Editor’s Note: This article is presented in partnership with the Wyoming Film Office and the Wyoming Short Film Contest, which is currently accepting submissions for 2016 and offering a $25,000 Grand Prize for the winner’s next shot-in-Wyoming project. Click here to learn more.
It’s hard to grasp the ambition of the Takeaway Scenes Project until you watch one of their shorts. Take "Jumpers" for example, a short film that will be playing at SXSW next week. The entire film takes place at night, on a city rooftop, with a fireworks show serving as the backdrop for the action, and involves a dramatic and intricate story of a middled age man trying to talk a younger man out of jumping.
There’s a number of elements to balance that would make the film difficult to execute, but that’s before you take into account The Rules for making a Takeaway Scenes film.
Scenes must be filmed in a single continuous take. No cuts. Film lights are prohibited. Only natural lighting or practicals allowed. There will never be credits for anyone involved. Participants will never publicly reveal or acknowledge their own involvement with a scene, or release any information that would reveal anyone else’s involvement with the Takeaway Scenes project.
As the project develops — the seventh short, "Blessing," was released this week — the films have become increasingly well-choreographed, and what once felt like a gimmick has become some of the most dynamic short filmmaking out there. The dialogue -heavy and actor-friendly approach — one of the rules is that the camera submits to the performers — has increasingly felt less staged and more cinematic with each short, to the point that viewers may no longer even notice the self-imposed constraints.
The group is also looking to share their platform and approach with others filmmakers by starting Takeaway Scenes X, which allows other short filmmakers to submit their own Takeaway Scene films — following the rules of course — and if the film is deemed good enough, it will be released via Takeaway Scenes’ popular platform. Indiewire got in touch with the Takeaway Scenes crew and conducted the following interview via email.
What can you tell me about how Takeaway was started?
After experiencing a range of commercial/media successes, our founders felt an urge to make films for the love and the joy; without the ego, the money, the rights, and the recognition ever sneaking into our motivational meat pie. We felt there was room for a new sort of theater to emerge. A theater of the internet, with strict rules and principles built around a different sort of acting.
We created 10 rules, such as every scene must be in a continuous shot, only natural lighting, no VFX, performance-led stories, no credits, etc. No participants stands to gain more than their comrade from a scene, which leads to a different kind of filmmaking that very few filmmakers have ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
Ask us next week and we’ll deny that explanation.
Is there a core group of filmmakers that are part of your production company?
Yes. We are a very shy, and slowly growing cult of film and theater folk.
Can you tell me where you are located?
Will you go to SXSW [where “Jumpers” will screen]?
We will have members in attendance, but our presence will not be known.
How is the Takeaway Scenes X project going?
Could be better! This is currently due to a lack of awareness and exposure. We have sworn not to use our real-life personalities and connections to solicit press attention, but the reality is that journalists tend to be decidedly less interested in stories without people to talk about.
A good number of people have sent us their own scenes, but most are pretty rough. They aren’t easy.
Beyond the expansion to TSX, do you expect or have plans to expand Takeaway? Make more films more often? Make longer films? Grow the group?
Our family will continue to expand regionally and globally. As members grow, we may be able to produce more films. We may take on something quite unexpected. We make no promises and share no plans, but we welcome all who are interested. Sell off your possessions and come follow us.
For those not connected to an existing member, your path into the group comes at the cost of one good scene. Make and send us a scene good enough to be featured on TSX, and you will have earned your first step inside the cult’s foyer. At this time, we are particularly interested in gifted writers, and gifted directors. Writer/directors not so much.
How much of the demanded anonymity is in reaction to shorts too often being viewed as a calling card for a filmmaker?
We are not interested in explaining our choice to make creditless films in any rationale, consistent or honest way. But we can say it has nothing to do with calling cards, and something to do with a soul.
Takeaways Scenes’ latest film, "Blessing," was released this week.