Sunday, April 10, 2011



JESSE: All right, I'm sure even a duller knows that editing is where the movie is finally pieced together. However, for those who still are unable to grasp this concept, allow me a moment to explain the process. You sit in a small room and watch hours of raw footage over and over again until you find the takes you like best. You then put those takes together in chronological order to form your movie. Sometimes you just cut some scenes down and occasionally you cut them out all together.

This is a very boring and monotonous process for those who don't love making movies. We all love it in our group. Yet, if you don't then it's like watching an episode of a TV show three thousand times in one sitting. It is the final tool in the storytelling process.


You may have noticed all through the film's production that Darren was not himself. He was tense, angry, and ready to explode at the slightest provocation. This is so unlike Darren that working with him during this period was like working with a complete stranger. I will say this: Darren is usually easy going, generous, nice, and my brother in every way. It was not my intention to paint him as an asshole but at the same time I had to tell the story as it happened.

So, it gives me great pleasure to say that during editing he was the old Darren Parsons again. He was full of energy, fun to be around, and in a great mood every day. He came to class each day with a great attitude and ready to work. Editing was always his favorite part of the job. He enjoyed it and it showed in his attitude. He had to make some tough decisions about the movie and he couldn't wait to tackle them head on.


The first day of editing was also our first day back to school after spring break. We gathered the tapes from my locker and watched them all in a row. After we finished one I would write down how much footage we had on it and then plop in another. When all was said and done we had about five hours of raw footage. A lot of this was additional takes for each scene so it wasn’t that bad. It’s not like we had five hours of an actual story to trim.

DAR: No, we probably had thirty or so minutes of story. We could’ve added more to it, I guess, but in order to enter it into the contest it couldn’t be more than ten minutes long. And we still went over by five minutes.

JESSE: We decided to edit each tape in order of their scenes in the script. We went to work on it the next day. At this point Darren and I were the only ones showing up to class. We went through the first tape, which contained my ‘acting’ scene and the video store scene. After watching and re-watching my scene we began to realize how pointless it was. Darren and I agreed that it should be the first to go. We then skipped ahead to the video store scene.

After an hour of editing it still didn't feel right. For one, looking at it now you could easily tell it wasn’t a real video store. Two, we both couldn't find a take that we thought was good. Class time was almost over and we decided to just cut it out. That whole first day of editing ended with nothing to show for our efforts but two deleted scenes.

We started on Jeremy's opening scene the next day. I thought we had a pretty good edit for it. It was a good scene with underlying tension to it. Darren apologized as we watched it and I kept saying "Don't apologize to me." We finally finished it and began work on the meatloaf with ice cream eating scene. This rather simplistic scene didn't take long and we moved on to the next.

This is how it went for the next couple of days, just going through everything and either paring it down or removing it all together. By Friday we had everything edited. All we had to do now was piece the movie together. This is the most rewarding part, as you get to see the story come together. We put all of the footage in chronological order on a single tape and agreed to come in that Saturday to finish it.

Darren and I met fairly early in the morning. He told me that Becky would be by later to help us edit the film. This was fine with me. All we had to do at this point was piece it together. As Darren and I watched the footage we kept an eye on how long it was running. If memory serves, the movie wound up being somewhere around 30 minutes long. This meant we had to cut out about 20 minutes of material.

We were worried about what we could cut out while still keeping the story cohesive. We knew there were three scenes that could not be cut. Those were the Talent Show scene, the first kiss scene, and the last scene where Jenny breaks up with him. Darren devised a way to explain the story through soundcards like in the old silent movies. It seemed like a good idea, but first we had to figure out what parts of the story would have to be explained using this device.

Around this time Becky showed up and watched the footage with us. She agreed with Darren that Jeremy's opening scene was one of the ones that should go. I had to disagree here. I felt you needed a dialogue scene to introduce the villain. He is an integral part of the movie.

They agreed to put it on hold for the moment and asked what other scene we could cut. Well, I pointed out the first breakup shot at Darren's house. I felt it was never really a good scene and the acting was atrocious. I thought it wasn't integral to the story either. Darren wanted some kind of turmoil to be shown between the two. I suggested using a single shot from it, explaining the rest away with a soundcard. They both agreed but that was only the tip of the iceberg, what else was expendable?

We had to cut something and finally the axe came down on Jeremy's scene. I felt the theater scene and the front porch scene were more important to the relationship between David and Jenny. I was still under the impression that we should include Jeremy's scene and maybe we could cut the final scene (or Darren's Ego Scene, as I call it), but I knew that wasn't going to happen.

