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‘On the Lot’: Zack Stops Time

Still from Zack, Sam, and Adam's Time Out.Courtesy of Fox

Finally, some onscreen magic from the neophyte directors of On the Lot! We're not just talking about Zack, Sam, and Adam's effects-heavy short Time Out, about a couple whose argument in a shop literally stops time. We're talking about the effect Time Out had on the screening room full of contestants: audible gasps, applause, and wide-eyed worry about how the other filmmakers could ever measure up. And they couldn't, not last night, at least; Time Out was so much better than the other shorts we saw — not just in Zack's special effects, but in overall concept, storytelling, and tone — that the threesome immediately established themselves as the directors to beat.

They've already beaten Hannah from North Carolina and Jeff from Ohio, who both took the fall for their teams' inability to get along. Neither was blameless. Sure, Hannah had to deal with the incoherent Kenny, but she failed to take control of her own shoot and therefore paid for Kenny's mistakes. And sure, Jeff had Marty on set passive-aggressively refusing to help, but Jeff was the most annoying guy imaginable — he even exclaimed, last week, "Brett Ratner! He makes the kinds of films I want to make!"

And how was ol' Brett Ratner last night? Joined again by Carrie Fisher, but with Jon Avnet replacing Garry Marshall, Ratner didn't get much screen time but did have a choice moment when he told one filmmaking trio, "I thought this film was a perfect example of style over substance." On the Lot's editors made this seem like a snub, but we can only imagine that Ratner followed his statement with a hearty "Good job!"

For their next project, the contestants — working now on little sleep in over 48 hours — have an hour to shoot a page of dialogue. Presumably we'll see more on Monday, because last night all we saw was Claudia from Italy dicking around for her first 31 minutes without managing to get a single shot. And next week the show's normal format — in which we'll likely see more films and meet more contestants — kicks in, which can only help matters. But last night's episode was a step in the right direction.