The Shoot Begins…

PhudiStill5.jpg

I remember when the idea first popped up, there was a time when all of Schadenfreude lived within a block of each other in Ravenswood, we called it “The Campus.” You had Mark and Stephe on Winona, Kate and Sandy on the other side of Damen. Justin was still on Argyle, and I was on Winchester. When we’d walk home was when we’d get the best ideas, and Justin kept talking about this idea. He would talk about his manager at the Omni and this absurd angle on life in the a grocery store, all super serious. Whenever he’d describe the concept he’d go through some scene of banal life in a grocery store and then after some banal wage-slave activity he’d make the freeze-frame sound effect as he froze, and in a serious narrator voice, say: “That’s Tony Smalek.”

PhudiStill5.jpg

I remember when the idea first popped up, there was a time when all of Schadenfreude lived within a block of each other in Ravenswood, we called it “The Campus.” You had Mark and Stephe on Winona, Kate and Sandy on the other side of Damen. Justin was still on Argyle, and I was on Winchester. When we’d walk home was when we’d get the best ideas, and Justin kept talking about this idea. He would talk about his manager at the Omni and this absurd angle on life in the a grocery store, all super serious. Whenever he’d describe the concept he’d go through some scene of banal life in a grocery store and then after some banal wage-slave activity he’d make the freeze-frame sound effect as he froze, and in a serious narrator voice, say: “That’s Tony Smalek.”

It’s a lesson in comic exaggeration, Justin was making comedy out of what cracked him up about his old boss. That he was SO serious about being forty and running the Omni. If I remember correctly as the idea was re-interpreted by the rest of us the game became to find what the most serious angle on a grocery store was, and pretty soon it was a Goodfellas parody. Take the way Joe Pesci talks about the mob, and have someone talk about grocery stores that way.

PhudiStill5.jpg

I remember when the idea first popped up, there was a time when all of Schadenfreude lived within a block of each other in Ravenswood, we called it “The Campus.” You had Mark and Stephe on Winona, Kate and Sandy on the other side of Damen. Justin was still on Argyle, and I was on Winchester. When we’d walk home was when we’d get the best ideas, and Justin kept talking about this idea. He would talk about his manager at the Omni and this absurd angle on life in the a grocery store, all super serious. Whenever he’d describe the concept he’d go through some scene of banal life in a grocery store and then after some banal wage-slave activity he’d make the freeze-frame sound effect as he froze, and in a serious narrator voice, say: “That’s Tony Smalek.”

It’s a lesson in comic exaggeration, Justin was making comedy out of what cracked him up about his old boss. That he was SO serious about being forty and running the Omni. If I remember correctly as the idea was re-interpreted by the rest of us the game became to find what the most serious angle on a grocery store was, and pretty soon it was a Goodfellas parody. Take the way Joe Pesci talks about the mob, and have someone talk about grocery stores that way.

I don’t remember if, over many games of Goldeneye, the idea was ever meant for the stage, or if it was obvious that nailing the joke would require video right away, but I was always into video. So after the call to Dominicks we fell back on the old adage “It’s easier to apologize than to ask permission.” and began to plan a shoot for a short. I remember a huge board in which we listed the positions that are typically held in grocery stores, General Merchandising, Customer Service, Produce, etc. and began brainstorming other characters besides Tony, what they did, what they took so seriously, and therefore, who they were. I remember writing at the bottom (and in our press release) “Who is the General?” Giving the illusion of a deeper story, a question to answer in later iterations should the first be a success. This character later became Dick Phudie (an “e” was later added to the name), the founder of the Phudie Mart. By the time Dick made it to the screenplay, he had a twin brother.

When I think of Phudie Mart, I think of sitting in the Dunkin’ Donuts at the outer parking lot of the Jewel on Lincoln, just south of Belmont at 6am trying to turn into Brent Wickerman without the people behind the counter getting too suspicious. In any moment Tommy Pritchard and Teshima from WBEZ would show up to play disgruntled parking lot customers. The opening shot you see in the short was shot a half hour later, the sun still coming up. We moved from the outer parking lot to the sidewalk in front of that Jewel for the lineup where Kate as Slim flicks her cigarette at the camera. Ten seconds after the cigarette hits me (I told her to hit me) you can hear on the raw tape a man coming up and telling us that we can’t shoot there. Third shot in. We were already busted and we hadn’t even made it inside. It was going to be a long shoot.

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