In four days, I’m going to be the best man in my best friend Mike’s wedding. Everything is ready: My tux ordered, transportation arranged, and hotel room booked many, many months ago. After plenty of conditioning over Memorial Day Weekend, my liver is prepared for three festive days of continuous nuptial boozing with old friends I rarely see. We're going to lose our shit like Ritalin children when "Ignition (Remix)" is played. I’m very excited for it.
Serendipitously, while I was preparing for my big best man moment—the toast—a reader passed along a video on Vimeo. It was titled How to Throw a Bachelor Party.
It was Friday night and I was feeling reminiscent. Mike’s bachelor party, held last summer at a beach house in the Outer Banks, was a drunken shitshow blast, the type of thing that happens less and less the older one gets. With that in mind, I clicked “play.”
Struck by some pretty profound emotions, I watched it again.
I soaked it all in like a baptism.
My experience with this video was powerful and sublime. As a late-20-something man, How to Throw a Bachelor Party is one of those rare online video gems that chokes on your emotions, spits them out, and leaves them raw, like a swarm of butterflies flocking through the gut and up the esophagus to choke you up. Half hilarious and macho, half heartwarming, and just really, really fucking cool, it just might be the best visual illustration of male friendship ever distilled into an 8-minute video experience. It was a perfect spark for inspiration while rummaging through 15+ years of friendship, preparing my own personal highlight reel of ridiculous antics and shared experiences.
The video had an immediate and lasting impact on me. Walking around Lower Manhattan later that night, I couldn't get it out my head.
One thing I didn’t expect about my late 20s was the amount of nostalgia I’d have for things that happened only 5-10 years ago. A decade may seem like a long time, but in retrospect it really isn’t. People come and go like a breeze in a decade. Memories of people and places linger like the aroma from a barbeque, that scent from the grill that's still in the air when everyone is splurping their last margaritas of the evening.
Things change. And then I remembered... "Holy shit my 10-year high school reunion is in a year."
It feels like just yesterday I was running around with my friends in the Pennsylvania woods, getting shit-faced on booze that some friend’s older sibling bought, puffing out our chests like swaggering wanna-be hicks after completing some spectacularly stupid feat of manliness. Things like swamping canoes, racing golf karts, building massive campfires, or shooting Roman Candles at each other. "Laughing our faces off and forgetting about responsibility." You know, the same stupid things you probably do with your friends.
Because of geography, jobs, life, and relationships, we don’t see each other nearly enough. A couple times of year, max, and rarely as a group, except for weddings or, sadly, a funeral. Truth be told: I miss those motherfuckers.
I don’t know Colin or his friends, but it doesn’t matter. This video about his bachelor party is an eight-minute portrait of my very best guy friends. It's a portrait of every Bro's very best guy friends. How to Throw a Bachelor Party is a digital mirror that looks right back at you, reflecting many-a similar wild-eyed memory about hanging out and having fun. This is my group of friends, the people I’ve puked-and-rallied with, hugged in hellish times, and laughed until sunrise with about the dumbest bullshit you can possibly ever imagine. This is how we act, this is how bond, and this is how we think of each other. This is our nostalgia. This is our fondness. This is our shared fraternal brotherhood. This is a part of our identity.
Just try to watch this film without thinking about your friends. Your amigos. Your Bros. The dudes who have your back in thick and thin. It's just not possible.
That is why, in one blogger's humble opinion, How To Throw a Bachelor Party may very well be the best short film about Bros of all time.
How to Throw a Bachelor Party is the genius brainchild of Westerly, Rhode Island’s Gnarly Bay Productions. Using 10 hidden cameras, the short film documents the extremely clever bachelor party thrown for their close friend, Colin Bennett. The party starts with Colin’s kidnapping, which eventually leads to a meticulously-planned scavenger hunt through the woods. To add an element of intrigue, the instructions are pre-recorded on an iPod. After completing the tasks, Colin changes into a pair of jorts Tobias Funke would be proud of, lights a torch, and runs to meet up with his friends nearby. They're waiting for him, ready to start a Redneck Olympics. The afternoon features a schedule of silly events that all young-at-heart Bros can appreciate: keg tosses, a slip’n slide, sling shots, zipline field goals, redneck jousting, and an obstacle course. It's like all the Greatest Hits of summer camp, condensed to one short afternoon. With booze.
