Pre-Production of the Pre-Production

Episode 5 is in the works, and by that I mean I’m routinely thinking about the story that it will be. A sharp contrast for this episode is the preparatory steps I am taking before the script is even written. Following this episode I want to begin pushing out new short films more rapidly.

Currently I am developing a basic familiarity with Pro Tools. This software is the “industry standard” for sound mixing on Hollywood films. The biggest criticism I’ve received regarding my films is the audio quality. I have repeated recorded dialogue with too low of a gain setting and spent way too much time trying to fix it in post production. But in order to really make this upcoming episode something special, I want to piece together professional sounding audio. Not only will this give viewers an opportunity to hear the film in surround sound, but a proper understanding of audio mixing will prepare me for publishing to different platforms. Many have different recommendations for audio levels.

Another major goal for my future productions is to publish the video to different platforms, possibly even streaming services. I want to move toward monetization of some sort this year. As I’ve discussed previously, I am extremely limited in where I can publish my videos if I do not own the rights to the music, score, and sound effects.

Beyond the audio issue is the gear issue. I intend to purchase a second camera, a new microphone, and possibly some acoustic pads or something that will help improve the audio of my recordings. But this stuff is boring and not a major road block.

The part that I am most uncertain about is the location. I already know I would like episode 5 to take place inside a large-scale building. Possibly a warehouse or something like an old hotel. I envision the plot will revolve around my character attending something similar to an AA meeting where he attempts to move beyond his fascination with a cult that supposedly doesn’t exist.

I currently have no connections or prospects for the filming location I am imagining. I’m start to chat with different people and explore different ways of how I can approach a business owner about using their location for 2 days. I am engaging in my second ever zoom meeting with my local film group this morning and will ask them for their insights/ideas.

I am very excited about episode 5. I know it is taking long for me to get started but that’s not without good reason. If I have to choose between producing fast and producing quality I will always choose quality. There is a time when it’s most important to get something out there, but I feel as though I’m beyond that. I plan to improve each time I put something together. By learning how to navigate through Premiere Pro, After Effects, and soon Pro Tools, I don’t see why I won’t be able to create short films that are good enough to entertain viewers, rather than simply amuse them.

Hope you all enjoy your Sunday. With each day comes the opportunity to learn something new – and the joy of improvement will always outlast the vanity of fulfillment.

Desire compels but delay gratifies

Whether you are selling a product, an idea, or yourself you should always consider the promise you are making to the consumer. The promise is a sense of fulfillment pertaining to a desire. Because my passion is film (and more specifically story) I’m going to apply these traits to different genres to better demonstrate my point.

The human mind has the capability to understand and recall extremely vast amounts of data and complex systems. Doing this requires work, however, and is no different than embarking on a vigorous workout. Certain people enjoy performing challenging physical activities for the purpose of improved physical health but they are in the minority. Despite our ability to push beyond conventional boundaries it will always be a mistake to expect or even ask this out of your consumer. In other words, any product that requires hours to study the manual, any book that necessitates undivided focus for its labyrinth of plot, and any song that requests more patience and a unique taste from its listener will all struggle to gain any traction whatsoever.

Just because we can be better, stronger, smarter, more ethical and less lazy doesn’t mean that we want to – or ever will be. Our minds are electric and they seek the path of least resistance.

You can argue about the above information all day. You can say its a reflection on modern day reality and the dangers of the informational age. You can say all of that but it won’t change anything.

I think the greatest way to analyze human behavior is through the convention of religion. Since the dawn of mankind man has understood himself to fall short of where he ought to be. In each of us is the desire to be better, but in each of us is the desire to do things that harm ourselves and others. This battle is known as temptation.

David Fincher will be remembered as one of the greatest directors of all time. He has directed Fight Club, Zodiac, The Social Network, and too many other great movies to list. When asked for his secret to success, he stated something so unusual that I still find myself contemplating it daily. David Fincher stated he had made a career out of the belief that “People are perverts.”

