Sometimes at night my friend Mike and I stay out really late, usually at a diner, and drink mass quantities of coffee, our conversation darting around like a loose dog on a busy highway. We were at it again, this time at Big Nick’s on the Upper West Side, as we tossed short film ideas back and forth. Two years before, we finished a short called The Tickets about two friends who rob an AA meeting. We had the idea of creating a poker short about a horror movie debate inspired by our friend, Marty, who made the claim some weeks prior that Halloween was not part of the horror genre. The idea developed into a web series as we thought we could expand upon the short.
Pre-production was entertainment in itself, like the time we ordered a circular track only to discover it didn’t fit in the room despite having relocated the couch onto Mike’s bed. Fast forward to a few months later and a bucket full of bloody condoms — an appetizing sight. Of course, it was stage blood.
Our special effects team, Sarah and Andres, meticulously rigged up eight blood-filled condoms and taped them to one of our actor’s chest. Super glued to each condom was a washer with a five foot fishing line attached. Then one of the condoms burst as a trail of viscous moving blood seeped down Gary’s chest. Sarah let out a gasp as Andres jumped in and dabbed up the blood with a paper towel.
The tension was high for this special effect as the entire crew was packed into Mike’s tiny studio apartment. Andres removed the condom and rigged up a new one as a glob of super glue bounced up and hit him square in the eye. Luckily it hardened up and didn’t stay on his eyeball. Finally, the camera rolled as Sarah and Andres pulled the fishing lines, causing the condoms to burst open, an effect that simulated a gunshot, only to have one of the washers fly off and smack Eddie in the eye. These events sum up Poker Night production.
Between writing and improvisation on set, we packed tons of references and symbolism into Poker Night. In the episode “Aces & Eights,” Gary holds an orange, the fruit that is referenced in all of the Godfather films which some say symbolizes the threat of violence. Even the episode name references the “dead man’s hand,” the hand Wild Bill Hickok held when he was shot to death.
In “Aces & Eights” and the fourth episode “Ross Needs a Jack,” books and DVDs on the dresser reference different movies discussed in the past.
In “Metropolis,” the Woody Allen episode, we lit the scene to represent the opening scene (Elaine’s restaurant) in the movie Manhattan. And in the season finale, where the guys discuss apocalyptic movies, Ross wears a Grim Reaper T-shirt, foreshadowing the events to come. This is just the tip of the iceberg of references and nods that appear in Poker Night.
We hope to have a second season of Poker Night and continue to push the envelope with more ridiculous arguments and hooks. Next season, our goal will be to include a few celebrities, whether they are A, B, or Z list, in a few of the episodes. All of this, of course, depends on how much money we can raise. In the mean time, all five episodes will air on MNN on January 31st at 9pm (NYC local, TWC, RCN, and FiOS) so tune in!
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