio.

  4. eronanke says:

    Could you PLEASE set a movie in Chicago????
    I want to be a key grip SO BADLY.

    • greyaenigma says:

      People have been telling me I need to get a grip.

      Of course, I’ve already been a line producer… for what that’s worth.

      And Chicago, shmicago. Do they have exploding volcanoes? I think not!

      • eronanke says:

        *NOT* helping, hubby.

        • greyaenigma says:

          Sorry, I just caught up in the never-quite-making-it Bentfootism of the piece.

          It is true that Chicago has Sue and the Frank Lloyd Wright house, the Sears Tower. And of course, one of the greatest films of all time was shot there. (Two if you include The Blues Brothers.) I even did the Ferris Bueller art tour during one of my visits.

          • Todd says:

            Two if you include The Blues Brothers

            Um, actually The Blues Brothers was the first one I thought of. What’s the other one? The Untouchables? The Fugitive? Oh wait — you’re talking about Bueller, aren’t you.

            • greyaenigma says:

              I am.

              Yeah, The Blues Brothers mostly just ended there. (But ended well.) It might be interesting to count how many directors appear in that film. Then again, it might not be.

              • Todd says:

                Dan Aykroyd says that he based the script for The Blues Brothers on a map of the Northwest Suburbs of Chicago. I’m pretty sure the whole thing was shot in the area.

                (Fun fact for fans of alcohol and the Blues: the original “House of Blues” was an after-hours club, well really more like a party space, that Aykroyd and Belushi established in the back of a rented storefront while shooting The Blues Bros. Later, Aykroyd figured out how to make a ton of money off it.)

                Speaking of the Northwest Suburbs, Woodstock (scant miles from my birthplace of Crystal Lake) was the setting for one of the great American films of all time, Groundhog Day.

                John Landis had a habit for casting directors in his movies. I don’t remember who they all are, but I remember the Coens have parts in Into the Night.

                (Or is it Spies Like Us? I don’t even remember any more.)

                • greyaenigma says:

                  Dear god — Into the Night. I love that movie. I don’t think I’d call it great, but I still love it. And man, the cameos. I haven’t seen it for years, probably worth a reviewing. Groundhog Day is great too, but now that I have that on DVD, I’m counter-intuitively less likely to watch it.

                  And jeez, Gilliam, Harryhausen, and Joel Coen in Spies? Maybe I need to give that one another shot.

                  Yeah, Blues Brothers was mostly suburbs, which I suppose I should have counted, since I put the Frank Lloyd Wright house into my original list, and that’s outlying.

                  Fun fact: Signs was filmed in Bucks County, PA (not particularly near Punxsatawney, but at least in the same state). The field that they used was virtually in my aunt’s back yard, and there had been recently an article published describing my uncle as the last farmer in the county, while they appear to be living on a farm in the movie. So I feel a special connection to that one. (Also near where I was born.)

                  • ultimessence says:

                    Cameo Madness

                    Insider Cameos Rule!!

                    I also have a fondness for “Into the Night”… Will never forget David Bowie’s marvelous cameo as the suave thug; “I like you, Ed.. You’re good”, he says as he sticks a pistol in Jeff Goldblum’s mouth. I’d love to see a whole film with that guy.

                    Also–CraigJClark: Who is that amazingly versitile B&W face on your avatar? Almost looks like a young George C. Scott, circa ’64 ?

                    • Todd says:

                      Re: Cameo Madness

                      I’m going to beat him to it: its a gif adapted from a key scene in Steven Soderberg’s Schizopolis, where Soderberg makes hideous faces at himself in a men’s room mirror. It’s a terrific movie and severely underrated.

  5. craigjclark says:

    I wish you all the luck in the world, sir. And I hope to see this work of yours show up at my local art house at some point in the not-too-distant future.

  6. rennameeks says:

    Good luck to all of you!

    It sounds like you’ve got the right attitude heading into this, so I’m sure you’ll be fine. 😀

    Have fun!

  7. dougo says:

    That’s weird, I was totally thinking about Dig! when you posted about Gimme Shelter and music documentaries. My favorite, though, is still Hype! Have you seen that?

    • Todd says:

      I have not. I enjoyed Dig!, although I had never heard a note of either of those bands’ music before. It, like The Bentfootes, is also a meditation on luck and art and not-quite-making-it in American culture. By the end of Dig! I fully expected that Anton from the Brian Jonestown Massacre would be dead and Courtney from Dandy Warhols would be living in a Tuscan villa eating creme brulee. But nothing like that happens; both bands are still toiling away in semi-obscurity. I rented the movie at ultra-hip Kim’s Video on St. Mark’s Place in New York’s trendy East Village, and none of the record stores on the street had any records by either band in stock.

      Goes to show you what a talented filmmaker can do; you watch a movie about these bands you’ve never heard of and get so caught up in their stories that it never really occurs to you that either of them ever made the slightest dent in their culture.

      • dougo says:

        I was quite familiar with both bands before seeing Dig! (see my review of it and The Fearless Freaks) so maybe I’m a bit blinded too, but I thought they both made slight dents in their culture, or at least their hipster indie-rock subculture. The Dandy Warhols did have several tracks in rotation on commercial stations in the ’90s, and their latest video was on MTV2’s “Subterranean” a few times this spring. BJM never really broke into the alt-rock mainstream, but they’re somewhat legendary in underground psych-pop circles.

        • Todd says:

          The really impressive thing about Dig! for me was the manner in which it was made, that the director followed these bands around for eight years, couldn’t have had any idea where the “story” was going, or whether there was ever actually going to be a story, and waded through hundreds of hours of footage to put together this documentary that, although only 107 minutes, still packs in dozens of unpredictable twists and turns.

      • I thought the Dandy Warhols were huge, but I guess maybe I was projecting (I do love them so).

    • greyaenigma says:

      Howdy stranger… holy cow. He friended you?

  8. urbaniak says:

    That movie sounds cool. Can I be in it? Oh wait, I am.

  9. toliverchap says:

    Something from nothing

    Sounds like it might be a fun watch I’ll look out for it upon release. The good thing about having no-budget is that any money you make is all profit and the suits will like that for sure.

    • Todd says:

      Re: Something from nothing

      Right now a “release” is a kind of fun, crazy sci-fi “what if” idea, but thanks.

      • rennameeks says:

        Re: Something from nothing

        There’s always the possibility of releasing it online. I hear that’s what the cool kids are doing these days….and many of the uncool ones too. x_x