Doing Things And Thinking of Doing More Things

Finally, this Tuesday, September 21st, I finished filming Mountain Cult Ep 5. Of course there are 1 or 2 inserts I’d like to break the camera out for, but neither of those require any other actors. The next 3 major steps for the film are:

  1. Complete the edits
  2. Solicit Financing
  3. Market the film

The most likely scenario is that the short winds up on youtube and is free to view. However, I am determined to pursue other avenues first in order to preserve the value of what I have made. This particular film has taken more time, effort, and money then any of the short films that I made before. Though it is still a micro budget piece, the work that I put into set design, writing, costumes, scheduling, and securing locations is well beyond that of anything I’ve made before it. I don’t believe I can continue making films this way for much longer as the amount of work I have to put in behind the scenes never truly ends. I don’t mind the work, in fact I love it, but it eats away at time. I would like to put out a new film each month. There is no way I can do that without hiring assistants and squaring away locations the right way.

I’ve put youtube on hold for the time being. It takes me 2 days to make a film journal and 30 minutes to create a “youtube short”. I sincerely believe I can rapidly grow my audience by consistently producing youtube shorts. However, I am a simple minded man and must move in a linear direction while focusing on one task at a time.

I’ve been speaking about Kickstarter for months. As of now I may launch mine in October. Much to my disappointment, I will likely push back the campaign for one more month. I am determined to offer lucrative incentives – a coffee mug, a t-shirt, and a DVD. I have just purchased a DVD writer drive and once I know I can export video & audio to it I will feel comfortable offering that as an incentive. I feel comfortable putting the mugs together myself, but will likely look to a 3rd party to make the T-shirts. I can create them with transfer paper, but unless I purchase a heat press I will be unable to make store quality shirts.

Soliciting funding is significant because it would demonstrate that my passion can turn a dime in the free market. For me that is the true mark of a professional – your ability is good enough that your customers find you because you’ve offered a product of value to them. That is much different than tricking one rich old dude who has a heart of gold into investing his life savings in your hobby.

I also want to post here more! And I will, especially when the editing is complete. I formerly posted here while at the end of my night shift, but they took our internet privileges away. That means that I have to use my free time to post, which takes away from my editing time.

Anyways, I know these are fragmented thoughts that kind of just splatted onto the page. But I wanted to write something. At least I can finally share a few stills from the film as I am writing from my main computer:

T minus 1 week

Today is one of the most important of my filmmaking journey. I have 2 days off prior to the start of my work week so I need to be aggresive and feel prepared to film next week’s sequence prior to the end of those days. If I’ve learned anything throughout this process it is that preparation will make the difference between laughable nonsense and a decent looking production.

I have a major prop involved in the scene next week and wish to be done creating it today. The major feature of this prop is a circuit board. I decided to make a trip to the local thrift shop and I wasn’t disappointed – it’s not everyday you come across blueray DVD players for less than $10. It’s such a good deal that I actually purchased one for personal use.

So now I get to take it apart today. Once I’m done with that I’ve got to determine how I wish for the prop to appear. As long as it appears like a usable, albeit mysterious piece of functioning technology, it will pass the test.

The other major part of my prepartion includes making a shot list. More specifically, nailing down the angles I will use to feature a sequence that relies on digital editing and masks in order to produce a special effect in the final product.

This evening I will meet with the cast via zoom to discuss how the filming is going to be done next week. I can’t wait to get the meat of this project; but that doesn’t mean I’m not still nervous to actually get this critical task underway. We’ve got 10 pages to film (!) a week from now, so the preparation starts today.

Check out my latest episode of Film Journal and make sure to subscribe if you want to continue staying up to date with the short film’s developments.

