Free Write – 6/27/20

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I finally sat down and did some writing yesterday, about 730 words worth. I wanted to avoid it, contemplated the pointlessness of the task, but in the end – I did it.

It’s easy to get bogged down during any first draft. The amount of elements we learn to incorporate in an effective story is never ending – create a sympathetic protagonist, inciting incident, conflict, need/wants… it simply never ends.

They say you’re either a plotter or a planner. I’ve heard the great Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) has literally every major beat plotted out before he begins writing his script. Stephen King, on the other hand, is a notorious plotter.

I have to say I’m more of a plotter. When I sit down trying to plan out the story, I find myself dumbfounded and unable to create a sequence that will work once the writing begins.

What I’d really like to do with these short stories is experiment with different effects. I want to establish a character who experiences a fundamental arc that resonates with the reader and leaves an emotional impact along with a lesson learned.

The story I’m crafting currently is about internet dating and how artificial it is compared to real, genuine relationships. I’m not a hundred percent sold on the concept but it’s simple enough that I feel I can write it quickly without a momentous struggle.

But since this post is about “free write”, let me spontaneously move to another thought that’s been nagging at me – we’ll call it “intrinsic attraction.”

I’ll define intrinsic attraction as a primitive curiosity that subconsciously prompts us to investigate an issue. When you look at videos that “go viral” or news items that generate massive public response, I believe intrinsic attraction is the culprit. I also believe that when producers and publicists refer to the strength of a story’s premise, they are referring to the level of intrinsic attraction.

I think this is what a writer should look for before they begin writing any story. Does the subject itself generate interest? We’ve all seen videos on youtube with millions of views that feature nothing more than a rock being microwaved for 10 minutes. Why do we watch these? Because we want to see what happens.

I feel it’s much more difficult to find as captivating a premise for a story, but that’s the key to gaining views. I think the more ambiguous you can make your stance as the story teller, the more intrigued the reader will become to find out what agenda is at play through the unfolding of your story. If you can find a controversial issue and keep the reader guessing at what you think, this intrinsic attraction will generate a viewer response to engage in your material.

I don’t think I’ve found the answer to this with my current story, at least not yet. I need to put a twist on it or else the reader will enter the story already knowing the answer – internet dating is not as true and reliable as a person in the flesh. I should also clarify what I mean by internet dating – I’m referencing the short term experiences made by online interactions that do not manifest into real world meetings.

I’m going to do more thinking in this area, but of course I’m open to suggestions. Thanks for taking the time to read this and feel free to share your thoughts.

Eternal Stagnation – 6/26/20

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I swear that sock on the ground makes the whole room look 10X more sloppy

I’ve been stuck for a while. I’ve been lazy, weak, and mostly apathetic.

I have a one track mind and an extraordinarily difficult time focusing on tasks that are unrelated. My girlfriend and I have been actively searching for a new place to live for the past month. Finding the right location, price, and environment has proved an unrewarding and unending quest. I knew that if I began filming episode 4 before we made our decision I would get too distracted from this endeavor, so I put the project on hold. But according to my most recent findings, we won’t be able to move in to a decent apartment until August.

Another obstacle for me has been participation – I desperately want to begin making short films with real actors – people who show up, know their lines, and are inherently excited to be a part of the project. But to get real actors I have to market myself as a professional and reach out through some kind of casting website. Maybe even offer a daily pay rate.

So I signed up for Actors Access. I’m still not ready to cast any roles, so in the meantime I’m offering up my own acting services and submitting for some auditions. I’m hoping to work with other low budget creators and find out if they’d be willing to collaborate in my own projects. I don’t mind working for free.

But another item that has been at the forefront of my mind is money. I work a full time job that pays good enough. But I truly believe getting paid for your creative work is a huge separator between a hobbyist and a professional. I want to find ways to make money in this field. The major motivating factor for me is any funds I make doing film related work can then be dumped back into future projects. For example, a lot of roles on Actors Access pay $100-$200 a day. If I can get a role that pays $200, I could afford to pay 4 actors $50 each for my own low budget production. A more accessible way for me to make money would be to build film dollies that I sell for $100. I could sell them on Craigslist to start.

