Music-wise, I had "Sunny Day" and "Pals." But that was it. I needed a song to play during Sabrina's opening monologue where she's telling Joe off. I needed something up-tempo, fast-paced, something that really added to this list of things she hated about him. One day I thought of this song from the film "Endless Summer II." I put the soundtrack in and cued up the scene. It just fit. I got a big smile on my face. I gave it to Phil and he agreed with me. We were definitely gonna use it - as long as the band that wrote it, the Sandals, allowed me to. I contacted them through the internet and spoke with Gaston Georis, one of the members. He was cool. He agreed to let me use the song ("Wingnut's Theme") for less than they would normally charge someone. The Sandals make some great music, you don't have to be a surfer to like it. It's perfect for a nice sunny day when ya just wanna chill out and daydream. One night when I got home from work I had a message on my machine. Was I in for a shock. It was from the NY Comedy Festival. They really liked the film and wanted to include it. I was so stoked. This was what I needed. Some completely unbiased opinion of the film. I finally knew the answer I'd been looking for. Yes, the film was still funny. But there was a "But." A big But as a matter of fact (sorry for stealing an old Pee Wee Herman joke). They wanted me to cut the film down to 5 minutes...OR LESS! I was really excited about the thought that we'd play in the festival but was also doubtful we could cut the film down that short. I mean, at the time "H.R." was about 15 minutes long. Sure, there were obvious things that could go: The entire liquor store scene, we could cut down Sabrina's monologue, a lot of the "Sunny Day" montage could go (even though the full 4 minute version is great and I re-recorded the song just to make it longer), and the end "Pals" bit I never really thought we filmed very well. But there was no way that would equal 10 minutes of stuff. But we tried. We tried very hard to get it down to 5 minutes. In the end we got it to about 7 minutes. That in itself, I think, was a miracle and I did sacrifice some stuff I wasn't sure I wanted to. But I dropped the new version off to the festival and...they passed. I was disappointed but I have to admit it would've been too bizarre to get into the very first festival we submitted for. And had they not called I would probably still feel that maybe it wasn't funny. And the film probably would've stayed 15 minutes long. Their call actually helped make the film better. We went back and added some things I wanted in the film. And the film stood at 10 minutes.
We continue to adjust and fine tune the film and music. We've added some funny cartoon sound f/x to heighten the bizarreness. I actually recorded a lot of the sound f/x the old fashioned way. I blew bubbles into a glass of water for the scene where we see Joe's stomach and it's gurgling, ready to puke. I dropped a book on the ground that became H.R. landing on the floor. Things like that.
To make the deadline of certain festivals I submitted a "work-in- progress" version of the film. Some festivals don't accept them but some do. I wasn't crazy about doing it but I had no choice. Those deadlines sneak up on you fast. We also finally put together a final cut. We mixed the sound and corrected the color and frames and that was that. Add the credits and we were done. One year and 2 months later "H.R." was complete. What a long, strange, draining trip it was. And the fun has only just begun...
I got word at the end of November that the film was accepted into the first annual Sick Puppy Film Festival in San Rafael, California (right by San Francisco). Yup, that's the name of it. It's for twisted, underground films. We were right at home. I knew "H.R." was going to be better suited to underground festivals. But I had to submit to them all. See, I never thought the film was really that gross. Sure there's a scene where we see "puke" land on a table but for starters we all know it's just soup. Plus, I had to have that shot in there. How do you have a puke puppet emerge if we don't see where he's emerging from? Also when you think about it - it all goes back to Eisenstein's theory of montage that all us film students are taught over and over. Sure we see puke land on a table but that's only due to the mind accepting it as puke. The shot before we see the soup land is a guy leaning over a table and making a sick sound. Cut next to a table with soup tossed on it, the mind puts the 2 together and it looks gross. But had the first shot been, say, a cook heaving a giant bowl, followed by the same shot of a table getting soup tossed on it, we'd just think "Why did he just toss soup on that table?" See what I mean, "H.R." is all about Eisenstein's theory of montage. I'm just kidding, kinda. Anyway, the day before we premiered at the Sick Puppy festival one of the newspapers in Northern California printed a review of "H.R." My first review! And a good one at that. I wanted to attend but in the end I just couldn't afford the trip. We won "Best Film." My first festival and already an award winner! It felt pretty good. Next I got word that we'd been accepted into the Tromadance 2001 festival in Park City, Utah during the week Sundance is happening. I decided to go after speaking with Seth Sonstein who runs the Sick Puppy fest. He knew people who'd gone and said there were lots of opportunities out there to make some good contacts. So we were off to Sundance...