Need Writer With Brain – 4-12-20

DSC02907

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.

Pointless Post – 4-10-20

DSC02476

I have nothing interesting or captivating to offer anyone today, just some mindless ramblings of what I’ve been up to, I suppose.

I was desperately hoping to film episode 3 of my webseries this week, but the rain has come down hard here in southern California so I’ve had to postpone all shooting.

I did, however, complete and upload episode 2. I am very proud of it, and feel it is my best work yet. My only hang-up is the coloring – the skin tones should pop out more, but I couldn’t figure out how to do that without turning the walls to orange. It is a lazy man’s mistake, but I always feel like I am in a race with my own persistence to complete a project and post it. When it is nearing completing, there is a part of me that fears any procrastination will lead to the video not ever being posted. It is a legitimate fear, however, as any person who blogs here knows it takes a certain bit of courage and determination to write anything for public consumption and critique.

Back to episode 3 – I filmed the beginning segment last week. I’ve been working with the footage and I just don’t think it’s salvageable. I’m a strong believer in avoiding reshoots at all costs, because that means time wasted. However, with the clips I have viewed, I fear I have no choice. Much of the acting is lousy, I look fat and out of shape, the mic was never close enough to hear my voice adequately, and the transitions are brutal. There’s a take where I am staring up the hill, turn to view the landscape, return to the trail, then spot the pile of clothes I am after. In the take I viewed, Josh is clearly visible in all the camera turns. It looks like a goddamn middle school project. One final note on the footage – the acting is terrible. Part of my job as director is to get the best out of the actors I have. We’re planning to film again next week and that will be an enormously important development I will have to take.

Anyways, thank you for taking the time to listen to my bullshit. I’ve posted episode 2 below in case you’d like to check it out.

Rain Day – 3-13-20

DSC02476

I’m currently finishing up the 1st shift of my weekend night shift tour. It’s 4 am over here and I’m tired as hell.

Well the video is online and I managed to get some views through some shameless self promotion. 2 dislikes which may or may not have been due to my self promotion style of advertising. I can deal with that.

I’m aiming to create a channel that pumps out 5 min shorts on a weekly basis. I want to create an efficient, reliable source of entertainment to build an audience and improve my filmmaking and story telling skills. I can’t understate how fun and eye opening it is to write a story then see how it plays out with human actors. I learned from my experience last Saturday that giving a main character repetitive lines such as “You’re crazy dude” and “When was the last time you slept?” really do hinder the drama and conflict you’re trying to build.

Over here in Riverside it’s supposed to rain until Saturday. My scene partner says he may be available on Sunday. We shot the first half of our scene last Saturday.

There’s a few obstacles here I’ll have to confront. The major challenge will be finishing a scene in the same location with different lighting. If it is not cloudy outside, it will be a noticeable difference. We could cut to a shot of him hiking and use voice-over to finish the scene. Maybe I could cut the scene early then show the second interrogation as if it’s a separate day. I’d love to reshoot the entire scene but finish it through its end, but that’s when the time and efficiency factor comes into play. For now I don’t really know what we’re going to do.

I do know this – I have to plan better. I should have the script fully fleshed out days in advance and have any materials needed already purchased. I can take pictures of the location we will film in and have a strong idea for where I will be placing my camera. These are factors that I can control.

If we don’t shoot on Sunday, I think I’m going to build a DIY dolly. I also need to work on recruiting real, legitimate actors. I’m partially procrastinating on that end, but I also feel that building up a resume of quality short films will build a reputation for my channel that it’s worthy of people serious about film. That’s all for now, I’m going to try and stay awake as we finish this graveyard out.

Below is my first short scene. If you want to check it out and give it a like, I’d really appreciate that. But if you give it a dislike I will spend the rest of the day boiling with rage and contemplating deeply about the direction of my life until I find a reason to validate my own filmmaking decisions and belittle those who criticize me no matter how justifiable their opinions may be. And then I’ll tell my shampoo bottle and he’ll agree with me. He always does.

