Monday, November 23, 2015

"Three Short Movies I Wrote (And I Really Mean Short)"

Eight to twelve minutes, maybe.

Having mentioned two of them in the context of the Lorne Michaels podcast conducted by Marc Maron, I thought I would tell you about them in greater specificity as a group.  Which I believe will be helpful.  By which I mean helpful to me.

Since I am notoriously incapable of finding past posts when I am looking for them, I will now conveniently be able to not find these entries all in one place.  Which should cut down substantially on the “Search Time” before I give up. 

Is that faulty reasoning?  Is it in fact easier to find three needles in a haystack than an accumulated one?  Oh well.  I am already on my way.

My first short movie was entitled “The Puck Crisis.”  The initial incarnation of this idea appeared on a radio broadcast, during which, five times every two weeks, I would write and perform two-to-three-minute vignettes that were inserted into local radio shows across the country, that country being Canada.  Who else would put up with a comedy skit entitled “The Puck Crisis”?

I pitched “The Puck Crisis” idea to Lorne, wondering if it could be developed into a possible short movie for a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) series of quarterly variety show specials produced under the “umbrella title” The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour, Hart being my older brother and Lorne being the aforementioned and future “Sultan of Television” Lorne Michaels.  (Though they performed together on the air, Hart and Lorne had agreed to produce alternate episodes of the series.)

Lorne liked the “Puck Crisis” idea, and away we went.  (Note:  The other two short movies I wrote were subsequently also broadcast on that series.) 

Here’s how it went.


Truthful Acknowledgement:  The generating concept of this was not original.  It was inspired by a mock documentary I had seen on a (former Tonight Show host) Jack Paar special called “The Spaghetti Harvest,” in which, delivered entirely straight-faced, we were shown footage of happy paisanos in a small Italian village harvesting strands spaghetti hanging plentifully from trees.

It was not a huge leap – for a Canadian – to go from spaghetti growing on trees to hockey pucks growing on trees.

Although, consistent with the subject matter, my version was (pseudo) dramatic.

The broadcast was structured in ”Breaking News” format, presented with grim “We interrupt this program” urgency.

“Canada’s puck harvest is in danger!”

Enveloped in ominous intonations, the audience was informed with dire intonations that, although perennially robust, this season’s puck harvest had been seriously stricken, the result of a touring Dutch hockey team’s importing a contagious contaminant into the country on the infected blades of the players’ hockey sticks.

The report was accompanied by shocking visuals, first of last year’s hockey pucks growing healthily on trees – that part wasn’t shocking – contrasted, underscored by an ominous soundtrack, with this year’s output, the pucks pathetically hanging there, all gnarled and gray-looking, deteriorating before our helpless and agonized Canadian eyes.

The viewers instantly knew the score:

No pucks. 

No hockey.

Oy, Canada!

We then cut to an expert describing in scientific detail what exactly was going on.

The traveling “pucktococcae”, as they were called, had invaded the fundament of the hockey pucks while they were still on the trees, inflicting the pucktococcal equivalent of a “flesh-eating virus.”  

Simulations were shown of the debilitating process, the virulent “pucktococcae” burrowing their way into the center of a maturing hockey puck, hollowing it out, and rendering it functionally inoperative, a delicate phrasing for “It’s a goners.”

The epidemic was inevitably branded “Dutch Puck Disease.”  (Although no lawsuits, reparations or even an apology from the Netherlands were ever demanded by our government.  It was an accident.  And for heaven’s sakes, we’re not Americans!)

Reporters took to the streets to determine “the people’s” responses to the ongoing disaster.  Many appeared genuinely distraught.  One respondent actually “lost it” on camera.

Following that were interviews with professional hockey players, in search of candid reactions.  One player remarked.

“When we were kids – we were really poor, y’know? – so we used to play hockey without a puck.  But at the end, we never knew who won.”

Rounding things out, a devastated puck farmer explained that he had a back-up harvest of lacrosse rackets, but – pucks, lacrosse rackets – it just wasn’t the same.

There are certain parts of this that I am forgetting – because it was forty-five years ago – but in the end, I recall Foster Hewitt, the Toronto Maple Leafs announcer and acknowledged “Dean of Hockey Broadcasting” making a direct plea to the Canadian public for donations to help find a cure for “Dutch Puck Disease”, plaintively intoning,

“Send a buck… and save a puck.”

And that’s “The Puck Crisis.”  Which I am not sure you can access anywhere, beyond my potholed imagination.  Tomorrow, I shall describe another short film I wrote, concerning a portion of Canada that decided to secede. 

I can almost hear the eleven people who saw it going, “I remember that.”  Which is fine.  For the rest of you, it will be a wonderful surprise.


Wendy M. Grossman said...

There are some excerpts from THE HART AND LORNE TERRIFIC HOUR" in this documentary on YouTube. An excerpt of "The Puck Disease" appears starting at about 3:40:


JED said...

I am going to watch the documentary Wendy has found for us later but before watching it, I have to admit I wouldn't know the real professional hockey players from that era nor would I know the real Foster Hewitt if I saw him in the video. So, I wonder: Did you have real professional hockey players and the real Foster Hewitt in the video? I find myself laughing at just your description of this film and imagine I would find the real thing even funnier. But if you were able to pull off getting the real people to be in the film, I'll be doubly impressed.

By the way, when you say there was no lawsuit involved, you say, "And for heaven’s sakes, we’re not Americans!" Well, yes you are - and were! I know the people of the United States are often referred to as Americans but our Canadian friends are certainly American's, too. North American's (way North Americans). I guess in the case of United States citizens, it's a short form for United States of America so we become just Americans. Or we could be called the Gun-toting Americans.

And another "by the way": Is it possible that the show name "The Hart and Lorne Terrific Hour" was the inspiration for the name of the Japanese humor show "The Super Terrific Happy Hour" that was mentioned in "Seinfeld"? If so, maybe Hart and Lorne could sue. Or not - since they aren't Litigious Americans.

JED said...

I said, "I am going to watch the documentary Wendy has found for us later but before watching it, I have to admit I wouldn't know the real professional hockey players from that era..."

Derek Sanderson! I may not be a big hockey fan but I certainly know Derek Sanderson. So I am officially doubly impressed.