Balls are rolling – 8/1/2020

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I finally did it. I finished a bare-bones version of Episode 4 script and submitted for casting on a legitimate acting website. I offered to pay $50/day for each role. I also went ahead and scheduled a “zoom” meeting for my Riverside Film Network group.

On top of all this, I’ve had to make a rent payment, purchase my mom a $700 bike, and pay $1300 to get a blown head gasket fixed. I’m working roughly 5 days a week to pay for all this %$^&.

But the best part is, I’m excited. Yes, I realize it’s insanely stupid to be paying people for a production that will likely amass 1,000 views at best. Yes, I’m aware I have no idea what I’m doing and any actors with experience are going to be appalled by how little I know. And yes, I know that I should be more focused on getting married and saving for a home. But I feel this weird tingling sensation in my brain every time I start to involve myself with a production, and I’ve come to like that feeling even more than the constant question every great ambitious action attracts – what the fuck am I doing?

So I lay myself down before ye, cast your judgment and step on me if ye so desire. I’m finally moving ahead with plans I’ve had since the beginning of the year, and by God I’ve got to say I’m finally excited again. Life is a strange thing – how nice it must be to have a brain that operates on a “how to make money 101” basis. Unfortunately for me, I prefer to live in la-la land.

I’ll post a link to the script here for any person willing to provide feedback. I’m going to continue reworking some things and tinkering with it, but please share your thoughts if you have any. I want episode 4 to be pretty damn good now that I have some financial resources, 3 different lenses, and the knowledge and tools to film correct exposure in practically any conditions. I bid you adieu.

Writing Episode 4 – 7-23-20

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Finally, after over a month, I’ve begun piecing together episode 4. I have some strong ideas for how to make the “mountain cult” distinct from previous mobs, politically applicable to current events, and dangerous in a modern sense. The cult will also play to the theme of individualism vs. group think.

My goal is to crumple together a working script by the end of this weekend. If I do that, I can post for online submissions & auditions. My aim is to shoot in Mid August, which should give the actors and myself enough time to prepare.

I’ve already messaged my meetup group, Riverside Film Network, inquiring as to who is looking to work on another project. A few members have informed me they’d be happy to assist.

I’m also working my ass off at my primary job, working 6 out of 7 days this week. The more overtime I work, the more I can budget into the next film. I intend to pay each actor $50/day. I may use crew members as well, and can see myself allocating $25/day for that as well.

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I have no reasoning for why the Sugar container is the focal point of this shot.

Since the last video shoot, I’ve purchased 2 additional lenses – a 30 mm f1.4 by Sigma and a 50 mm f 1.8 by Sony. I’ve been practicing using them all week and have been learning a lot of basic camera stuff that I never took the time to learn earlier. The biggest lesson I learned from Episode 3 is the importance of proper exposure, and also how to tell when my image is exposed correctly. I’ve already purchased 2 Led lights & a light bar that can change to 6 different colors. Yesterday I ordered my first ever variable ND filter. That will assist me in outdoor filming that requires me to turn down the exposure effects of direct sunlight. One thing that I learned late – Adobe Photoshop won’t read RAW photographs without some sort of plug-in. So the only photos I can show you from my new apartment were done yesterday with my sony 50 mm f 1.8 (done in JPG). I’ll try to upload shots from the 30 mm soon enough.

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kelly’s cat “Simba”. I like him a lot but he sheds everywhere!

It’s funny how much film has taken a backseat to other things the past 2 months. I hope that as I get closer to filming I can slow down from working so often and put more energy and focus into making short films, which is what I’m truly passionate about.

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Here I chose to focus on the big mac container. Not the obvious, giant McD’s bag in front of your face. Still learning.

One final note – I’ve been doing a lot of thought about story lately. The world needs more individuals who share stories that mean something to them and include a message that they believe in. When you tell a story, you have a responsibility to yourself to express your own message and life lessons through your medium. You can enjoy telling stories without making Hollywood or Penguin books your end goal. Instead of aiming to reach the widest audience, aim to provide a satisfying experience for those who choose your

Below are some more photographs from my Sony 50 mm. I’ll try and upload some from the sigma 30 mm f1.4 soon. Hope you enjoy.

