The short film Blunder Bus opens with a teenager roaming around town. By accident, he picks up the wrong backpack at a bus stop, only to discover that the bag contains a ticking time bomb. With less than a minute before detonation, the unnamed adolescent must figure out what to do with the explosive, begging the question: What would you do?
Blunder Bus is the creation of Max Galpern, Vaughn Traynor, and Cormac Crump, three high school buddies who have dedicated their free time to guerilla movie-making. These are no backyard horror flicks; Max and Cormac attend Jacqueline Walsh School for the Arts in Pawtucket, and Vaughn is enrolled at Classical High School, and they are very serious about their work.
“It’s important that we’re having fun,” says Max, “but that we also focus. We try to be professional.”
The trio already knew each other, but their collaborative spirit was cemented in 2017, when they attended GiveMe5, a one-day crash-course in filmmaking sponsored by the Rhode Island Film & Television Office. After an eight-hour workshop, they had to develop and produce a one-minute short film. The process hooked them.
“GiveMe5 was kind of a booster,” says Cormac. “We already had a bond, but it became a lot stronger.”
Their ad hoc production company is called ShameonU, and they have set the ambitious goal of releasing one original short film on YouTube every month of 2020. Since they are all avid skaters, many of their dozen videos revolve around skateboarding culture. But they are deeply interested in narrative films as well, which are created in classic indie style: shifting roles, impressionistic scripts, and fast shoots in borrowed public spaces.
“We really switch around a lot,” says Vaughn, who has both appeared on camera and helped behind the scenes. Cormac is the principal director, but all three pool their resources – including willing friends – to create mise en scène. As their skills have improved, so has their arsenal; they have upgraded from personal iPhones to the mirrorless Sony a6000.
The city has served them well. When ShameonU needed a suburban setting for the short Missing, they scouted locations in East Providence; for Blunder Bus, they filmed on the confined sidewalks of Downcity. They appreciate the range of architecture and the nearness of rivers and beaches, landmarks that open up worlds of possibilities.
“Providence has so many different environments,” says Max. “You can shoot anywhere.”