Film Journal – locating on a budget

I havent written here much lately. I’ve been consumed with work and making episode 5 happen. I did come up with a great story about a man realizing his situation was not confined to his luck but his effort to affect others positively, however i was drunk and it was 3 am and seemed like a bad time to flee my bed and girlfriend to go write. I have finished film journal 3 and in case you’ve been monitoring the progress of my web series, I’ll post the link below:

#4 – Don’t be cocky

Be me. Spend 1 night watching every shitty short film you can find online. Narrow them down to 3 criteria – small crew, less than 1000 dollars to make, and quality story.

Contact the creator. Get permission to make analysis video. Request a script. Receive no response. Shrug it off.

Do some research. Figure out how to download youtube videos. Do some creative thinking. Record audio of film using built-in microsoft screen recorder.

Be at work. Spend your downtime watching the film and recording the action and plot developments at 30 second intervals. Have a list of 40 notes to use during editing today.

Find creators youtube. See that they published a new video today. Hmm, interesting. Video opens to – “A lot of people have been asking about how I made this film.”

It’s a 30 minute video. A breakdown. Using my one comment as an example for why the selected video is a gift from God.

Needless to say I’m upset. I guess the 4th criteria for me providing a video analysis should be “doesn’t suck their own dick.”

That was inappropriate. I’m sorry. I’m just agitated. This video was my plan for the week and I really wanted to release something tomorrow. Now I’m 95% sure I’m just going to start fresh with a new idea.

In other news, I’ve finally hit my goal of trimming my script down to 15 pages. I personally feel it’s ready to go. Just waiting on the go-ahead from a beta reader.

I’m also 80 pages in to one of the features I promised to provide feedback for. I have nothing but respect and support for its author. They may not like the feedback but by God they will receive a thorough assessment. If you actually care about your writing that’s something you should be grateful for.

Do you have any suggestions on what I should do for a new video? Here are the options I’m considering:

  1. An analysis on a scene from a script that was developed into a hit movie
  2. A short film about a cat plotting to murder me
  3. An instructional video about something to do with video editing
  4. A sketch that’s sure to provide guffaws
  5. Don’t make a video and pound beers until Kelly gets home from work

If you have any preference please leave them in the comments below.

Thoughts and Speculation

Today marks the first day I begin making true progress toward episode 5. Today I will begin the script.

After more online searching last week, I’ve discovered a website called “Peerspace.” It is like the Uber of filming locations – normal citizens offer their allotted space for filming and photography. The average rate, from what I’ve seen, is about $100+ an hour. I’ve come across a couple locations available for $35/hour, and some more for $50/hour. Beyond peerspace, I have opened up conversations with friends about using their garage or personal space, and they have been open to the idea.

I am leaning toward using peerspace to find my location. They have a few available spaces near me, however they are much too expensive. They many in Los Angeles, and I am willing to make the roadtrip. I have not yet looked into using AirBnb, but will check that out today. The reason I am in favor of peerspace is because these individuals have a track record of renting out their space for film and will be reliable. If I have a good experience I will feel more comfortable using this service in the future and may finally begin to produce short films more frequently.

As far as writing the script goes, I am certain I would like to aim for a runtime of 15-20 minutes and include an A,B, and C plot. I feel that variety is required to engage any viewers and allows for a better build up of tension.

The main part of the writing process that I would like to approach differently is the plot. I typically begin with a few images of what I would like to see and write toward those moments. From there I implement various plot devices to build up the conflict and put the main characters actions under escalating pressure.

My major issue with the story of Episode 4 is that it felt a little flat for me emotionally. The entire story has a consistent tone and I feel the individual scenes could have used more twists, turns, and suspense. So how do I combat this?

I feel the first draft is imperative toward laying the blueprint for a fulfilling arc. That is because the first draft of any story is the only time the writer is experiencing their story as a viewer rather than an editor. You write the events as you see them unfold.

I would like to place the bulk of the episode within 1 interior location during 1 specific event. The B and C plots will be born out of this central story and exists to raise the stakes and tie into the ending. My goal with the main plot will be to convince the viewer they are seeing one thing only to discover they have been fooled, just as the protagonist, at the “big reveal.” This will be a challenge because the story they think they are seeing will still have to be entertaining to keep them watching. The big reveal has to show a story that is not only more intriguing, but a complete surprise – even when the viewer is suspicious, they must still be looking in the wrong direction.

