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Dial-A-Spy: Production Notes

Dial-A-Spy is BREDSTIK Entertainment’s first live-action film, made in Philadelphia as part of the National Film Challenge, in which 85+ competing teams across the country each crafted a short film—start to finish—in just one weekend. At 7:00 PM on Friday, October 17, each team was e-mailed a random genre assignment and a list of elements that must be included in their film: a prop, a character, and a line of dialogue. The finished films (between four and eight minutes in length) were required to be in the mail no later than 12:00 PM on the following Monday (October 20) to be included in the competition.

As of 7:00 PM on Friday, this is what we had to work with:

  • Genre: Spy
  • Prop: Bicycle
  • Character: Jessie Thomas, Success Coach
  • Line of Dialogue: “Can’t you see I’m working here?”

In the next several hours, we brainstormed many ideas, most of which were too ambitious for a film that needed to be completed so quickly. The concept for Dial-A-Spy emerged around 3:00 in the morning; since our second wind hadn’t arrived yet, the script wasn’t complete until noon. The cast was assembled, equipment was packed, and thrift stores were scoured for The Spy’s costumes.

Shooting finally began around 2:00 on Saturday. Since the bulk of the footage was shot in one location (and the other three we used were within a few blocks), the shoot was organized and scheduled with little fuss, which was good because our late start had us racing against the clock for the daylight shots. In the next ten hours, we repeatedly drove down the wrong side of Christian Street, watched Ian (The Spy) consume nearly half a jar of olives, disturbed a bathing neighbor while shooting from the fire escape, took an ill-advised Burger King break, and scrambled to keep the apartment’s three fame-hungry cats out of frame. We wrapped shortly after midnight, and everybody actually got to get at least a little sleep on Saturday night.

Sunday was post-production day. Luckily, our editor, Josh, got a head start on the process the previous night by bringing some tapes back to our headquarters in South Philly halfway through the shoot and beginning a rough cut. Most of the rough cut’s elements were in place by the early afternoon, at which point we FTPd a compressed web version to our composer, Tim, who was working from his studio out in Reading and had already begun composing a theme for the film based on the script we had e-mailed him on Saturday. When we got some malleable MP3s back from Tim a few hours later (due to a slow FTP server, acquiring the final files necessitated a rendezvous in King of Prussia), the editing was firming up, title sequences and effects were underway, and even the film’s web site design was nearly complete. Editing, now with the addition of music and sound effects, continued into the night. The final cut was completed around 5:00 AM on Monday, seven hours shy of the original deadline (shortly before the beginning of the Challenge, the NFC changed the deadline to Monday night at midnight).

A total of sixteen people assisted in the production, detailed on the Cast & Crew page.