COLUMBIA — As Matt Underwood and MU seniors Drew Stewart and Sean Ludwig brainstormed plot lines for three to five minute romances early Saturday afternoon, they considered themes like Internet romance, forbidden love affairs and celebrity couples.
But one idea came up again and again:
Tennis would film well.
From the brainstorming session was born “40 Love,” the story of a struggling relationship’s faults and aces, one of 11 entries in Columbia Access Television’s One Night Stand video competition last weekend. It didn’t win — that honor went to “Love Minus One,” a video about, well, necrophilia — but the weekend was fun for the friends of Team Stunderwood, eleventh-hour computer crashes and all.
“It was a fun weekend,” Stewart said. “I got to write cheesy lines and get my roommate to say them, force him to kiss a girl he was friends with for a long time, and I got to hit a tennis ball over a giant fence. It was a weekend I’m not going to forget.”
The 24-hour video competition, the public access channel’s largest fundraiser, raised about $750, short of their $1,000 goal. But as CAT waits to hear whether the City Council will include them in the fiscal 2008 city budget or pass a proposed ordinance to raise the cable television franchise fee in their favor, any money makes a difference, CAT board president Christine Gardener said.
“We’re really close to zero, so $750 is way more than zero,” Gardener said. “We’re really down to our last two bucks.”
For the competition, teams had 24 hours to create a three to five minute video. At the live broadcast Saturday, the genre — romance — and the prop — heavy object — were chosen. Entries were due at noon Sunday.
The winning film, “Love Minus One,” was unanimously selected by the competition’s three judges because it perfectly executed both the romance genre and a heavy object, in this case, a dead body, judge Seth Ashley said. Ashley is an assistant professor of mass communications at Stephens College and a local filmmaker.
“We just thought it was really clever,” Ashley said. “The story wasn’t all there, but you only have three to five minutes so you can only develop a premise and that can be enough.”
In “Love Minus One,” a man is out hiking in the woods when he stumbles on a dead body. His first instinct is to call 9-1-1, but mid-call he changes his mind and drags the body back home for one very creepy date.
“It’s a fun thing,” Ashley said. “People don’t come in here with a lot of art-film dramas. Most people are just trying to do something fun and clever.”
Other entries featured phantoms, gold-digging men and women, and in the case of the second-place and audience-favorite video, an infomercial for the RomanceBot 5000, a male robot personifying the perfect boyfriend.
As for Team Stunderwood’s idea, tennis had been on Underwood and Stewart’s mind for the last couple of weeks.
In “40 Love,” Matt and Melissa, played by Underwood and MU senior Melissa Firestone, are working through their crumbling relationship on the tennis court. Significant points in the match are interspersed with flashbacks to important milestones in the relationship — the first date, an intimate moment, moving in and a fight.
Underwood and Stewart started learning the game by playing a tennis video game their roommate and MU senior Serge Abellard owns. Soon they were watching Roger Federer win with ease at the U.S. Open and buying their own rackets.
What really inspired him, Stewart said, were their late-night tennis matches at Cosmopolitan Park as he let his mind wander to the uniformity of the lines and the vibrancy of the tennis ball.
“Even though I didn’t get any better at tennis – I probably got worse – I came to the realization that tennis would film well,” Stewart said.
And even as 11:30 p.m. approached on a cool night at Cosmo Park’s tennis courts, Stewart was just as ambitious in the shots he wanted as he was hours earlier. They filmed until 3 a.m.
“Even though its only three to five minutes, I want people to know we’re for real, that we’re willing to go over the top to create a good project,” Stewart said.
Having just finished CAT’s camera class Sept. 11, Underwood and Stewart are new to CAT circles. Friends since high school, the two have been brainstorming for a sitcom about their lives almost the entire time they’ve been in college. One Night Stand was a way for them to get back into film after a summer without a video camera.
The opportunity CAT affords them, they said, will be a great starting point for their future career — assuming the channel doesn’t go off the air before they have a chance to start up the sketch comedy show they’re planning for late October.
“(Taking CAT off the air) is kind of like taking away Speaker’s Circle,” Underwood said. “It’s taking away a medium for people to get their ideas out there.”