My First Short Film – 3-12-20

 

I’ve had a lot going on this week, but I’m excited to announce I’ve finally posted my first short film to youtube. It’s more of a scene. My internet is up and running at a snail’s pace of 25 mbps, but it was enough to upload my short to youtube.

Quarter Million Bust was filmed and shot the day it was born into existence. But if I had a full week to prepare for it I wouldn’t change shit. Why? Because its shortcomings weren’t  visible to me until I watched it on the screen. But let’s start with the positives.

Positives:

  1. My friend Matt did a fantastic job acting. His changes in speech pattern and voice pitch add to the dynamic range of his character.
  2. My B-roll footage. I love the shots of the beer can, the table, the cigarette smoking, and the bird chirps. I’m also thrilled about how an easy 3 note guitar tune sounded as the score.
  3. My camera – it provides clear, excellent picture that responds fluidly with effects.
  4. My recorder & microphone – our voices were much too quiet during the shoot, but I was able to add 15 db of audio to each clip without a heaping serving of white noise.
  5. I learned – Oh God did I learn. What did I learn, exactly?

Negatives:

  1. Act better – I need more emotion when I’m on scene, and I need to realize the emotional significance of the words coming out from my mouth. The emotions need to be a reaction to my scene partner.
  2. Write better – There were a few lines that made me cringe and didn’t make it to the final product. The one that eats to me is my line “Are you in or are you out.” It was partially an exercise in flipping the scene on its head, where I enter as the uncertain one and trade confidence with Matt. But when I deliver the line I seem like the main provocateur, who has been intent on committing the bust the entire time. The line ignores the uncertainty my character entered the scene with. This line should have been a pivot point that showed my transformation. Instead, my transformation is completed entirely with a long, deep pondering pause.
  3. Better shots – Get a close up! I shot our scene from three distinct distances – long, mid and close. Unfortunately, my close up captures about half of each character’s torso. Ideally it should be face only, to display the most emotion. Conversely, my long shot was so long that it was hardly usable. I’m still happy with it, and will do it again, but it is too  far away to consider as one of my primary takes.
  4. Speak louder/position the mic better – without the ability to add audio gain, our voices would have been impossible to detect, and the clip would have been worthless.
  5. Color grading – Oh God, this is the big one. I’m only beginning to understand how color grading works. My skill level is not even on par with “amateur level” – it’s straight up beginner. You can see in the final product how orange our skin tones become throughout the clip. Even with the same takes, the effects change throughout the scene. This is something I’ll have to learn. In retrospect, I wish I colorgraded each take before my final product was completed, so that they remain consistent. I’ll have to do some research and figure out the best way.

So, there you have it – my first short film. Obviously 2 minutes is not long at all, and the lack of action is apparent. I don’t consider either of those cons as this is my first short film ever. I knew going into this that the experience would be mostly about learning my equipment, learning adobe premiere pro, and discovering how to edit my work. I’m overall very pleased with the product.

I filmed the first half of a scene this past Saturday. I’m hoping to film again this weekend and have something new to upload by this time next week. My youtube channel was launched yesterday. I’d like to add a graphic to it as well. I want to dedicate it entirely to short films. I hope that I can maintain the courage to post less-than-perfect short films. I want to stay extremely far away from becoming a youtube vlogger, so for now I’m going to resist the urge to post reality style clips – at least to that channel. I want to build an audience for short films/scenes. Another objective of mine is to post frequently with highly efficient editing – even if that means sacrificing quality. Much like a screenplay, I believe it’s easy to become obsessed with perfection and dwell too long on a project that is only as good as its subject matter.

Anyway, that’s all I got for now. I plan to return to regular posting. Thank you for reading, and if you checked out the clip thank you some more. It really means a lot.

 

Location Ready – 3/3/2020

DSC02424

I have location picked out for my upcoming web series, which is a fancy way of saying I moved into a new place. But part of that move WAS motivated by the fact that this slice of land is absolute gold for any person trying to show a chilling tale.

DSC02426

You already know this barn is haunted by a little girl who needs you to free her

You can’t see it to well, but there is actually a swing set and even a slide that were probably built 70 years ago (creepy). The picture above is the barnyard of the property. Inside there are 12 stalls and no horses.