After a quote like that you would expect his films to be almost pornographic in nature, or at the very least heavy with sex. Instead, David Fincher tends to direct psychological thrillers that are not heavy with nudity or innuendo (those these items are still present). So how did this saying shape his career?

In my opinion, I don’t believe he used the word pervert to specifically refer to sexual deviancy. I believe he meant the image of a person watching his neighbor through a crack in their blinds. Our desire for anonymity during our private hours is obvious, as no person enjoys airing their dirty laundry in front of others. We have an intrinsic desire to watch what others do in private without our presence ever being detected.

What did all this have to do with the topic of the post? I don’t know man, I just finished my work week and I went off on a tangent. But here is a short summary of things we watch or take part in and the underlying emotional experience we are looking for when we do:

  1. Religion – hope
  2. Hip hop – power, confidence, rebellion
  3. Thriller – Anxiety, discomfort, an escape from our personal problems
  4. Romance – Love, contentment, realization that our own lives are worthy of enjoyment
  5. Jewelry – To be perceived by others as beautiful, wealthy, and special

The list goes on and on and exists in every facet of everything. But just as important as it is to understand what the consumer/viewer/reader/listener desires when they choose to give your product/composition a chance, it’s equally important to understand the nature of tension. I guess that brings us back to the beginning of this post – realizing temptation drives us. Look at the opposite of the product’s promise to discover the driving force.

  1. Religion – hope (build up fear to fulfill)
  2. Hip Hop – Power, confidence, rebellion – how do these songs often start? With a story about former poverty, rejection, and the collective “in” crowd the artist was formerly rejected by.
  3. Thriller – Anxiety, discomfort, escape – Begin with complacency and happiness. Engage the viewer to subconsciously root for tragedy by waving “the good life” in front of their face. In other words, bring out the feelings of envy before delivering the promise of fear, doubt, and worry that many fans of this genre are actually accustomed to in their daily lives.
  4. Romance – Before we can arrive at happiness and contentment, the journey must include dabbling in all other potential avenues for life and relationships. That is why the lead in this story has one love interest and one sociological interest. It is also why they are typically between jobs or considering their passion over a guaranteed paycheck.
  5. Jewellery, elitism, fine dining, sports cars, etc. – the promise is a sense of importance and elevation from those around you. What is the fear that drives this decision? It is a club. You can either afford it or you can’t, and those who can’t aren’t welcome. This sense of exclusion is necessary for they types of individuals and products. VIP, limited availability, invitation only, these all sell and generate interest based off of this idea. In the form of a movie, Ocean’s Eleven comes to mind. The actors are all A-list and good looking, but it goes well beyond that. The story is fast paced, the lines are quick-witted, and the non-main characters are always dumber than our heroes. There are countless comedies that are similar to this as well. Think of any movie that you’d be comfortable recommending to a group of friends to view despite having no interest in watching it yourself. That is a story that exudes a sense of cultural value and supremacy much like products we can wear or be transported in.

Anyways, today is my drinking day so I’ve got to get to work. I know this post was all over the place and haphazardly put together but I wanted to get something out. I’d like to go into more detail and expand on these ideas and theories sometime in the near future. Have a peaceful morning.

Individual vs Group

Microcosm vs Macrocosm. Small pond vs the sea.

Before we begin our stories we imagine the message we want to convey. All too often we become wrapped up in a plot that is beyond our level of expertise. It doesn’t matter what your main character’s daily life consist of. If the experience is not authentic to your own, you will have readers and viewers that immediately dismiss the reality you’ve tried to reproduce. You can do all the research you want but authenticity cannot be duplicated. I want you to think about an experience/job/cultural perspective that is unique to yourself. I’m sure there are many secrets about that experience that those on the outside will not be able to find in any book no matter how hard they look. You can reproduce the jargon, but even that has its own intricacies.

