Minus its trademark gorilla and banana, UCSB’s very own Improvability has helped a student film win high marks in a national contest.
Produced and directed by third-year film and media studies major Michael Figge and fourth-year film and media studies major Steve Prinz, “Traffic’s Cool” recently garnered a third-place award from TheProject.TV, an online film competition. The mockumentary, which features actors from the improvisation troop, lampoons experiences of traffic school.
“[One] traffic school instructor, who lives out of his van, uses his home to give lessons,” Figge said of the film. “He brags about not living with his parents, but then parks his car and sleeps in their driveway.”
“All the dialogue is improv. It’s the same as ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’ and ‘The Office,’ with odd camera angles,” he said.
Along with “Traffic’s Cool,” UCSB student Kevin Harman made the final round with “The Dancing Llama,” as did UCSB student Eric Reich with “The Scorpion.” All three films can still be viewed on TheProject.TV’s website, www.TheProject.TV.
To win the competition, college filmmakers had to advance through three voting rounds, with a new, roughly three-minute episode for each round, without being eliminated by the voting audience. Any visitor to the site could vote.
“Traffic’s Cool” gained 3,584 independent viewers, Figge said. However, he said he did not have the full number of votes cast for the film.
Figge said the film’s script resembled one of Improvability’s shows, in that scene structure and themes are provided but character dialogue is produced on the spot. The general premise of “Traffic’s Cool” revolves around four traffic schoolteachers, each with a strange personality and bizarre dialogue.
“Traffic school is like punishment basically,” Figge said. “No learning ever gets done.”
Figge said he and Prinz won $2,500 in cash and computer software. There were a total of 16 finalists, including Harman and Reich.
“It got tough towards the end,” Figge said. “The night before the contest ended, we were in first place.”
All the episodes of “Traffic’s Cool” will premier as pre-movies to main features of the Magic Lantern Film series, which runs every Friday night in I.V. Theater. Figge said he hopes to eventually submit the film to the student Emmys.
“In the wake of ‘The Office,’ mockumentary shows are picking up interest,” Figge said
Improvability holds performances every Friday night at 8 in Embarcadero Hall. Philip Amler, a former member of Improvability and featured actor in “Traffic’s Cool,” said that performance group members are accepted by audition only.
“We keep standards high and keep it a honed professional group,” Amler said.