Special Owl is a Bristol-based Youtube channel brimming with original short film comedy sketches. Their comedy style is one that represents the mundanity of everyday life in abstract ways, such as tinder dating a swamp monster or taking a new profile picture and asking a friend to have a whip around for likes. “Special Owl is our special place where we store our strangest, darkest and happiest memories from childhood, in the form of comedy sketches.”
One of the stand-out sketches on the channel is Star Plunge; a short parody of 60's sci-fi TV series, with a smart focus on the cult classic TV show Star Trek. The short film entitled Star Plunge: Episode 1 follows Captain Keith and First General Commander Splott as they crash land onto a dusty, vapid landscape with toxic air and no sign of any toilets. The two quest for survival to find a way to relieve themselves on the new planet.
With a modest budget, Star Plunge accurately resembles the original low-budget sci-fi, with Special Owl's own unique style mixed in like sprinkles on a confetti cake. “With Star Plunge, we had a lot of fun playing with the conventions of those old sci-fi TV shows. It was nice to have that base to work from whilst bringing our own ideas to the party. A space party.” The film stars Kyran Davies as Captain Keith and their close friend Matt, a cruise ship performer as Splott: “we caught him on his two-week shore leave then he went straight back out to the Carribean.”
Opening to a tin can floating in space, we can clearly see it's held up on a string with a green screen background behind it. This is the classic trick of dangling an object on a fishing line to give the illusion of floating or flying. Back in 60’s sci-fi, this was used frequently but most viewers wouldn't know this trick or spot the fishing line. The guys at Special Owl cleverly parody this idea by using a clearly visible white string. This opening image lets you know what you are in for from the get-go: unabashed hilarity.
From there, you get transported inside a tin foil-lined spaceship. “The main planet location is a well known filming spot in South Wales: it's an old quarry that with a quick colour grade doubles for Mars. The Spaceship is Kyran's cupboard.” The locations of the film are something that keeps the viewer amused; not because they are huge and grand or filled with special effects, but because they are simple, modest yet so engaging.
“We blew the budget on blue paint and fake ears, which meant we couldn't afford Chris Pine [Captain Kirk in the J J Abrams Star Trek reboot]. Luckily Kyran was on standby to step in as Captain Keith.” Splott is covered in blue paint and consistently has issues with his fake ears falling off in almost every shot of the final quarter of the short. “We tried to staple them to Matt's head but they wouldn't stay on during the stunts (of which he did all of his own.)” There is a real make-do attitude to the short that gives it so much charm. Watching the short, you can clearly see it was a joy to make and everyone had fun. “The channel gives us the chance to film, edit and release shorts and sketches with full creative freedom.”
The guys at Special Owl don’t seem to take themselves seriously and it gives an enjoyable playful texture to their films. This even shows through their answers they gave in this interview. When we asked if there was anything else they were working on, they replied, “Scott's recently taken up woodwork and he's fixing up an old kitchen table. Kyran is currently busy putting together a slideshow of his favourite photographs from a recent holiday.”
As for Episode Two of Star Plunge, they said, “the second that ship docks and Matt steps off, it's 'Action'. Let's just say the quest for a functional toilet isn't over.” [Editor's note: since this interview took place, they have released episode two. Watch Star Plunge: Episode 2 Star Trek Parody here.]
There are many different reasons to make films: to make money; to share a message; to prove to your parents that filmmaking is actually a job and watching all of those dvds was research. Special Owl makes films for the best reason of all: because they can and they want to. Watching their sketches is one hundred percent more enjoyable because you can tell they enjoy making films and making people laugh. Here's to the next sketch.