I don’t mean to suggest you should abandon research on the story you would like to tell. For some this may be the primary motive of the project in the first place – to learn more about a subject that highly interests you. I am sure this was a major factor in Dan Brown’s novels. Then again, his wife was a well-educated art historian.

The significance of the title here is that thinking on smaller terms can enable you to convey the message you would like to get across while working within the resources available to you. Television and movie productions that deal with real life stories have a tremendous budget behind them. When Stanly Kubrick aimed to write a film about Napolean, he had an entire team assemble so much research that he could figure out what Napolean was doing during any given day of his life.

Let’s pretend you’re currently preoccupied with the covid-19 pandemic and its response. The message you would like to express is that illness strikes those who approach it with blatant dismissiveness.

On a macro level, this project would require you to consider the roles of politicians, celebrities, foreign governments, and statistics regarding the most adversely effected populations. You can find a lot of information online, but along your journey you realize you need one of your main characters to be a politician, another one is a reporter in a foreign nation, and another is a dementia patient/family member confined to a nursing home. You sit in front of your laptop and cannot even write a sentence because you are not sure how the regular life of a high-profile politician would even begin.

But let’s take these same power dynamics and apply it on a smaller scale. Your main character is a middle-aged female who lives in the suburbs (something relatable for you, the writer). They begin with the assumption that the covid-19 illness is not as bad as its made out to be. The main character’s husband, however, is deathly afraid and paranoid about getting the virus. He is a clean freak.

So we have our relatable characters who are easy to write and flesh out. You know who else could fit a character that has a lot of power and influence on this small scale? The media. That’s right – the newspaper, the online forums, the cable news network. You don’t need to dive inside their personal lives to be affected by their influence. So we make the regular news headlines and their arc a significant portion of the story.

Who else holds power? Maybe someone the main character looks up to. It could be a secret crush on a local small business owner who refuses to comply with the government shutdown. Maybe we watch his character change as he sees his customers become affected by the virus. Or maybe he doesn’t change, but the main character’s opinion of him and his reckless abandonment does.

So now we have 2 power influences that add to our story and reinforce/reflect its overall message. Perhaps the 3rd major character is based on our hero’s private ambition and subplot. The job they loved that they are prevented from returning to, or the fetus she carries inside her that is approaching delivery.

As a low budget filmmaker, I cannot emphasize enough about the importance of knowing your resources. I firmly believe the time you have each day for writing should be 90-95% devoted to crafting a compelling story. That is hard enough. The irony of doing all the research necessary to craft a story on a large scale is that it can only be as compelling as the story itself. Nobody who reads fiction is looking to read a manual. As a filmmaker it would be lovely to write scenes that include limousines, press conferences, and a large gallery of extras. The reality is I do not have the funding to make those scenes appear realistic. Rather than crafting a story that looks ridiculous when a green screen inevitably comes into play, I’d much rather write to the resources I have at my disposal.

Hope this helps in some way or another. Enjoy your morning and may you find your peace.

Translation of the Intuition

One of the most captivating stories about art for me has always been a short monologue from the television show Lost. In fact, it was after watching this show that I decided I wanted to become a writer myself. The story comes from Season 1, Episode 13:

In summary, the character of John Locke informs another character that the artist Michelangelo would regularly contemplate the art piece he was going to create before he ever began his work.

Now I cannot verify the authenticity of this story, but I can tell you I spent some time in my younger days reading the journals of Michelangelo and he regularly spoke about interpreting the intuition correctly. He used a different, beautiful word to describe it, but I can’t seem to find that specific word anywhere else today.

I once heard a phrase at a writers convention used to describe the most necessary asset of any writer. The phrase was “You must hear the music.” The speaker stated that if you cannot hear the music, you cannot write. This is to say that story is born from within, possibly a communication with the divine, and cannot be manufactured by the mere understanding of plot devices.

Furthermore, I believe the shared love of writing comes from this introspection and communication with the most innate part of our being. What is up for discussion is whether this communication is with a divine force or with the deepest parts of our subconscious.

I have previously written about the mathematics of writing, which I believe is a more logical and human way to interpret story. What I am writing about today deals more with the creative and spiritual side of the artistic process. Both are integral to the formation of any artistic composition, regardless of the medium. There are songs that are played perfectly that are soulless. There are books and movies that hit every conceivable plot point that fail to leave an emotional impact. The inability to recognize the role of intuition in art is why I believe so many incredible teachers fall short of creating a masterful artistic piece themselves.

The question has existed since the dawn of man, regardless of its external expression. It is a concept we grapple with on a daily basis during our interactions with other, with ourselves, and with the world around us:

“Do I look to the teachings of others to guide my life, or do I rely on the intuition within to direct my path?”

Of course the answer is a balance, but not in the way we typically understand balance. It is not 50/50 but a systemic process in of itself. It is the process of creation.

Before we begin work on our artistic composition, and sometimes before we even know how to work within that medium, we already have a dormant vision of the product we would like to produce.

It is naive to think we can ever ignore the realities of the physical realm.

The job of the artist is to perceive the intuitive vision with as much clarity as possible before applying human mechanics to bring it to the physical realm. A human being is more than it’s consciousness and spirituality. It has a skeleton, muscle, fat and hair. Each of these bodily systems is incredibly detailed and infinitely vast.

The more physical skills we accumulate that apply to our medium the more life we can bring to the existence of our vision.

If we are to take the clip posted above seriously and assume the story is true, we can also take the leap of assumption to interpret what gears were turning in Michelangelo’s head each day.

Not only do we seek to see the vision more clearly but we must prepare ourselves for how we can properly shape it into physical existence. It is one thing to see the curves of our future statue, it is another to know the tools and techniques required to shape those curves in accordance with its envisioned form.

Even with writing, we may start with an image in our minds along with a compelling emotion. It is the writer’s duty to find the words to describe that image precisely and build up the emotional stakes, tension, and payoff to fulfill the movement in the viewer we wish to produce.

The final movement in the viewer should be as close as possible to the movement that originally captivated and impassioned the artist themselves to reproduce that feeling. Our ability to translate the original vision for the impact of others will be the invisible measuring rod that defines the quality of our art.

Looking Ahead

Now that Episode 4 has been out and available for close to a month, I’m excited to begin working on Episode 5.

There are some new challenges, however, and as always there is more for me to learn.

I have been contacted by one online streaming service that would like to show my content to their viewers. This deal features the potential for monetization, which is obviously exciting news.

The major dilemma I am facing is that the current episode features soundtracks from Epidemic Sound. Epidemic sound licenses songs from artists to be featured on youtube. I am not permitted to publish my content on other websites without upgrading my subscription. I have been informed that it would cost me $500 a month to purchase this license. I would consider such a business transaction to be a “bad deal.”

I have been in touch with a music composer who is willing to score the episode and am currently considering this option. Taking this avenue would also enable me to publish episode 4 as a video rental on Amazon. Personally, I am thinking I might be better off waiting until episode 5 is complete before publishing on Amazon. My ability as a filmmaker continues to improve and I have large ambitions for the next episode.

Another major concern is the audio of Episode 4. I have written on here before about my shortcomings and obstacles that came with the dialogue featured in Episode 4. I would have to thoroughly clean that up before I posted the content to Amazon. I don’t know if that is possible due to the recording errors that were made during production. Ultimately, I do not want anything coming from TMWproductions to appear amateur as I move to new outlets. It is not about racing to monetization for me. It is about producing a professional product that viewers will enjoy watching. I would feel like a thief if I began making money on a product that is not satisfying for the customer.

Once I make some of these decisions about episode 4, I can begin work on episode 5. I’m going to start by figuring out a location. I would like the majority of episode 5 to take place in a relatively large and open building that I can film in 1-2 days. This will take a ton of preparation and pre-production planning.