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I was really hoping he’d go for the in-focus blue feeder if you couldn’t tell

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Simba has mastered that classic look that says “Leave me alone.”

Preparing to prepare – 7-17-2020

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After having a smoke and stating our lives are finally headed in the right direction, Kelly glanced up to see our new neighbors.

We moved in on Tuesday. I spent all of Wednesday building a computer desk and piecing together my new “office”. After working a ton of overtime, I spontaneously purchased a FE 50 mm 1.8 sony lens that I’ve wanted for a while. I’m really excited about the prospect of filming again, and have been contemplating how I’m going to structure and shoot episode 4. I’ve also been learning more about camera basics and how to improve my own cinematography.

And then, yesterday, I finally figured out what has been causing my 2008 Toyota Tacoma repeating troubles throughout the year (I’ve changed out the sparks plugs twice and the coils once). After discovering yet another cylinder misfire I finally checked the oil cap – and underneath was a gunky, custard-yellow goo. My coolant has clearly been mixing with my oil, which means I’ve got a blown head gasket. That’ll be $1200-2000 to fix.

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The good news is I’ve been saving up all year so I can afford to have it fixed. I’ve also become accustomed to facing a once-a-year issue with my truck that winds up costing me around $1000. Last year it was a radiator and coolant overhaul.

In other words, this is going to cost me, but I don’t see it as a good enough reason to put my production on hold for any longer.

I’m aiming to begin filming in the first week of August. I want the shoot to last 1-2 days, and I’m looking to hire 2-4 actors at $50/day. I’m going to advertise the roles on Actors Access and plan on spending $200-300 in production cost.

So the next step is the script. I’ve been thinking on episode 4 for a while now. It will introduce the members of the cult and reveal to the audience who they are and what they are all about. I need a group that is capable of savage murder and danger, but I also need them to be believable as a community and have a moral order that separates them from your caricature mob cronies.

You may or may not have read a previous post I made about hermeneutics. In case you missed it, hermeneutics pertains to a perspective change regarding information. For example:

  1. Your boss tells you if you don’t get to work on time, you’re fired.
  2. You wake up late, grab your daughter’s drawing she made for you, and race along side streets to arrive on time.
  3. Stuck at a red light, you see a young girl smoking cigarettes with a group of older teens. You check out the drawing your daughter made for you and see it’s a picture of you on an airplane soaring through clouds while she waves to you from below.
  4. You text your boss “Can’t make it today, deal with it” then make a U-turn and head home to spend some time with your little girl.

The punishment for missing work hasn’t changed – you’ll still be getting fired. What has changed, however, is the your perspective on losing your job. Initially viewed as a means to make a solid salary, the events that occur in the story transform your opinion to view a potential job loss as an avenue toward strengthened familial relationships.

I’m really in love with hermeneutics and predict it will be a staple in future how-to-write-fiction advice. In my honest opinion there is a serious hole in the philosophy that your protagonist should have 1 goal that nothing can dissuade them from. Of course, hermeneutics amplifies the inner conflict of a story making it more of a dramatic production. Still, I think good stories require shifting perspectives because that is what keeps them true to the human experience. For me personally, the source of conflict and course of action makes the above story more intriguing than standard forms of conflict – ie: traffic jams, boss calling and yelling at you, construction occurring on the roadway, etc.

Anyways, I’m hoping to begin writing the script this weekend. As soon as I have it written I can set up a shooting date and send out to have the roles filled. It’s an exciting time for me and I’m looking forward to running my small production company like a legitimate business. I’ll try to upload some apartment pics tomorrow so you check out what will likely become “cult headquarters.”

Moving In – 7/11/20

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Can you even imagine living here?? I can’t either, because I will never be able to afford a place like this. But my new place is ok.