In the end I had no choice but to accept the butchering of a great performance. We did use a shot from that scene for Skip's soundcard introduction. When we finally finished the process we had cut the movie down to about eighteen minutes without credits. Darren and I would finish that on Monday. I wondered how Darren was going to tell Jeremy about his axed scene. I just remembered how much Jeremy went through during production and I felt bad that, in a way, I helped cut it out by giving up the fight. I’ve always felt bad about this and I know Darren did too.

JEREMY: In the end it's what is most important for the movie. I wasn't upset that my scenes were cut from a purely whiney actor not getting his due standpoint, but rather the fact that the movie now had no antagonist; at least, not a fully developed one (hell, with somewhere around a minute or so of screen time with no dialogue, he wasn't developed at all). The villain is the second most important character of a story. He is the force which the hero has to overcome. You cannot have a good hero without a good villain. I understand Dar had to edit down the film, but maybe if he spent less of those precious screen moments with shots of himself posing for the camera (I'm ready for my close up, Mr. Deville!) he could have squeezed in a bit more characterization for Skip Wes.

I always wondered why Dar didn't edit two versions of the movie, one for the contest and a thirty minute one for our group, which we all could have enjoyed as the one true version of Laugh A Little. Alas, it is never to be, as every scrap of that footage has disappeared from existence.

JESSE: Darren and I returned to CIRT Monday to finish the credits. When making credits and soundcards there is one rule that must be followed: Make sure all words are on the screen long enough to be read by the audience three times quickly. This was simple enough; the hard task was deciding which credits would go to whom. As you know, I had to fight for Dave's credit. The only other decision was what music to put on the end credit sequence. I had two songs I liked. They were both by The Smiths. The first song was called "Stop Me If You Heard This One Before". The other was "This Charming Man". I played Darren the second song first, but as I played it the silly goof started recording it to the credits. So, the decision was made and "This Charming Man" blessed the final credits.

The movie was finished and we were both saddened by the sudden realization that this great project we had worked on for so long was now behind us. He made two VHS copies and asked if I wanted one. I did not. I was just happy to be finished with the thing. The movie was ingrained into my memory just the way I wanted it to be. In the coming days I would see plenty more of it anyway.


Darren decided to show the movie to every teacher at Tech that he liked. Our first stop was the desk of Alan Oliver. He watched it and told us every problem he saw with it. He then told us how good he thought it was. He went over to his desk and pulled out an envelope. Oliver would send the movie to the IASB competition. He said he liked our chances of winning. I separated from Darren to go to class. As far as I knew when I ran into him later that day he was cutting classes in order to show off his work to as many people as he could. I went with him to the library to show the two librarians.

When we went in we saw Mike Wallace sitting alone at one of the desks. He had yet to see the movie and Darren invited him to watch it with us. After it was over the only thing Mike cared about was the song on the end credits. We shrugged it off, took our tape, and left to find others to show it to. We ended up skipping the rest of the day. Everyone we showed it to (with the exception of that asshole, Wallace) liked it and heaped praise on it. The only people who hadn't seen it were Jeremy and Joe. I don't know when they watched it.

JEREMY: I remember Dar picking me up in his mother's car and telling me we were going over to Joe's to watch the finished movie. I couldn’t wait to see it, even though he said he'd had to pare my scenes down. I understood that director's sometimes had to sacrifice scenes and performances for the overall good of the film and told him so. As we drove to our destination ‘Mr Jones’ by The Counting Crows came on the radio. The song was brand spanking new at the time.

Then and there, with that song playing, a finished movie by my side, en route to a good friend's house, and my future looking bright, I felt at peace with myself for the first time in my life. It was a moment I will never forget, and to this day when ‘Mr Jones’ plays on the radio, I have to stop what I'm doing and listen to it.

With all due respect to Dar, I wasn’t a big fan of the finished version of Laugh A Little. The movie looks great and I can appreciate it from a technical standpoint, but it was also damn depressing. Basically, David mopes around, bemoaning his lot in life, his girlfriend dumps him, he mopes around some more, the ghost of his grandfather shows up, he mopes, he becomes The Dar, poses for the camera for five minutes or so, wins his girlfriend back at the talent contest, loses her again right after, mopes, and then meets Hope Dawn on the rebound.

Jesse's cinematography is beautiful, the highlight of the film, but its stark black-and-white only adds to the overall gloominess. My hats off to Dar for being able to cut his film down to just over fifteen minutes and still maintain some semblance of a story, but I also think there should be a warning on the cover: Not for the manic depressive.

