Episode 3 update – 5-9-20

I have been busy. I haven’t been here, or on any social media, but God have I been busy.

I broke my cardinal rule last week and did some reshoots. I think it is for the better, and I’m happy I did it, but man oh man did it create a bigger workload for me. It’s next to impossible to blend shots together when the lighting is different and the props have moved.

So that’s what I’ve been doing – locked up in an editing room for hours. When I began the venture into making short films, I did it with the philosophy of quantity over quality. I’m aware the saying is reversed for good reason, but I also felt strongly that I could potentially waste a lot of time trying to make something perfect for an audience that didn’t exist. I stand by my former decision, however with trial comes learning.

Once a video is published on youtube, it cannot be changed. Yes, they do have an editing tool, but it is garbage. My big regret with episode 1 had to do with the action sequences and the lack of urgency in their performance. In episode 2 my coloring was weak – the video looks much more dull and visually bleh than a good colorist would put their stamp on.

So with episode 3 I decided I would not publish until I was convinced I had done everything to the best of my abilities, regardless of how draining that course of action would be. A prime example of that is I had a full 5 minute episode fully formed last week before I did reshoots of virtually everything. Now I not only have better shots and takes, but I’ve added some more tension to the story and wound up shooting a separate 5 minute intro to build up the episode’s events. I’m actually more proud of the intro than the scene I initially crafted. As of right now, episode 3 is 10 minutes long – my longest shoot yet. I am still considering splitting it into 2 separate episodes, however. I would love to hear some thoughts on this – should I leave it be as one 10 minute episode?

Anyways, part of me does not feel like posting anything because I’m still at least 4 days away from being ready to publish it. I’ll probably be more active on here when it’s nearing completion. If you’d like to see episode 2, I’ve posted it below.

 

Need Writer With Brain – 4-12-20

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Episode 2 was much easier to shoot then 3 will be

It’s been a good week for me – episode 2 was viewed favorably and a producer requested one of the features that I’ve written. On top of that, my lens hood arrived along with a lens filter. I intend to film outside again. Last time the camera began to overheat when filming in the direct sunlight, so I believe these cheap tools should help alleviate that problem.

Episode 3 is a big turning point. I’ve mentioned here before that the first day of filming was  wash, so I’m basically shooting it from scratch. That gives me an oppurtunity to rewrite the script and tweak it. I’m going to strengthen the story line, but the biggest thing I can do is reconfigure it for easier filming. The short cut to that will be having Josh leap off the rock immediately then get in my face to stop me from progressing. This way, we can placed the microphone closer to the scene and be able to run through takes more rapidly. (last time we filmed I was running to 3 different stations to make sure the camera and sound were recording before I got into position for the take. This was time consuming and cost us more takes).

But there is a bigger issue. I want episode 3 to be faster paced with elevated stakes and greater tension. Like I’ve said before, a story is about what happens. So instead of linking a script, I’ll just list out some shit.

If you haven’t seen episode 1 & 2, here is the just of what happens:

Episode 1 – Ryan (my character) has captured a hiker whom he accuses of being a cult member who played a hand in abducting his wife. The “cult member” manages to break free and leaves behind a piece of Melanie’s jewelry (Melanie is Ryan’s missing wife)

Episode 2 – Ryan shares his cult research with his brother, who suggests he is losing his mind. On his way out, Ryan’s brother suggest that he scope out “Ruggerman’s Trail” – the place where weird, supernatural shit has been reported.

Ok, that brings us this weeks project. As it stands, episode 3 plays out like this:

  1. Ryan hikes, searching far and wide for signs of Ruggerman’s Trail
  2. Ryan spots the pile of clothes that the captured cult member advised him about
  3.  Josh prevents Ryan from proceeding and orders him to turn back
  4. Ryan tricks Josh and gets to the clothes
  5. Josh also has an ace up his sleeve, and the episode ends with Ryan in impending danger

That’s pretty much 5 pages. It’s the most action I’ve had in a single scene, and being that it is outside, I don’t believe I’ll be able to capture all the footage in one day. That is another motivation for me to reduce the scene with Josh to 3 pages, and dedicate 2 pages to raising the stakes and developing the overall story. Here is what I’m considering adding.

