This week's guest judge Michael Bay added some star power to On the Lot and very clearly turned up the pressure for the remaining 15 contestants.
The plugs for Bay's new summer tentpole "Transformers" were pretty consistent, which underscored his heft in the biz that our hopefuls are trying to crack.
Format this week found five of the 15 -- Sam, Trever, Adam, Hilary and Shalini -- getting the chance to showcase their latest productions, three-minute shorts that had to be completed in five days, using mostly their own wits and connections for sets, actors, lighting, etc.
(pictured above: Adam, standing in back. L-R: Sam, Trever, Hilary and Shalini)
Sam Friedlander was first up with "Broken Pipe Dreams" a suspense thriller built around a man's battle with a commode and an errant engagement ring. Among the judges, Carrie Fisher was most enthusiastic. "I really liked that the hero was human and the adversary was a toilet," she said. Garry Marshall was OK with it but Bay had some issues with the character development or lack thereof. "I cared more about the fish than the guy," he said. (Watch the short at http://www.thelot.com/, you'll understand.)
Trever James, who was dubbed the show's "resident cutie" by host Adrianna Costa, screened "Teri," about an earnest young man's fears as he waits for a blind date. Fisher was again enthusiastic, Marshall not so much. Bay was again tough, suggesting that the "idea was a bit of a retread" and telling James to work on his photography.
Hilary Graham admitted upfront that she was very nervous about showing "The First Time I Met the Finkelsteins" after the judges' unanimously bad reaction to her first one-minute short, "Bus No. 1." She had reason to be. Judges were lukewarm at best to her bit about a woman meeting her boyfriends parents for the first time. Marshall at least complimented her writing but told her to "back up" on her camera work that was way too in-your-face for what was basically an extended dinner scene. Bay told her its "what we in Hollywood call a 'groaner.'"
Adam Stein's "Dough: the Musical" was well-received by the panel, just like his last effort, "Dance Man." Fisher raved about the musical farce about a lovelorn baker and a girl in need of a job. Bay was enthusiastic but suggested he work more on his visuals and his photography.
The loudest cheers were reserved for the last of the five contenders, Shalini Kantayya's "Laughing Out Loud, about an Indian comic coming to grips with his homosexuality. "In three minutes you told a very succinct story and you gave me a chill," Bay raved. "You have the most visual style of anyone here tonight."
We'll find out who gets eliminated out of this round next week after the call-in votes are tabulated. Among the judges, Fisher said her fave of the night was "Broken Pipe Dreams." Marshall's was "Dough; the Musical" "It made me hungry, he quipped. Bay liked "Laughing Out Loud."
The other 10 contestants were also polled. The majority favored "Laughing Out Loud." The group's least fave was "First Time I Met the Finkelsteins."