Harsh Reality

I am relieved to have finished the first trailer for Mountain Cult this week, but time remains crucial. I am determined to launch a kickstarter campaign beginning January 1st, but I have much preparation to do from now until then.

The greatest obstacle I face is the lack of a true audience. All the theorizing, contemplation, and deep thought in the world can never substitute for a marketing campaign. If I were to release episode 5 today I am certain it would receive a maximum of 100 views by midnight.

I feel that I can look within the subject matter of the episode to discover my audience. Episode 5 deals with Astral Projection, Cults, and brain waves/radio frequencies. I feel that if I create a short documentary on the areas of interests I can find my way into attracting viewers for the subject matter I am offering.

That would make for 3 youtube videos I can release in January. Beyond that, the amount of behind the scenes footage and stories about the films development are ample. I can create a youtube video summarizing the struggles, prop development, and even editing that went into the various days of work. That would give me 8 separate videos I can release next month.

I messed around today with Episode 1 – which I created over a year ago. My skills with audio and video have drastically improved. I am considering re uploading each of these former episodes leading up to the release of Episode 5. As I’m writing it I find myself more intrigued by the idea. By pumping out frequent youtube videos, the algorythm may assist me and I may naturally attract more viewers for the films release.

I stumbled across an independent filmmaker today who was releasing a short film with an asking price of $3. This naturally caught my attention, as it is what I would like to do. I did, however, notice he has a miniscule following, despite a handful of affirming supporters. I couldn’t help but see myself in him, and simultaneously judge his actions independently. I think it looks silly to release a film with an asking price if you don’t already have an audience waiting for it. I haven’t come to any firm conclusion about Episode 5s release but this will definitely cause me hesitation in regards to releasing it as a pay on demand title.

Hoping to update here soon.

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:

Day 1 – Production

Today marks the first day of production for me. I mean yeah, it’s technically pre-production, but this is the day I get the ball rolling.

I will be posting a youtube video diary later in the day discussing my plans and ambitions for the project. My goal is to begin posting videos 3-4 times per week updating my progress. I will discuss every meaningful event, from casting, to prop orders, equipment changes, crew acquisition, and location scouting.

My overarching goal is to build momentum toward a kickstarter campaign. If I can build enough online support to start gaining sponsorship I can offset costs and purchase better equipment. Maybe I can even provide a bonus to the actors.

I will have some obstacles to overcome as it is completely unfamiliar territory for me. I have 0 comfort and 0 interest in performing monologues in front of the camera to “sell my self.” I honestly think the word Vlog is disgusting, embarrassing, and disgraceful. But the reality is that entertaining videos take a lot more work then I am able to put in while simultaneously developing episode 5. The alternative is to produce 5-10 second humor clips, but I am not trying to be a tik tok star I’m trying to be a filmmaker.

I will publish the video later today and intend to post the link here as well. I’m guessing I’ll get around 20 views but that’s ok. This is where building a community starts so I’m going to do it.

Pancakes On a Wall

Here is a wall without any pancakes on it.

The best path forward…. the secret to success… top 5 ways to break in…

It’s all bullshit. About as helpful as dating advice.

It’s 4 am and I am providing coverage on 2 separate scripts. The writers are at different levels of their craft but they both include a lot of scene description. I fucking hate scene description. I don’t care who nods, wears designer shoes, or sleeps in the dark room when each of the 5 characters are as indistinguishable as chicken nuggets.

You might be wondering to yourself “Hey buddy I think your brain may be broken.” And to that I say “My brain is works.”

This post is about the monotony of progress. We know it’s laughable to dwell in the pipedream of thinking our extraordinary talents will spontaneously be realized and thrust into the spotlight. But I argue it is equally delirious to think following some magic guidelines will help us achieve the future we dream about. Every “new method” of advancing to the top of the pack will always be overcrowded with other wolves gnashing over the same objective.

If you’re trying to make a career out of originality, wouldn’t it only make sense to find your own way forward?

It’s 4 am and I am providing coverage for two feature length scripts because the writers will return feedback for my own work. An idiot in my shoes would more than likely be sending an untested scripts out to agencies and producers. A rich idiot would send their work out to a script coverage service and pay for notes.

The major advantage of working with others at the bottom is that you form a relationship and can work toward similar goals. Each person you communicate with becomes a companion along your journey. This is where you make the “connections” that are so important – not through a service that trades your money for their praises.

