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The Making of The Accountant

The Accountant was originally conceived, written, produced, shot and edited in the Spring of 2005, by myself, Steve Alberty and James Joliat.  We were all students in TC 442, a TV/Film production class taught by Bob Albers at Michigan State University.

Our assignment was to make a “montage” video.  While some approaches were to make a sports montage or a partying montage, we realized that a movie trailer is essentially the same thing.  Coupled with James’ love for action movies and his subsequent Arnold Schwarzenegger impersonation, we decided to make an action movie trailer.

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The three of us celebrate the year on a bar crawl.

Since the core would be James impersonating Arnold, we needed to put him in an unlikely scenario to really make the comedy work.  It’s a formulaic but comedic standard that a fish out of water is funny.  So where was the most ridiculous place an intense action star could be?  What’s the most unlikely job for a guy like that?

Answer: Accountancy.

My senior year at MSU, I had an internship at a software company called TechSmith in Okemos, just outside of East Lansing.  Not only was it an amazing place to work, but it was a perfect location to shoot.  To this day, I appreciate the company allowing me to run around the building with fake guns and make the project.  Without TechSmith, The Accountant would have been impossible.

The Marketing wing of Techsmith Corporation/Omegatron Technologies

I think the rawness of The Accountant is part of what make it effective- it looks like a parody, and that’s ok, as long as the actors “don’t know it”.  Their seriousness in that container of a joke is responsible for the humor.  For example, while we were shooting, we talked about making the supporting characters larger than life.  In the environment of an action movie, fake or not, it just wouldn’t have worked.  Plus, James played Jack Hammer so well that we didn’t need anything detracting from him.

That’s one thing we learned right off the bat: no matter how trivial a detail seems, when you make a video, it’s got to become important to you.  The second you overlook a small detail, it’ll come back and haunt you.  Especially audio.  GET CLEAN AUDIO.  If your audio sucks, you’re in big trouble.

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James Joliat, aka Jack Hammer

While it only took a few days to shoot, the majority of production time on The Accountant was in the editing.  We spent a few days organizing our clips and doing preliminary edits, but as any editor knows, it ALWAYS takes longer than you think it will.  And time flies.  The day before the video was due, Steve, James and I edited from 5pm to 9am- all night long,and got to class with moments to spare.

We got a great grade on the video, but the real surprise was once I posted it on my website.  The link spread like crazy, which was our first introduction to the new phrase “viral video”.  YouTube was only months old at the time (I’m a young guy, but that sentence dates me), and blogs weren’t used as widely as they are now, so it spread purely by word of mouth.

James was getting recognized around campus.  One night at the bar, he walked past a guy who turned to him and yelled, “HEY!  Numbers are always right!”

In case you’re curious, James is still rocking in the production world.  Since graduating from MSU, he’s won four Emmys and is currently a co-founder of ZeroSun pictures in Denver, CO.

Steve Alberty followed his love for music.  Currently he’s in Detroit, melting faces with his band, Major Minor.

Jennifer Edwards, the actress who played the Jack Hammer equivalent of James Bond’s boss M, is happily married and lives in Lansing, MI.

And as for me…if you’re curious for more info, you’ve found the right place.

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