Reality Bites 

Local filmmakers make “Jackasses” of themselves.

By the time you get to Richmond, the names may have changed but the ideas are still very familiar. One recent DVD is “CBR5: Spies Like Us,” by Sticky Rice restaurateur John Yamashita and the gang at the monthly magazine Chew on This. The film is a “Road Rules”-style documentary of the group’s latest Cannonball Run scavenger auto race. Like the MTV show, “CBR5” launches groups of twenty-somethings on a road course scheduled with many stops, where they engage in wacky competitions, tests and dares. Mixed in are all the familiar ingredients of the MTV reality world: on-camera confessionals, angry moments of personal drama, pranks and scenes of drunken clowning.

“I know this isn’t going to come out until after the movie, and I have no plans to hang out with that girl again,” is a typical moment of reflection. The “CBR5” crew heads South, stopping off in Virginia Beach, Wilmington, N.C., and Savannah, Ga. During a talent show stunt in Wilmington, a few of the participants attempt 10 shots in five minutes (they succeed in under two, a mistake they regret), and another team of girls wets their T-shirts. It’s a roving frat party. People get fall-down drunk, take their clothes off and generally make fools of themselves. Background pop music moves the scenery along, with the aid of editing tricks and splices of familiar movie and television scenes. Cut-and-paste like on MTV, this kind of treatment is the hip-hop of moving pictures.

The result looks almost as good as it does on the big cable shows. The production — including the script, editing and presentation — is close to professional. The music is often better.

Much of the same can be said for “Teenagers from Marz,” another locally produced film that takes its cues from current television trends. “Teenagers” was made by Dave Stewart and Will Carsola, who produced the video under the name Day By Day, a promotional outlet for underground artists and musicians.

The video is a combination of sketch comedy, skateboarding footage, “Jackass”like stunts and an illegal activity referred to euphemistically as “street art” — montages of graffiti artists spraying their works to the background music of underground hip-hop. Other highlights include music videos by GWAR, Avail and the local rap group Luggage.

Like “CBR5,” “Teenagers” shows that filmmaking in the digital era has progressed dramatically since the days of Super 8 and 16 mm cameras. Visually, not much separates these two efforts from the work of the pros. If they seem a bit unoriginal, that’s not such a great sin. “CBR5” and “Teenagers” simply prove that the genie is out of the bottle — offensive, screwball television is now available for anyone to produce. Like Johnny Knoxville and Bam Margera, whose post-adolescent antics eventually got the attention of MTV, the Sticky Rice and Day By Day crews aren’t working in a vacuum. There is a market for this stuff. And for once the couch potato can utter the famous last words, “I could do that,” and really mean it. S

“CBR5: Spies Like Us” is available at Tower Records, Plan 9 and Video Fan. You can find “Teenagers from Marz” at Tower, Plan 9, Turnstyle and on www.livedaybyday.com.

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