After I get done with the providing notes on these screenplays, I intend to formulate an idea (and hopefully film) a video for my next YouTube video. Soon I will be cataloging my experience making Mountain Cult Episode 5. Until then, I get to make videos about whatever I would like.

The last video I made, which I’ll post a link to below, was for such a niche audience that I’m pretty sure I only made it to satisfy my own curiosity. I am interested in making my next video more appealing to a mass market, though I’m not yet sure on how. Comedy seems to generate a lot of clicks, but I am trying to stay away from that. Controversy also seems to generate clicks, but that’s not really something I’m comfortable with.

So many people seem to think that success and failure in life can be attributed to a single moment. In reality it is a series of events, often spanning years if not decades. By continuing to push videos out I will build an audience – it’s no different than wordpress. By continuing to discuss my web series I will build up anticipation for its eventual release. By staying up at 4 am to provide feedback on scripts that don’t appeal to me, I am disciplining myself to treat my passion like it is already a career – regardless of the doubtful undercurrent that sweeps up my subconscious.

I hope this post has confused and angered you for ever having read it. If you “get what I’m saying” then I am relieved because I feel my hypotheses are as sturdy as buttered pancakes slapped on an aluminum wall.

Have a great day and make sure to click that star without wasting time bothering to open the actual post.

Marketing for the Soul

I remade the video I previously spoke about and hope to post it either today or tomorrow. So far the video looks great and the audio sounds crisps. It does not appear unprofessional and I’m excited to edit the material. I have also emailed one of the actors a copy of the current script and am excited to receive her feedback this afternoon.

It’s easy to become bogged down when we monitor trends in art, music, and fiction. When you involve yourself in these industries you see first hand just how much “success” and “fame” are used interchangeably. There is always a craft involved in performance and it can feel disheartening to see how much marketing plays a role. A major idea that comes to mind for me is ghost-writing – when a celebrity or musician employs another person to write their material for them without receiving the credit. The “big name” will draw the audience, the ghost writer will keep them in their seats.

It’s important to know why your medium of choice appeals to you. If fame is your ultimate goal then their are far simpler avenues to “success”. Come out with some controversial opinions and your personality will be more widely recognized. Appeal to the lower nature – or vices – of man and you will broaden your audience. I recently heard someone state that the music industry had at some point transformed to push songs for people who hate music and I can’t stop thinking about that. In the early 2000’s there was an influx of reality show television. There is currently a show called “The Masked Singer” about celebrities dressed in mascot-type costumes while the audience (or judges?) try to guess who they are. Shows such as this cause me to view an alien invasion from a fresh perspective.

Only we, the artists, get to decide how we approach and deliver our material. There are endless formulas, trends, and market research that can guide the choices we make. Ultimately, it’s up to us to decide which shape we would like to take. When I think of the persons and things that interest me I find I have an eclectic mix of influences that are marked more by their distinctiveness then by their adherence to a common structure. The appeal to mass audiences doesn’t weigh on my reception of them. The appeal to my own individual beliefs and values, however, does.

As I begin editing my short, meaningless video today I keep all of these thoughts in mind. On the one hand I am creating the videos in order to expand my audience – so it is admittedly a form of marketing. But I refuse to create videos with the cliche appearance of so many other YouTube style Vlogs. There is no “golden rule” that requires me to make a thumbnail where I smile like a dumbass and point my thumb at a yoyo in a toaster. There is no necessity for me to ask the audience to “punch that like button.”

I can make the video any way in which I damn well please. The end result will be a reflection of myself, my values, and my abilities as a creator. This understanding enables me to export videos for marketing purposes without selling out my love of meaningful production.

In simpler terms, I’m making another short youtube video.

Have a great day and may the creative fire ignite your spirit.

Consistency is King

Today I have the apartment to myself and no work obligations.

I completed my first non short film style YouTube video yesterday and posted it. It doesn’t have many views, though I wasn’t really expecting it to. I have been hosting online meetup zoom meetings for the past 2 months every Sunday. It has been an awesome experience to see the same faces show up regularly. We have also had new members stop by each week. The plan was simple – host an informal, low pressure event routinely and allow the attendance to grow naturally. So far, it has worked.

I’m going to apply the same methodology to my short YouTube videos. I will regularly update my progress on Episode 5 and discuss whatever part of the process I am currently developing. I intend to build a gradual increase in viewership from posting consistently. If I were still writing novels rather than screenplays I would do the same thing. It’s an easy and low cost way to grow your following.