On top of that I need to provide a reason for the main character, Ryan, to be instrumental to the cult he has been chasing after. If his existence is no more important to them than any other curious individual than the story lacks the glue that binds a hero to his enemies. The cult must be just as obsessed with stopping him as he is with understanding them. Think about Jason Bourne – Jason is trying to find the agency and understand why they are after him. But if he discovers the information that he is after then he has the ability to expose the shadow agency and destroy them. The major difference with my story is I will also require a motivation for the cult to keep him alive and possibly even to convert him. I am leaning toward information as being the key reason – possibly information that Ryan has that he does not even know. It needs to be more spicy than this, however – it needs to be BIG.

Anyways, this is my one day of the week to really set things in motion and get the ball rolling. I have written on here before about how I started a film network in my local area through Meetup. The group has hardly done anything due to the Coronavirus, but I have been offered to lead another filmmaking group nearby due to the former leader chose not to continue running it. I might take this on because it gives me access to 150+ aspiring filmmakers. I may not, however, as I have hardly done anything with the group I already have.

May the day find you well, and may you mold the next 24 hours to serve you and your goals, rather than allowing the next 24 hours to mold your goals and you.

Pre-Production of the Pre-Production

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Desire compels but delay gratifies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forcing Familiarity

“Read it!” The author said to the stranger.

Anytime you release a creative project – be it a novel, a film, a product, or an idea – you must take into account the realistic reception it will most likely receive.

It is naive and ignorant to anticipate the masses will flock to view your work because of its “masterful composition.” Any creative individual seeking external validation has signed up for disappointment.

The most common misconception of any artist is that the quality of their work will be instantly recognized upon its release. This is because the human mind does not operate that way.

Let’s say you decide one fine Sunday to read a book that has 0 reviews and no prior purchases.

Despite the fact you do not know the title of the book, nor it’s contents, nor its subject matter, you have already made an assumption about its overall quality. You are picturing novel ripe with plot holes, poorly applied research, and quite possibly grammatical errors. Why? Because you are looking for a reason to explain why the novel is a failure. It has thus far been labeled a failure by the rest of society, therefore you must examine it to figure out why.

This is no different than how we judge our fellow brethren and sisters. When we meet somebody new we ask what their occupation is shortly after introducing ourselves. In a job interview we provide a chronological blueprint about our prior life experiences in order to vouch for a job. In other words, we validate individuals, materials, and philosophies by first examining how they have been validated by others.

Now let us pretend on this fine Sunday morning that you have purchased a Stephen King novel instead. Perhaps you have never read any of his books before. What angle do you approach the pages with? You seek to discover why he is regarded as one of the all-time great novelists. You will study those pages and analyze the story in order to find the recipe to success. You are ready to receive his book with high regard and it will take work to change your opinion.

What’s the point of all this? To reassure any person out there who is trying to introduce something new to society that they are not falling short because of their skills and talents. That plays a role (the biggest in the long run), but it is not 100% responsible for the reception it receives. As a brand new novelist, your work will still be compared to Stephen King’s for examples of what not to do.

So what’s the point? Why even try? How can this hurdle be overcome?

You must continue to market your work even after learning it is not the masterpiece you once thought it to be. You must continue to defend yourself even after your weaknesses have been exposed. You must become a sales person who realizes that the consumer will not buy their product unless they are convinced it is a worthy investment.

The more you expose your imperfect work, as gut-wrenching as that may be, the more the public will find a sense of familiarization with you, the individual. Where at first they said no, they may eventually say yes – and only because they have been exposed to your brand multiple times. This is why advertising exists, after all – we’re not running to Mcdonalds every time we see a billboard. However, we may just feel like a McGriddle when we head into work the next day.

If you’re interested in my imperfect work, please check out my short film below and feel free to leave me a comment: