As it celebrates six years in business, SF-based production and post shop The Cabinet has good reason to pop the cork: its latest short film, GARY, is enjoying a rewarding festival run, collecting top honors at 8 fests and counting (it next competes at the LA Comedy Festival, which runs from July 28th-August 7th).
The dark comedy is a “Cabinet family” affair, written, directed, and edited by co-founder Doug Cox, exec produced by co-founder/CEO David Verhoef, and co-starring Director/Editor Stu Barnes in the title role. Clocking in at 6 1/2 minutes, the film spans 265 days on a Mars mission that begins auspiciously but takes some turns as the voyage takes its toll.
While avoiding spoilers, it’s accurate to share that GARY began as a bar conversation years ago when NASA was taking applications from everyday citizens to colonize Mars. “A publicity stunt for sure, but I thought it was funny thinking of the worst person to be stuck on Mars with and the inherent single item you are allowed to bring with you, and it took on a life from there,” Cox recalled.
And there’s a poster:
“I cast Stu because I once saw him on a news interview and he was being asked about an oak tree felled by high winds. He responded, ‘I was in the park getting my pump on.’ He proceeded to say ‘getting my pump on’ at least a dozen times. The man understands comedy through obnoxious repetition. And here we are.”
Clearly, audiences are the better for it: this spring, GARY took home Best Picture at Festigious, Best Comedy at the Oregon Short Film Festival, Best SciFi at both the Indie Short Fest and the London International Short Film Festival, Best Dark Comedy at the Independent Short Awards, and Best Picture, Best Screenplay, and Best SciFi Fantasy at the Southern Shorts Awards.
The production itself took place on “one hot day on a soundstage at Laurel Canyon Studios in LA. We shot a blistering 7 pages in 12 hours,” Cox recalled, and true to form, post-production on GARY was very much a group effort by The Cabinet.
“Our editor, Stu Barnes was swamped on other jobs, so I dusted off my fingerless edit gloves and cut a few passes,” said Cox. “David and Stu would come in and we’d work through notes. I get too close to things so it helps having their creative lens on it. When it came to the effects, we engaged our friend Ivan Miller of Knockout Post to come in and knock it out of the park.”
When it came to casting the other leads, Cox said, “I’ve worked with Baily Hopkins and Dorian Lockett a lot. For the Captain, I needed someone with a strong presence, who could be boastful and have a very long fall from grace in a short period of time. Dorian is a stud for pulling this off and because of the passage of time, we had to shoot in reverse for facial hair etc. so his first scene was at his peak of tragedy. Baily is a superstar with a dozen different line reads at the ready. Also playing a hero gone too far, she nailed it.”
The Cabinet’s client list includes brands and agencies such as Clorox, LEGO, Twitter, Yahoo!, Method Men, Personal Capital, and Salesforce, complemented by a branded mini-doc in partnership with Verizon Media, and its previous award-winning short film, PIE, written by Cox and Verhoef.
“My favorite 30-second commercial is one that doesn’t abandon the 3-act structure,” Cox said. “And I believe making a good 6-minute 3-act comedy is no different than the perfect length of a magic trick: The Pledge, The Turn, and The Prestige. When it comes to the 3rd act or “prestige,” my favorite flavor is tragedy. If comedy is tragedy plus time, it comes down to pacing. By design, in GARY, the three pivotal moments occur at minutes 2, 4 and 6. While our short films aren’t branded and don’t carry a call to action or url, the throughline is the human condition. I hope the art and efforts we put into these films convey our skillset and continue to let clients and partners know The Cabinet is here to help.”
Reflecting on The Cabinet’s anniversary, Cox concluded, “Six years ago, David and I started down this rabbit hole and we haven’t looked back. The Cabinet is such a fun place to work. It’s been a journey for sure and we are looking forward to some cool projects ahead including a feature. Fingers and all limbs crossed.”