This does, however, increase my overall workload. My friend suggested a while back that I create a schedule for production and stick to it. I haven’t been able to generate that timetable because I’m still stuck in the writing process. I do feel that a good script cannot be rushed – creativity is not something we control, it is something we express.

So this fine March day I have the place to myself and can sit down and work through some of the major bugs in my script. I may completely rewrite the opening scene with a centralized focus on the plot’s greater mystery. Rewriting my opening scene would be ironic considering the current scene was the object of discussion in my last YouTube upload. I would also like to learn more about crowdfunding platforms such as Patreon, Twitch, Indie gogo, and paypal (general). It would be wise for me to find a way to make items from the show available for sale.

Anyway, I hope you have a fine day doing what you love, or at least figure out a way to pretend to love doing that which you are forced to do.

Building an audience with purpose

A visual representation of my left and right hemispheres working together.

I’ve been going back and forth between ideas for how I would like to shape my youtube channel. It is a great platform for building an audience and potentially monetizing your material. My uncertainty lies in how I would like to present content that varies from the short films I prefer to create.

The human mind will always separate items through genres, labels, and categories. Many fantastic actors wind up being “type cast” after performing a strong and memorable role as a certain character. In-N-Out, one of the most successful fast-food franchises ever conceived, coincidentally also has one of the simplest menus. Radio host and political figures who frequently side with a single party succeed, whereas those who seek to promote a balanced viewpoint often struggle.

Simply put – creators are bound by the expectations of their audience.

Why is this important? Because if I seek to grow my youtube channel by posting new content more frequently I must first come to terms with whom I’d like to attract. Regardless of which direction I choose to go in, I am confident that I will gain more subscribers and views. My uncertainty come from knowing that the material that reels in the most new viewers is not necessarily the best for my overarching goals.

Let’s say I make a series of instructional videos for how to use Adobe Premiere Pro. It is the editing software I am most familiar with and it wouldn’t take a ton of effort to shed light on some topics that at one point caused me tremendous frustration. Instructional videos of all types are overwhelmingly popular – no different than the “non-fiction” section of any bookstore in comparison to any “fiction” section. When I formerly pursued a traditional publishing route as a writer, I learned that non-fiction books were written by sending the query letter to publishers before the book was even written. With novels they expect you to have a finished book, a target audience, and a marketing package before they even open your first email.

So it seems like a no-brainer, right? The challenge with going this route is that I will develop an audience of fellow filmmakers. They will not be stopping by my channel to support my films, but to gain in knowledge. In other words I will not be growing a classroom rather than building a fan base.

The other avenue that is lucrative to me is the regular short film route. I’ve seen other social media personalities generate an enormous following by creating short, funny films with themselves playing multiple roles. This does not appeal to me because A.) The attracted followers will only be there for micro films and B.) I am seeking to produce quality, emotionally moving films – something that this type of audience will not have the patience for.

A more specific youtuber who I’ve really become a fan of is Joel Carver, who produces weekly short films with some real effort going into each sketch. His films are funny, tell a story, and have become an unquestionable success. The most important part is that he has built an audience from his ability to entertain – and that is no small feat. My hang-up here is that producing stories of this nature and caliber require an enormous amount of time and exertion. As long as I am creating 10-20 minute episodes I will not have the time to do both.

After much speculation I have decided the best route will be to involve my audience in the filmmaking process. In many ways I believe these films will be instructional in nature. The major distinction will be my discipline in relating each segment to “Mountain Cult.” The second hugely important task will be to make the videos a form of entertainment. Rather than merely stating “Here’s how I do X, then Y, and now I move onto Z” I’d like to wrap it up in the form of a story (though I’m not yet sure how).

The two major goals of creating new videos that are not actual short films will be to:

  1. Build a niche fanbase for “Mountain Cult.”
  2. Produce a new segment on a weekly basis at a minimal cost.
  3. Target an audience for story, rather than a classroom of fellow creators.
  4. Sell items or solicit donations to help finance my productions.
  5. Present my self as a serious filmmaker – rather than a youtuber.

I already have a vague idea of what I may do for the first video, but this post has been long enough. I’m not exactly excited about this particular step forward, though I do know it is in the right direction. I have spent a great amount of time this week discussing the script of Episode 5 with others and have been making major improvements. I’m very excited because I believe it will be the best story I have told through cinema. I am also nervous because it is more complex than episode 4 (which was mostly action) and therefore will be more strenuous for viewer if I do not make the necessary adjustments now.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Make the most of this fine Friday and remember that there is nothing preventing you from carrying out your work as if you already are where you aim to be. If you wait for permission to treat your passion as if it’s your job then it will never become one.

