VIDEO SKETCH WITH JON PLESTER

Video sketches have become an important part of the comedy world. SNL regularly features digital shorts and shows like Inside Amy Schumer and Key and Peele, from Comedy Central, are comprised of video sketches. Over the past few months PHIT’s digital sketch team, The Worst Generation, have been premiering their sketches online. Jon Plester (1816, Music Show) cast the team in the spring of this year and is their director. He has experience in video production and studied Film and Media Arts at Temple University.

To learn more we picked Jon’s brain on advice he has for aspiring digital sketch creators.

What advice would you give to people with no video production experience who want to start making videos?

Make stuff, just do it. Shoot something dumb with your friends and then figure out howto edit. All I did when I was in high school was force myself to figure things out that I wanted to figure out. Take an afternoon with your footage and google how to add gun shot effects or how to make a title sequence and then follow along with the tutorial. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, film things like your favorite video or filmmakers do, then film something that is in the complete opposite style. Never allow yourself to tell yourself you can’t do something because there’s always a way to cheat it. Accrue tips and tricks from people who have been doing it, because there are so many little things you can do that can save you time or money or make whatever you’re making look better. Never compare your work to someone else’s and feel discouraged, always ask them how they made their thing look so good and learn from it. Create, create, create.

Plester on set with sketch group ManiPedi.   Photograph courtesy of Aubrie Williams

Plester on set with sketch group ManiPedi.
Photograph courtesy of Aubrie Williams

Cameras are expensive. What should someone do if they don’t have access to equipment?

Grab your phone, download the apps that are available to make your phone’s video functions more free and manually controlled, then see the above answer.

If you don’t have a smart-phone that can shoot video then write endless amounts of scripts, storyboards, create things in your head. Without a doubt, if you want it badly enough, you will one day be able to create the things you wanted to create.

Are there any “must do” rules you follow when creating a video sketch?

Make sure you have an idea of what you want it to look like before you end up on set, otherwise you’ll have a hard time communicating to your actors, director of photography, gaffer, whoever you’re working with. Never perform for actors and then state “you know, do it like that”. Always declare you’re going to finish half an hour to an hour after the time you intend to finish, so everyone is happy that you got out early. Or you have time to fix a problem without going over time. Always have a good attitude, never critique someone in front of a group of people, do your best to have snacks.

What resources would you recommend?

NoFilmSchool.com is a website I visit often.
Vimeo.com has a ton of great tutorials for beginners.
Philipbloom.net is a site run by a very talented filmmaker who does gear review, tutorials, and posts brilliant work.

In the spring of this year, you cast The Worst Generation. What was the most difficult part about cast a digital sketch team?

The Worst GenerationI don’t think there was anything specifically difficult about casting my team that isn’t a universal difficulty in casting a team. I definitely wanted to have an even balance of men and women, sensibilities, writing styles, backgrounds, as well as predict the chemistry between writers as well as roles within the team. They’re all wonderfully talented writers and their writing packets made it very easy to decide on casting them.

What do you like most about working with them?

My favorite part about working in the writer’s room is just gaining so many different perspectives on comedy and sketch writing. I’ve learned so much just from listening to each of them give notes on sketches.

Starting in January, you’re teaching a class on how to create video sketches. 

I’m personally very excited to teach this class. I think, no matter who you are, you will get something out of it. Whether it be conceptualizing sketches for video or learning the rudimentary concepts of filmmaking, there is a ton of information packed into the 6 weeks of this class. It’s very hands on and active, which I think is going to be a ton of fun.

 

If you want to learn how to create video sketches you can learn more about the class here. It runs on Sundays at 4:30 pm in January and February.

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