Webcomic inspires CMF best picture

A black-hatted, slightly sociopathic rogue romances an equally sociopathic girl who attempts to blow up his car. Typical award-winning movie, right?

The Campus MovieFest this year featured a wide-range of cinematic visions, from quirky comedies to serious dramas.

The winner this year was the xkcd tribute, “My Normal Approach is Useless Here,” a homage to the highly popular webcomic and a quirky, clever film in its own regard.

David Rutter and Kane Bonnette, CS graduate students, and Matt Bigelow, sixth-year AE, directed the film.

The screenplay was adapted from the xkcd comic by Rutter, Bonnette, and Melody Nailor, fourth-year CS.

The project began when Rutter and Bigelow decided to make a film and told Bonnette and Nailor as well as the rest of the crew and cast.

Originally planned on being an imitation of multiple webcomics connected through a loose narrative, the writers eventually decided that it was best to use just one comic.

“We eventually decided to use xkcd because everyone’s familiar with it,” Rutter said. “We’re all fans and we all have our favorite episodes.”

The film draws from some of the most popular xkcd stories, particularly the ones dealing with romance. At the same time, it retools scenes in order to better fit the film format.

While the original comic for the most part disregards continuity, an ongoing subplot follows the “classhole,” an antisocial egotist who envisions himself as a new type of sociopath (an asshole with “class”), and his adventures with his girlfriend, whose own sociopathic nature he finds deeply attractive.

This entire subplot was adapted for the film, which involves a collection of vignettes ricocheting back and forth between the “classhole’s” narrative and the narrative of an original character who’s also looking for love.

The original character is a composite of the lonely romantic characters typically found in xkcd episodes. More popular episodes were used as part of the story for this original character.

Since many of the directors and writers have had previous film experience, especially at Campus MovieFest, directing the film proved to be a relatively painless experience.

Rutter has worked on films in the past including a film he directed freshman year called “Dorm Writer”.

Bonnette also has previous film experience. “This is [his] fourth movie. I did one in 2004 about clones, one in 2005 about beans, and one in 2007 that got second place called ‘Romeo and Juliet’,” Rutter said.

Bigelow performed most of the work involving equipment.

“We used a boom mike. The camera was done using a tripod and a shoulder mount configuration,” Bigelow said.

“We tried to keep the layout as simple as possible. Then, we just went out and shot everything. There were a few guerilla shots.

“We got on MARTA and started shooting once. After that, the MARTA police came up and told us not to do it. But we still got to keep the footage,” said Bigelow.

The whole filming process was relatively short and the major scenes in the field were filmed at Piedmont Park.

“We filmed on 17 degree Friday,” Rutter said. “The script took us four or five days. We didn’t cut too much. What we did cut was to make the story more cohesive. The scene with the boom mike was almost cut out,” Rutter said.

Working with a small cast also helped with the efficiency. “There was just six of us. And it worked out a lot better because we stuck to schedule, although it’s still fun to work with a big group,” Bigelow said.

“You never want to work for two directors. They have to compromise their vision and that’s generally very difficult. At the same time, we all directed and acted in the movie. In a way, we were directors by committee,” Rutter said.

The case and crew found the the award ceremony and festival to be a rewarding experience as well.

“I thought it was a lot better this year than normal. Usually there’s one outstanding film and a lot of ones that were ‘eh’,” Bonnette said.

Bigelow noted that for him, filmmaking is “just a hobby. I think at Tech it does pretty well.”

On Saturday the cast and crew’s film will be screened along with the other finalists of the other states in the Southeast region at the Woodruff Symphony Hall in Atlanta.

Afterwards, the 16 top films will be shown on Sunday where the judging for Best Film in the region will be done.

In terms of judging, “they have a set of criteria. There’s a technical aspect that’s not weighted much. There’s an aesthetic quality that works as a fudge factor. I’d encourage anyone who wants to make a movie to check out Campus Movie Fest. You get a laptop and a camera and a week to make a movie,” Bigelow said.

“I’d also encourage anyone to read xkcd too, but I think people already do more than enough of that at Tech,” Rutter said.