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When is a Script Not a Script? When It's a Practice Short

06.17.13 @ 1:59PM Tags : , , , ,

JetIt’s well accepted that the bystander effect could leave you high and dry needing help, surrounded by a sea of able people, all unwilling to step forward — but does that mean on the flip side there’s such a thing as ‘sole witness over-exuberance’? If so, the opening moments of Jordan Chesney’s compelling short Jet — in which a man who’s lost all hope finds himself cast as the only lifeline for a snatched girl — may well be the text-book case. Find out how far he’s willing to go to not let her down after the jump:

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As a piece of cinema, it’s great to see how confidently Chesney builds the story through action alone. I’ve seen many shots which have decided to go ‘dialogue free’ but end up seeming like pieces where the lines have simply been stripped out. Whereas watching Jet my overriding feeling it that dialogue (or lord forbid, a self-justifying inner monologue) would have only done damage to the narrative. It’s a confidence that can come from working with a solid script as your basis, although on this occasion, reference to a ‘script’ wouldn’t be entirely accurate, as Chesney told us:

Instead of developing Jet by writing a script, I decided to film the whole thing, but in one day and with no money. It was like a very rough practice run. Months later, we did everything all over again, with a few changes and a budget. As a result I ended up making the same film twice. This is essential my script.

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I’m sure you noticed some differences, at least on a technical level, between the $200 ‘script’ version and the $10K film which followed, but ultimately we’re looking at the same film here right? Well not quite according to Chesney in his They Roared Vintage interview:

I learned that you can’t make the same film twice, even if you try really hard. That was probably the most important lesson: that it’s the moment that counts. On set, the moment can be anything. It can be great or awful, and it can change from one second to the other. And it’s not necessarily the people that are there, or the text, or the story, or me. Sometimes it’s the weather. Sometimes it’s the location. Sometimes it’s the time of year. After shooting the same film twice—one in a day, and one over the course of four days with a lot of preparation and a little money—I’m more satisfied with the second film because it’s high quality, there’s a lot of decisiveness, there’s a lot of things thought out and cared for, and that’s a reflection of my art.

With copious re-writes, cast rehearsals, test shoots, storyboards, multiple takes, and the plethora of other things filmmakers do to stack the odds in their favor, it’s easy to forget that no matter what, some things will always remain out of your control. That doesn’t mean you throw your hands up in the air and leave it all to chance, but it does mean that the most talented filmmakers have learned how to roll with those unexpected deviations and make them work for the good of the film.

Do you have a favorite between the two versions of Jet? Have you ever shot the same film twice or been tempted to?



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  • I prefer the final version, it is more accomplished, but this is a perfect example of that what matters most is storytelling, since I cannot said the second one is 4 times better (1 shooting day vs 4 days) or looks 50 times better (10k vs $200 budget). I´d not say the guy should not have reshooted it (I work sometimes in the same way in my short films), but this makes me remember that sometimes is better just to go for it instead of getting stuck waiting for the perfect moment to filmmaking. Quality is never proportional to quantity.
    Nevertheless, it´d be interesting to see if people would give up some quality over quantity, I mean, making 50-$200 short films vs. 1-$10k.

    • Hard to believe these have the same director, as the 10k version is much more confident. Having said that, the 10k doesnt have an ending and the $200 does.

      $10k and no ending? Write a bloody script.

  • I prefer the $200 version.

    • Me too. The final one feels too long and loses the edge that interested me in the first one.

    • I like the $200 version better as well.

    • Same. The music in the final made it seem overproduced and ultimately killed it for me. I would rather have rolling shutter issues and crushed blacks than contrived acting and music any day.

      There was one point that I tried re-shooting the same scene 5 different times on 5 different days. We ended up going with the last try but the first try will always be the most genuine.

    • Rob Orlowski on 06.21.13 @ 4:45PM

      Mo Money Mo Problems…

  • Interesting.