In order to finance the film, I will have to return to working more overtime (I have been slacking). I already anticipate purchasing a:

  1. 2nd camera to maximize continuation for each take
  2. A better microphone
  3. Lighting Equipment
  4. Something to improve the recording quality of audio. I am completely new to this area of set design and must expand my knowledge.
  5. Any props that will be required.

The two actors I have asked to return have already stated they are willing. I’d be privileged to have the entire cast back for the next episode, however, I prefer to write the script first. I do not wish to request them back only for them to find out I have filmed the episode without them.

Anyways, these are just a few of the things that have been on my mind lately. I’ve spent many a days being lazy and having nothing to do with the creation of future episodes. I am ok with this because once I get started the filmmaking process inevitably takes up all of my free time. One aspect I am looking forward to for the next episode will be fast edits. I have learned so much over the past year that I envision I will move much faster. The great bottleneck in this process will be audio, of course. In episode 5 I fully intend to provide crisp, clear dialogue that will require minimal editing effects. In order to do this I will have a lot to learn before I even start editing.

If you haven’t viewed episode 4 and would like to take a look, feel free to check it out below:

Mathematics of Writing

The key of “C”

The most popular chord progression in music theory is I – V – vi – IV. In the key of C major, this would translate to C, G, a minor, and F. The number of songs written with this progression is infinite.

There are 7 notes in a major scale. G major and F major are the greatest distance away from C in the key.

So how does this translate to mathematics, and more specifically writing?

It pertains to emotional movements. The more drastic the change in how our main character feels the more captivated the viewer will be.

It is easy to focus on exterior conflict and changes when we are crafting character arcs. What separates quality writing from dull exposition are these movements. The way that I imagine mathematics will become a common topic in the writing community over the next 10 years is that numbers will be applied to these emotions. Let’s create a an imaginary “emotional scale”, in the key of happy.

  1. happy
  2. excited
  3. nervous
  4. upset
  5. angry
  6. sad
  7. overwhelmed

Now we have our key. I would like to think “angry” is the furthest emotion away from “happy.” Let’s create a short practice scene and see how my theory plays out. In the following scene, we will move only 1 step – from happy to excited.

George gazed at the sunrise as he walked his dog and realized the weather was perfect. His phone rang – it was his crush, Tina.

Ok, so we moved one step. Now let’s do it again and move through a few steps in direct, sequential order.

George gazed at the sunrise in awe of the perfect day. His phone rang – it was his crush, Tina. As soon as he answered he felt a lump in his throat and struggled to speak.

“He-hello?” he muttered.

“Oh – I accidentally pocket dialed you. Sorry!” said Tina.

George mustered a fake laugh and said “No problem,” but it was already too late. Tina had hung up. George hurled the phone at the grass and paced in a semi-circle. It was then that he realized his relationship with her was dead and the flowers he had already ordered to her doorstep would go to waste.

Ok, so we have a bit of a story there, but it is entirely predictable and mundane. Now let’s craft a scene that begins and ends with happy but hits emotions randomly along the way.

George took in the sunrise as he inhaled the fresh morning air. His phone rang – it was Tina.

“What is wrong with you?” She said.

George collapsed to a seat on the park bench. “What do you mean?”

“Flowers?” said Tina. “Really, George?”

“I was trying to be a gentleman!” He shouted. George hung up the phone and stuffed it into his pocket. He smeared his face and stared out at a couple tossing a Frisbee for there German Shepard. The phone buzzed again – Tina was calling back.

“What?” Said George.

“I was playing with you… there beautiful and honestly I’ve never had any guy do anything like that for me before.”

“Really?” Said George with a smile.

“Yeah. They’re perfect.”

“Well, you’re welcome, I guess.”

“What are you doing later?” said Tina.

George sat back in the park bench and let out a heavy breath. He laughed as the couple ahead struggled to wrestle the Frisbee back.

