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.

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.

What Writers can learn from Soap Operas

Constant emotional movements. But let’s dig further in.

Surprising as this may seem, I am a much bigger fan of psychological thrillers and murder mysteries than soap operas. But we should never discount what attracts the attention of viewers. Soap operas exists for a reason.

This is the area of writing I seek the most improvement in. I also strongly believe the more logical minded you are, the worse you will perform in this area. That is because logic minded writers tend to write with greater attention to plot. Emotional minded individuals write toward character. Emotion minded writers, in my opinion, have more natural talent for creating compelling stories.

It’s easy to start with the big picture – where your character begins, and where you would like for them to go. The problem with this is you have already laid the groundwork for a direct and subsequently predictable transition. Let’s craft an example and see how this works out.

Story number 1:

Mike wakes up groggy and decides he’s not going to feed the birds today. He sees the birds outside hanging out on the feeder but remains inside and watches television instead. He hears a bird smack against the window and says to himself, “I better feed those goddamn birds.” Mike feeds the birds and soon they are whistling on his shoulders.

Story number 2:

Mike wakes up groggy and decides he’s not going to feed the birds today. He sees the birds on the feeder outside, however, and chooses to pour them their seed. Right as he pulls the bag of songbird feed out his girlfriend calls out for him to do the dishes. He sets the seed down on the balcony and returns inside to begin cleaning. He takes a pause and watches through the window as birds peck at the closed bag, attempting to get a nibble of the goods. His girlfriend catches him taking this break and asks him why he looks so ticked off. Mike shakes his head as he returns to the task. His girlfriend walks to the balcony, picks up the bird seed, and throws it out. She tells him that the birds keep defecating on the balcony and she doesn’t want that any longer. Mike watches as the birds flee the balcony en masse. His girlfriend asks him if he’d like to go fly a kite through the airspace the pesky birds used to inhabit. Mike agrees, telling her that sounds like a great idea. When she hands him the kite, however, he stuffs it into the dishwasher, starts it on the warm cycle, then grabs the seed from the trash can instead. He tells her that she’s going to have to accept the birds’ presence or else go and fly kites by herself. He leaves for the balcony, gives the birds their coveted seed, then is happy forgive his now apologetic girlfriend.

I know what you’re thinking after reading that – “God what a stupid ass story.” Well, maybe it is. But it’s my story, and I’m determined to post more regularly no matter how shitty it is. So deal with it, and check out my latest short film if you’d interested in hearing more like it. And on a completely unrelated note, Kelly I love you and I will purchase a new kite later today just please come back.

Premiere Failure

The worst thing that could have happened during last Friday’s premiere did happen.

I have been pushing this film for months. During all that time I refrained from exposing it to the cast and crew due to an understanding that first impressions mean everything. From what I gathered online, you should treat the premiere of your films as if they are an actual blockbuster event. You want to generate hype, raise awareness, and create excitement. I spent 2 long days working on the trailer. Much to my dismay, I spent another full day putting together a series recap for new viewers who want to get rapidly caught up.

As the premiere event approached, I began to post links online in hopes to have a live audience and stellar viewpoint (20-30 for me is stellar lol). I succeeded. And then the film started playing –

But let me point out one last thing. Experience has taught me that once a video is fully edited, I must upload it in private and watch the entire thing, beginning to end, on multiple devices. This helps to realize audio, story, and visual issues. I had already done this, and uploaded the video one week earlier.

So the premiere starts – I became confused, then panicked, then infuriated. The video premiered in 720p. I exported it a 2160 4k hd. For those who are unaware, this means the resolution – aka quality – was about a quarter of what it was supposed to be. For the cast and families viewing, they were exposed to rinky dink audio and the visual quality of a 1996 vhs tape.

I immediately pulled the links and was about to pull the video. When the premiere finished, however, it became available in 1080p. I figured out then that the video had not begun processing the HD version until after it had already been played through.

The damage was done, however. The great first impression was a let down. I emailed the actors and recommended they check out the video again after it had processed appropriately. I returned to promoting it the rest of the weekend and was able to bring the view total up. I have entered it into several festivals and have already been accepted by two.

Anyways, just wanted to share this horror story. If anybody out there intends to premiere a video on youtube, please make certain you upload it as private initially, allow it to fully process in high definition, and then set the premiere date. Otherwise you will suffer the same humiliation as I.

If you are interested in the actual video, feel free to view below.

More Excuses – 12-7-20

End Title

No trailer yet. I became too invested in an animation yesterday. This involved the closing title. I have good news, however.

I have completed the project.