The third and final way that I’m giving serious consideration is short stories.  I could write 30 page stories and sell them on amazon for $1 each. I think that’s a worthy value and would be much less time consuming than self publishing a 350 page novel that sells for $2.99.

Anyways, these are my thoughts. I’m trying hard to get off my ass and create again. I’ve been consumed with work and picking up extra shifts. It’s funny, making money really isn’t that difficult if you make it your number one goal. But then, as I’ve found over the past month, you begin trading your time away. Time is really all we have here.

In all the hours that I’ve worked, I’ve never left with the high that comes from diving into the thick of an intuitive plot development, or finding a new chord progression on my guitar, or even editing a sequence for a short film. I guess what I’m saying is you suffer daily to buy yourself time to do what you want to do. We each choose how we spend our time and money, but somewhere in that freedom to choose there is a call to action. I think I’ve missed that call too many times too count, so this time I’m going to answer.

Hermeneutics – 6/8/20

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I re-watched an awesome video that I’ve linked to below. It’s the first of a 3 part series concerning Christopher Nolan’s philosophy. How the creator knows that Christopher Nolan crafts his stories according to the philosophies he mentions, I do not know. Chris Nolan may not even know what Hermeneutics is, for all I know. Nonetheless part 1 has most captivated my interested.

Wisecrack, the creator of the video(more specifically written by Tommy Cook and researched by Austin Smidt), discusses a subject called Hermeneutics – the theory and methodology of interpretation. The video argues that Christopher Nolan applied this theory to films such as Following, Memento, and The Prestige.

Hermeneutics can be observed in regular life with regards to news articles, biblical passages, or honestly any form of information. We collectively interpret news articles with polar opposite degrees of satisfaction and disdain. According to the above video, Christopher Nolan applies hermeneutics to his films in a unique way – His protagonist changes his emotional interpretation of the same information at different points in the story.

In Memento, the protagonist views pictures with accompanying notes as clues he’s written to enable his damaged mind to hunt down his wife’s killer. At the end of the film, it is revealed that he created the puzzle of photos and notes to avoid feeling the pain of realizing that he was the one who actually killed her. That is emotionally impactful due to its irony. I feel this is genius, and an incredible tool to strengthen your storytelling ability. It is almost enough to build the foundation for a character arc all by itself.

Let’s create a 1 paragraph story to see how this might play out:

After the disappearance of his son, Bob discovers an ownerless dog who barks at him. The dog appears starving, homeless, and alone. Bob takes the dog in, feeds it daily, and gradually the dog transforms into a healthy, loving, joyful spirit. One day Bob walks the dog past his angry neighbor’s home. The angry neighbor’s jaw drops – he tells Bob he needs to give up the dog. Skeptical and cocky, Bob replies to him that there’s no way in hell he’d listen to his grumpy ass about anything. Then the neighbor tells Bob that the dog was formerly his until the day he found it tearing the corpse of Bob’s son to pieces. The neighbor left the dog in the streets and never spoke of the matter to anyone.

Do you feel how powerful that is? The dog hasn’t changed – it’s still as fun loving and playful as it’s ever been since Bob took care of it. But we desperately want to know what happens next. Why? Because Bob’s next decision will determine his character. More importantly, you are waiting to judge Bob based on what he does next. As a writer, here are the conflicts you will have to resolve –

1.) What do we do with the dog – kill it? Forgive it? Blow off this new information as nonsense?

2.) What about the neighbor? Call the cops? Kill him? Assume he’s lying? Investigate for the truth? Figure out an alternative reason he’s telling us this?

All of this conflict is strictly internal. Bob’s next course of action will determine his character – who he is. The heroic course of action depends on the viewer – It doesn’t really matter what Bob decides, his decision will ultimately alienate a certain audience while fortifying the support of another audience. That’s what news articles do – they are designed to showcase an event that will capture the judgment of our core values.

Anyways, I’m in love with this new writing tool. I hope you see the value in it as well, because I have yet to read about it in the many books on story telling I’ve devoured.  I can’t wait to incorporate it in my next episode of Mountain Cult. Play around with it and let me know what you think. In the meantime, feel free to check out episode 3.

 

Running a Meetup Group – 5/29/20

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If you’re looking for helpful advice on how to run a meetup group, this post isn’t for you.

So this is pretty much a lazy bull shit post so I urge you not to read further, I just think I need to get in the habit of posting regularly again. For Mountain Cult I don’t really have anything to do until I secure a location for episode 4.

Ok, so here’s what I did – I realized I new very few people interested in filmmaking, and in particular acting, and also saw that my local area did not have any local groups that would serve my interest. So I launched my own – the Riverside Film Network.

Well, guess what – the corona virus has had this strange effect on people where they don’t really leave their homes or go out in public places. So the first 2 meetings I had with the group were suggestions to create a short youtube video, which one lady kindly did. Also my good friend joined the group and created one, but that was just to troll me.

Now that the covid-19 lockdown is winding down, I’m preparing to announce our first meet up. I’m pretty excited about the possibilities of the group, but also apprehensive. I don’t want to be the constant driving force behind a group if the participation is insignificant. At the same time, however, I am the one who started the group, so it’s success/failure is largely on my shoulders.

Do you have any experience with meetup? If you are a writer I highly suggest you join one. Being in a public group is a great way to motivate you to continue striving toward your goal and is the first step in networking regarding your specific interest.

Ok, that’s it. Here’s my stupid ass short film if you haven’t seen it yet. God knows I’ve posted this thing enough times already.

Going through changes – 5/28/20

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This goat has nothing to do with this post.

Been back on “the grind”, as they like to say, promoting my latest youtube video and liking and subscribing like a mad lad. I’ve been using discord for the first time in my life, which I predict will become the next social media giant because it is an awesome, and largely unknown, platform for social media promotion.

I’ve surpassed 200 views and am rapidly approaching 250. That is no small achievement for me, laughable as it may be, for I had to work 3 times harder to get 100 views on earlier videos. I’m proud to say I feel that it has been easier to promote due to being a better quality video than the previous.

After a week of stepping away from the series in aspects of production, I’m ready to begin preparing for episode 4. I have 5 actors who are willing to perform a role in the upcoming episode, which is awesome because I’ve previously had a very difficult time convincing friends their involvement will not result in shaming their family and hiding their faces in public.

I’ve purchased lighting equipment and 2 realistic looking bb guns. I’d like to order more guns, but amazon refuses to ship bb guns in california due to new legislation banning the kind I am looking for (I’m not a big gun rights activist but I think this is stupid as shit). For now that’s a minor problem, but the real issue is –

Location. I want a headquarters to call home for the cult members. Me and my girlfriend just happen to be searching for a new apartment to rent. She doesn’t know it yet, but I’m going to be making my decision based on which will be the best for me to film in HAHAHA (if you’re reading this I love you and I’m sorry).

So that brings me to the “going through changes” thing. I can’t really focus on developing the next episode until I have my locations squared away. I already have a vision for the basic plot of episode 4, but being an ultra low budget production I have to utilize my resources first. I’ll save the airplane crash until episode seven thousand.

As a side note, I have been doing some thinking about how I can challenge my main character and make his plight more interesting. He is a man struggling with sanity in a quest to find his missing wife. His core belief appears to be that trusting anybody is a mistake. I need to introduce a new character who will challenge that core belief, and I need to produce some changes in him to create more depth. I also want to introduce the idea of fun into the story, because I believe that’s why we enjoy stories – we want to feel a sense of joy. We turn to thrillers because we want to sense fear and suspense, sure – but we also want simulate the experience of hanging out with a friend. That’s why we turn to stories when we’re down.

