So last month I wrote a short film. Okay, a short custom video. It’s a comedy about, well, custom videos.
Let me back up. Recently I listened to journalist Jon Ronson‘s excellent podcast The Butterfly Effect, which explores the ramifications of websites like Pornhub inundating the internet with free (i.e. stolen) porn films. The podcast is colorful, funny and, ultimately, depressing. But one of the results of the glut of free online porn that Ronson explores is the rise (sorry) of what he calls “bespoke porn”–private videos shot by adult video actresses for individual customers. And this got me thinking: if these companies could shoot a custom porn film for someone, could they also shoot something more mainstream?
Like many journalists, I’ve long fantasized about writing for Hollywood–television, movies, B-movies, whatever. Given that I make my living writing news for a tiny alternative paper on Maui, script-writing gigs don’t exactly drop out of the sky. Perhaps this was my shot.
I wrote the script in about a day. It was an indulgent, off-the-wall comedy about a custom video team trying to make sense of an even more off-the-wall custom video script. My story called for four actresses, all in various stages of undress (though at no point did the script ever include sex scenes). It was silly, bizarre and a lot of fun to write–it provided a much-needed break from my recent writing about climate change, creeping authoritarianism and virulent racism. Because I’ve long been a fan of actress Erika Jordan (star of such films as Attack of the Virgin Mummies, Bikini Avengers and American Bikini Car Wash), I already knew she ran Custom Dream Models, which makes exactly the type of videos Ronson spoke of in The Butterfly Effect. So I sent her the script (which, at that time, was title simply “The Script”).
Though Jordan wrote back that she liked it, there were problems. Mostly, there was no way she’d be able to film it for anywhere near my budget of just a few hundred dollars. So I did a re-write, cutting out one actress entirely and reducing the costume requirements to mere bikinis. By agreeing to the cuts, and letting Jordan shoot the film in an afternoon with a single camera on another customer’s location (which I’m pretty sure is a classic b-movie technique straight out of the Roger Corman playbook), the budget would stay in the manageable range.
Remember, this is simply a story about custom video actresses discussing and debating an unusual script submission. Though it’s dialogue-heavy, I made it as easy on the actresses as possible by having them constantly refer to the script itself as they talk (in the video, you can see them clearly holding copies of the script I sent).
While I love the video they produced (which arrived in my inbox about a week after shooting), watching it was surreal. Here were actresses of some fame acting out a script I had written. Watching it, I also learned that some of my jokes were so subtle that a missed couple of words could render the following punchline meaningless. Of course, given the fact that Custom Dream Models is a tiny production company that wasn’t operating on anything close to even a B-movie budget, they more than fulfilled my fantasy of being a movie hack writer.
Anyway, here’s result, known simply as Strange Video Request (though Custom Dream Models normally forbids its customers from posting their videos online, Jordan gave me permission to do so as the film contains no sex or nudity).