Not sure about you, but for me the last scene was the most captivating. I feel that this number system will one day be common knowledge for writers and used to grade/review different works of fiction.

In my recent short film, I’m exceptionally proud of the emotional movements that were implemented in the climatic scene. If you don’t want to view the entire episode, feel free to jump to 15:36. I’ve timestamped it in the link below so that it will automatically begin there.

4 Official Selections

In honor of the four official selections Mountain Cult – Episode 4 has received so far, I’ve updated the thumbnail. In case you’re still on the fence about viewing it, I promise the episode gets better as it progresses.

In this episode, Ryan O’Hara is searching for the cult that kidnapped his wife at the same time they are searching for him.

The Valley of Shadows

You are on your way to that which you most desire. Every action you take, thought you hold onto, and decision you make is propelling you toward that goal. It should remain at the center of your life and be the driving force guiding your behavior and habits.

It is cumbersome to convince yourself that you are satisfied with mediocrity. It is comforting to assume the gatekeepers of the big and powerful systems would never accept someone like you. In order to avoid the disappointment of the future it is common to avoid the hope of the present.

But let me tell you why you shouldn’t.

Because this isn’t the first time you’ve been tempted by impossible stakes. There was a time where your very survival felt endangered. You knew that if you didn’t push harder than you thought was humanly possible you would fail – because that’s what every fiber of your being told you was true.

You will never pass that test. That person will never love you back, forgive you, or give a damn that you exists. That organization will never hire you, that home will never house you, that clothing will never fit you.

And if all this chatter brings to mind the thousands and thousands of failures that mark your human existence, I want you to look harder. Because you are continuing to let the impossible talk to you and refusing to see the hope it has wedged itself in front of. You don’t need a thousand examples of proof that the impossible voice is wrong – you need one. But the truly dangerous experience will come when you begin to hope and believe again. Because by the forces of positive habit you will see the wall of impossibility rapidly crumble into sand.

You are blind, but you will see. The battle begins today.

If you’d like to support my work, please take a minute to view our latest short film below:

It’s About You, Not Me

Damn I sure nailed the douche look.

That will be my general theme for making progress in 2021. It may sound like an accusation, but I promise you, it is not. But in order for this theme to take effect, it’s going to take some serious effort.

My current approach to social media, self promotion, and future plans have been centered around myself and my own ego. This isn’t inherently wrong, but it is inherently flawed. It is a result of following primal intellectual instincts rather than having the reservation to realize others don’t want to hear about me, they want to hear about themselves. We are all humans and at our core care about self-preservation above all else. Self preservation as it pertains to intellectual pursuits produces different responses to different stimuli.

If you ask another artist to view your work (and we are all artists of some form or another), they will compare it to their own. If you ask another artist to review your work, they will critique it. If another artist is envious of your work, they will look away. If another artist is unimpressed by your work, they will smile politely, nod, and forget they ever viewed that abysmal heap of shit.

So what is the answer? To recognize it is not about you, it is about them. Understand who you are communicating with and adjusts your message accordingly. If somebody else is producing works similar to your own they will be more receptive to viewing your work if you first take the time to view theirs (i.e., leaving a meaningful comment on another wordpress blog). If somebody else is a fan of work similar to their own, cater to their curiosity and provide a reasoning that will show them why they might enjoy your product (find a person who follows secret organizations and tell them you have made a web series about a secret organization).

In the current age of instant communication, meaningful relationships have fallen apart. Much of our days are spent staring at screen, pressing a button, and scrolling onward. Take the time to listen to what others have to say and demonstrate that their work has meaning to you. If you can spend the extra five minutes it take to do just this, you may begin creating a group that supports your work and genuinely hopes for you to succeed. If you “like” 1000 posts instead you will generate nothing more than you’ve given out – a thousand empty clicks – and nothing more.

Now for the real reason I made this post: