More details on the making of 'Unedited Footage of a Bear'
By By Brandon Weigel
Aug 26, 2015 | 5:17 PM
As part of our story on Adult Swim working with artists from Wham City, we talked with the members of AB Video Solutions about their work for the channel, including the surrealist suburban nightmare "Unedited Footage of a Bear." Some of the details about how they made the video didn't make the story, but part of that conversation is excerpted here. And if for some reason you haven't watched "Unedited Footage of a Bear" yet, scroll down to the video embedded at the end of this post.
City Paper: So walk we through the evolution of something like "Unedited Footage of a Bear," how it went from idea to finished product.
Ben O’Brien: Yeah. When you first start, there's a bunch of ideas, like two people walking in a path. I remember I was talking about hiking. It's just a commercial and they're just talking, and then a really realistic looking bear just starts attacking and eating this man. And the rest of it was just this woman hiking from the bear with no dialogue.
Cricket Arrison: Wait, the original idea was about bears?
O’Brien: That was one of them.
Dina Kelberman: We're always trying to have animals attack people and then realizing that it's too complicated.
O’Brien: And then it was this guy with arthritis talking about his weak knees. He's taking his medicine, he's feeling good. He's chopping wood. And then he goes to bring his wood downstairs and he just falls down the stairs and breaks his legs. And then it's just him.
O'Brien: A lot of the jokes were that, after the switch happened, it was 10 minutes of the person just kinda like quiet in a situation where they can't move or they're trying to get someone.
Alan Resnick: They're hurt very badly.
O’Brien: But for some reason, I don't remember how, we ended up on the nasal spray and the mom and it all kinda began to work.
Resnick: I remember exactly.
O'Brien: You guys took it over at that point.
Resnick:: We started brainstorming.
Kelberman: Me, Alan, and Robby, once we decided on the nasal spray mom thing . . .
Resnick: Yeah, we started thinking about the suburbs a lot and what would be a scary thing to have happen or see.
O’Brien: Yeah, I think from watching nasal-spray commercials, it's that idyllic image of the suburban life, with the busy, happy mom and her kids trying to get her attention, and the only thing that's holding her back from being the perfect mom is that she's got allergies. You know? And then as soon as that's gone, it's back to perfect life.
Robby Rackleff: I think it was also really affected by the kinds of movies we were watching at the time. I think Alan and Dina had recently watched "Inland Empire."
Kelberman: Yeah, we were in a huge David Lynch hole at the time.
Rackleff: And I had gotten back into "Phantasm" and stuff, so I think we were all kind of obsessed with people being able to walk around at night in kind of a seemingly normal area but just know that behind doors and windows, there's always something lurking that's either supernatural or metaphysical, personifications of people's innermost issues.
Resnick: Also, because it was one of their shows, all their shows are half of a half-hour. With commercials, that's only 10 minutes. So we only had 10 minutes to do this kind of movie we wanted to do. So then it was boiling it down to how quickly can you go from safe—as safe as a suburban mom in an allergy commercial—to the most upsetting version of that.
Arrison: The answer is very quickly.
Rackleff: So I guess it would be like a parallel between your comfort in watching a commercial that all of the sudden changes to the comfort and idea of the suburbs and then kind of crossing a line with safety and comfort. Did that make any sense?
CP: Did you guys have a full, complete script? Or was there room for improvisation?
Group: It was scripted.
Kelberman: We definitely had to tweak things.
O'Brien: There was a small part for improv.
Resnick: We prefer working in a more improvised way, but with it being so tight, it did have to be story boarded. We only had a couple days to shoot it, we had to close off the street.
Kelberman: We had to get legal to approve everything.
Resnick:: Yeah. We couldn't really change things because of the way we had to shoot it.
Rackleff: Circumstances kind of dictated changes. Like the twins that were the main characters in it weren't able to do the heavy fighting that the script asked for, so that was changed. We also moved the shoot back after daylight savings time, so the shoot days were shorter. There was another reason we had to move the shoot. Oh, it was high holy days.
Arrison: It was Sukkot.
Resnick: Yeah, we shot in this orthodox neighborhood.
Rackleff: So everybody's sukkahs were sitting out in front of their houses, and that kinda changed the landscape a lot.
Resnick: That neighborhood we shot in, they were very excited to have a TV crew there filming something. We kind of shot it in order, so the first couple days we were shooting a commercial, and they were really into it. And then by the end of it, it was this bloody woman crawling through the street, and they were really annoyed. [Group laughs]
Kelberman: One of them called the cops on us.
Arrison: The cops were then also annoyed.
O'Brien: We had all the permits. Because we're adults.
Resnick: I mean, the cops shut down the street.
O'Brien: When we produce videos, it reminds me of that joke, I think it's Louis C.K., where he's like "I like asking a woman out on a date, because I want someone to be mad at me in a month," or something like that. "When I think about dating someone, I think about this person being mad at me in a year." That's what I'm thinking about when I'm asking someone if we can use their house to shoot. They're excited, this is going to be really great. I'm like, I just can't wait for six months, when you hate us. [laughs]
CP: Was that local?
Arrison: Yeah, it was in Pikesville.
Resnick: [almost simultaneously] Yeah, it was in Mount Washington.
Arrison: Oh yeah, Mount Washington.
CP: It looked way more McMansion-y than Mount Washington.
Arrison: There's a weird pocket. We drove all over.
Resnick: Cricket was looking for a long time at different neighborhoods and driving through the suburbs and flyering, being like, do you want us to come here?
Rackleff: I was in the car with Cricket when she drove to that one, and we were both like, "This is in the city? It's insane."
Resnick: Especially because that one has very identical houses on a straight road.