I’m standing on the set of the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, filling in my role as Sulu in J.J. Abrahams Star Trek. Well not exactly. The control panels are old fruit boxes gathered from Tesco’s punctured with baubles and Christmas lights, the captain’s chair has been taped to death with tin foil, and Steve is lying on the floor flashing tiny blue torches at Captain Kirk’s face to get some semblance of light reflecting off it. Yet somehow, when I peer through the lens at the shot, it doesn’t look half bad.
And as I stared at the set, a room converted into a film-geek’s paradise, I found myself asking the question: How did we end up doing this? Three film-graduates, who were qualified to work in various sectors of the industry, yet chose to do this in our past time. This was our third Swede in as many years, a concept we had stumbled upon quite by accident.
The object of Sweding, a term coined by Michel Gondry’s Be Kind Rewind, is to remake a movie as accurately as possible with no budget. The idea caught on in the industry and over the months following its release, Sweding competitions surfaced everywhere, including a festival dedicated to the entire concept in Canada.
The three of us were working as runners for MPC at the time and decided to dedicate our weekends to remaking an all-time classic for our first attempt, Jurassic Park. The result was over half a million views on YouTube, a mention in Total Film’s Top 50 YouTube moments in September 08, and the incentive to try out more films. The Dark Knight followed and was nominated in for the best 60 second short for the Empire Movie Awards 2009. That same year we were interviewed by the Toronto Post and appeared on Live on Studio Five on their report on Swedes. This year, we decided, mutually, to expand on the idea of Sweding and to make Star Trek, not as a Swede, but as a parody. The major difference being that we wanted more freedom to express ourselves through comedy by deviating away from the script and inserting our own gags and jokes.
Yet, for all our relative success, there is a satisfaction in the making of these low-budget ventures that differs from contributing to projects with a deeper purse. You consistently ask favours of all the friends you’ve ever had and your relatives, begging them to don a tight red shirt and fill in as Scotty or trying to convince them that filming you in central London dressed up as the Joker on a Friday night is a good idea. And although you spend hours on each set, painstakingly cobbling the Starship Enterprise out of a couple of plates, an empty water bottle and spray-paint, you are doing it with your friends, recreating moments that you will never forget nor be able to replicate anywhere else.
Many of the funniest moments never make it into the final cut. Steve struggled to stay upside down in his backyard to capture the concluding shot to The Dark Knight without dragging me down with him. There is endless footage of us prancing about in our duct-tape raptor costumes from Jurassic Park and somewhere in the rushes, a take of me in full bat-costume, trundling down the main road on the batpod, made out of a trolley, a pair of dustbins and a ridiculous amount of rope, realizing there are no brakes and a car is coming in the opposite direction. In Star Trek, after chucking an avalanche’s worth of talcum powder over the Enterprise in Steve’s living room to achieve the desired dramatic effect, Steve, thinking quickly, opted to pick up a tablecloth and flourish it at the clouds of powder to usher it out the window. He failed miserably, and wafted a kilo of the stuff into my face. Thankfully, this too, is captured on camera.
As we continue to make inroads into the industry, our best to catch the eyes of those in the hot-seats with our enthusiasm and incredible coffee-making skills, we harbour high hopes for the pet-project turned mini-company. Push it Films is more than just a group that churns out Swedes – Music videos, virals, and short films have followed and we know that someday (we hope), the efforts will be noticed, and we shall be granted the chance to fulfill our own ambitions- yet we noticed that each new project has benefited hugely from the group ethic spawned during the shooting of those first Swedes; The lack of budget served us in ways that we hadn’t anticipated, even if the 99p store has profited heavily since we decided to start filming.
No, we don’t have a budget and this may not be the way to do it, but when you have no money, no tools, and a bagful of dreams, it is surprising and satisfying to discover you can make something out of nothing. Did you really notice that Spock’s ears were tailored from first-aid plasters? Was it really obvious that Spock, old Spock, and Christopher Pike were played by the same actor? Is the Acapella music as distracting as it is cringe-worthy? Yes? Well, that’s part of the charm of this gig.
You can find Push It Films ‘Star Trek XI spoof’ and the making of below and on Push it Films You Tube channel.