The Theatre Company Movie

July 20, 2002

_Edited Fall 2007. _

5 years worth of memories of the Aldergrove Secondary theatre program will be with me forever. I took on a video project that took a few dozen times more work, stress, and frustration than I’d planned, the climax (but not end) of which was my screaming “Fuck!” before a hundred or so parents, grandparents, and school administrators when my computer quit during the first screening.

Five Years

This 21 megabyte Quicktime movie file is what it all boiled down to. It will play below if you have Quicktime, and you can use the link to download it for keepsake.

The Horror Story

Long before project start time, our deparment video camera died. No problem; we sent it to Langley Schools’ fix-it guy, Vern. Was that ever a mistake. It took me about five calls over the span of 5 months to get the camera back. Always a different lame excuse. Finally we got the camera back.

After less than an hour of having the camera, it died again, from merely being held. There was no option but to send it back… to… Vern…

When we finally got the camera back the second time, I found we had no cable for connecting the computer to the camera, which had to be done before I film more than a bit of people fooling around. That took a couple weeks for me to give up and buy one (right after which we found the old cable.) At this point I have 4 days before the big showtime at Awards Night.

3 days left, on a Saturday. Now is the time to begin getting footage from videos of past plays. All is going well, except that the power cord fell out of my bag at school. I have one hour of battery time for the whole weekend.

Some time into my hour of battery, the camera died, as it had the last two times. I almost died too. After three hours of fiddling and messing with it, I manage to get it working, but it dies whenever I open the viewfinder, which covers vital controls. So I need a new battery.

2 days left. Find out a battery costs almost $200, prohibitive for a high school student. I almost die again. I manage to develop a method with a toothpick and tweezers to use the vital controls without opening the viewfinder enough to turn it on. I was proud of myself for a few minutes… after which the camera runs out of battery.

Day before screening. Haul everything to school and begin pulling footage from videos and interviewing people. Camera dies periodically througout day. Keep running out of disk space on my computer (a 10GB iBook 500.) For no good goddamn reason, iMovie stops doing fonts properly (it makes them all pixelized and crappy now).Day of screening. Skip all my classes and work on the video all day. Lots of little technical problems. I realize I have like 18 minutes of music and 8 minutes of footage. Frantically try and fix that. Running out of time. Have to work before Awards Night. Am almost done. Bring movie to work and finish it there.

Sam’s car breaks down so I’m at work until the show starts (my movie is last). Backstage I’m frantically trying to put the video back on the camera so I can hook it to the projector.

Intermission. Most stressful time of my life for those 20 minutes. Find out we have no hookup for going from the camera to the projector. Go crazy trying to get cables and hookups to connect my computer to camera directly. Turn projector on but we can’t turn off the blue glow all over the stage, interrupting someone else’s play. The movie screen isn’t down. Mom has to go home to fetch an audio cable.

During all this, I’m frantically trying to organize my own play that goes on soon, as well as the one I’m in. Lots of people are asking me for help with other things.

I run up to the booth as intermission ends and put my computer up there, telling nobody in particular to plug it in. The fact nobody in particular heard was the fatal blow.

After I survive the emotion of the play I’m in (my girlfriend dies of a drug overdose) and all the awards and the knowledge this is our last time, I go upstairs to start the video, so glad it’s almost over. I discover my computer, at 0% battery and sleeping.

We plug my computer in so it’s not running on battery, and hook it up. The amp isn’t on though, so no sound. The video signal also doesn’t work. I have to reboot my computer for it to recognize the projector as a monitor.

So far the audience has been waiting like 20 minutes. The amp is on, on max, but no sound. No sound if we plug in Mike’s computer either. No sound. No fucking sound. (We discovered later the speakers had been blown by the people before us.) After a very very long time, we find out that we can route the sound to the booth speaker, which the audience can’t really hear but it’s the best we can do.

The movie starts, but wait a second… the computer is still at 0% battery. It’s not charging. The plug isn’t working that we’ve stuck it in. Neither do any other plugs. Caitlin is trying frantically to get it to charge, but it’s sporatic. The audience keeps seeing “You computer will soon go to sleep if you don’t plug it in” warnings on top of the movie. I keep having to stop the movie to clear them.

As the movie just starts to get to the really good part… the part where everybody’s supposed to be emotional and I feel good about what I’ve done, the computer goes to sleep. No power. I can’t wake it up. It’s dead. My profanity is heard louder and clearer than the movie had been heard seconds ago. I dismiss the audience and cry like a schoolgirl.

This isn’t the end of the problems, but the climax. The next day there’s maybe a dozen new problems as we try and reshow it for TComp, such as the volume won’t go high enough, and my computer going to sleep because it’s not in use, during the video.

Trying to put it up on the website was also quite an ordeal, and I uploaded one version finally which didn’t work at all for no good reason. When this page was finally working and people were looking at it (the night before I was leaving on vacation at 3AM) I started getting an email every ten minutes about how close the site was to getting shut down for excessive traffic (starting at 95% of maximum and going up.) I could have taken this page down, but didn’t just because I couldn’t let it win.

Although this was the most stressful, emotional project I ever undertook (edit: this held true after six subsequent years of university) it was still worth it. The thing is, once I survived this, I knew, absolutely, that I could survive any project to come.

© Allen Pike. See also Twitter and Steamclock.