  • As a technical difference, the van in the second one changes from a ford to a chevrolet when he gets to the house. Does that count?

    I like how the makers of the short in the second showed the picture of the little girl with one of the recently deceased as a way to complicate the protagonists situation. So, I like the remake more.

    • I hope he quits remaking this now and turns to the further adventures of this dude. Each episode could start off with him wanting to kill himself and about to but then seeing some fortunate way to redeem himself, only to muck things up and kill more people. Sort of a mash-up of O Henry and Don Quixote. Haha!

  • earnestreply on 06.17.13 @ 3:34PM

    I like the first one WAY better. More edgy. Better cinematography. And the fact that it’s less polished serves the story. The first frame/setup on the first one is more edgy, especially as the framing is closer and more intense coupled with the closed dirty window in the background. And what I assume is the augmented lighting in the second makes it seem less organic and more produced.

  • From a technical standpoint, the second one is clearly better. I liked the photo of the man and presumably his daughter in the first one. I miss that a lot.

  • R.A. Johnson on 06.17.13 @ 3:48PM

    First and foremost, thank you NoFilmSchool for the resources and the peep-hole look into the industry. Secondly, thank you Jordan Chesney being transparent and putting yourself and your production process for this film(s) out there. I really enjoyed reading, watching and comparing the notes on this project.

    I’ll start by saying, Jordan, both versions of this project are better than the low/no budget shorts I’ve produced :) So, congrats on a great short film!! As a writer and filmmaker myself, I always enjoy constructive criticism better than friendly compliments. They help me improve far more than, “It was great, I loved it!”

    Here are a couple reasons why I enjoyed “Jet the screenplay” more than “Jet the film,” :

    -Mark Scarboro’s opening performance during the suicide “attempt” in the screenplay was fantastic! On edge, emotional, great portrayal of the character. IMO, more believable than the film.
    -The hesitation of starting the engine and following the kidnappers was a great scene to display the moral/internal conflict of the character. I felt it was a missed opportunity in the film. This was a phenomenal opening scene for a short without dialogue. I really enjoyed it.
    -In the screenplay, when the kidnappers are transporting the girl from the van to the house, it appears as if she is hugging the kidnapper. After revealing the twist in the end with the family portrait, this was a great scene foreshadowing the ending as well as playing off a traditional ‘trope’ in a unique way, playing on the viewer’s expectations of a girl kicking and screaming to escape. In the film, it appeared as if she were asleep or her arm was just dangling, indifferently.
    -Length. In the screenplay, it seemed to flow perfectly. The extra time added in the film seemed to just prolong the main character’s journey up to the house after he followed them to the location. The added time, IMO, didn’t add much more to the story.
    -Gun shots. In the screenplay, I really enjoyed to timing and spontaneity of the main character’s reaction to stumbling upon the kidnappers. It felt so natural, and exactly what that character would do in that moment. In the film, he cocks the gun while still hiding behind the van, seeming a little more premeditated than just a heat of the moment feel like in the screenplay.
    -Twist/Reveal. Such an emotional, twisting of my heart strings scene in the screenplay when I saw the family portrait. Huge impact, unique twist, award winning reveal! In the film, I felt like this was a missed opportunity, although it seems like there may be more footage or a continuation in the future, carrying on from the last scene?

    Anyway, fantastic story, great films and an HUGE congrats to an all-around job well done! The story, especially without dialogue, is inspiring and motivating, and as a writer, I accept the challenge!

    Good day and good shooting!
    Hit me up on twitter – @rojomayne


  • The ending on the $200 one is more clear, for that reason I like it better.

  • Great post. The $200 film was better in my opinion. I’d like to know where the 10k went?

