I just had the worst filming experience I’ve ever had. And maybe the best.
I mentioned in my “About Me” article that my boyfriend is a YouTuber. He’s also a martial arts instructor, so our videos basically revolve around martial arts in some form or another.
It is our tradition to create an annual Christmas video to share with our business clients, friends, family, and YouTube subscribers. We’ve previously used Santa and Mrs. Claus, created a character called Lieutenant Elf to whip Santa into shape, etc. Typical fitness/kickboxing/martial arts/lets-create-a-Christmas-video ideas that one might think of when searching for plots in that very narrow subject.
This year, we decided to break the mold.
My brother and I were watching a movie recently that was created a couple years ago, and it was a basically a modern silent-film. There were serious parts and funny parts, but it was the comedic aspect of the choppy footage, sped up scenes, goofy music and personal touch that made it enjoyable.
I had also been telling my brother that I really wanted to make a YouTube video with those skin-tight Zentai suits. It would be funny, abstract, and cool from a martial arts perspective because you’d get to see the muscles in the legs, arms and core, as well as see the full expressions of techniques.
He suggested blending the idea of the silent film using those costumes. After all, with no dialogue and a funny costume, it would be a great blend for the light-hearted feel I was describing.
Since it was Christmas, I mentioned this idea to my boyfriend, and he and I began brainstorming ideas for a plot where we could run around in red and green Zentai suits doing martial arts and somehow justify it to be a part of our Annual Christmas Video.
We finally determined that we would have a bad character making fun of the good character who represented Christmas, and that bad character would somehow have to join the Christmas spirit at the end (that would be our cliche happy ending to excuse us running around in those suits doing martial arts).
On the day of filming, this concept expressed itself as follows:
The video we planned to create would be tacky, but funny, light-hearted, just as I’d described. We even had some ideas of mimicking a scene that Jackie Chan did in a video of his. It would be VERY different from our other videos. Santa (in a Santa Zentai suit worn by my boyfriend) would be dancing. The bad character, me, would enter the scene with my black suit, tap Santa on the shoulder and mock his dancing several times, becoming more and more aggressive with it every time Santa returned to his dancing. Eventually, it would become so aggressive that I would shove Santa and the tide of the video would turn. Santa would face me, and we would both morph using some video effects.
He would turn into a plain red suit (Santa’s combat suit, apparently), and I would morph into a Ninja suit (still black, but it had some fake slashes in it, as though I’d been cut by a sword, a dragon emblem, and some red ties hanging off of my waist, wrists, and wrapped around my forehead).
Our choreography would work our way around the dojo in a circle with four touch points. The first point would be the opening choreography where I make the first move and attack Santa, backing him up, and then he turns things around and backs me up with more moves that I block and dodge.
The second touch point would be a series of Wave Masters (boxing bags with water-filled bases) set up like a forest. We’d chase each other through them, have a couple comedic spots where we both exchange glances on opposing sides of the same bag, always missing each other. We’d create moves where I aim to kick and he jump spins out of the way and I fall forward, kicking the bag instead. Again, trying to keep the light-hearted feel to the video.
Eventually, we’d reach the third touch point, located across the room from where we began our opening choreography. There, we’d create some sort of empty hand patterns of offense and defense.
The fourth touch point would be where we began our video, and there, we’d make use of a three or four foot tall “pony wall” that runs along the length of the back of our dojo. Santa would do all kinds of jumps and flips and have me always turning around in circles looking for him, but I’d be missing him every time. When I did finally find him, there would be a brief martial arts exchange and he’d suddenly surprise me with a present that he pulls out from behind his back.
The idea would be, to wrap up the quick video, that I’d never been given a present before. I’d act opposed to it at first, then tentatively accepting, and finally I’d jump behind a Wave Master to open my present without Santa’s watchful eyes, only to then appear in shot again holding a pair of Santa footy pajamas, looking questioning. Santa would motion for me to put them on, and when I did, the video would end with me being really happy and in the Christmas spirit, dancing beside Santa (who morphs back to Santa after the martial arts is all over) doing his original opening dance.
However, we didn’t take into account the horrible Zentai suits. Absolutely horrible.
When we film, it is just my boyfriend and I. No other help. Those suits made it nearly impossible to accomplish this:
In those suits, you can’t see through the mask enough to handle any detailed choreography. Everything had to be big motions (we discovered this after accidentally punching each other in the face several times and poking eyeballs here and there). The video camera is incredibly hard to set up shots with using gloved fingers and half blind eyes. In order to remove the suit to free our eyes and hands, though, because it was one piece, we had to have the other person come and unzip the back of the suit enough to free the face and an arm. It was quite the ordeal for every single take. We also didn’t take into account being able to breathe in those things. Running around kicking and punching is tough, and those suits failed to give us enough oxygen. With the mask always brushing up on my face, I ended up having to remove all my makeup in the middle of the worst breakout I’ve had since my pubescent years (yes, thank you, finals). Additionally, my boyfriend and I had a long debate about Santa’s nut-sack dilemma. The plain red ninja suit Santa was supposed to wear bordered on pervy because there was a little too much nut sack detail showing. The second option was to wear a cup, but all of YouTube thinks cups and skin-tight suits are really hilarious and they miss the entire video staring at the cup and thinking about what sort of curt and clever comment they could leave below the video about balls (We learned that with our Spiderman video). We finally decided on the cup, but little did we know, cups can be dangerous….just keep reading.
