The Caddywhompus Years
by Faruq Oyekan
From cat enemas to the philosophy of life, all is covered in Adam Bertocci’s short film The Caddywhompus Years.
Told mostly within the setting of a dance rehearsal room, Adam Bertocci’s film unwinds sort of like a play. Meaning that much of the plot is told through the dialogue of the characters, and not visually through scenes. Think Before Midnight or My Dinner with Andre. This approach is key to the film’s appeal, and in the end it results in a better understanding of the character’s status in life.
The dialogue in this film is wonderful. The pop culture references and anecdotes in this film will leave you laughing. The philosophical conversations about life and the meaning behind a dance will leave you intrigued. Though the dialogue may come off as unauthentic at first, you’ll quickly find yourself reminded of films such as Kevin Smith’s Clerks, where similar dialogue resulted in its appeal.
As far as the film’s story is concerned… well… it’s sort of scary. That is if you find yourself relating to these girls and their struggle to support themselves through a career and craft (Dance) that typically does not render financial security. For the creative types, such as the actors, magicians, clowns, filmmakers, artists, or musician this film will speak to you. For those who are not, this films authentic portrayal of what it is like to not be financially or job secure in you early years will surely be relatable.
INTERVIEW with Adam Bertocci (Director/Writer)
First, how long have you been film making? What got you interested?
I first got into filmmaking in the year 2000, just as the famed "digital revolution" was heating up. I was inspired by the wave of homemade "Star Wars" parodies that were hitting the 'net at that time. Now, this was back in the days where watching video on the Internet meant spending four hours to download a little QuickTime the size of a postage stamp, but even then I could see that #1, video on the Internet was the future, #2, the tools were being put into ordinary peoples' hands to shoot and edit movies, and #3, I wanted in. That was my junior year of high school. And here we are.
How'd you come up with the story for this film?
I came up with the story by… well, really, the story was the last part. I tend to work with concepts first, concepts or themes or conceits that hopefully find their way to a story. There was a moment in my film "Go Scratch: A Dreamer's Documentary" (also reviewed on TeamProCreate) where actors Becky Byers and Shiloh Klein do some brief dance steps together. I really liked that and wanted to do more with it, with dancers. Furthermore, I'd always wanted to do a movie where real-life friends play friends. The third piece of the puzzle was that I wanted to do something where the tone kept shifting, from pretentious drama to dumb comedy to this to that. Now, all of this is nice, but it's not a story. I wrestled with it all for a while before calling up someone who used to act in my films, the very talented Carolyn Siegel—I'd been looking for a chance to write with her anyway. She gave the characters an arc, attached a plot to all my meandering.
Were there any difficulties during the production of this short?
There were some difficulties. The first was that time got away from me on the first day of shooting, the interiors day, and I have no idea why—we were doing so well on time, and then all of a sudden we weren't, and I still can't figure out where I went wrong! We had to rush the final "jump" sequence as the light disappeared, and I went home that night on the train just knowing I didn't quite get it, which is why I decided to bolster it with images from outdoors as it is in the final movie, making it more of a fantasy… which I kind of like. The second difficulty was that on our exteriors day, those Manhattan streets, normally so empty on the weekends, were clogged with a street fair, ruining a few of my ideas for lovely abandoned-city shots… but at least it gave us some "extras" for the scene where a frazzled Melody crosses the street, and it provided me with a fun memory, as a couple of Becky Byers' friends noticed her dancing and came over to say hi. The third difficulty is that my computer committed suicide on the morning of our exteriors day, which didn't really impact anything but our editing schedule and my wallet, but it sure as heck didn't put me in a pleasant frame of mind that day.
Your film's title is very unique. What inspired it?
The title has a bit of a shaggy-dog story behind it. I had a title kicking around in my brain for an entirely different project: it was something like "Caddywhompus Caddy-Corner Carol Christie Cavanaugh", or something like that, something with a lot of C's. In any event, the word 'caddywhompus' (alongside all its many alternate spellings) was sitting around in my head. When it became clear that this was going to be one of my many projects about twenty-something angst, I thought that it would be quite funny to have a film about graceful dancers involve the word 'caddywhompus', not to mention the concept it entailed—and wouldn't it be funny to do the titles in a fancy script with that big oafish word in them. It's from there that we get that title, and from there I think, all right, so we're saying that in our life we have a period called the caddywhompus years, now how do we shoehorn that into the dialogue so the audience knows what the hell I'm talking about. I have an occasional bad habit of coming up with vague or outright nonsensical titles that sound intriguing but don't make sense until you've read or seen the accompanying project.
I loved the dialogue, it was very Kevin Smith-esque. What films inspire you as a filmmaker?
I definitely take a lot from Kevin Smith as far as dialogue goes—I don't think he so much inspired me as he let me know it was okay to have my characters talk the way I do, he and I are simply very similar folk. In general, the filmmakers I cite as my inspiration are Terry Gilliam for blurring the line between fantasy and reality, Stanley Kubrick for his cold and consciously composed sense of framing, and George Lucas for the understanding that everything is made in the editing room. As for this film in particular, I paid a lot of attention to Sidney Lumet—"12 Angry Men" for its ability to tell a story with visual variety despite mostly taking place in one room, and "Dog Day Afternoon" for its use of natural light and seemingly unchoreographed blocking. I was looking to make this, visually, sort of like those low-budget 1970s movies that had an improvised feel to the framing and that used natural light or very spare lighting setups—of course, with the cameras we have today, you can get even more from natural light than we used to. We shot on the Red, and there's no artificial light anywhere in the movie, except the brief opening in the hallway, which used the location's built-in fluorescents.
What is it like film making now after having made this film? Has your approach changed?
I don't think my approach to filmmaking has changed. It changed a little based on "Go Scratch", which made me decide that I wanted to include an improvised portion in all my movies—and this film simply confirmed that I liked that idea. All the dancing moments in the studio are just long takes of them improvising a dance that I put together any way I wanted, and I'd love to do more of that sort of thing in future films.
Do you have any projects lined up for the future?
I don't have anything of my own lined up just yet—2014 was the first year in over a decade where I didn't make a new short film, and I really miss making movies and want to get back in—I'm just a little confused as to if I want to keep making shorts or save my resources for something else down the line. That said, I'm still active as a writer, an editor and on occasion a producer.
Any advice to filmmakers?
Hmm. Check the schedule for street fairs before you plan an exterior shoot? Ehhhh… Well, if you like "The Caddywhompus Years", the best advice I can give based on it is to foster relationships with collaborators. I'd known those two actors for quite a while, I'd known my co-writer for nearly a decade, my cinematographer Eric Branco was my regular partner… I think you do better when you have people in your life where you know what they're capable of and you work to their strengths. I haven't held an audition in years. I write for the people I know.