No Shave November

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TL;DR
The film you are about to see, “Dump Truck Bounty Hunter,” was a labor of love. It was important to me to make a film that could be as goofy and absurd as the idea of growing facial hair for cancer research, while building a community of filmmakers and donors who could give the film value and meaning through their contributions. Together, we raised over $1,200 (as of December 1, 2015) for cancer research and awareness initiatives. Jump to the bottom to see the film, and thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for your support!

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I knew we were on to something stupid my first day of set. I walked out of my employer’s break room, where I had been studying lines and sitting in for pink eye special effects makeup, donned entirely in leather I had picked up from Goodwill and my more eccentric friends. Standing among a semi-circle of my cast and crew, all volunteering their time and energy over the next few days of production, I asked that we consider what we were doing for a moment.

Here I was, scorching under hot lights and even hotter leather, masquerading as someone who can pull off mutton chops (no one can), about to direct, block, act, and mentally edit a film that relies heavily on a fart joke.

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Our first night of production.

I looked past all of the headaches we were about to face in production and my lack of preparation. I ignored the ridiculousness of my costume and the story I had concocted and I instead encouraged my cast and crew to laugh and goof off as much as humanely possible. I thanked everyone for giving themselves so generously to make this film, because ultimately, this was about something more than us.

I told them that we were making this film to benefit cancer research, and that the more fun we looked like we were having, the more sincerely that message would be seen.

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No Shave November first caught my eye when I was looking for volunteer opportunities in college. As a member of a media production student society, we were required to satisfy a certain number of philanthropic hours. I was co-president of the group at the time, and was interested in finding a personal project that I could bring back to the rest of the group and get members involved in.

I’d heard of No Shave November in passing around campus, merely as a month to “let loose.” There was also Octobeard, Movember, and Decembeard. To my understanding, it was just an excuse for men to forego shaving during the back half of the year because winter was coming. I had zero clue that there was actually a philanthropic bent to the No Shave November and Movember monikers.

No Shave November is a pledge campaign co-sponsored by The American Cancer Foundation, St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, Prevent Cancer Foundation, and Fight Colorectal Cancer. No less than 80% of the money pledged during the duration of their campaign, the months of September to December, is split among these organizations.

No Shave encourages their participants to forego shaving, and to donate the cost of regular hair-maintenance to their organization. You could also pledge money from friends, family, co-workers, and strangers to donate on behalf of your hair growth. This is done to embrace hair, which so many cancer patients lose during the course of their battles with this disease.

My first year doing this project, I had the idea for the men in our society to take time lapse photography of their beard growth over the duration of the month, and that donors to our campaign would be given the finished time lapses as the “gift” for their contributions. That year, we raised $70.

Asking people to donate money because of my ability to grow hair on my own accord, even for the good of charity, seemed like a challenge. I’ve been able to grow a pretty good beard since high school, and it has never required work. What other incentives were there for donors to contribute? I personally wanted to know that I could add something interesting, engaging, and meaningful into the mix beyond just an unkempt beard. How could I get people actively involved with facial hair growth?

Wrap party for "Dump Truck Bounty Hunter."
Wrap party for a very deserving cast and crew.

That’s where this November 2014 pitch video came about:

I hope you see in that video the passion and sincerity of my mentality towards this project. The jump cuts may have silly reveals, the sock puppet may be far too enthusiastic, and I may flub a few lines by tripping over my words. However, there comes a moment at the end, which smacks you with a somber call-to-action.

Together, we could “put on a show” and give something back that was more than just unkempt body hair and charity money. I was reminded of movies that inspired me, like The Muppets or UHF, where every character played a part towards this thing that could “save the day!” And for what we are doing, the stakes are higher than saving the Muppet Theater or the local television station. We’re saving lives.

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I wanted to imbue this year’s film with a subtle gravitas just below the surface. As part of my pledge campaign, any donation over $50 would result in a pie being thrown at my face during an actual scene in the film.

One of the discoveries late in the edit, courtesy of our interviewer actor Tony Mendiola, was the idea of ticking off the contributions for every pie in the face. These moments already breaks up the flow of the film, so why not call even more attention to the absurdity of the moment with text declaring a $50 donation to cancer research?

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Throughout this process, I keep fighting the urge to publicly say that, “This isn’t about me, this isn’t about me.” But the other night, as I sat thinking about this project, I acknowledged the reality that, yes, this is about me. I am not ashamed of that.

This project is about my desire to find meaning when I look around and see people dying far too young from vicious forms of cancer – Kevin, the owner of my father’s company, and Joanne, my neighbor’s daughter, just this year. It’s about my desire to give something back to a world that too often appears scary and broken and is so desperately in need of a moment of relief or levity. It’s about my desire to build a community that works together for something – that feeling of “let’s put on a show!”

It was the contributions of others that gave this project its meaning. You can be a part of the community that makes this project valuable. You can help make it worthwhile.

Doesn’t that sound like something you want to be a part of?

The end result of a year of labor is Dump Truck Bounty Hunter. It’s as silly and absurd as The Muppets, and as juvenile and innuendo-laden as UHF. It’s also nowhere near as good as those films.

No Shave November’s campaign runs through the end of 2015. If this project interests you, I ask that you consider donating or sharing this press release in the hopes of continuing to build this community.

Please enjoy the film, and thank you for your consideration.

Behind the Scenes:

Here are outtakes and the unedited pie scene not included in the film.

 

is a freelance filmmaker and a lifelong student.

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