I can't think of another project I've ever created that was based more on inside jokes for such a small audience. The truth is that at 16 years old, this small summer film was as much about playing with the new Sony D8 that I'd bought myself as it was about entertaining my friends. Funny how in retrospect it's random things like this that seem to stick.
The making of the project only lasted a couple of weeks between our jobs and varying schedules, and in the end, it was never really finished. I'd amassed just under an hour of footage of various scenes, sketches, and outtakes, and then left it. As was often the case back then, I was after more experiences than results. I remember we finished shooting a day before I left for vacation with my family to Ontario and then I had a new project to occupy me.
It was later that fall that the project came to light again. It still wasn't edited, but I remember everyone being interested to see how some of the footage turned out. I still remember that evening because of how hard we laughed. The raw footage and bizarre situations just seemed to emphasize some of the quirks in our small group, and after that it was clear that the project would never be better than it was as a collection of random scenes. The movie wasn't just a hilarious recap of a few weeks of our summer, it ended up being some of the only home video footage that I bothered to shoot of us together in high school.
All of these memories are awesome to rediscover, but the project was a bit of a gem in itself. The premise was like a Forrest Gump style version of Medicine Hat history starring a character named Erma Humblfax, played by my friend Kim. The movie followed Erma's life as she haphazardly influenced some of the local culture and landmarks, often without much regard for any of the actual history, but so was born Humblfax's Facts.
Here's how the story went:
The movie opened with Erma being born in a ditch, her mother dying shortly afterwards, followed by a sixteen year flash forward to her running through the open prairie (Monty Python and the Holy Grail style) in search of water. She finds a creek, drinks the water, gets sick, and ends up at a farmer's place where she seduces him. Erma then mistakes the farmer's mother for his lover and robs him.
With some money she ends up in Medicine Hat and starts stripping downtown (as you do). There she meets a rival stripper who after a dance battle gives her a tacky clay bowl because "it's savagely ugly and it reminded me of you". On her way home, Erma slips along the river, and with a pile of singles and the clay bowl she pieces together the advantages of getting into the local clay industry. She gets that going with the help of a local businessman, and after striking it rich she moves to England and befriends a socialite.
Then WW2 starts and they're both injured in a London bombing so they both go back to Medicine Hat where Erma starts working in a factory for the war effort. After the war ends she helps foil a plot to murder the mayor at the Courthouse, but it turns out he was just being pursued because he had lost some important papers.
Erma is then kicked in the head by a child on a swing and falls into a decades long coma. When she wakes up in the 1990s she's made so much money off of her investments that she's instrumental in constructing the Saamis Teepee. Oh, and while all of this is going on, Erma is periodically visited by the ghost of her dead mother who offers her advice in rhyming rap songs.
In short, local history just had its mind blown.
Choice one-liners from the short included:
- "Water! Water! Life giving wetness!"
- "Put me back in the wheelbarrow you bloody fool".
- "If you've got it, flaunt it".
- "It's savagely ugly and it reminded me of you".
- "Damn you, Hitler! Damn you!"
- "You bastard, I hate you, I'm taking all your silver!"
- "He kicked me in the head!"
- "In my town? I don't think so!"
Deliberate setups aside, it's easy to see now that the best part of the project has become the stories that it triggers for me. There's not much sense in sharing all of the footage, because like I said, it's funnier for what it became and the memories that we made around it. I figured a montage of random clips couldn't hurt though. I'm guessing some of my friends might be embarrassed, but come on, you had to know this was my secret plan from the start - over a decade in the making.
Thank you to Kim Hopkins (McKenzie), Jennifer Heninger, Sarah Irwin (Sterie), Mike Niebergall, Kim Frey (Unrau), Mathew McKenzie, and Carla Hopkins (Heiland) for your help that summer. This project was nothing if not a reason to laugh. Thanks for that!