Back in high school was right around where I started to truly fall in love with movies and the art of filmmaking. It became a side dream of mine to be a director one day. The reason I say “side” dream, is because journalism was still my passion, and I knew the chances of making it as a director were 1 in a million. Of course, I took the only film class offered at my high school with a couple of friends, where we were tasked with creating our own short film for our final project.
We made a movie titled Extreme Backyard Football. We each took on a different role in the movie making process. My friend Amari wrote the script, our pal Jared served as DP, and our classmate Niko edited the movie. I was the director! Although it only clocks in at 5 minutes long, SO much work went into making this movie a reality. It was an incredibly stressful and educational experience.
When conceiving the idea for the movie, we thought the concept of a casual backyard football game being played up with the intensity and tenacity of a college or NFL game would be hilarious. We’re all big football fans, so it was an easy idea to agree on. As any filmmaker (or any creative, really) will tell you, there were a hundred ideas that never made it into the movie. We wanted the film to open in an actual backyard, magically transforming into a proper field once the game started. We wanted to cast a bunch of our school’s actual cheerleaders to do stunts in the film, as we were good friends with several of them. We wanted slo-mo action shots. VFX. So many things. In the end, we weren’t able to realistically make any of this stuff happen.
That said, there’s a bunch of fascinating stuff that IS in the movie. I play a commentator, along with Jared, our DP. I named my character Don Ridley, a nod to Daisy Ridley, the actress that plays Rey in Star Wars, and whom I had/have a huge crush on. There’s another Star Wars reference in the movie, closer to the end. When the Red Team is deciding what play to run for the final kick return, they all give each other a silent, understanding nod. This is a reference to an early sequence in Return of the Jedi, when the group coordinates their plan to rescue Princess Leia from Jabba the Hutt.
One of the most stressful parts of the process was simply how many elements need to come together in order for a movie to be made. We made the fatal mistake of creating a movie that required roughly 20 cast members together at the same time. It was incredibly difficult to nail down people’s schedules and find a time that worked for everyone. Even then, we had multiple no-shows on our day of shooting. Because of this, I had to be a stand in during a couple of scenes, so that the shots didn’t feel empty. At exactly the 4-minute mark, you can see me sitting on the bench with the Black Team, being sure to not show my face.
There’s a sequence in this movie that I’m still super proud of, to this day. At 2:26, there’s a kick return sequence, which we used a tracking shot to film. My buddy Jared drove his truck onto the track of our high school football field. I hopped in the bed of the truck with my camera, and Jared slowly drove as we followed the action down the field. They immediately threatened to kick us off the field afterward, but it was so worth it.
In the end, we got a B on the project, and were voted the second best film in our class. I’d be lying if I said that this is a genuinely good short film, it’s not. In fact, I cringe a little bit when I see how rough some of it was. That said, I’m incredibly proud of it. I think we made the most of the resources we had, and it’s an awesome time capsule of a memorable experience I had with my friends back in high school. For those reasons alone, I’ll never have the heart to remove the video or delist it from the public.
I’m still in touch with the three friends I made this movie with, and we joke about getting together to do a sequel one day. I’d love to direct another movie in the future, with the experience and knowledge that I have now. Until then, shoutout to Extreme Backyard Football.