BACKSPLASH (2015)

A promising young chef enrolls at a cut-throat cooking school where her dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student's potential (A Parody of the 2014 Oscar winning film, whiplash)

This film was made in less than 72 hours for the FOUR POINTS FILM PROJECT 2015

The cast and crew of Backsplash. (Photo: Shaan Couture)

BACKSPLASH was our third entry in The Four Points Film Project (formally known as The National Film Challenge). It's an annual international film festival that tasks filmmakers with making a seven minute film in less than three days.  After being assigned a genre, a character, a prop, and a line of dialogue, you and a bunch of (just as crazy as you) people attempt to write, shoot, edit, and submit a film in less than three days.

Our first entry was The Big Calzone (a fan and company favorite). Our second, Side Swiped—won a genre award for Best Romance. The Four Points Film Project has become a bit of a Moo Crew tradition—or an obsession, depending on how you look at it.

Kevin Wee and Dan Zelikman writing the final draft of Backsplash, after receiving the genre of parody during the 2015 Four Points Film Project. (Photo: Shaan Couture)

FRIDAY, 7:00 P.M. - We receive our genre assignment, parody. Holy shit. This challenge was hard enough without having to mimic another movie that audiences already know and love. We debated a few ideas and landed on a consensus amongst the producers—Whiplash. It was one of our favorite films from 2014 and it won three Oscars, we figured people would know it.

But how was our version going to be different, and funny? Somehow Food Network came up and we decided that a culinary scenario could work well.

Director of Photography David Brooks frames our actors for the opening scene. (Photo: Shaan Couture)

We invited two more producers to join the project (Alex Gould and Tori Gould), who also happened to have access to a food truck and a commercial kitchen. Trust us when we say this process was far more stressful than it sounds. We almost had no access to either location and we ended up having to shoot from midnight to four in the morning for one scene. But hey, we got the kitchen, and we got it done. When you have three days to make a movie, you have to roll with the punches.

SATURDAY, 3:00 P.M. - With a max run time of seven minutes, we knew scene selection would be an important factor in allowing the audience to connect our film to Whiplash.

Dan Zelikman goes through rehearsals with Taylor Hay and Loren Gulbranson for the opening scene of Backsplash. (Photo: Shaan Couture)

Dan Zelikman goes through rehearsals with Taylor Hay and Loren Gulbranson for the opening scene of Backsplash. (Photo: Shaan Couture)

We chose the relationship between the protagonist and his father, the one soft and tender portion in what is an otherwise overwhelming, stressful, and violent film. Loren Gulbranson brought some much needed tenderness to our story for balance. Thanks Loren, you handsome devil you.

We needed a student. Someone young, inexperienced—but with some cutthroat ambition. We decided to go back to our sassy daughter from one of our earlier films The Big Calzone, Ms. Taylor Hay

Debbie Britt-Hay couldn't help but stay in character in between takes, as she and writer Kevin Wee went over the next scene. (Photo: Shaan Couture)

Our instructor needed to be someone who could yell at Taylor relentlessly take after take?. There was no one better suited to do that than her mother, Mrs. Debbie Britt-Hay. Debbie took on an impressive amount of dialogue for only a three day shoot and did a terrific job imitating the Oscar winning performance from J.K. Simmons. She undoubtedly carried the film's tone and its most ambitious elements. 

Because of the amount of dialogue we had to get through, we decided to spend more time than we have ever done in the past in these competitions on rehearsals. We had limited time at both our food truck and kitchen, so we wanted to be on point when the cameras were rolling. Saturday was spent rehearsing and shooting our opening dinner scene, and Sunday was for capturing every other shot—it was a lot to cover in a day. 

Producer power-house couple Mike and Dana Mauger trying to squeeze more time out of the day for extra shots. (Photo: Shaan Couture)

SUNDAY, 2:00 P.M. - We began at the food truck because the kitchen wasn't going to be available until it was closed at night, but the food truck was actually open. This meant we had to shoot around their customers. On top of that, it rained. It never rains in San Diego. Still, our dynamic producer duo of Mike and Dana Mauger kept things moving, and we somehow were able to capture everything we needed from the truck. 

The shot of Taylor mimicking the final shot from Whiplash when she just unleashes on all of her vegetables with her two knives was just too much fun to shoot. Because of that we did it three times. Sorry Taylor, or—you're welcome?

Producer Michael S. Mauger, Editor Alix Duchene, and Director of Photography David Brooks prepare for the next take. (Photo: Shaan Couture)

By the time we began shooting in the kitchen it was almost ten o'clock at night. It had been a long exhausting weekend but everyone was alert, awake, and ready to shoot. We still had a lot of dialogue to cover and I was nervous that the long weekend was going to take its toll on everyone. If we didn't get these scenes right the whole movie was going to be a hot mess. 

Debbie and the rest of the cast didn't miss a beat. We captured great takes in a short amount of time, and there were a ton of laughs in between. Specifically when the kitchen manager cringed and kept repeating: 

I know it’s a parody but for God’s sake can you hold the knife so that you don’t cut off your fingers?!

The Backsplash team races to finish the film before the midnight deadline after more than 50 hours of production and almost no sleep. (Photo: Shaan Couture)

MONDAY - 4:00 a.m. — Wrapping the shoot at four in the morning was both a relief and an exhausting reminder that we still had to edit the entire film and hand it in on time. Everyone went back home to get some much needed rest before we were scheduled to reconnect on the edit—but I was too nervous about the deadline to sleep. I made some coffee (like seventeen cups) and began cutting scenes together. 

By the time everyone met back up in the morning, I realized that we once again shot a story that was too long for the seven minute requirement. We were going to have to cut more than we'd want in order to hand in a qualifying film. When you write and shoot a twelve minute film on paper, it's almost impossible to edit it down to a coherent seven minutes. The team was persistent and our Editor Alix Duchene and Assistant Director Shaan Couture were determined to make it work. 

The Backsplash team celebrates their premier on the big screen at Reading Cinemas Gaslamp in San Diego, California on December 9, 2015. (Photo: Duane Trammell)

It was funny (well, not at the time), but the most stressful part of the whole production happened in the final hour. We had some technical issues and we were still battling with what scenes we needed to cut to make the delivery time. It wouldn't have been a Moo Crew production if we didn't hand it in right at 11:59 p.m., one whole minute before the deadline.

It was two parts relief and one part shock from exhaustion—but we got to finally sit down as a team and watch the film for the first time together. It was a blast watching everyone's faces—they got to see 72 hours of their hard work on the screen. We had a nice feel-good roundtable where everyone shared how much fun they had and what a great team we had, and I couldn't stop smiling.  

When you take on one of these projects, you're bringing on a group of volunteers with you. No one is paid, everything is rushed and the process is exhausting. But in the end you have a movie. One that you created together under dramatic circumstances, and one that you all refused to quit on. I'm always nervous that people will regret their decision to jump on a project like Backsplash—mostly because I put so much pressure on myself to make sure everyone enjoys the experience. But after three 72 hour challenges and two 48 hour challenges, the outcome always seems to be same—we made a movie in a weekend, and we had an awesome time doing it.

The Backsplash team celebrates on stage after our premier at Cinema Under The Stars in San Diego, California on December 16, 2015 (Photo: Kim Zelikman)