Anyways, just thought I’d throw an update out there mixed with some ramblings. I hope you’re having a great week. If you haven’t checked out the show yet, feel free to watch episode 3 below.

Intermission – 5/23/20

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After posting episode 3 and marketing it over the past few days, I’m feeling much better than I did during my last post. I’ve gathered over 180 views on it, which for me is a remarkable feat. If you’ve been following me for a bit, you’d remember that I ordered all my equipment, built a camera, and started learning about filmmaking earlier this year. So I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for each new youtue subscriber I have gotten.

Since episode 3 is wrapped up, I’m taking a short break before I begin writing and organizing for episode 4. A major reason for that is me and my girlfriend are looking for a new apartment to rent. Unbeknowst to her, that apartment is going to be used as the “cult” headquarters in my future videos.

I also did some amazon shopping in preparation for episode 4. I’ve purchased a bb gun that looks so damn real I’m afraid to bring it out into public. I also got a second a hard drive, which I finally installed today. Yet to be opened is my new lavalier microphone, which will allow me to record a back up audio track and record audio in shots where it is difficult to hide my current condenser mic. I also purchased a second lens – a sigma 30mm. It’s in the box and I can’t wait to try it out.

There are a couple decisions weighing me down currently. For one thing, my current hard drive and NVME card is nearly full. I’d like to delete all my stored footage, but once I do that I will lose the ability to edit my past projects. Because the story is loosely adhering to a feature length screenplay structure, I’m hesitant to lose that ability. If I go back to my first two episodes, I will be able to improve the coloring and clean up the audio. I can then edit out a few of the credits and combine the clips to create the first 20 minutes of a feature length movie. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to market it for distribution at some point.

Anyways, these are my thoughts. Hope you have a great weekend and stays tuned for more updates.

Burnt out – 5/22/20

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After weeks of locking myself up and editing a stupid phone screen to make it look black, I completed episode 3. I’m tired as shit, void of sleep, and genuinely sick of promoting the stupid video.

I’m proud of how it turned out – it’s easily the best thing I’ve put together. Ok, it’s not great, nothing special, whatever…. I built a dolly, learned how to color grade, and discovered some new editing techniques to create some low budget “special effects”.

I apologize to all 3 of the people out there who may have been following my blog post. I had to stop posting on here because editing was eating up ALL of my off duty time. Now that the video is completed, and posted, I should be able to interact again more regularly.

I’m already looking forward to the following episode (I’m not burnt out from filmmaking, mind you) and have a handful of actors who are supposedly willing to perform. I have a great idea for the next episode, I just want to make certain I have my resources all lined up before I type out the story.

This weekend I plan to promote the video. It is such a pain in the ass to go through different social media platforms yelling at people to “look at my work! Check it out!” but someone has to do it. Since you have a wordpress account, you’re probably already aware of that.

I just wanted to stop by here and vent out all my frustrations because I know that’s the type of content you signed up for. What better way to start your morning than to listen to someone gripe about stupid shit. I always end my post with “anyways” and even that annoys me right now.

Anyways, I posted the video down below in case you wanted to check it out. Feel free to almost click play and then click back instead so you can read a different wordpress post.

Episode 3 update – 5-9-20

I have been busy. I haven’t been here, or on any social media, but God have I been busy.

I broke my cardinal rule last week and did some reshoots. I think it is for the better, and I’m happy I did it, but man oh man did it create a bigger workload for me. It’s next to impossible to blend shots together when the lighting is different and the props have moved.

So that’s what I’ve been doing – locked up in an editing room for hours. When I began the venture into making short films, I did it with the philosophy of quantity over quality. I’m aware the saying is reversed for good reason, but I also felt strongly that I could potentially waste a lot of time trying to make something perfect for an audience that didn’t exist. I stand by my former decision, however with trial comes learning.