JESSE: We left Tech that day with a good feeling about his movie. We had been entered into the contest by Oliver. More people liked the movie then disliked it. So, as far as I was concerned, everything was looking pretty. And the next day they looked even prettier.


Oliver called us to his office with, as he put it, "Some news". He pulled out a tape and told us it had our competition for the category we'd be competing in. My memory fades with the passage of years but I remember one movie was about a group of guys playing cards. One of them gets up and drives around for a while, and then comes back after killing someone. This movie was played entirely for laughs and I can assure you that I didn’t (and I am the type who would laugh at such a thing if it was funny).

The other movie featured some kid at a news desk. He was reading this bogus news that was supposed to be funny. I almost busted a gut running into a desk in a mad attempt to flee this horrible piece of crap. I looked at Darren and said, "Clear off a place on the wall, that plaque is fucking ours."

I know this sounds quite boastful, but I felt it to be true. I mean, for one, our movie was the only one to have a coherent story in it. Two: Ours was worked on beyond a single day. Three: Ours was the only movie that was actually edited. The others were just a bunch of guys fucking around with a camera. The only reason they entered is because they figured, "Hey, why not? It'll be a hoot." As far as I was concerned we had no competition.


The day of the competition arrived. Darren and I would be the only contestants attending the event. I don't know why it was just us, but it was. The competition would start at eight in the morning and last through the day. There would also be many live side competitions, like news readings and such. My sister was sweet enough to take the two of us. I got up at six and quickly gathered everything to be at Darren's house at seven.

We arrived at his house five minutes later (I used to be a maniac about getting to places on time). I knocked on the front door for about ten minutes and was about to give up when he finally answered. He had no shirt on, but thankfully he was wearing pants. He told me to give him another five minutes. I agreed to that and no more. I waited and after ten minutes had passed knocked on the door again. He came down wiping his eyes. The bastard had fallen asleep again.

We finally got into the car and headed to IUPUI. The IASB competition was held here every year. IUPUI stands for Indiana University and Purdue University of Indianapolis. The school has a huge campus in the heart of downtown Indianapolis. It is made up of many buildings, each one housing a different subject matter. We arrived at 7:45, giving us 15 minutes to find our building. My sister dropped us off at the administration building. I was hoping they could give us directions to the proper place, but the desk clerks had no clue what we were talking about. We had no choice but to wander around this huge campus until we found it.

After an hour of walking around the labyrinth-like halls of the building Darren and I ran into Alan Oliver. He laughed at us as the fools we were and then took us to the judges room. In the judges room there was a banquet of food. Darren and I were both starving from the long walk around the campus. Oliver saw us slobbering all over ourselves and allowed us to partake. We, being the gluttonous bastards we are, stuffed our faces full. After having our fill of the food we parked ourselves on a couch in the corner. If we had cigars we would have lit them like the fat cats we were.

One of the judges walked over and pointed at Darren. He had recognized Darren from Laugh A Little and heaped praise upon us. He said that his favorite part was the camerawork. I casually mentioned that I was responsible for the movie's visuals. He said how grand of a job we did. He then brought out twenty comely lasses of virtue true and told us to take our pick (ah, memories, they are what you make of them). After we finished talking to this most generous of men Oliver asked if we'd like him to show us around. We excused ourselves and fell in behind Oliver.


Oliver took us to the main auditorium where they showed every movie entered into the competition on a big screen. We saw a listing that showed what was being screened and when. Our movie was the first thing shown that day at 8 a.m. It would have been a blast to see it on the big screen but, alas, it was not to be. When we walked in they were showing the music video competition. We sat down and watched a few, which were actually pretty fucking good. Oliver told us he had to go over and judge the news reading competition. We decided to follow him and check it out.

We sat outside the studio and watched the competition on a TV monitor. There were only three contestants. The first one was a beautiful African American woman. She was also quite talented. She read the news without missing a beat and didn't mess up one word. She came out, saw that Darren and I had watched her try out, and walked over. Darren and I flirted with her, both making sure to mention how talented she was. As we sat there talking we noticed the next competitor preparing. We all gathered around the television to watch. This poor bastard sucked like a whore needing a new car. He skipped words, misread them, and was just totally out of sync.

Oliver ended it before the kid could finish the script. He wailed out of the room and saw us. Our young lady walked over and shook his hand, trying to raise his spirits. Darren also told him his performance was okay. He then turned to me and held out his hand, perhaps looking for a comforting word from me as well. I merely chuckled and left his hand hanging in the breeze. The poor bastard sucked (I was also a much meaner asshole at the time. I've let up some over the years, and the kid looked like an asshole to me anyway, so fuck him) and needed no false comfort from me.