  • I think the “script” version is better, although it suffers form the same story hole as the second. The second feels like a copy with a loss in quality. Sure, technically it’s better, story felt weighed down by its clean execution. There was also a crucial story element that was missing: the relationship between the man and the daughter. In the first, we see the photo of them together. We also see him shot, crawling toward his daughter trying to get to her before he dies to help her get away from this mad man with a gun. Completely gone in the second. In the second one I thought, oh good she’s safe now that the guy rescued her. Had no idea she’s been orphaned. But they both suffer from one big plot problem. If that’s his daughter why did he speed up in a white van with no windows to kidnap her? Just to mislead the audience?

    • I agree that the way the van picks up the girl doesn’t make sens with the final twist. Audience manipulation. Too bad because the rest is great. BTW, I much prefer the script version. The rhythm is much better in my opinion and the performances more natural.

  • First and foremost , thanks for the share, its post like this one in paticular , that gives me reason to check the site routinely.

    As far as the short, i felt the first one until the end revealed more of a story and the reason is because of the portrait at the end of the second one, not a great story but decent, but that was not really the focus of the post IMO.

    ‘This post was defintiely inspirational along with the short, one can clearyly see that the second one from a fundamental and technical aspect of shot compostion and it seems like color grading and possibly a different camera was used also, maybe it was color grade, but good stuff all in all.

    Im curious on what type of camera was used or used on the second one , nice color grade and great post, i prefer second one.

    • Cameras and lenses used info is on the Vimeo page for each film.

      Jet the ‘film’ – Red One, Jet the Screenplay’ – Canon 7D &T3i.

      • Anybody sensed some rolling shutter issues in the 10K version? I can hardly believe these shots were shot on RED.


  • i really enjoy both versions of Jet. That shot in the car from behind with the seats in silhouette was my favorite image from either version.

    My favorite of the two is the screenplay strictly for story reasons. I prefer seeing the picture of the girl with the deceased and the peeing in the first ending, both carried great emotional impact for me that felt like rewards for sticking through the anxiety of the piece.

  • Based on the quality alone, I thought the $200 version was superior. To be honest I had them backwards. The screenplay appeared to have been shot on film, was shorter (suggesting a fine cut had been done in editing), and had a much more complete ending.

    Unfortunately, the final film appeared to have been shot on DSLR (not a negative, just… wondering where that $10k went; maybe Mr. Chesney wanted to pay his cast & crew a decent wage, totally legit reason), was longer without need, and left the ending too ambiguous to be satisfying. That’s another reason I had the two confused. The ambiguous ending made me think that this was some sort of a teaser for the real budget.

    Just my two cents. Great story!

  • 10k for that? C’mon!
    In the 10k version lights in the firist scene are too different between shots, and in the 10k version there’s no clear ending, without the picture showing the girl and his father together…

    The 200k version is by far the better one, and, please, tell us how did you spend the 9800 more? Cheeseburgers?

  • Thank You & Salute to Jordan Chesney and No Film School. For sharing and for being so transparent about the movie.
    I agree with chesney ” you can’t make the same film twice, even if you try really hard….”
    As i had something similar issue in my movie for couple of scenes and i will also be sharing it soon.

    I like the script movie better and some how agrees with view shared by

    ” R.A. Johnson on 06.17.13 @ 3:48PM……..”
    The internal conflict,hesitation,house, skin tone, lighting…For me rawness is the beauty of the film….

    But again its your film and most of the people are not able to make one movie ( i am still working on my first one ) and you made two….Awesome!!!

  • I hope most of that $10,000 went to paying the crew and actors. I much preferred the “Screenplay”.

  • Having my personal problems with unhappy endings, I can only really accept them (and sometimes even enjoy them, like in Shakespeare’s tragedies or grim films like “Rosemary’s Baby”) when they seem to be the only appropriate turnout of the plot, the only thing to deliver the message. “Jet” (both versions) ALMOST manages to make that happen, but the kidnapping to me just seemed too much like an actual kidnapping to be anything else that would explain the ending: The windowless van, the dragging the little girl into the car. Maybe I’m nitpicking, since unhappy endings seem to rather upset me, but the 200 dollar version left everything SO ambiguous that one wasn’t sure whether the guy had actually saved the girl or killed some guys who weren’t going to harm her anyway. The whole ambiguity ofn the situation was the salt in it. Thus i prefer the script version.