According to Gnarly Bay’s Dan Riordan, the director/producer of the video, it took about 100 or so hours to do everything for the video, including prep and the final editing. He claims that even that “is probably an underestimate.” Waiting for the right moment, they finished the film approximately two years prior to uploading it to Vimeo.
In an e-mail, Dan detailed the months planning that went into the day’s events. “A lot of the planning time happened over weeks and months leading up to the day. Whenever our group of friends would get together, we would throw around ideas. If something made us laugh, we would try to remember to incorporate it. The day before, we did a lot of the more complicated setup like loading the iPod with the narration, digging the hole for the compass, stashing the bike, and hiding clues in trees, etc. That morning, while Dana (Dan’s partner in Gnarly Bay Productions) pulled off the kidnapping, I ran around the woods like a sweaty maniac and mounted cameras and spray-painted arrows along the way. I started to run out of spray paint half way through, and there was definitely a moment of panic thinking, ‘What if this doesn't work and he just gets lost in the woods?’ Dana was circling on roads nearby, waiting for the text confirming that everything was set up. When I finally sent the text, I ran back through the quarter mile or so and pressed record on the cameras. The battery life was only one hour, so we didn't have that much room for error.
Thinking back, there really were shitloads of little details that needed to come together.”
Turns out Dan and his friends got pretty lucky with the battery life issue. “At the time, we had just filmed a local poker show and the poker folks had gotten 10 free cameras from ContourHD to use as pocket cams. We still had them at our office, so, we put them to good use. Some of the cams were mounted on trees, shovels, bikes, and remote control cars while others were just placed on the ground. Because they only had one hour of battery, we had to make sure that they were fully charged and turned on right before he arrived. One of my favorite moments of the whole video was when he yells "I FEEL SWEET" after putting on his redneck outfit. The craziest thing about that is that the camera's battery died immediately after he said it. So we got super lucky to capture that moment.”
I asked Dan whether Colin was OK with having his bachelor party documented via video for public posterity. “It was all a big surprise for him, so he didn't really have a choice with getting filmed. Being film nerds, we just kind of did it. As the details of the day evolved, it seemed everything was going to be epic enough to want to capture for posterity and we knew that if we did it right, he would really enjoy the final product. “
For Colin, the day started as a big surprise after a mediocre night out. According to Dan, “He knew that we were doing something that specific weekend and three of us actually brought him to Dave & Busters the night before to try to throw him off a bit. He acted excited (…and we definitely had a good time), but when the night was over, I think he was expecting a bit more.”
“So, the next morning Dana was waiting at the foot of his bed when he woke up with a breakfast sandwich, a joint, handcuffs, and a blindfold. We just started filming him as soon as he had the handcuffs and blindfold on and he just went with the flow.”
Part of the magic of How to Throw a Bachelor Party is the simplicity and silliness of the day. At its core, it’s really just a group of Bros Broing out together in the woods, "acting like idiots." What's shown is far from the over-the-top, glamorized, drunken Hollywood’s cliché of a bachelor party. You know, the one ends up with half the wedding party making poor life/financial decisions in a casino, proceeded even poorer ones in a titty bar. Dan explains bachelor party theme was partly because of a zen-like mantra peppered into the film’s narration: “We need more dirt in our lives.”
“Colin’s only request for his bachelor party was ‘games,’ so that led us down the path of the Redneck Olympics. At the time, our friend Matt Behan was living on a big piece of property down a strange backroad and it was the perfect place to set up a Redneck Olympics. Colin is a very active big fella, so, we knew that we could get pretty creative. This definitely took a lot of effort and time, but it was totally worth it. “
No bachelor party is complete without alcohol, but the drinking actually didn’t start until “all gun-related activities were behind us.”
“One of the first things that we did as a group (this didn't make the video) was shoot a 9mm at a paper target,” Dan explained, “so, needless to say, we waited [to drink]. We did have a keg on ice in the woods during the Redneck Olympics, but the real drinking definitely started on the boat. The Behan family was generous/brave enough to let us borrow the boat and go to Block Island. It was a beautiful day weather-wise and Block Island is pretty much a boozing paradise during the summer, so we ended up at a few bars that night. Even did some karaoke along the way. By the time we were lighting fireworks off the boat at 3 AM, everyone was good and liquored up. I'm sure that the rest of the people sleeping on their boats in the quiet harbor were happy to have us as their floating neighbors that night.”
