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‘Toast’ of the town

bY bRUCE INGRAM Contributor June 28, 2011 3:54PM

Rebecca Norris and her crew work on their short film, “Toasted: A Short Film About Getting Burned.”

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Updated: June 28, 2011 11:06PM

One of the major frustrations in filmmaking is the amount of time it takes to get to the screen. In Hollywood, that’s a process that routinely takes years.

Recently, that dismal lag time has been shortened dramatically, thanks to digital technology, by filmmaking contests that limit production time for short films to 72, 48, sometimes even 24 hours.

Lake Zurich native Rebecca Norris, now an L.A.-based actress, writer and sketch-comedian with designs on filmmaking and producing, racked up some experience with 72-hour short-film competitions while making her way through the Second City Conservatory — before heading to Los Angeles four years ago.

That didn’t entirely prepare her, though, for doing the same thing in four hours, when she and her boyfriend/writing partner, actor Kevin Resnick, decided to enter the “2 Minute, 2 Step” short-film competition sponsored by the Los Angeles Dances With Films independent film festival.

“I thought 72 hours was pushing it,” said the 1998 Lake Zurich High School grad. “But I had to figure out how to do everything I’d done in 72 hours in four.”

Norris and Resnick had been considering ideas for creating an Internet comedy series when they received the Dances with Films invitation and decided to make that their first project.

That same night, they wrote the two-minute script for “Toasted: A Short Film About Getting Burned,” a comedy about a stressed commercial director (Norris) trying to cope with a temperamental toaster that refuses to pop up toast on cue — and the toaster’s combative agent (Resnick).

Why a toaster, as opposed to a blender or a juicer or a coffee maker?

“We basically tried to think of what the most resentful appliance in the kitchen would be, the one that never gets any love,” Norris said. “That’s definitely the toaster. It never gets cleaned. Nobody ever empties the crumb tray. It just sits there for years.”

“Toasted” was one of eight screenplays accepted for production from a field of 75. The festival provided them with a location for filming, Canon 5D SLR digital cameras, lighting and sound equipment, Adobe Premiere editing stations, technical advisors and precisely 240 minutes to put them all to use.

Everything else was up to them, including coming up with a 15-person crew that was willing to work for free, courtesy of Craigslist. On June 8, the day of the shoot, Resnick acted and directed while Norris played the lead in addition to providing line production, wardrobe, props, music supervision, art direction and Kraft services.

“Somehow, it worked,” Norris said. “We shot and edited the thing in four hours and literally the next day it was on the big screen in front of a packed house.”

The audience reaction to “Toasted” was encouraging, Norris said. So encouraging that she and Resnick are entering the film in other fests with short-short film competitions, including the Chicago International Film Festival. They are also involved in pre-production for another short film called “In Tandem” — with a comparatively epic 10- or 12-minute running time.

“We’re not going to try to do this one in four hours, though,” Norris said. “Thank God.”

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