The apartment is virtually a lock, as I’m just waiting for the leasing office to open on Monday and have the papers ready for us to sign. As soon as we move in I’ll be updating you with pictures. After that, the fun starts – we get to furnish it. I realize how effeminate that sounds now that I’ve written it. I suppose some context could help – in the foreseeable future I will use our place as a repeating location for short films. That means I get to apply a little bit of knowledge to the layout of the land. Ideally I’m going to add wallpaper, christmas lights, and some rustic looking furniture. Basically I’m going to create a shooting set for mountain cult, Kelly just doesn’t know it yet.

But along with that we will have to purchase: A couch, a big screen television, a kitchen table with chairs, and a balcony table. Then to top it all off I get to purchase my future writing/editing desk, which I’m really excited about. It’s also a 3rd story apartment which will give me and my camera an excellent view.

Besides that, I’ve been spending the night trying to learn more about photography. I’m finally starting to grasp some of the basic concepts – more specifically the relationship between aperture, ISO, & shutter speed. I figure as long as I’m not filming I can at least build up my knowledge of the tools.

Actors access has been going alright, I got one audition that was due last week. It required me to participated as a couple, which I actually talked Kelly into doing. The problem was me and Kelly only had 2 days off together last week, and the deadline for the audition submission arrived on day 1. We wound up getting drunk and watching sharktank together instead.

For my next role, I have the opportunity to do some voice acting impersonating Elvis Presley. I’ve never done anything like it before so I’m excited to try it out. I’ll try to post pictures this week as we move in, but for now it’s back to checking out online furniture.

Brief Update – 07-09-20

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I’ve finally found a new apartment with the girlfriend, and we’re hoping to move in this weekend. It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but with both our incomes we should truly not have much of an issue gaining acceptance.

This is the main reason I haven’t been blogging, writing, directing, or creating in general. Sometimes life is more important – I could easily spend the rest of my days trying to produce something incredible and never make it there… I realize these two items show no real world correlation, so I’ll state it in a different way. As soon as I begin production on a new short film it will consume all my time, energy, and focus. I made an agreement with myself that I would not involve myself in a new project until my living situation was figured out.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been working a ton of overtime at work. This makes a huge difference in income, and should allow me some financial liberty in the near future. 1 overtime shift for me earns me an extra $350. The cool thing about my work is overtime shift are available in abundance.

I figure if I work 1 additional overtime shift per month, strictly for film, I can improve my production. Say I need 4 actors for the film involving a 1 day shoot. I can easily afford to shell out $50 for the day. The reason that is significant is because I can post the roles on major casting websites. Here, actors sift through roles searching for different criteria. By offering $50 the role has much more appeal and values their work (in comparison to the numerous unpaid roles). I’m going to take a wild guess that I can get 5-10 submissions for that kind of rate of pay. And if I need only 1-2 actors, I’ll be able to pay $150, which is much more legitimate.

Somewhere in the near future I’d like to start looking for advertisers/financing – but before I will feel comfortable pitching to small businesses I’d like to grow my channel’s audience. I truly believe that having the balls to approach individuals & corporations (small and big) who may find value in supporting your work ultimately separates the amateur from the professional.

Imagine Mountain Cult has an episode that focuses on the main character hiking through the mountains. He uses a compass to navigate his way. Let’s pretend my episodes average 10-50k views. Well if you’ve developed a new compass and have the opportunity to reach that size of an audience, wouldn’t you be interested, and willing to shell out some marketing money to have your compass featured? That’s my rudimentary understanding of how this would work, at least. What I DON’T want to do is receive any financial support from individuals who are interested in supporting my works because I’ve appealed to their emotional side (this is my dream and passion, please help make it possible!). I don’t have any problem with people who do it, and I understand why one would, that’s just not the route I’d like to start down.

My approach to becoming a successful producer is simple, albeit idealistic – If you can create content that people are naturally drawn to watch, investors will follow, leading to greater production value, resulting in even more views, and the cycle repeats exponentially. That’s capitalism for you – as unfair as it may be when you’re working your way up from the bottom.

In summary, this post was one big exercise in random brainstorming. I’m loosely plotting my future because I’m finally close to being able to prepare to film again. I’m very excited and will be sure to have more updates when I’ve returned to film mode. In the meantime, here’s some hungover footage Kelly and I got attempting to record crows eating bread crumbs.

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.