  • $10,000?? 4 days??? And you already filmed it once before? What the heck, dude, go to the Clint Eastwood Film Academy and learn how to move your set and get your shots in the can. The only reason I can think it took 4 days is he was trying to match the “magic hour” lighting between setups and needed those extra days, as magic hour is really only 20-30 minutes. Oh, the second version is much better, I really enjoyed it.

  • Yeah , going to agree with the consensus here and go with the script version. Although I will say this, the scene where our protagonist is hiding on the other side of the van is amazing.

  • Bizarre. I’m firmly in the Screenplay preferred camp also.

    Dramatic impact of the pee is the most powerful moment in the piece. Much prefer the shooting in the screenplay. Cinematography and all round performance of the lead was also a lot stronger in the screenplay I thought. Right form the get go. Like others I could list a lot of reasons why. Again. Bizarre.
    But cool post, and cool short too.

    Mr Chesney should run a poll. I’ll put $200 on the Screenplay. ;)

  • Much preferred the film version although I initially thought it was the screenplay version.

  • The one that says screenplay feels more stylized and complete…better framing, shots, costumes, etc….interesting…

  • I also prefer the screenplay version. More momentum, better tension, clearer story (though the twist was easy to spot). The lack of clarification in the film version left me with a feeling of incompletion rather than the intended (I assume) ambiguity. Both enjoyable, though, but the energy of the first one lifted it head and shoulders above for me.

  • Very interesting this. Is there a $9800 difference between the two?

    If it were me I would have set the opening of the movie in a more rural setting. Have a school bus pass him when he’s about to shoot himself, and this is the event that stops him pulling the trigger. This shows the guy is committed. And the location would be more believable for a suicide. In order to add a deeper meaning you could set it at an isolated crossroads. Shoolbus stops. Girl gets out. Bus pulls away. The guy watches. Van pulls up…

    Anyways we all got opinions. Fair play to the filmmaker and nice job showing the two versions.

  • Laurent Franchet on 06.20.13 @ 7:13PM

    All in all, I also like the “screenplay” version better. It is a bit more greety and realistic. The sunset lighting is also beautiful in this initial version.
    I thought that the $10k version would include some additional shots, like a sequence of the hero tailing the van until it reached its destination.
    I also thought that the very agressive way the hero shoots the two men would have been better explained in this second version.

    It would be really great to know exactly how the $200 and the $10k were spent on each film.

  • The original has greater immediacy. Filmmaking is as much about story as it is about technical ability, but without a script, technical crew can only hope to shoot cat videos (we see alot of that on this site). This exercise brings to mind the career of Robert Rodriguez. Compare El Mariachi (which he claimed was made with under US$20k or thereabouts) and the later films funded by studios. To be a good filmmaker, I will take a great script and a VHS camcorder any time.

  • I like the $200 better than the $10k, I understood the story better. although, the $10k one has beautiful cinematography, but that’s it.

  • I’m prefer the 200$ version on technical side AND for absent predictable “father-daughter”, man, you could shoot 20 same quality good shorts for this 10k.

  • PRAVEEN KUMAR on 06.21.13 @ 10:27PM

    Hi I perfer $10K version enjoyed, is it really cost $10K ,

  • Wow, I’m surprised by peoples positive reactions. The one without the photo and the pee doesn’t work at all because there’s no ending. Why do we see the girl at the end? We learn nothing from seeing a girl sitting in a chair. Why does the dude start shooting people the moment he sees them? Just poor writing really. Who would have ok’ed that script? It’s like a first draft after a half hour daydreaming at work.

  • love the dslr version.. it seems more film like.. the Red looks way to clean.

  • The second version just won the Films Short competition! Not sure which one I like best yet because they are such different styles. I definitely love the score in the second version.