Once a video is published on youtube, it cannot be changed. Yes, they do have an editing tool, but it is garbage. My big regret with episode 1 had to do with the action sequences and the lack of urgency in their performance. In episode 2 my coloring was weak – the video looks much more dull and visually bleh than a good colorist would put their stamp on.

So with episode 3 I decided I would not publish until I was convinced I had done everything to the best of my abilities, regardless of how draining that course of action would be. A prime example of that is I had a full 5 minute episode fully formed last week before I did reshoots of virtually everything. Now I not only have better shots and takes, but I’ve added some more tension to the story and wound up shooting a separate 5 minute intro to build up the episode’s events. I’m actually more proud of the intro than the scene I initially crafted. As of right now, episode 3 is 10 minutes long – my longest shoot yet. I am still considering splitting it into 2 separate episodes, however. I would love to hear some thoughts on this – should I leave it be as one 10 minute episode?

Anyways, part of me does not feel like posting anything because I’m still at least 4 days away from being ready to publish it. I’ll probably be more active on here when it’s nearing completion. If you’d like to see episode 2, I’ve posted it below.

 

Overwhelmed & Episode 3 – 5-2-20

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My girlfriend is obsessed with Big Ed from 90 day fiance. Unfortunately he was not supposed to make it into this take.

As anybody who follows me already knows, it seems I enjoying stacking my plate until the food starts falling off. Last week I filmed episode 3, launched a community film group, and promised my uncle I’d read and provide feedback for his feature script.

I was so excited and busy I was hardly able to sleep at all throughout the weekend. When my Saturday graveyard shift hit, I felt it. I spent all of Sunday lying motionless in bed unable to figure out where to start.

Well I rented a hotel for a couple of days with my girlfriend thanks to a special deal available to frontline EMS workers. I used this time to recover mostly but also couldn’t help myself and reshot a few scenes for Episode 3 of Mountain Cult. Well, much more than a few.

I stayed away from wordpress all week because I didn’t want to overwhelm myself like I had before. I’m still a minimum of 3 days from being ready to publish and promote episode 3 so I decided to slow things down for a change. I’ve still been busy with editing but decided to approach episode 3 a little differently. Rather than have it available for viewing as soon as humanly possible, I want the shots to all be solid with lighting, focus, and character. In the editing room I want to get the most out of coloring and audio. In my experience with the previous 3 videos I’ve published, there always ends up being something I wish I did better. I’d rather take extra time to create a video that will be easier to promote from higher quality.

A huge bonus from the week – my uncle would be happy to perform as an actor in a future episode. My work colleague is also down to film again. On top of that I have Scott who will be available from home or once this lockdown is lifted. I know of another filmmaker also willing to perform under those circumstances.

I’m very excited about the future because I feel that I am acquiring better skills as a filmmaker. By building a network of actors I can use, I can begin to apply A, B, and C plots to each episode. This may make them a little longer but, more importantly, I can begin to write better episodes as my resources expand. I have some props in the mail from amazon too.

Once the lockdown is lifted, my community film group will be able to meet in person and I’ll be able to work with like-minded individuals who I can collaborate with. I’m extremely excited as merely creating short films is more fulfilling than I would have imagined.

When you’re strictly an (aspiring) writer, as I was for years, it is next to impossible to get a strangers eyes on your creation. With each new video that I make, it’s a guarantee that some bored internet stranger will click on my video and at least give it a chance. To me this means that if I can create an engaging enough production, I can build a real audience. With improvements in technology and availability of equipment, there’s no reason I shouldn’t be able to produce quality stories that others can engage. Of course that responsibility will be mine to bear, as I am the writer, director and producer of these shorts.

I realize this is more of a journal entry more than a post that will be of any value to any person reading it, so I thank you if you’ve waded through this nonsense and read this far. I have an obligation to myself to update this blog semi-regularly, so I guess this is what I’ve got and what I’ve been up to. Have a great weekend and hopefully I’ll be posting again soon (and not just saying that like I so often do).