  1. Ryan searches a map for the location of Ruggerman’s Trail
  2. Ryan receives a call from his mother in law, who complains how she has only heard from her daughter through text messages, and desperately wants to come and see her face to face. She will arrive shortly.
  3. Ryan tells her he’s welcome, then rapidly packs his belongings and heads for the hills.

Those are the baby ideas that I’d like to develop into A, B, and C story lines. What I could really use is a logical reason for Ryan to recover the pile of clothes to redeem himself from any accusation of involvement and also prove his theory that a cult has taken her. I’m having trouble figuring out a good reason that Melanie’s clothes being retrieved by prove could somehow prove his innocence, however.

On top of this, I don’t have anyone in mind to play the mother in law. This isn’t a huge concern, as the role will only consists of voice-over audio included in the phone call.

I just want the episode to feel like a race, from start to finish, with one thing going wrong after another. I want it to feel like if Ryan fails to reach the trail he will be going to prison, blamed for his wife’s disappearance, and unable to shed any light on the secretive cults existence.

I’m open to any and all ideas at the moment. If you think you see a way that I could increase the tension, stakes, or conflicts in this episode, please do not hesitate to share your idea. I’m open to anything at the moment, but keep in mind that resources are limited. No new actors or expensive props are available at the moment. Thank you for take the time to read through this blather of a post, and I wish you a happy Easter.

If you would like to view episode 2, feel free to check out the link below.

Mess of a day – 4-4-20

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This is my Josh. He is supposed to be my scene partner today, but his car was towed last night.

The plan today is to film part 2 of episode 3 for the webseries. My scene partner Josh has committed to the rule and is excited to participate again. A major, MAJOR hang-up however is that his car was towed last night. He tells me that he can pick it up in the morning and still get here in time for some filming. I will survive if he cancels – after all, I work night shift and am hesitant enter work with serious fatigue. Episode 2 is already filmed so I can always work on that. The most significant drawback is that it is supposed to rain here until Wednesday.

It’s a mess of a day, however, because day one was filmed in bright, sunny lighting. We worked our asses off for 4 hours and only got through 1 page of the 5 page script. I’m very concerned about the lighting. But there’s another issue – I’ve edited some of what we shot, and found a handful of reasons to reshoot it.

  1. I’m not visible in my favorite camera angle shot
  2. I made Josh yell too loud in his close takes. It affects audio quality. On top of this, it appears he’s staring straight at the camera, instead of to camera left, where I am supposedly standing.
  3. I want a shot from over Josh’s shoulder.
  4. The angle that shows a full view of the clothes is not stabilized because it was handheld.
  5. I have a take that’s mean’t to be my perspective. I’m hiking uphill and checking out the hills in the distance. I spot the pile of clothes I’ve been searching for, charge toward them, and then spot Josh, who gets in my way.

Number 5 is the one I’m most concerned about. As it stands, in the take I have you can see Josh perched up above when I turn to see the hills. When I do spot the pile of clothing, my character momentarily freezes before charging forward. Switching back to the camera at my perspective, my character advances uphill before rapidly panning to Josh, demonstrated my character realizes he is there. I did not record any audio for this, so the rapid realization doesn’t make much sense.

This entire segment looks so corny it’s embarrassing. I’m sure there are some ways around it in the audio room but it’s such a nightmare working with low quality clips. Each of the 5 takes I want to reshoot feel necessary. But like I said before – it took us 4 hours to get all those clips, as much as I dislike them. I don’t like wasting time, and I sure as hell am not ok with laying an entire day of filming to waste. I feel the most amount of time I can allot to reshoots is one hour. But this presents a new challenge – for shooting outdoors, I need consistent lighting. I have no idea how I’ll be able to get through this entire script today, even if we’re at it until it’s time for me to head back to work.

