THE ADVENTURES OF STIRK
Director's Statement and Reflection - November 20th, 2018
I began working on the idea of a follow-up to “The Space Show (With Phil)” roughly two days after coming back from ID Tech Macalester on August 9th, 2015. At the time, I was merely dreaming up stories - ideas that could take off if done right. There was only one name for the project at the time; “Stirk”, and it would follow our titular character on his own adventure beyond the reaches of our galaxy.
While the idea never got passed its “dream” phase in August of 2015, the idea circled back around in January of 2016 when I began working on a technical sequel to “The Space Show” called “The Space Show (With Phil) 2”. Originally, Stirk would work with a new crew to stop space pirates, but the idea was quickly scrapped. Instead, I began to write and develop my original idea further…a “Space Show” prequel following Captain James Stirk on his quest to become the greatest captain in the history of the Universe.
The original script for the follow-up was called “Stirk: The Adventure Begins” and gave viewers the chance to meet a younger James Stirk on earth who gets the opportunity of a lifetime to join the ever-expansive Space Exploration Organization, led by a General known as Phillip Onerous (a direct nod to the original). James Stirk must now prove his worth in the SEO with a new crew and those who feel his leadership is sub-par. He also has to deal with a dark force known as Dark Matter, a villain who will stop at nothing to destroy the SEO. Going against the odds of everyone around him, Stirk decides to take down the threat himself – and in turn becoming a legendary 1980s space captain.
The plot described above was the pitch I gave to my fellow filmmakers at the National High School Institute Film and Video Program in early July of 2016. This was a program I had to apply for months prior, and getting into the program was highly selective. Thankfully, I was admitted and sent to NHSI's home base - Northwestern University in Evanston, IL - for the month of July in 2016.
The program would become one of my most memorable experiences of recent years, allowing me to branch out and work with filmmakers my age who were passionate about their work. The program also allowed me to work with those in the industry and gain new knowledge to make my future projects shine.
The reaction to the project was extremely positive at first, as many people were interested to help out. Two of those people happened to be Sam Hassett and Nick Duffy, a production and screenwriting student. Both Sam and Nick pushed and assisted me in the early stages of production, and without their help, the short film probably wouldn’t have been made at all.
“Stirk: The Adventure Begins” had to go into a selection process in order for it to be made into a short film at NSHI. In order for the production to be feasible, the script needed to be shorter than 10 pages. My initial draft for “Adventure Begins” was over 30 pages. In an effort to make the project I wanted to tell, I did what I had to do – cut out the first and second acts of the piece and focus directly on the third. The prequel aspect was taken out and the story soon became known as “The Adventures of Stirk”. In the end, the short film became a total of 7 pages with about 3 different drafts created. Though my story drastically changed, my enthusiasm and positivity continued to thrive – I was going to make a story I never thought I was going to be able to tell.
The Cast and Crew of "The Adventures of Stirk":
Top Row (From Left to Right): Ryan Cason (General Philip Onerous), Sam Hassett (DP), Kai Klebes (Sound), Nichole Heller (Creative Consultant), Nick Duffy (PA / Producer)
Middle Row (From Left to Right): Dusty Coen (Jessica), Ashley Worth (Monica), David Contreras (Dark Matter / Darrell), Brigie Coughlin (Heather), Kyle Odefey (Director / James Stirk), Federica Gianni (Producer), Tohon Jasdanwalla (Matthew)
Bottom Row: Garret Bartle (PA)
"Stirk: The Adventure Begins" - Dark Matter Concept Art
I was able to work collaboratively with a lot of notable people on the project: Federica Gianni (a teacher in the program who helped bring the story to life, who recently just released a Vimeo Staff Pick Short Film, Primo), Sam Hassett (my director of photography), Khyler Runnels (second camera), Kai Klebes (sound), and Garret Bartle (a production assistant). Other PAs that were around to assist were Nick Duffy, Kieran Collins, Mikey Rocha, and Nico Chmielewski. All of these people made up a stellar crew that worked really hard to stick to the vision I had planned out overall.
I also was able to work with an amazing cast: Ashley Worth portrayed the sassy and bored Monica, Tohon Jasdanwala was the fierce and silly pilot, Matthew, Brigie Coughlin played a spunky valley girl weapons specialist, Heather, Dusty Coen was a nervous systems analyst, Jessica, and David Contreras played the fearsome crew member-turned villain, Dark Matter. I also had Ryan Cason portray the stern yet charming General Onerous and myself returning as the space captain himself, James Stirk. My cast and crew were set, and I couldn’t have been happier.
Production on “The Adventures of Stirk” lasted two days. Those two days were extremely busy for all but rewarding in the end. Directing was an absolute nightmare for me, as I was also trying to help my actors figure out lines and make sure I was getting the performances I needed. Doing all of this was an extremely tough mess and I remember feeling utterly exhausted on the second day.
Nonetheless, there were a lot of laughs on set. Everyone kept their heads held high as an acting-division student bravely led his production team to completion. It was that positivity that really helped keep me going throughout those two days. Without the laughs and the fun times, “Adventures of Stirk” may have just been an utter mess. Thankfully, everyone persisted and the short was finished filming on schedule.
Editing was a different story. I spent two full days editing the piece together using special effects, color grading, and other techniques to nail the aesthetic of the 80s once again. In 2017, I would revisit the edit I originally made and clean it up a bit, but at the time I was pressed and had to make a finished cut for our screening on the coming Friday of that week.
The editing process proved to be challenging on its own terms, but rewarding all the same. In the end, “The Adventures of Stirk” was completed and finalized on July 28th, 2016. My vision had become a reality. “The Space Show (With Phil)” had a successor – one that was far superior and great in its own right.
“The Adventures of Stirk” premiered to a large audience in the third round of student films on July 29th, 2016 in the Northwestern University Technological Institute Auditorium. In the previous rounds of short films, we saw marvelous cinematic works of great technological achievement. We saw stories that were raw and emotional, performances that were real and beautiful. And then…the silly 1980s parody that is “The Adventures of Stirk” appeared on screen.
For 9 minutes, I sat anxiously in my seat watching my short film screen in front of an audience of 500 – I had never had one of my short films screened to that many people at once. It was scary, really – especially when compared to the other works that had been shown prior. “Adventures of Stirk” was nothing in comparison to everything else. Yet, at the end of the film, the entire auditorium erupted in applause – my friends and colleagues patted me on the back and said, “Great Job, Kyle!” and cheered me on. I was ecstatic – so much so that I continue to beat myself up for not getting that moment recorded. It became one of my greatest achievements to date.
“The Adventures of Stirk” was not the next best picture. It was nowhere near as great as any of the other films shown on screen that day. In spite of these things, however, “Stirk” dared to be different. No other filmmaker in the NHSI program dared to make a comedy as far-fetched and silly as mine. No one had the same level of passion as I did with “Stirk”. And for that, “Stirk” stood out tremendously as a fan favorite for the day. It became a cult-classic in its own right, and for a long time, one of my greatest works.
To sum everything up…I learned a lot from making “The Adventures of Stirk”. While it wasn’t perfect, the film was a testament to making something truly original and fun while paying tribute to those who had inspired me a year prior with ID Tech Macalester. I learned to be a better director and a better actor through the process, and I learned to be considerate about pre-production, production, and post-production. Most importantly, though…I learned it’s okay to move away from the norm to pursue your dreams. Sure, there are times when I wish I could have made something better at NSHI, but still – the things I learned through making the short will stick with me for the rest of my life. It’s an experience I’m never going to forget.
- Kyle Odefey