The pandemic has made it impossible to have a real birthday bash with your loved ones and friends. So to celebrate his big day, Dave Laden, a director repped out of Hungry Man, did the next best thing—he spent a day with himself—or rather, himselves.
To mark the end of his 47th year on this planet and because he was getting bored out of his skull watching the sea of poignant, sentimental fare from brands, he made something funny.
The short film “Birthday in Place” features Laden at home surrounded by other iterations of himself—there’s Naked Virtual Gamer Dave, Healthy Pilates Dave and Dog-Petting Dave. The three each indulge in the mundane moments of life in lockdown, building up to the big “climax” when they get to blow out their birthday candles and sing “Happy Birthday to Me.” But by the time they get there, their cake has melted into a melted, soggy puddle of sugar mush (though at least some of his name is still legible in the icing).
“As awkward as this situation is, we are never truly alone,” the endline reads.
“Right up until I made this video, I couldn’t get inspired to save my life,” Laden says. “This pandemic wasn’t and still isn’t the most inspirational in terms of comedy for me. Then we got hit by a barrage of re-edited commercials from brands saying they were here to help. They were smart and perfectly crafted given the situation, but they also got old, fast. I wanted to make something funny and relatable but also smart and poignant.”
Laden has been quarantined alone, so his resources were limited. Fortunately, he has creative friends in a similar boat, including editor Christjan Jordan, co-founder of editorial company The Den Editorial, whose editoris have cut big comedy spots for Amazon, Hulu, Jif and more, and writer Pat McKay. “I would shoot stuff and send it off to Christjan, and in real time he would do rough comps to see if my footage lined up," Laden says, "Then Pat and I would riff lines on Zoom while I filmed. We went back and forth a lot.”
The whole process gave him even more respect for his collaborators. “I ruined countless takes because of continuity issues, I moved the camera many many times, the lighting was off for at least one out of the three Daves a lot,” he recalls. “Trying to do everything myself was really hard and also not doable. That’s the wonderful thing about our business. We can’t do this alone and every person is an important piece of the puzzle, so this was an all-out reinforcement of how much I missed and needed my people.”
Next up, he’s working on potentially shooting more “Daves” films, which may reveal a new “character.”
“I’m growing out the grossest beard I have ever seen in my life,” he says. “It’s untouched since quarantine started.”