I’m going to be screening it tonight and get some eyes on it. If there are no glaring issues, I will be announcing a release date. I am hoping for this Friday, but I owe it to everyone involved to release it on a date that I can use SOME kind of marketing for. I have the next two days too hang with my girlfriend, but I plan on making a trailer tomorrow. Once the trailer is completed, I will spend a couple hours figuring out a marketing strategy.

Chances are I will not be able to build a ton of momentum going into release. However, I would like to optimize the exposure on the date of release as much as possible. Even if that means giving the cast a couple of days to plan a small viewing party.

I am very excited to watch it tonight. I’ve gone over it pretty intensely and believe the color grade, audio, and animations are all the best that I can make them. That for me is my indication that it is ready.

Hoping to post a trailer here VERY soon. Stay tuned.

Taming the Beast – 10-21-20

gunshot 2

We finally did it. We are done filming episode 4, and I couldn’t be happier. Of there are many shots I wish I had taken that I didn’t, and takes I wish I had done one more time. But the point is this 3 month journey is completed.

Tyler & Mike 1

Yesterday was my third attempt to film at an exterior location that had destroyed me twice. It was my first time filming a true action sequence (complete with blowup mattresses, a fake knife, and a “squib” for an improvised small explosion). Of course it didn’t go perfectly, but the point is the mission is complete.

dust up

We had to film in sequential order due to the amount of dirt and debris we would be covered in after wrestling on the ground. So from 7-10 we did takes for the dialogue, capturing every angle we could. At that point the overheating issue came into play (as anticipated) and we had to work with what we had. I chose a few camera angles based more on shade than framing. I hate that I had to compromise here, but after my last failed attempt it felt like a necessary decision.

The wrestling was physically arduous – we were on rock solid dirt. Along with that, it sure feels funny to have another man straddle you, but what are you going to do?

gun to head 1

I finally had enough trust in Brad to allow him to pan for several shots. Allowing him to pan rather than setting up the tripod and re-framing each shot sure saved a lot of time.

Mike 1

When it came to the final gun shot, it was 1 pm and to be honest I felt pretty lightheaded. Almost like my loss of concentration was caused by physical elements rather than normal lethargy. Nonetheless, I have everything I need to put together a decent 15 minute episode. Now it’s time to “fix it in post” and regularly update my developments.

I’ll keep you posted.

Final Scene – 10-19-20

mic in shot (full)

If you look closely you might just find something here that doesn’t belong.

This Tuesday marks the 5th week since I experienced the horror that was my first attempt at filming my short film’s climax. I will have my opportunity to redo the entire scene.

If you read my post regarding my first attempt, you will see I entered the shoot unprepared and ambitious. I spent the morning at Home Depot searching for a part they didn’t sell in order to get my “squib”, or air-propelled blood squirt contraption, to work. I spent the next 3 hours getting coverage on a scene that has little value and only features the character of Leo speaking to a computer screen.

squib 1

How ’bout that CO2 powered spray? Magnificent.

We arrived at the hill in mid afternoon, and overheating issues plagued us from the beginning. The entire sequence was shot with my kit lens at 16-20mm, so I didn’t have a single close shot or even a true mid.

confrontation too wide

Example of a shot that is too wide for the intensity of the moment.

Framing was non-existent – each time we were able to turn the camera on, I told Brad to hit record and we began the scene. On top of all this, I hadn’t read my lines prior to filming. Despite this seeming like the greatest evidence of my unpreparedness, the reality is that making your own short film involves so much prep work with regards to equipment, set design, props, cash on hand, and shooting order, that this has been a consistent issue for me. I’m highly interested in directing a short film I do not act in so that I can be behind the camera for a change.

confrontation (zoomed)

Here is that same shot with digital zoom applied. See how pixelated we are? That is why a) I will never use the kit lens again b) I prefer prime lenses

After 4 straight graveyard shift, I will finally have a day to myself to hammer down my prep work as good as possible. There will be a sequence where Michael fires a shot at me that misses, I charge him, overpower his knife, and stab him. After tending to his wound, my character will be shot. Choreographing this sequence with proper camera angles will be my primary focus today. I will also make sure my fake blood appears authentic, measure the appropriate amount for blood spatter, and test my device at least once. I have tested it with water and it works.

After filming tomorrow’s sequence, I believe it will take me 2 more weeks to have the entire episode fully edited. I have a lot of scenes already pieced together, but the still have to go clip by clip to adjust audio levels and apply color correction.

deadweight

If the script requires your character to be dragged out of frame along rock, thistles and dirt, make sure your camera operator actually has a tight shot when he gives you the thumbs up.

I’m thinking of recording a few of these editing sessions and posting them on a youtube channel. I’m a stanch believer in reserving the tmwproductions to finished stories only, but feel it could be a good way to grow viewership for the films release.

smiling dirt 2

At this point I was bleeding with road rash and was still in the shot.

Part of me is considering releasing the film for a contest entry. My hesitancy is caused by these contests reluctance to allow entry of a project that is already available online. I don’t have the patience to send it out to places only to sit on my hands and wait to hear back. On top of that, my character is an asshole. Especially in the film’s opening. I feel he will turn off a lot of viewers and support, but it is what it is. I’m not going to be able to reshoot the opening so that’s just something I’ve got to accept. I asked my buddy what he thought of it and he was furious about how I drank my beer – “Bro who the fuck sips a beer like that?” It’s crucial notes like these that always help me improve (lol).

beer throw

He agreed that I did have a great beer throw, however.

The sun is rising and it’s 6:41. At this time tomorrow, I will be saying “action”. I’ve got from now until then to get things in order. I’ll be getting an update out later on this week, I hope you have a wonderful day.

Writing for Production – 10/9/20

1 year ago I wrote 3 feature lengths script with the intention of having them produced. They were made for low budget companies and redrafted multiple times. Through this experience I learned just how difficult it was to get a script read as a new-comer. Put yourself in the shoes of any agent or producer who receives thousands of scripts each year. You’re only going to read the best of the best.

So I took a leap of economic ignorance and decided to begin producing my own short films. At least this way I could see my stories play out before an audience. That is the ultimate goal as a writer, after-all – inspiring others through stories. With a 5 minute video you’ll get the opportunity, with a 120 page screenplay you’ll catch little more than dust.

This is what I mean by “economic ignorance.” I ordered a camera, microphone, tripods for both, all the components of a computer, and everything in between.

The lessons began on the first episode of Mountain Cult, and continue on today. I can say undoubtedly that filming your own stories will make you a better writer. Here is what I’ve learned:

  1. Treat every line, word and syllable with razor-sharp scrutiny. You may grow weary of glossing over it in the beginning, but you will have no idea how significant your dialogue choices are until you begin production. 4 drafts is nothing! Let’s take a scene where one character is lying on the ground and the other character approaches. Let’s give the character lying down something ordinary to say like “You look lost, mate.”
    1. The first take is a wide shot. Here is where you realize you’ve made the character Australian even though he’s German and armed with a Samurai sword.
    2. The second take is a shot over the approaching character’s shoulder followed by a shot over his shoulder. He’s now said the stupid line 3 times on film.
    3. After you have your over the shoulder shots, you realize he’s not in frame early on because you’re using a tripod and set the frame up for when he’s standing. You adjust the tripod and film his lying down with a downward angle, followed by an over-the-wrist shot with him lying down. Now you have heard the unnecessary word “mate” 5 times.
    4. You have all 5 shots for the scene done. You look at your slate and realize you’ve taken 30 takes already, since shots hardly ever require only one take.
    5. You get to the editing room and begin what you anticipate will be an easy job, only to discover each moment you have on film will be viewed, scrubbed over, and edited 5 times longer. If you film is 5 minutes, anticipate 2 hours worth of footage. If you have 2 hours worth of footage, anticipate 20 hours of editing. You will have heard your German Samurai call the approaching stranger “mate” upwards of 1,000 times.
As much as I love this picture, the sequence was hysterical to edit. Brad played the hiker who narrowly escapes murder & captivity. I still have the clip of him gingerly jogging away.

2. Emotional movements everywhere

I have a tendency when writing to feel the momentum of the words each character is spewing out. They go on a verbal rampage, tearing into another character mercilessly until there is nothing left to destroy. I love writing this way, but it doesn’t always play out on scene as good as it feels. Your writing will be much more dynamic by using action to compel twists and turns. Here are two examples:

Sally tells Henry she would like a divorce. Henry tells Sally to give it a rest and grab him a beer. Sally grows even more angry, grabs his beer, and throws it at him.

Does it make sense? Yes. Is it true to life? Yes. Does it reel you into the story? Not really. Why? Because everything went as we expected it to. Here’s a different version of the same sequence:

Sally tells Henry she wants a divorce. Henry sighs and goes to the fridge. Sally tells Henry his alcoholism is the reason she wants a divorce. Henry opens the fridge but Sally slams shut on his fingers. Henry leaves and Sally opens the door to find a half-eaten cake with frosting that reads “I love you and I’m sorry.” Sally tears up, chases Henry outside, and finds him sitting in his convertible with his new girlfriend, who is eating a slice of the cake. Sally proceeds to stab them both to death.

3. Write what you can film

This 3rd lesson will be tested for me in approximately 1 week, when I attempt to reshoot the climatic sequence – one that involves a gun shot & a stabbing.

I absolutely despise handheld shots. That makes filming even the most inconsequential physical movements extraordinarily difficult for me, because everything is done on a tripod.

When I filmed episode 1 of Mountain Cult, there is was a line my character delivered as he released the hiker from his shackles then opened the lock to the gated door and made entry. I literally had to turn 2 keys then let myself in. How could this possibly be difficult, you ask?

The following scene involved my character interrogating the kidnapped hiker inside of the cell. For that scene to carry any weight at all, I needed to have a gun aimed at him in a threatening manner.

So now my character had to retrieve a gun (which had yet to be shown), unlock his shackles, and open the padlock. I realized I needed to time it right. I decided I would swoop up the gun off camera, return and release the shackles, then the padlock, then open the gate and enter. I practiced until I could do these things relatively quickly, but it still wound up taking about 10 seconds. Let me tell you something – try to find a movie where a character takes 10 seconds to do a basic human action such as pouring milk on cereal, cooking with the microwave, or vacuuming a room. They do not exist because only a sloth could pay attention to something mundane for that amount of time.

So to film this basic sequence, I had to adjust the tripod for a shot of me retreiving the gun, zoom in on the padlock for a shot I could cut to, and learn how to smoothly unshackle the cuffs by flicking a safety release without it being apparent on camera. I needed to do all that all while delivering the line.

This episode includes the aforementioned sequence

As I mentioned a short ways up, I intend to film a sequence next week that involves a gunshot, a stabbing, and a take down. I’ve already built an air-propelled “squib” to produce the fake gun blast. I have fake knifes to simulate stabbing, and I have a blow-up mattress that could assist in any necessary rough-housing. But if I don’t get each little physical movement choreographed to the last detail, the resulting scene will be unwatchable and corny. Even the camera angles will need to be established beforehand for any simulated punches to appear realistic.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I hope this post helps anyone looking to write for film, and I highly encourage you to film your own story if you haven’t before. The process is difficult but exceedingly fun and well worth the effort.

Filming Exterior- 10/8/20

As I mentioned yesterday, Monday’s shoot went really well. It was the first time I had a successful shoot outdoors and was in stark contrast to an effort I had made earlier this year. Here are some things I’ve learned are necessary to film an exterior scene:

ND filters – By far the most important single item needed to record in direct sunlight. Every lens has an aperture that changes in order to allow different amounts of light into the image. By adding an ND filter (I used an ND64 for the entire day), you can still manage to use lower f-stops and not overexpose the image.

Tascam DR10L – this little recorder comes with a lavalier mic that you can attach it to your shirt or tape down to your skin. Recording audio is a tremendous risk outdoors – if the wind is howling, the audio you record on your primary microphone will likely be shit. But the greater challenge is your wide shot. Inside of a home there are walls, tables, chairs, all sorts of different objects you may use to hide the presence of your microphone.

Multiple batteries – Originally purchased because I refuse to end a filmmaking production early due to batteries being dead, I actually found a different purpose for these. I have 2 batteries that are meant specifically for the camera, and 2 cheap Chinese knockoff batteries. But the reason they came in handy is that the a6300 is notorious for overheating then shutting down. The battery compartment is a main source for overheating. By being able to change batteries frequently, I reduced the time it took for my overheating camera to be usable again.

Keeping the pull-out display open – I’m not sure why, but the a6300 has a pull-out screen on the back. For some reason keeping this open helps avoid overheating issues.

Small ass, $10-$20 tripods – Not sure I’ll use the shots I got from these, but purchasing really small, basic tripods enables me to get footage from the perspective of a character lying on the ground. The scenes I’ve written for exteriors always wind up beginning with one character sitting or lying on the ground. That results in a big height disparity that can be difficult to film in a single frame. Footsteps are cinematic also.

A cooler with waters and ice – I almost didn’t bring it, but I’m glad I did. In order to appear as professional as possible I purchased a cooler, 3 fold-out chairs, and an easy up. I haven’t used the easy up, but believe it can also provide additional shade for the camera. I’m happy I brought the waters though because we were sweating our assess off and I may have been airlifted to the nearest hospital if I had not.

A strip of cardboard – As the sun continued to rise, so did the temperature in my camera. I found this trick on the internet, and it worked out alright. I taped a piece of cardboard over the body and lens of my camera in order to provide an additional layer of shade and protection from the sun.

Sun-tan lotion – it has yet to be used, but the first day I filmed with Michael, the actor playing Leo in episode 4, he requested it. My initial thought was that receiving a little sun burn is a minor discomfort not worth worrying about. When he stated he had a few auditions later that week and did not want to look like an Oompa Loompa, I had a new perspective. For actors, appearance can affect whether they receive a job.

Anyway, that’s all I got for today. Looking forward to sharing more tips, tricks, twists, traps, and turns soon.