Anyway, these are the issues I’m dealing with in my head right now. I am happy that work was slow enough for me to get a power nap in, so I’ll survive if we hit it hard today. In other news I’ve been able to promote episode 1 enough to accumulate over 80 views. This was no small feat, especially after it previously amassed 60 views before I cleaned up the audio and reuploaded it. I realize those are rookie numbers, but I am still a rookie. Every person who has taken the time to give it a watch – thank you, a ton. And to those of you who have given it a like and/or comment, I can’t tell you how incredible you are. If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out below.

Focus on Story 3-15-20

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Our location

Today we are shooting part 2 of the first episode for my web series. I posted about the first shoot 1 week ago and how much I learned. I’m hoping to have a better experience this time around.

The biggest difference this week should be our focus on story. Instead of just writing a script that seemed interesting than acting it out, I returned to my roots as a writer and put the best script together for the resources I have available.

I’m a big believer in keeping the story simple – give your main character an object of desire that he’s willing to derail his life for. Put many overwhelming obstacles in his path. Whatever lesson he learns to help him overcome those obstacles is your theme, and the attainment of his desired object will be your climax.

For the scene we’re filming today, I changed almost all of the second half of the script. Instead of the incessant back and forth that existed to make the viewer question the sanity of my main character, I’ve given the secondary character an object that will help him in his quest.

Instead of simply handing him this object, the secondary character uses it for leverage to regain his freedom and trick the main character into letting up his guard. I’m especially excited to see how this improvement in story plays out for the camera. I spent the better part of a week editing what we shot last Saturday. It took a lot of effort to clean up unemotional acting and cringeworthy lines.

Another big difference this week is that I’m going to encourage a stronger more emotional performance from my friend. It’s easy to just let him deliver his lines how he pleases – since he is my friend, he is performing for free, and I don’t like being a dick.

But I realize now that’s a huge part of the director’s responsibility. The performance of your actors reflects on your ability to coach them and get the best delivery. I’ve posted the updated script here, for you to check out. When I finish editing the video I’ll post it here as well. Wish me luck, and feel free to point out any critiques you may have. We begin filming at the time of this posting.

Practice Shoot – 3/4/2020

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We may or may not have intentionally decorated the table for this scene

Now that all of my equipment has arrived, my location is set, and my web series idea has been established, it’s time I start learning my gear. I’m a big believer in learning by doing – how easy it is to jump on google and attack the search engine with every imaginable question before taking a single step forward.

This weekend I was able to bust out my recorder, microphone, and camera and capture some shots of a coworker along with sights and sounds of the job. Unfortunately this was all done on the clock, and seeing as how I’d prefer not to get fired – I’m not going to publish it here.

But yesterday I had a day off. It took one spontaneous moment  – “Hey you want to film something?” and my friend Matt was in. The small backyard has a lot going on in it – trees and plants outside, empty beers and ash trays on the table. So the setting was a lock, and we were well on our way.

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That’s my handy little Tascam recorder on the right.

At first I figured we should just improvise something and do our best to repeat the scene in additional takes. But then I realized how amateur that would be, especially after dedicating years to the craft of writing. I wanted a script primarily because it would keep us on track with each additional take. I’m very new behind the camera, but one thing I rely on is 3 different shots – distant, mid, and close. Those 3 separate views of the same scene come together nicely when it’s fully edited.

The other obstacle was comedy. It’s really difficult when you pull out a camera with your friends to keep from saying something stupid to ease the tension. Our minds, or at least mine, are wired to come up with something witty on improvisation. The key to drama is to add tension with each line, have characters transform, and push forward with the plot. This is difficult to develop spontaneously. Scenes are built on action, obstacles, and character growth. You will know if you are a writer that often times these plot developments take prolonged periods of mental anguish to hammer out.