Darren did all he could to contain his laughter. I just went back to talking to the young lady, whose beauty was mesmerizing. We finally noticed it was time to start announcing the awards. We walked over with our new friend and the poor bastard slowly trailing behind.
We sat near the back in the main auditorium with our new friend and her fellow classmates. We learned she had come up all the way from the border of Kentucky. Well, that meant hitting on her was now a waste of time, but we kept talking to her and her friends anyway. After a while the awards ceremony started. We didn't have to wait long. Since we were the first competition shown that morning we were also the first to be announced.

The announcer walked up to the podium. Sitting next to him was a large number of plaques. He read each title and then showed a segment from the movie. When it came to Laugh A Little they showed the front porch scene. After all was said and done he looked at his sheet and proclaimed Laugh A Little the winner.

I wasn't shocked at all by this. Darren was so stunned he couldn't get out of his seat. I pulled him to his feet and sent him toward the front. He took his plaque and the Judge's sheets, still not knowing exactly what he was doing. He walked back to his seat, looked at me, and said, "I think we should leave". That was fine with me as we had gotten what we came for. We grabbed our stuff and were on our way out of there when we heard our young beauty calling out congratulations. We turned and thanked her and stepped out into what was still a relatively young and sunny day.

Since our energy levels were on high we decided to walk home. On the way we stopped at a hotel and used the payphones in the lobby to call everyone to let them know the good news. Darren called his mother while I called mine. Then he called Joe, while I called Dave. It was a great feeling to be recognized as the best. We continued our long walk home. I started to look over the judge's sheets. Photography got the highest scores and mentions on the two sheets. We also had a certificate with Darren's name on it. We separated when we reached State Street. I went on to my house and he to his. I felt extremely exhausted and couldn't wait to catch some sleep even though it was only 2 p.m.

DAR: I stopped by the bar to show my Dad the plaque. He didn’t want to pay fifteen-thousand dollars for me to go to film school. I showed it to him and told him we won first place in state and he goes “Well, I’ll be damned. Alright, if you wanna go, I’ll send ya.”

JEREMY: “First Parsons in history to win somethin’!”

DAR: That’s right. “I wish it was the Hoosier lottery.” We knew we’d won the award after talking to the judges. They were only supposed to watch ten minutes of the short and then turn it off but they watched it all. They broke their own rule because they liked the film enough to finish it. So Jesse and I just went through the motions before we accepted our award. I really wanted Jesse to come up there with me, but Jesse’s frightened of people, like most of my friends are. They’re introverts. They hide in their caves most of the time.

JESSE: Are you kidding me?

JEREMY: I’m not an introvert. I’m an extrovert with secrets.

DAR: There you go. They jumped my ass on that one, I guess.

JESSE: That was your moment.

DAR: It was your moment too. And so I still regret that Jesse didn’t go up there and accept it with me, because he did basically film the entire feature.

JESSE: I felt that since you were the director you should go up there and accept it on behalf of everybody. Anyway, you went up there, they handed you the award and wanted you to get the hell out of there, so there wasn’t any reason really for me to go up there with you.


I slept from three till six that evening. My mother woke me up, saying I had a phone call. I really didn't feel like getting up, but did anyway. On the phone Darren still had the sound of excitement in his voice. He asked if I wanted to go to a carnival. It was right up the street from me at Willard Park. I figured why not, we can celebrate at the carnival. He told me Joe was coming to help us celebrate. This was more than cool with me. I hung up the phone and took a quick shower.

Fifteen minutes later the two arrived at my house. They made their way to my room where I showed them a lot of my Super Nintendo games (the big system at the time) that I would be taking with me to Florida. We talked about other games we liked and finally headed out. We arrived at Willard about five minutes later by foot. The carnival was those white trash ones you see in Mall parking lots with cheap rides like The Octopus, or The Gravitron.

I went to the booth to buy some tickets for the rides. The lady at the booth handed me my tickets and offered a toothless smile. Now the thought was running through my head: Couldn't we have picked a better place to celebrate?

The three of us decided to go on the twirl a whirl first. We ambled over and got into a very short line. I looked up to see the man who was running the ride. He was tall and gangly with crooked teeth and very pale skin. He looked like the product of years of inbreeding.

I nudged Joe and said, "Look, Roderick Usher is running the twirl a whirl." Joe laughed very hard at this (Joe is a Poe freak. In fact, years later, while helping him move, I saw he had thirteen different copies of the short stories of Edgar Allen Poe). We got on the ride, buckled in, and were soon on our way.

