Every year for the last eight years, Madison filmmakers have rolled the dice and drawn a random genre for their 48 Hour Film Project. And every year, the dreaded western/musical rears its obnoxious head. Josh Mallett and Zach Nigh’s team, Rip Productions, was among the lucky teams this year, but they didn’t let the historically difficult genre slow them down. Their 48 Hour entry combines recognizably “western” elements with subtlety and sharp humor and was one of the best and most polished efforts from Madison teams this year.
“Giddy Up!,” which is available on YouTube, also represented an unexpected partnership between Nigh’s production company Green Clock Films and the resources of Mallett, whom Madisonians know better as award-winning hip hop artist “Rip.” I asked both filmmakers [in separate interviews] about their unique collaboration and their experience working with one of the 48 Hour’s more difficult genres.
How does a partnership between a video production company and a hip hop artist even happen?
Josh: I met Zach at a Boys and Girls Club event where I was DJing for a band. Zach and his crew wanted to get some footage of me, and from that point on, we started doing stuff back and forth. This year we both decided to team up on a 48 Hour film. Zach and I have very similar personalities. We bring a “hands on” approach to what we do.
Zach: I own two video production studios with my business partner Justin Yapp, the second of which we just opened in Middleton. Justin and I have had a lot of experience doing projects for large companies and corporations, but we’d been working on and off with Josh for the past year or so and we’d always wanted to tackle a 48 Hour film together.
But how does a music studio get into making movies?
J: I was actually into filmmaking before I ever got into music. I was making homemade movies before I was even a teenager. I wanted to be an actor at first, and my first real job was helping my uncle shoot wedding videos.
Z: The partnership worked out for the best. Josh is by far the best audio guy I know.
You’ve done a 48 Hour film before?
Z: I competed in the event in 2012 and then in the two years prior to that, but because Green Clock has been doing so well, I felt like this was really the first year we had the right equipment and were as organized as we were.
What was the distribution of labor, on and off set?
J: We knew ahead of time that Zach was going to direct it and that I would be DP and take care of the production quality side of things. I’m an audio guy, too. Honestly, I think coming up with a good story was the hardest part.
Obviously, the challenge with doing a 48 Hour film comes from working in elements you don’t have time to plan ahead for. How did you guys handle drawing western/musical?
Z: I never did a western before. When we first drew it, it was a little nerve-wracking, and I thought about taking our chances with a potentially harder wild card genre. But Josh and I both made the promise to stick with whatever we drew for the most part.
J: If we drew silent film, I would’ve wanted to switch it out for a wild card because I wanted to showcase my audio skills with the project.
Z: Within minutes, Josh was able to line up some horses through a friend of his, and then it was just a matter of finding a location. We must have reached out to 40 different places, and Hubbleton came across as a recommendation. We scoped it out and started shooting the next morning.
J: I think there was a lot of luck on our side. I know a lot of supportive people who were happy to help in any way they could. We had all these big ideas and a friend of mine, Gretchen, really helped us out with getting a horse and things like that. By Saturday when it came time to shoot, we already had a great team. Aaron Martinenko, our cameraman, was great. The amazing thing is there were only eight or nine people on set.
You guys nail that western flavor, but you find ways to poke fun at the fact that you’re doing such an aesthetically specific film in such short time. When Dan Frost rolls into town on horseback, it’s more comedic than “Clint Eastwood.”
Z: And he’s rushing home to take his dog out, so it’s got a comedic ending, too. A lot of people didn’t seem to catch that humor in it. I enjoy subtlety. We’re very laid back and consider ourselves kind of quirky and take a comedic approach.
J: Zach said ahead of time “My strong suit is comedy,” so even if we drew horror, we wanted to bring some kind of comedic energy to it. The period elements mixed with the contemporary ones are part of that.
The music really plays up the spaghetti western vibe.
Z: It took a few projects before I realized just how important audio is. When you’re working on short films especially, a lot of filmmakers have problems with sound and music on such low budgets. I’ve worked with [composer] Brad Stubbe on a few projects before, but we’ve never actually met in person. Once we drew western, I scheduled him for the whole weekend and sent him the script as soon as we finished. With the exception of the song you hear in the bar and Madison County’s “Enjoy the Ride,” Brad and Brett [Moe] composed everything from scratch in less than 24 hours.
J: I DJ at Whiskey Jack’s Saloon downtown and was able to reach out to artists I’ve met. Madison County is a really acclaimed local country band, and it meant a lot that they let us use their song.
That throwaway line in the bar, “This ain’t a musical,” got a big laugh in the theater. It seemed like the other teams appreciated the reference to choosing between western or musical every year.
Z: We knew that was a nice little inside joke and that other teams would get the reference, but whenever I’ve shown it to other people, the joke usually goes over their heads.
How was the time crunch?
J: We actually finished rendering around 1:00p or 2:00p that Sunday, but I wanted to go back and tighten some things up. By the time we finished, I was packing up my computer as I was getting in the car just to make the deadline.
Any plans on the horizon?
Z: Green Clock is constantly working on corporate projects but a year ago I had a dream that I put to paper and gave to a friend of mine, who’s a lawyer here actually and has a passion for film. He turned that into a script. It’ll probably end up being a 10 to 15 minute short film. We’re hoping to have it shot by the end of the year.
J: I have an everlasting love of music and I’ll forever be a musician and a producer, but this last year I’ve been wanting to take time off and produce and direct my own feature length film. Filmmaking is definitely something I’m going to get into more. This isn’t the last thing people will see from me.