Thursday 22 October 2020

Down A Word: The Story of NEXT FRIDAY


Down A Word: The Story of NEXT FRIDAY is a 1-hour accidental documentary I made with a group of friends in 2009 and 2010. 

It chronicles a night when I got drunk - far too drunk, don't ever get this drunk - lost my mind, went on a verbal rampage, proceeded to destroy the porcelain of my friend's toilet and completely blacked out with no memory of what a complete idiot I had made of myself.

Fortunately for the existence of this film, but unfortunately for my conscience, it was all captured on camera. 

Being the creative and self-mocking person that I am, I decided to make a documentary out of it.

In January 2010, I invited my friends over to my house so that I could record some interview footage, which I then cut together with the original incident footage and delivered the film in February 2010. 

The original incident came about during the editing process of A Not Even Gay THRE3SOME, the third film of The Not Even Gay Trilogy

Me and my friends had shot about 36 hours of footage for the third film and editing my way through it was causing me no end of stress. 

Not to mention, I still had two months before I started university and no current job together with no money.

Basically, I just wanted to have a nice relaxing party with my friends, which I suggested and which we did over my friend Matt's house. I assumed we would all get fantastically drunk, maybe play some drinking games and it would be a great night. 

Clearly, I misread the situation because I was the only one who got massively drunk.

I think at one point I dared myself to finish the entirety of my bottle of Jack Daniels and after a certain point, I can't remember anything.

Watching back the footage was absolutely bizarre because, from my point of view, I can only remember about the first ten minutes... and then waking up ther next day.

Just imagine my shock and surprise when I watched the footage me making a complete drunken tit of myself. 

I wasn't annoyed with my friends, because I can see the funny side and I'm pretty hilarious in the footage.

Whenever I would film my friends and they hated it, I would always say that, "It makes great footage!"

So they were just returning the favour this time.

Plus, the footage of this incident allowed me to fill in the massive gap in my memory... even if I would rather have fogotten the fact that I put a massive crack in the porcelain toilet. I never did get round to replacing it, whoopsie-daisy!

Watching the footage, I was mostly just amazed with how utterly insane I became after finishing a whole bottle of Jack Daniels.

As my friend James comments in the film, "I think we've broken Pete."

Seriously, though, don't ever try to drink a whole bottle of Jack, or anything else with a high alcohol percentage, in a single go. It's really not a smart thing do for your dignity or your wellbeing! 

A piece of unused art I generated for the film

The film is called Down A Word because that is something I said while we were in the kitchen playing a drinking game. 

I was completely misunderstanding how to play the game and at one point I suggested that to spice things up we should all, "down a word."

Oh, down a word!

Judging by the response of my friends in the footage, it was definitely one of the highlights of the night and, by far, one of the funniest things I said.

I have never lived it down either.

The film has the subtitle The Story of NEXT FRIDAY because that is all to do with me editing A Not Even Gay THRE3SOME

In the footage and in my heavily drunken state I claimed to be able to get the editing done within two weeks so that film would be ready to view next Friday... "Not this Friday, but next Friday."

Which, of course, was ridiculous considering it actually took me a full year to finish the rough cut of A Not Even Gay THRE3OME.

But in Down A Word, I was adamant that I could have it finished by next Friday, so much so, that I keep saying it, over and over and over again. 

"NEXT FRIDAY," was definitely another highlight of the night and something else I have not been able to live down. 

But even I embraced the joke, I used it in the trailers for A Not Even Gay THRE3SOME. It's why I gave Down A Word the subtitle The Story of NEXT FRIDAY, I wanted to link the two projects together... 

As with the making of the three travelogues that make up The Not Even Gay Trilogy, the spontaneous production of Down A Word was an invaluable exercise in documentary making. 

The film doesn't need to be an hour-long presentation and had it been made for a more general audience, I would have cut it down into a much shorter form. 

However, I promised my friends that they would be able to enjoy the footage again, so, aside from a few eliminations here and there, I presented the majority of the footage. 

I was very keen to film some interview footage with my friends. I wanted to have their points of view to tell the story of the night. 

I typed out the questions I wanted them to answer in relation to the rough structure I had already assembled from the original incident footage. 

The questions were...

  1. Who are you and how do you know Short?
  2. How did this series of events begin?
  3. Why was Short determined to finish a whole bottle of Jack?
  4. Can you fill us in on Short’s relationship and history with Jack Daniels?
  5. Beerfest and Anchorman?
  6. What was so special about next Friday?
  7. Steve Carell sitting in a tree with a banana?
  8. How did the drinking game fiasco begin?
  9. My house has four corners?
  10. Down a word?
  11. In what state would you describe Short’s condition when you were in the kitchen?
  12. What was going through your mind immediately after he smashed the bottle of Jack Daniels?
  13. Why did you stop filming?
  14. Can you describe the sequence of events that then occurred once you stopped filming?
  15. Black Puke?
  16. How did Short manage to break a porcelain toilet?
  17. What was Short’s reaction the next day?
  18. Anything else about that night you would like to point out?
  19. What have you learnt from this experience? 

I let the other guys give it their own spin by filming the interview footage themselves in my living room. 

I think the interview footage of the other guys gels brilliantly with the original incident footage and, a lot of the time, intercutting what happened together with my friends' comments actually makes the original footage even more amusing. 

It is also handy having my friends' testimonies of the night because it enabled me to fill in the gaps when the camera had not been rolling. 

I wasn't interviewed and I didn't want my point of view included with the original incident footage because...

A) How would I even justify how crazy I became that night.

B) I was an unreliable source of information because I couldn't remember what had happened.

That being said, I did include myself at the beginning and at the end of the film. 

The beginning was just a bit of voiceover narration essentially saying how I had a habit of causing ball aches and broken toilets for my friend Matt.

The ending was a short interview with myself in which I admitted I would forever be haunted by that broken porcelin toilet! I also said how I wanted my experience in this film to act as a cautionary tale about what happens when you drink too much.

When in doubt and when getting drunk, always remember the guy who thought he could down a word. 

From my self-interview which acts a conclusion to the film

I would just like to add at this point that I very rarely drink alcohol these days, I've learned my lesson, promise.

My gripes with the film are mostly technical and aesthetic ones. 

After having now used more advanced filmmaking gear and practice, things I don't like stick out like a sore thumb. 

The sound could use a lot of work and the standard definition image with its really bad unbalanced lighting looks horrendous.

In hindsight, I should also have got the other guys to interview me for the conclusion. I feel like it would have been in keeping with the rest of the film and it would have generated some quite funny responses from me. 

However, I am still pretty happy with the 1-hour cut of the film. It's a good representation of where my craft and thinking was as a filmmaker in 2010.

Down A Word was another handy exercise in learning how to edit and construct a documentary narrative.

I still think I could do a bit of work on the opening and ending. I don't actually think they set up or close of the film in the right way. To me, they feel a bit tacked on. 

Maybe at some point I will jump back into the editing suite and do a refined and shorter cut of Down A Word

But for now, here's the full first edit...

For more on my early documentary filmmaking and to see the sister project of Down A Word, check out The Not Even Gay Trilogy.

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