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My shirt’s inside out to hide the fact that it’s a work T

I’m not saying that the script I wrote is any good – but it’s simple and has some of the key elements to be an actual scene. The one-and-a-half page story is about Ryan (me) entering the backyard to inform Trey (my friend Matt) that he is no longer willing to go through with a bank robbery. He complains that the “haul” isn’t worth a possible sentence of ten years. This is new information for Trey – he’s ready to back out himself. Except when he tells Ryan that the haul is actually for a quarter million, the scene turns on it’s head. Now Ryan pressures Trey to go through with the job.

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Matt going over lines

We’ve already filmed and recorded it so I won’t be making any changes, but I’ve posted the script here for you to read regardless. Feel free to offer me any constructive feedback if you’d like.

I’m hoping to edit most if not all of it today. I still need to learn how to color grade, as you will see in some of the disturbing colors of the footage. I anticipate I’ll be spending the weekend learning how to do that. I’d also like to set up a youtube channel, come up with a production company name and design a logo for it. That and write a 5 page script for my mini-series. If I’m on my game, I should be able to finish these tasks by the end of the week. I’ll keep you updated, but for now I’m aiming to have this short edited and uploaded for viewing before the weekend.

Vague Plan

woman holding a clapperboard

Photo by Ali Pazani on Pexels.com

Everything I need to film my first short film should be arriving within 1 week. After that I will have to build the computer, learn how to use my microphone, and adjust to my new Sony a6300 camera. I will not have any lighting equipment, I will only have one 18-50mm lens, and I’ll be posting the video to youtube for under twenty views. I’m ok with that.

When I regularly posted on wordpress I made it a discipline to primarily grow my blog by posting short stories. I think this is especially important if you are trying to become a writer – the temptation to post writing advice and insights is always strong and enticing. The problem is you will only attract writers who are trying to do the same thing as you. You will not build an actual reading audience, because your followers are coming to learn about writing rather than be entertained. It’s also much easier to analyze another person’s work and figure out what they did wrong or could have done better. There is no shortage of online information available that is focused on the craft. What is especially difficult and rare is the ability to prove your craft through your works. I’m going to try my best to build an audience on youtube for my short films. When I feel my work is qualified, I will start entering competitions or submit through other avenues.

For my current project, I already have a pretty decent plan in place. I have a location – an outdated barnyard – and one friend who is willing to act. My girlfriend will be able to help with handling the equipment during the shoot (she refuses to act in a project unless she is “a homeless person sitting in the corner”).

I’m excited to begin typing out a script. Nothing is more revealing than seeing your pages brought to life – last time I wrote a 1 minute script for fun, I was shocked to discover how difficult it was to deliver some of the lines. I’m going to keep the plot close to the chest for now, because I think it’s a great premise for a 1 location story with limited actors. I think it could work as a multi-episode story, too. The plot forces the MC into isolation and leads the viewer to wonder whether he is crazy or has an object of national importance.

I’ve noticed that the number one thing that engages me as a viewer is early empathy with the main character. I’m thinking I’ll begin my story with the main character writing in a journal. This way, I can provide some voice over to give a little bit of background without making it a reoccuring perspective. I see something very similar to the opening of Chernobyl. From there I can see him playing piano. But there has to be something more – something very unique that makes the viewer say “I want to follow this man’s journey.” All great characters stories have this – a unique action that’s both relatable and unique. A prime example of that – my girlfriend saying she’ll only be in a film if she’s a homeless extra. A great film example would be Parasite, where the family allows the toxins to waft through the windows in order to kill their own bug infestation. They are so poor and have such little regard for their own health that they make this bizarre choice. That was the moment I knew I wanted to follow their journey.  Alright, that’s the end of the rambling for now. I’ll have more information in my next update.