The making of ‘A Sci-Fi Original’

For Norwescon 2007 we were faced with a dizzying array of possibilities for our workshop movie. For those of you new to the Madness that is the Let’s Make a Movie! workshop, in a brief flurry of hours, we teach people scads of stuff about low budget filmmaking, develop a story, shoot it, and edit it.

This year, we had enough past movies (and had filmed custom introductions) that we scheduled a special two-hour viewing block Thursday night, which was packed. Many people hadn’t seen the older movies and hardly no one had seen the introductions, so that was mucho fun.

The next morning, our first two-hour session opened with introductions, discussion about sound, lighting, and other gear, and then we jumped right into choosing a story.

As I mentioned, there was a dizzying array of candidates, including parodies of GhostbustersReno-911!Snakes on a Plane, and 300 (which, presumably, we would have truncated to “30”, what with it being Norwescon 30 and all). Somewhere in the middle of trying these ideas out, someone mentioned the “Sci-Fi Original” movies, and someone else mentioned how we could maybe see how these movies go so wrong. Although we had been chewing on many ideas, it was clear which one lit the place up. In a matter of seconds, we even had a title for our “movie”: ManSlugs!

We quickly worked up all the scenes we wanted to shoot, as well as a few extra scenes, just things to try.

The next morning, for the next two-hour part of the workshop, we shot like crazy. We shot all the “auditions” and “pitches” in the meeting room provided for us, as well as Ryan’s responses (by the way, the responses were filmed separately from the pitches, so no one knew which response would match to which pitch). Then, in a formula that is so effective it ought to be named after a cookie, we all trucked outside to the pool area to film the outdoor scenes. During those two hours, we shot everything we planned, and several other “opportunity” scenes, just in case.

During part of the filming, we contemplated putting Ryan up high on a rooftop to catch the perfect “running screaming crowd” angle, but the more canny among us noted that much of the hotel staff had stopped to watch the production and seemed to be having a good time at it, and, well, who are we to rain on their fun by climbing on the roof?

After that, we had six hours to edit the thing together, and of course, as usually, we did it in almost exactly that amount of time, even with a bit of sound sweetening, and a blatant rip of a few seconds of a John Williams score. Exactly six hours later, we’re hustling off to the editing workshop, where for two hours, we go over the movie, what we did, why we did it, and try to help people understand better how to edit their own video.

And then we rested.

Do check out Ryan’s web page for this and other Norwescon movies!


  • Executives: Ryan K. Johnson, Julie Andrijeski, Don Lake
  • Executive’s Daughter: Chelsea Gant
  • Director: Mike Reddig
  • “Bruce Willis”: dQniel Kaufman
  • “Dakota Fanning”: Dana Halfhill
  • Pitches: Ron Lake, Dave Tackett, Laurel Parshall, Jesse Brocksmith, Anita Taylor, Janet Borkowski
  • Actors: Larry W. Lewis, Devin Van Domelin, Tina Anderson, Phil Jones
  • Grip: Eric Weber
  • The Effects Guy: Brian D. Oberquell
  • Script Girl: Kate Waterous
  • Promotion Guy: Edward Martin III