We made it to the Wave Master forest when we finally threw our hands up in frustration because progress was so slow. Who could we ask to help us film who wouldn’t care if Santa had a big-cupped nut sack and Becca was full on no makeup zit face in between takes?
My little brother.
Fifteen years old, he thinks everything is funny, but he acts good-natured about it. Dan would lighten the mood in the room, break up the frustration, help us set up shots, and finally get some progress going on this video.
We drove to my house and picked him up, returned to the dojo, and we were finally moving forward at a nice pace.
Finally, though, we looked back at our previous footage and decided that we’d moved from good-natured and light-hearted to full on retarded.
It was reminiscent to me of a combination of the two children’s shows from way back, Boobah, and The Wiggles as well as, according to Dan and Adam, German videos.
At one point, Adam even said, “I think I might lose subscribers with this video it is so dumb.”
To which Daniel replied, “But you’ll probably gain lots of German ones. This is right up their alley with the ridiculousness of it all.”
To which I added, “Well, we haven’t had a one hit wonder for a while on our channel, and people tend to find the ridiculous the most entertaining. Maybe this will be our next hit.”
I was laughing so hard at the footage. Adam was tentative, but decided to move forward. After all, it did look funny. We’d just moved from funny/mature to funny/immature was all, which isn’t necessarily bad…Editing could turn this in to something very entertaining that would get us lots of views…
We were on the final stage of the Wave Master choreography before we could move on to the next station, the empty-hand choreography. The idea was that Adam would kick the Wave Master down on top of me as I was chasing him. In order to give him the time to get behind the bag to kick it, I had to stumble and be attempting to regain my footing when the bag would come down on me. We had several okay takes. Finally we tried one more time.
What I didn’t know was that the plan had changed, and rather than just kicking the bag down on me, the Adam was going to jump on the bag like a koala bear and bring it down with his body weight. It was probably the tight mask and my inability to see (which I was focusing on) that caused me to fail to hear the cue that things were different. I was prepared like the previous two takes, giving just enough resistance to allow the bag to smash me but not hurt me.
Let’s just say that the evening of laughter quickly shifted.
The Wave Master came down, Adam riding it, and somehow, my shin cracked his skull, my head got side-ways whiplashed so my neck was screaming and the opposite side of my head was throbbing, and I think somewhere in there his big plastic-cupped nutsack cracked my forehead and gave me a small egg-shaped bruise.
I’m not even joking here. It was that bad. There was lots of screaming, writhing in pain, both Adam and I on the floor in those skin-tight suits dying while Dan was sitting there like, “Uh…what do I do? My sister and her boyfriend just killed each other…”
“Let’s just call it,” Adam said when it was all over and the damage had been evaluated.
If it had been a Democracy, nobody would have objected. Time to call it.
We went home, bummed we had no Christmas video this year. He leaves Monday to go visit his brother out of state. There would be no recovering from this one.
I was laying on my bed, icing my neck and shin, talking to my brother, both of us thinking about what a bummer it was that this year we won’t have a Christmas video. Not only that, it was like adding salt to the wound that the Christmas video had taken such a foul turn in that last take. It was pretty traumatizing.
“As bad as it was, Dan, I thought that video was creating a life of its own. It was funny. Unusual, retarded, sure, but really funny, and I think that is exactly the type of video that was going to get us lots of views on YouTube.”
I also added, “It’s too bad that we never got to finish the ending. At least Adam could have made it and sent it to me to keep even if we never posted it because it was so bad. It was going to be a really funny memory.”
Dan then suggested “Well he still could. Why not edit it and send it to you as it is?”
I laughed at the absurdity of it all. “Edit it and send it to me as it is??? Are you crazy? What a horrible ending!”
Then I thought… “Wait. You’re right. With a video as dumb as that one, what a messed up tragic ending! That’s what you get for making fun of Santa’s dancing. Santa throws down!”
I was trying to make light of it and tell the story to my parents about it after a hot shower to run over my neck and some Ben Gay to burn it up. I added in the joke about how Adam should edit the whole video with it having funny music playing, and then just end it by cutting all the music and add the raw footage of him smashing me with the Wave Master and me screaming bloody murder while he writhes on the floor next to me suffering the impact of my shin. End of film. No end credits. Nothing. Not even a fade to black. Just a quick black screen then a cut. That would be a pretty twisted video to cherish and laugh about forever.
My dad was cracking up when he heard me talk about this video’s sick and messed up theoretical ending when he then added, “Wait, you should end it there, have the video cut as though the footage had run out or the camera had been knocked over, and then have some quick background dialogue where Adam says something like, ‘Cut. This Christmas video needs to be canned.’ You’d agree with a ‘Yeah, we’ll nail it next year.’ And then you leave the camera running while you both exit the dojo with your gear bags wearing your skin tight Zentai suits, flipping off the lights before your leave. End credits.”
Even if that video never gets edited, it will exist in my mind as edited just like that.
For now, video or no video, I have a whiplashed neck, a nutsack bruise on my forehead, lots of zits, and a giant shin bruise from my boyfriend’s skull so I can hold this memory in my mind forever…or at least until I heal.