JEREMY: For those not in the know, Roderick Usher is a character in Edgar Allen Poe's Fall of the House of Usher.

JESSE: Normally, the twirl a whirl lasts about three to five minutes. We were on there for eight when I began to worry. I looked down to see Roderick flirting with a young lady (that I naturally assumed was his sister). He was paying no attention to the ride at all. After another minute Joe and I started yelling, "Roderick Usher is trying to kill us! Someone help us!" We then giggled like school girls. Darren looked at us strangely, the joke totally going over his head.

JOE: This spitting image of Roderick Usher frightens me to this day. Oh, and you can never have enough Poe books.

JESSE: Afterwards, I walked home while Darren and Joe headed over to Marsh. Darren wanted to show the plaque to Jeremy. They asked if I wanted to go with them but at this point I just wanted to relax at home. I was plumb exhausted, so I bid them farewell. I went home, sat my fat ass on the couch, and watched a movie with my Father, all the while thinking of that glorious day when I would finally cast off the shackles of Indy and head to Florida.

JEREMY: I wish I could’ve been there to celebrate with the guys but, alas, I had to work that evening. Dar was gracious enough to stop by and show me the plaque though. I was quite ecstatic that our group won.  We were quickly on our way to carving out a reputation for ourselves.


JESSE: Darren and I decided to skip CIRT since neither of us wanted to deal with Earl. We were sitting in the school library when Oliver walked over and asked what we were doing after school. We both had the night off of work and weren't doing much. So he invited us to a teacher's meeting. At the meeting he was supposed to introduce himself and announce the changes he had brought to Tech over the course of the year. He wanted to tell everyone about the award Laugh A Little had won and have us take a bow. We agreed since it meant more attention for us. He then he asked, "Why aren't you at CIRT?"

We told him the reason why and he told us how much he liked Earl, as if that should have somehow changed our own perspective on the man. After five minutes of this ranting we ran for the door, telling him we would be back later. We came back to the library after the final bell rang for the day. As we entered our eyes honed in on the large banquet on the table (no wonder I was fat back then, look at all the food that was constantly shoved in my face). A teacher, noticing our hungry eyes, told us to partake of all we wanted. Of course, we being gluttons, didn’t hesitate.

When the meeting was finally called together we were still shoving food onto our plates. We sat down next to one of our favorite teachers (her name escapes me, but she taught Art and Stage Design, a class I was never told about until it was too late to join). We listened to the usual mindless bullshit associated with a roomful of teachers. Finally, Oliver was called to the front to talk. He went through the whole song and dance about his expectations of the class. He then started to talk about Laugh A Little.

He called our names and asked us to stand. Well, his timing couldn't have been worse. I was eating a very delicious chocolate brownie and had a piece of it in my mouth. Darren stood up and acknowledged his applause, and then I stood, holding my brownie high in salutation. We sat back down with Darren laughing at me and my brownie. Oliver then proceeded to pat his own back as he explained how much he did for Laugh A Little. Darren and I were disgusted by this. All he did was send the movie to IASB but he acted like he was an advisor and equipment provider.

The movie only had one man to thank in that department and that was Mark Watness. He got us the equipment, he advised us, and watched footage with us. Laugh A Little would still be a dream in Darren's head without him. Now this cocksucker Alan Oliver was stealing his credit. I got up right then and there and walked out. A minute later Darren followed me. We both hated what he had said and that would be the last time I saw Alan Oliver, thank God.

DAR: Over the years I’d go into Tech from time to time and Alan Oliver would show each new class what he’d taught his students to do. Alan would introduce me to these kids and you could see on their faces that they were like “I hate this film so much” because he would push it and push it. He would use it in his lectures. I’m sure they thought it sucked.


JESSE: Now it was all done and over with. I went back to work on some screenplays and other projects I'd been tinkering with before helping Darren with his movie. Occasionally I'd hang out with the fellas and we would discuss our upcoming journey to Florida. Ah, but we were still in Indiana at this point, and it had a few more adventures left for us.

Laugh A Little will always remain one of my proudest accomplishments, and it will stay with me until the day they put me in the cold, cold ground.

DAR: I think it was a memorable moment in our lives. We had to get it out of our systems. And that was the story that we were doing at the time. Looking back on it, yeah, we don’t like it very much and it’s not something we would do now but if it wasn’t for Laugh A Little we wouldn’t have gone to Florida or had those cool experiences. It showed people what we could do. It made them take us seriously in our endeavors. It was a good movie for what it was at the time we were doing it.
It was an experience.

Next: Why Can't Robin Be A Fat Fucker?


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