Not all of the antics at Colin’s bachelor party made it into the video. There was a brief second when the afternoon flirted with disaster:
“The one that really sticks out is a near-brush with cosmic calamity involving rock and slingshot. During the "slingshot destruction" activity, we were giddily firing rocks at breakable objects hung from trees in the woods. Our friend Ethan decided to put an eight-inch craggy stone into the slingshot and do some real damage. He pulled the slingshot back as far as it could go and released. The problem was that the rock got stuck in the pouch on the way out and instead came flying backwards at a really dangerous trajectory, nearly missing Dana's brother's face and hitting Ethan squarely in his meaty shoulder. Everybody dropped the slingshots and froze immediately, knowing that the day almost took a terrible turn. Then, because slingshots were suddenly dangerous, we all started giddily throwing the rocks instead to break the remaining lamps.”
Things also got hilariously hairy when marking Colin's scavenger hunt:
“Another: When I was running down the road, spraying arrows for the scavenger hunt. I got bored with drawing arrows and, instead, decided to add a few giant directional penises in the mix. Once Colin was in the woods doing the scavenger hunt, I was walking down the road, looking like a sweaty terrorist with my backpack of supplies, and a pickup truck pulled up with a few real life rednecks inside. I don't think that they were as amused as I was by my penis drawings on their street. He rolled down the window and said to me ‘Are y'all drawing dicks on my driveway?’”
“At the time, I was confident that ‘marking paint’ was only temporary. So I laughed it off and assured them that the next rainstorm would wash it away. Turns out ‘marking paint’ is insanely permanent. Later that week, we even tried to spray paint over it with ‘road’-colored spray paint. But somehow years later those dicks are still pretty visible.
Ask any guy, say, over the age of 26, about what it's like to grow-up. Compared to people their junior, they will sigh about "being too old for this shit" or "not being a spring chicken anymore." It's all bullshit, of course, but there's something to it. Perhaps the greatest psychological dissonance a Bro over a certain age will eventually cope with is the idea that a his younger glory days are in the rearview mirror. Being 23 again starts sounding a lot more awesome at, say, 28, than 23 sounded at age 20. After college, priorities evolve, careers blossom, ambitions are rearranged, friends get married, and life situations, ultimately, change. Seeing your buddies on a Friday night and acting "like an idiot" with them – then laughing about it over beers around a campfire on Saturday night – gives way to Friday evening trips to the grocery store, mid-week camping sessions with your colleagues in the conference room, and an 11PM bedtime, just so you have the energy to juggle all those hoops in the air.
This is why perhaps the part of How to Throw a Bachelor Party that resonates the loudest comes in the film’s third act, the Baptism. Dan explains why it was so important to include it:
“After we added in the bit about getting older and busier, we definitely second-guessed ourselves thinking that it might be too preachy. But in the end, I am really glad that we went for it because I really think that it helped to drive home the point that even though it looks like a bunch of bros doing dumb shit, these fleeting moments between friends are special. And worth pursuing.”
Damn. Ain't that the truth?
I can't imagine what it was like for Colin to finally see this video for the very first time. I didn't even know these people and I walked away with such a strong, visceral reaction. The intensity of it all, when personalized beyond a metaphor, had to be surreal. Dan explains how they eventually debuted it to him:
"It was an amazing feeling to finally show him the video. We got together at Dana's to watch it on a projector screen after a night out at the bars. Before playing the video, I remember Colin looking at the duration, and being so excited that it was eight minutes long. Eight minutes to relive one of the best days ever. When we played it, it was so loud with us shouting and laughing that when it ended, Ethan yelled, "AGAIN!!" and we played it a second time and some of the more subtle points sunk in a bit more. I think we made the big fella tear up just a little bit. He's a pretty emotional dude, so it really was a pleasure to try to blow his mind with an experience like that."
But is it?
By its very definition, a bachelor party is a fleeting, ephemeral event. It exists as a cathartic release for grown men to cling on to the very last vestiges of youth.
By the clausal laws of the universe, such an event simply must co-exist with another, perhaps more grandiose phenomena, like spring's rainy transition into the halcyon sunshine of summer. An epic bachelor party, like many things in life, is not necessarily the destination. Really it's just a pit stop -- a brilliant and amusing momentary diversion -- on the road to a place even more special: