For two days, street gangs on scooters were terrorizing the sidewalks of Deep Ellum. It’s safe for shoppers to come back out, though, because comedic performer Jonathan Motney has finished filming his short comedy film Birdeo + Limet.
Birdeo + Limet is a fresh take on star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet if they lived in Dallas and belonged to rival scooter gangs. Sharp-witted and packed with visual gags, Motney juggled time, performers' schedules and learning on the go to film the entire short on the streets of Deep Ellum in December. Edited and ready to go, the short film will premiere tonight at Dallas Comedy House as part of early programming for the Dallas Comedy Festival.
Like any film, the story of it coming to be is one part skill and one part luck.
“This project kind of blew up in my brain,” Motney says. “I wrote it knowing that I wanted to shoot it somehow, and then luckily this opportunity came up after I had this thing written.”
The opportunity came in the form of an actor dropping out of a commercial filming last minute, leading a person on set to call Motney to sub in on short notice. It was during the shoot that Motney was introduced to Peter Calvin, a Dallas-based cinematographer grateful for the time and money Motney saved the production by taking the place of the absent actor. Calvin told Motney he owed him a favor whenever he needed it, and Birdeo + Limet now had a seasoned director of photography on their crew.
Work still needed to be done on the script though. Motney was visualizing a quick and easy 10-minute short, and his script in its first incarnation was sitting at a not-so-slim 25 pages. Taking into account the time he had to work with (none) and the budget (also none), he sought advice from friend and colleague Ryan Zarra about what he should do next.
“His first note was like, ‘Dude it’s funny; cut most of it out,’” Motney says. “He was like, ‘If you want to film a 10-minute short for free, the first thing you need to do is make this as absolutely simple as possible to film.’”
With a script fine-tuned and the knowledge of a professional cinematographer at his disposal, Motney needed just one more, nearly impossible, thing to work out in his favor: Texas weather. Using a cast that consisted of his girlfriend, Jonda Robinson, and fellow actors he had worked with writing and performing sketches, Motney filmed on the sunny days Dec. 1 and 2.
Cast member Logan Romero does remember that even though the weather was cooperating, the locals weren’t as easygoing.
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“While shooting a scene in the park, an older man was driving by in his pickup and stopped 10 feet from us,” Romero says. “He was directly in the shot and was obstructing the view. We asked him if he would move and he said, 'It's a free country.' We all stared him down for a good 30 seconds and said absolutely nothing. He drove off with his truck nuts between his legs.”
After all the lucky breaks of meeting the right person at the right time, and having a talented crew be able to come together for the days required, everyone involved is now excited to sit back, enjoy the final product at the premiere and reflect on the fun they had making it.
“Filming this made me remember what it was like to be a kid again,” Romero says. “We spent two whole hours strictly filming scooter tricks. Hoping we get sponsored.”