Updates – 1/16

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What the Hell did I run over?

Not too many productive writing developments yesterday. I do have quite a story from my date, however – I got the 1st flat tire of my life, and wasn’t able to change it using only the parts that came with my truck. It was incredibly embarrassing, but I was fortunate enough to have the assistance of AAA to help me out. Much later we went to the beach and stumbled upon a group of people sitting on a bench in the dark who were dressed in black robes. I don’t know, that was wack, and I just had to get it off my chest. Death eaters?

I am interviewing for a firefighter reserve position in a couple of weeks. This is significant because I will have to cut my hair and shave my face – which means serious continuity errors for Cheaters Prosper. I initially sought to resolve this problem by laying out a schedule that would allow for the entire film to be finished within two weeks. My older brother pointed out to me that a haircut signifies an emotional change in a character, and helped me realize that I could film the final climatic scene with a different style (the major scene takes place on the last day of the film’s story, after all).

There is one other scene left for me to act in that takes place on the second day of the film, and a haircut would be problematic for that. The only alternative I can imagine would be to rewrite the scene so that I communicate with Jax over the phone, but I’d much prefer to avoid doing that.

I’m hoping to shoot a handful of scenes this Sunday. I’m planning on using my friend Dan for the majority of the remaining scenes, as my older brother is simply to busy to request more of his time. I will have my brother film the important, interior scenes we still have to shoot.

It’s time for me to get some shut-eye. I will have a better post for you tomorrow.

  • Thomas M. Watt

 

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The Big “L” – 1/12

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I don’t know that I’ve ever felt more distraught during the writing of a post. I don’t know that I’ve ever sat down and written feeling so helplessly frustrated.

Yesterday was a failure. An enormous failure. A huge, whopping, capital “L”.

The day began great, with big plans and lofty ambitions. Everything was set and ready, the props were in order, and I even purchased a knock-off “selfie-stick” to help with coverage(Just Leasing was to be filmed on my phone camera, you see).

A few hours into filming, I locked my phone into place on a cheap tripod that is built for such a purpose. The mount simultaneously pressed and held 3 buttons on the side of my phone that led to a full system reset. Not only did I lose all my contacts and settings, but the footage was immediately washed.

It gets worse.

We came close to shooting the scenes over, but doubt entered the minds of the actors, perhaps with good reason – there was an arguably noticeable error in logic for a crucial scene, and tinkering with it affects the rest of the episode.

A long enough discussion led to an inevitable decision to postpone filming until a later date. We broke for lunch at a local taco shop. I brought in my laptop to show Jordan and Catrina, who are also involved in Cheaters Prosper, some of the scenes.

I store the footage on an external, 3 terabyte hard drive that attaches to my computer by a USB chord. When I finally found a particular scene I wanted to show, the external hard drive fell off the table and smacked a metal piece beside my seat, breaking it instantly. I am no longer able to access the hard drive, and it makes a clicking sound when I plug it in.

I can’t tell you how upset I am. I can’t even pinpoint what I am most upset about. The good news is, even if the data from my brand new $139 hard drive is irretrievable, we will only have lost about 5 pages of film, as my brother and friend still have saved copies of the remaining footage.

I don’t believe in blind persistence. I don’t believe in trying to make something work that cannot, nor do I believe in trying to do something you are incapable of doing. I do not like to waste time. I do not like to lose.

But when I deem a pursuit worthy of fighting for, I fucking fight.

So what is the lesson learned today? What is the meaning of all this?

The lesson is simple. Today was a shitty day. Bad things happened. For Spiritual reasons? For failing to be more conscious of sensitive equipment? For no reason?

You will never learn by focusing the factors that led to failure. If you want to be a critic, a hater, or another captain hindsight, go ahead and focus on the aspects of things that influence demise. But in order to find success, you must keep your eyes the actions that breed it.

Verizon saves texts message conversations in cloud storage, and I was able to retrieve the phone numbers of every person I’ve conversed with over the last 90 days. That is sufficient to store the numbers of every person whom I consider an essential part of my life.

There are specialists who have the technology to retrieve data from damaged hard drives. For an external one such as my own, the customer must pay a pretty penny ($500 is a good estimate). Perhaps the company that manufactured my hard drive may be able to help me for a nominal fee.

Or, we could always re-shoot. The actors have their lines down pat, and the only difficulty would be getting the actors to do the 4-5 hour shoot all over again. It would move faster than before thanks to having gone through it once already.

I guess my point is this – you can’t just fold once things go wrong. You can’t allow harsh critiques of your work to convince you’re not cut out for writing. When things go wrong, you must seek out ways to fix them. Errors happen, and they’re part of any game.

I’m afraid to take my next step forward, but in the walk of life the only other option is to retreat. I’m not going to retreat, and I’m not going to stop. I’m going to run until I reach that Goddamn finish line, and if I have to crawl by the time I get there, so be it.

  • Thomas M. Watt

Just Leasing (And C.P.) – 1/11

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I miss that cheeseburger. That’s my brother behind me.

Today will be the first day for filming Just Leasing. This is a secondary project that I do not consider nearly as important as Cheaters Prosper. In other words, I would like to knock out the 22 pages in a relatively short time frame.

The biggest issue we’re going to face today will have to do with filming it. Two camera persons are dedicating a ton of time to Cheaters Prosper without pay, and I do not feel right about exploiting their generosity for another project.

Subsequently, I’m left with 4 actors and no camera person. I’m currently leaning toward filming the footage on my camera phone. My friend has a tripod that I believe I can strap my phone to and get wide coverage with.

For the close shots, I honestly think I may buy a selfie-stick. I saw one at the local liquor store the other day, opened my lips to begin a joke about the kind of morons who waste money on that type of thing. I shut my lips when I realized it might be essential to filming Just Leasing.

This is going to be a rough week for Cheaters Prosper. My friend, whose home we need for a location, hasn’t been getting back to me. The people who I’ve contacted on Craigslist in order to possibly purchase their poker tables haven’t responded to me, either. On top of all that, I feel I have a responsibility to myself to attend drill night this Thursday night. I missed it last week, and am certain that devoting an hour and a half of my time to the local fire station is imperative for my future as a firefighter.

I will be posting some behind the scenes footage from Just Leasing tomorrow. Until then, enjoy some goofing around from last week’s shoot for Cheaters Prosper.

  • Thomas M. Watt

 

Sunday Updates – 1/10

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If you’re curious about Cheaters Prosper: I have to contact the actors and actresses to find out who is available weeknights this week. I need to purchase a legit poker table, because the majority of the remaining scenes require one.

If you’re curious about Just Leasing: My friend from Berkeley is available this Monday and Tuesday. So is Catrina. I have to call Jordan tomorrow and find out if she is up for filming on these days. I haven’t contacted a cameraman/woman, and am currently leaning toward filming this sitcom-style episode on my smartphone. This project is not nearly as important to me as Cheaters Prosper, and therefore I do not intend the finished product to be as cinematic-ally catching. My goal is for it to be funny, and I don’t think people have the same expectations for an episode of comedy as they do for a dramatic pilot.

 

Cheaters Prosper – 1/8

20160106_122300Just wrapped up the third day in a row of heavy duty filming. I’m exhausted, but happy. I’ll get to today’s filming in Saturday’s post. Today I’ll discuss yesterday’s shoot.

El Nino struck Southern California for 2 straight days. The first day didn’t affect us much. Wednesday was much more trying.

Not only were we freezing our asses off, but the downpour came sporadically. The scenes we shot were all outside, and on several occasions we had to cut the scene early to protect the equipment. The rain fell so hard we actually added a line to the script – “It’s raining, let’s go play inside.”

Thankfully, conditions improved so that line can be omitted.

The biggest difference in writing for film versus writing for books is that you have to consider your budget in each and every scene. I can’t afford to have any car accidents, expensive props, or high-octane action sequences. I wrote this script knowing full well the dramatic twists would have to come from relationships. Good stories move us emotionally, so this isn’t as limiting as one might think.

Dan filmed for the second day in a row, and got more footage and takes than I could have possibly requested. One reason I think this Independent film will be great is the devotion of all the individuals involved.

It’s incredible to see so many individuals come together and put forth so much effort into making this project the best it can be. I’m not paying anyone, and therefore they’re not obligated to put in the amount of time they are dedicating to this.

Dan filmed until we ran out of daylight and shot every scene I hoped to complete. I’m really happy he did, because everything we filmed takes place during the same day in the script. I was terrified of having to re-shoot, because shooting exterior scenes with rainfall in Southern California is a surefire way to get some major continuity errors.

I tried to upload a video of the footage to youtube. For some bizarre reason, the audio plays fine while the video only shows up when it is paused(on my computer at least). Going to take a crack at fixing it tomorrow, but thought I’d attach the link to this post anyway, in case it is fixed automatically.

The video below features behind the scenes difficulties and a rough, rough edit of one of the scenes we filmed. There is no color grading, audio syncing, or any kind of real editing. All I did was trim shot and put together bits and pieces from the four different angles we had. Unfortunately, one of the takes was recorded with an ambulance passing in the background, so that one’s worthless.

I’m looking forward to telling you all about Thursday’s shoot, with my brother back at the camera, tomorrow.

  • Thomas M. Watt

 

Cheaters Prosper Update – 1/7

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Rigging the dashboard cam

Wow. The last two days have been extremely… well, prosperous.

Knocked out 11 pages of the screenplay during that time. Filming more tomorrow. I’d like to give you the day-by-day report, so this post will be all about January 5th.

The reason I failed to post yesterday was because I had trouble running my computer after loading all the footage and editing with software that is geared toward home movies.

In fact, I woke up sporadically throughout the night hoping to get my computer up and running to no avail. I had already put together the behind-the-scenes video that I’ve included at the bottom of this post.

The entire day was hectic. As I mentioned in Tuesday’s post, the decision to film exterior scenes at a local community college came last minute. We’d originally planned to film at a friend’s home on Wednesday, but he made a compulsive decision to go on vacation, forcing the cancellation of our shoot.

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Setting up a fake list of grades

I spent Tuesday night memorizing my lines, and thankfully was able to practice more once Scott, who plays “Jax”, arrived at my house. We had a small list of prop items I needed to gather before we left:

  • 2 button down shirts that needed to be ironed
  • A list of fake names and grades
  • Poker chips and cards
  • A tripod
  • Umbrellas
  • Towels

Much to my apprehension, “El Nino” was supposed to hit southern California, where we live, during both days of shooting the exterior shots.

It rained all morning and was still pouring by the time we arrived at the college. Once we arrived, we were near certain we’d have to cancel the outdoor shoot for the day. It was to our amazement that we discovered several outdoor areas that were protected by overhead cement pillars (?).

My friend Aaron, who was recently featured in my Amazing Race post, came along to help with the boom mic. He also found a way to arrange the 4 umbrellas we had with us on the nearby puddles to drown out the constant dripping in the background. The towels we brought along were vital, as we needed to wipe down the table and nearby puddles (though my deck of playing cards was completely destroyed by the end of the shoot).

I can’t emphasize enough how grateful I am to have brought Dan, my acting friend, along on this project. He got so many takes from so many angles I have no doubt we will be able to make our scenes appear flawless, despite the many times we screwed up our lines.

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Dan the man

All in all, Tuesday was a great success. I can’t wait to tell you all about Wednesday’s shoot tomorrow – the rain was ten times worse.

  • Thomas M. Watt

Cheaters Prosper – 1/5

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Persistence pays.

Yesterday, I discussed my bitter disappointment with learning of my friend’s last minute vacation. We filmed a previous scene in his house, and it seemed as though this week would be wasted.

But my trip to the bars this weekend turned out to be the most productive thing I did last week.  I went out with My friend Dan, whom I met through my acting class. He divulged to me his true passion is photography and film. He told me he’d be glad to film some scenes for me if the opportunity ever presented itself.

My older brother is in charge of filming Cheaters Prosper, and is using his own expensive equipment. For this reason I’ve been apprehensive about bringing in a new cinematographer.

Then the realization occurred to me that the scenes my brother shot have all been interior shots.

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That’s me – I play “Torque”

Therefore, it wouldn’t be too disruptive to viewers if exterior shots are filmed on a different camera in a slightly different style.

So I scribbled out a new itinerary.

There are about 3 scenes that take place at a local community college during winter break. Dan confirmed that he’d be to film them tomorrow during the daytime.

I’ve just gone from having nothing to film, to potentially knocking out 10 pages tomorrow. I’m a principle character in these dialogue-heavy scenes, so I’m going to work on memorizing my lines as soon as I finish typing this.

I’ve also been fortunate enough to reschedule Thursday’s scenes for Wednesday. This was going to be problematic for me because I feel that it’s important to attend “drill time” at the local fire station every few weeks. I’m happy that the actors involved had no problems changing the filming date to Wednesday.

On top of all this, my brother showed me some of the footage from our last day of shooting. The audio isn’t synched, but the video footage is stunning – I’m talking studio level.

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Dylan, who plays “Elroy” (the bad guy)

It’s nice to be excited again. I should have some pictures or video to show you tomorrow.

  • Thomas M. Watt