By Rachneet Randhawa, April 12, 2021—
Do you recall the last time you felt revved up after watching an amazing movie and wondered how they possibly crafted something with sheer artistry? Well, turns out there is an intricate process that goes into making the film beyond just shooting random scenes. The recently launched podcast Make Cool Sh!t by MCS Media is a non-fiction docu-series about filmmaking and focuses on the general process of how films are made in the modern age. Season one is hosted by Aaron Kheifets who has been featured on College Humor and Comedy Central. The Gauntlet sat down for an interview with Kheifets to learn more about the exciting new project.
The first season of Make Cool Sh!t blends comedy and reality TV by centring on the making of Scare Me — a horror and comedy feature film directed by Josh Ruben from College Humor. It features award-winning actors such as Chris Redd from Saturday Night Live (SNL), Becky Drysdale from Key & Peel and so much more. The pilot episode, “The Film You Write,” unravels how you are supposed to make a movie, the tradeoff between craft and creativity and discusses Ruben’s trajectory of his filmmaking career. Despite being the underdogs in the podcast world, Make Cool Sh!t is an anomaly that aims to be entertaining yet still useful and meaningful. Kheifets hopes it “strikes any kind of chord with you,” enough so that audiences can learn about the why behind making a film and share it with like-minded friends who are also interested in learning the basics of humour, comedy and entertainment. Their aim isn’t necessarily for film aficionados. They want to both educate, have dialogue and spark a movement for a medium of art in which many people don’t realize takes a lot of grit and nuance to create.
Kheifets himself has a background in cognitive psychology and is a content writer for a handful of prominent publications including the satirical humour media outlet The Onion. He began side projects in writing and comedy to help him discover and reveal his authentic voice and claims the early experiments he did in his academic career gave him a penchant for dealing with uncertainty and is akin to the movie-making process in which “three curveballs gets thrown at you simultaneously, you can still get what you need to get.” So many things can go haywire on set pre-production or even during production when it comes to the movie shoot — for instance, the actors you hired or props you requested didn’t show, the layout is not what you expected or worst of all there is a snowstorm running amuck. So one of Kheifets’ first key pieces of advice is having the ability to fail forward and having an entrepreneurial mindset. Kheifets says this is so crucial when starting in not just the film industry but making your first feature indie film to start. To find motivation, the best thing you can do is find something that is appealing to you and something that you are genuinely interested in and figuratively leaping before the net appears. This is not just with writing for comedy but any endeavour in life.
“I promise you that there’s something about this topic that is interesting to you, figure out what that is, and just figure out the most concise way to say that, don’t worry about making it fancy or anything like that. Just try to get your point across as clearly as you possibly can,” Kheifets says.
Kheifets also mentions “survival bias” and that unlike other podcasts or docuseries, you’re not going to see a lot of them discussing movies that failed. Survival bias or selection bias is the idea that a select number of individuals are the cream of the crop and can make it past a certain obstacle while those who did not are typically ignored, made less visible and not counted as relevant. The popular big box office hits with actors and directors that we all know and love are not the only things that are decisive — some amazing small-scale productions are flying under the radar that we often miss. It sounds counter-intuitive but Make Cool Sh!t is pioneering an alternative way of reflecting on movie making — not in terms of critiquing from the top down but rather taking a grassroots and bottom-up approach that is inclusive of all types of genres and films. As further insightful advice, Kheifets also mentions the idea of building a community and fostering personal connections with like-minded others who are also wanting to learn how to filmmake. Kheifets says that the whole idea of collaboration is hitting on “some kind of surprising, brilliant idea that draws in more people who become interested” and becomes a “snowball effect” which garners attraction.
When asked about in the context of Alberta compared to New York, the lack of opportunities for students interested in pursuing film careers and where they can find inspiration for the arts he mentions that the “counterculture” or those out on the fringes as misfits are often the strongest communities because they band together to start a new movement. For instance, through weekly meetups, newbie filmmakers can challenge themselves to play around with making videos. The fact of the matter is the most incredibly creative people began in those types of deprived (or lack thereof) environments. He comments on Ruben’s story of being known as a creative genius which not only means that you are incredibly talented and incredibly successful but also you are humble and willing to pay it forward to others, in this case, the filmmaking community.
A final piece of parting advice Kheifets claims was to ask for help.
“As a college student or recent grad, people are willing to [help] like big people, important people, talented people are willing to give you their time and their effort.” Kheifets says that because you are young and inexperienced it serves as an advantage because talented professionals are willing to invest and at times take a chance on you.
To learn more about the creative process behind how a feature film gets made, download and listen to the first episode of Make Cool Sh!t. If you’re interested in learning how to get more involved and gain experience as a student hoping to pursue a career in the entertainment and film industry, sign up to be a volunteer or peer help at NUTV — UCalgary’s very own campus-based television production.