Navigating Modern Art

“The Smell of Rank” – Thomas M. Watt, oil on canvas, 2020.

I’ve been toying with an idea for the last few months that I may finally put into practice. But before I get into that, let’s discuss the typical artistic dream:

This applies whether you are a painter, a musician, a filmmaker, or a writer – at your core you value art over superficial gimmicks. The idea of self promotion, marketing, sales, and even merchandising likely makes you feel ill. You entered into your craft because you wanted to express an emotion that would leave a lasting impact on others. You sought to share your life experience through a specified medium with such precision that your message would inspire the souls of others like you.

The problem with this dream is not the dream itself – for it is a beautiful ideal. The issue has to do with the reality of the world we live in.

Any person who has sought to make this dream a reality will likely come across a similar issue: Despite painting a masterpiece, composing a captivating melody, or writing a whirlwind romance, your accomplishment goes unrecognized. The place where I have always been stopped is likely where others have been held up as well – short of the entrance door.

The most difficult aspect of attaining success in these pipe-dream careers is the barrier to entry. Unfortunately (and I say that with sincerity) we all know stories about artists who were discovered due to their overwhelming talent. The reason I say “unfortunately” is because the rapidly changing world we live in is reshaping the gate that prevents us from being recognized. That gate is technology.

If I can produce a quality film for less than $1000 so can anybody else. I can improve the quality a hundred fold each time, but during the time period it requires me to make such a film there are being millions upon millions of films being produced and streamed each day. What I am emphasizing here is the over-saturation of artistic markets.

You may be the greatest painter who ever lived, but if you only have 10 paintings available for sale you are going to have a rough time capturing enough interested clients to for a worthy price point to be fully realized. Now imagine JK Rowling made a painting and tried to sell it. Do you think she would have any trouble finding a buyer, despite its quality? I don’t think so.

So what am I getting at with all this? That the modern artist must choose quantity over quality? God no. My belief is that in order to reach a broader audience you must make yourself an accessible figure. The only way to avoid this would be to “get discovered” by a company or individual more powerful than yourself. Though that is the typical climax of any pipe-dream, I am absolutely sickened by the thought of relying on an outside power to help me make my dream a reality. There are many reasons for this, but the main one is that I would be opening myself up to getting played. If I am holding out for another entity to find success for me, they are going to use that to their advantage in negotiations – after-all, that’s how they’ve become a successful, established entity.

I have long avoided posting any videos on my youtube channel that are not new episodes for my film. In similar fashion, many writers on here only market works of fiction for sale that are full length novels. These things take months or even years to develop. During that time period, the audience for such content is still active in the community – but they’re giving their views, plays, and clicks to other artists.

That is the price of free rentals and free views. Your income from each “customer” is closer to 0 than it is to a single penny. Meanwhile, the top content producers rake in a ton of attention by consistently pushing out content and developing a communal following.

I am not sure what direction I am going to head in, but I do know the typical path of marketing is a foolish one. I can post teaser trailers each week and hype up my next episode all I want. Neither of those options will be even half as effective as producing weekly videos that build a community of viewers who want to hear my perspective on things and learn from me specifically. I am 100% convinced that building the viewership in my channel will result in more views for my upcoming episode than merely waiting until it is completed and hoping it catches fire.

I have an endless list of reasons for why I have not done this already. One of the main reasons is that I fear my channel will become a disorganized nightmare for predictable content. It may include funny videos, behind the scene footage, how-to instructions, and personal blogs. Kind of like my blog here (lol).

Even though the artist in me hates it, I feel like building a brand of personality will enable you to reach a wider viewership. When you have a wider viewership your media sales will inevitably increase. When your sales increase, you will begin to attract the big fish who will see you as a proven investment (After all, that is what modern media behemoths are looking for – not quality, but a predictable ROI).

I’m not really that happy to make this decision because it is not true to how I perceive art should be realized. I am a staunch believer in art surviving on its own merits, not by the personality of its producer. But as I’ve experienced in my own pursuits, you get stopped at the door because the doorman doesn’t even know who the “f” you are, not because the goods you are carrying aren’t worth something special. The modern day issue plaguing the artist is that nobody is going to ask what you’re carrying when everyone around you also has something locked under their arm.

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.