Thursday, November 18, 2010

Pokémon Español

by Brendan Cavanagh

When I was a sophomore in high school, I decided it was finally time for me to stop buying expensive Five Star folders, which normally didn't hold up all that much better than normal folders, but if you had them everyone was all, "Ohh coooool, you have Five Star, niiiiiice, man" (in my mind). Later in the second semester of school, after my Five Star folder ripped from over capacity, I looked through the pantry/closet at home and found a bunch of old folders from first grade that were currently being used to contain bills and assorted papers. One in particular was a Pokémon folder, and I figured it would do just as well, so I brought it to school.

That week in Spanish class, we had to get together to do a group video advertising a product to our class- and the whole thing had to be gimmicky and entirely in Spanish. I got together with my good buddy Sean, and the two of us decided to join our pals Max and Connor for the project. During the whole week, as we were given time in class to come up with ideas and ultimately draft a script, we made jokes, played games and compared people in our school to various Pokémon. By Thursday we realized we had messed around too much, and seriously needed to come up with an idea, but we were stumped. Finally someone noted that I was casually using a Pokémon folder to carry my paper, and an idea was born: We would sell Pokémon for our video.

For the rest of that day and the day after, we hastily came up with a skeleton of a script, containing minimal dialogue and mostly containing drawings and English phrases describing what we would wind up saying or doing, harmlessly thinking the draft wasn't a serious script, that we could just jot down ideas and elaborate while filming. Not so. The teacher met with us individually to tell us that we were failing the project already, and that the highest grade we could receive would be a 66%, and informed us that she would call our mothers to tell them that we were goofing off in class too much and would inevitably fail the project.

That really put a damper on our creativity. How could we focus and make an enjoyable, albeit serious and informative video when we had the number 66 hanging over our heads? We decided to just go out there and make an outlandishly brilliant and hilariously bizarre video involving Pokémon, still retaining the Spanish language, and not worry about the grade, instead making a video that may not fare well academically, but stood a chance socially as an enjoyable video.

We got together on two separate afternoons, first at Max's I think. Initially we hung out in his bedroom and watched Youtube clips of That 70s Show and further compared SHG students to Pokémon. Finally, in his hilarity or maybe his exasperation at getting nowhere, Sean just raised his arms and screamed, "POKEMOOOOOON!" We all died laughing and decided to film him doing it again. This would ultimately be repeated heavily throughout the finished product, serving as a transition between scenes. We didn't end up getting much done that day, but we decided to shoot some introductory and finishing shots of us in the street and dressed up as our respective Pokémon characters: Max as Ash, Sean as Brock, Connor as Pikachu and me as Misty, obviously. We wound up having a blast(oise) filming ourselves running towards and away from the camera, jumping and flipping and twirling every now and then for dramatic effect. Our last attempt at filming culminated is us shooting each other having a dance party, which was so funny it was put into the movie as a lighthearted denouement from the gravity of the beginning.

PokéDance Party

The next day we shot in Sean's basement. These scenes filled up a majority of the film's middle, including fight scenes and a tour of the Pokémart, run by Professor Oak, conveniently played by me. Of course, we had to include information about Pokémon and how to buy and train them in order to get some credit for our video. I had to leave after about an hour or and hour and a half because I was, at the time, currently employed at Cold Stone Creamery. If you notice, during the middle of the movie, I am mysteriously and surreptitiously absent, thought it appears as if I am holding the camera. That's what we wanted the teacher to think. From what I saw of the scenes filmed, those guys had a lot of fun in my absence. There were so many alternate takes and re-shoots because they could not hold it together. Connor decided to come up with accents for each of the Pokémon he portrayed, and the general ridiculousness of the whole thing was too much for them to handle I guess.

The perils of battling without a Pokémon

Anyway, we had Max collect all the scenes we shot and edit them on his computer into a somewhat cohesive video, complete with transitions and music! When the time came to view our video in class, none of us would lie and say we weren't nervous. I sure was. I had never really been involved with a hopelessly failing project before, and I figured the teacher already hated me, so this video could either keep things the same, awkward way, or cause the serious deterioration in our relationship. Luckily, the video was an unpredictably popular sleeper hit. The class was constantly in stitches, including the teacher herself, who decided to accredit us 22 points of extra credit, giving us a passing grade of 88%. She continues, to this day, to show the movie to all of her Spanish classes in order to explain how to make an acceptable Spanish video for her class. Despite all the obscure Borat references, sexual innuendos, horribly disfigured Spanish and previous erroneous conceptions of the video's quality, she deems it in high enough esteem to serve as a model for future generations of Spanish-class filmmakers.

The guys and I became briefly popular around school. Everyone at SHG somehow found out about our success and demanded to see the video. We couldn't nearly come up with enough DVD copies to dole out to other students, so I, for the first and last time in my life, took it upon myself to upload the video to Youtube, where it sits today with a staggering 1,241 views and 11 comments! I'm keeping my fingers crossed for future world renown. Every year, around springtime, there is a general resurface in interest in Pokémon Español, marked by familiar underclassmen inquiring about the video and an influx in Youtube views. It's weird; I just realized this will be the first time I'm not around the school to watch it happen again. I do miss it. Those were some fun times, making the video and living in relative simplicity. Of course, that's all in retrospect-the simplicity part- but it's nice to reminisce on all the same. I plan on making videos with my friends next summer or sometime when we're all cooped up together and bored because I've created some classics like Pokémon Español and Springfield 911! (a take on Reno 911! about gangs for Theology, unfortunately caught on tape cassette and lost). Pokémon Español Dos, anyone?

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