DSC02428

Can you say “torture chamber”?

So here are the resources for my story – A barnyard, me, incredible hiking trails, and friends. When you’re low budget, the resources inspire the story.

DSC02440

The house haunted by the little girl’s grandma who only wants to knit in peace

I like the idea of creating a web series of 5 minute episodes. I have an idea for a thriller plot that will keep viewers engaged and allow for using this location and utilizing the mountains. The protagonists locks up another character and interrogates him about the disappearance of his family. It will be unclear whether this captured character is innocent or guilty. It will be clear that the main character is under tremendous stress, and may have lost his mind looking for answers. But the key thing is, the barn is a central part of the story. Frequent, reoccurring use of it will appear logical and not heavy handed.

I want to write the script this week, then post it on here & reddit before production begins. It would be really great to hear feedback, and I think as a writer it’s always refreshing to read a script first before seeing how it all unfolds on the screen. My biggest priority is going to be building an audience of people who simply want to be entertained. That’s more important to me than entering any film festivals or following screenwriting 101 rules at the moment. But for now, I’m grateful for any person who takes the time to read these update and provide any insights they may have. So thank you.

DSC02432

A rat whose life was wasted gazing through iron bars at a cheese slice he never got to eat now haunts other rats who are happy and well fed.

 

 

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.

Mom

gothic_church_by_snowelfwithsun.jpg

He finished through the last row of vines and entered the tower in a blaze of panic. It had been 2 days since his last full glass of water and a meal a few berries. Lenny was in no mood to make new friends.

They smiled at him. Sharp, ear to ear grins.

“Congratulations,” the one with a black pendant necklace said. “We believed in you.”

A colony of men and boys. Heads, eyebrows, and faces all completely shaven. Wearing white, priest-like robes.

Lenny, on the other hand, had a beard, a torn Metallica shirt, and tennis shoes.

“Who are you?” said Lenny.

“I’m your keeper,” said the one with the black pendant. “My name is Sugar.”

“Sugar?” began Lenny, still panting. He grabbed the glass of water before a colony member had offered it and took a swig. “Your momma name you that?”

The colony grinned smugly, but none so much as chuckled.

“No,” said Sugar. He reached out and retrieved the empty glass. “But momma would like to meet you.”

Two of the more husky-looking colony members grabbed Lenny by each of his arms. Lenny resisted, snapping free from their grasps and turning for the door. He was stopped short by a dagger point aimed at his eye. Lenny returned to Sugar.

“I don’t know what this is,” Lenny gritted out. “I don’t remember what happened before I entered that bullshit maze. I just want to go home. I just want to return to my boring life.”

“Meet mom, and you’re free to go,” said Sugar.

Lenny eyed the rest of the room. These bald-headed clowns all displayed the same mindless expression. He’d been kidnapped by a goddamn virgin convention.

“Let’s do it,” said Lenny.

He followed along with the colony outside of the tower. So far he had seen swords and daggers, but no sign of any guns. Even if he was to fight his way free, where would he go? Lenny had fought so hard to escape that maze but he never imagined he’d find himself in a more perilous situation.

The walk from the tower was illuminated with Tiki torches lining the dirt path. The fires ran tall and provided some welcome warmth. White-robed colony members flanked Lenny on all sides as they walked in step-by-step unison toward the Gothic Cathedral. The outdoor area was surrounded by an Iron gate. Arrowed spikes decorated their peaks. Then Lenny spotted something – a gate, appearing badly damaged. It had been busted apart by some kind of army jeep. Whoever had tried to break in hadn’t made it very far – there were pikes still sticking out from the windshield.

“This way!” One of the colony members with a thick, low voice shouted at him.

“You might not be afraid of us,” Sugar said to Lenny. He stopped at the doorway, flashed a devilish smirk, then yanked the fat spiraling door handle to the large door of the cathedral and directed Lenny to enter.

The rest of the colony laughed.

“I ain’t afraid of your fucking mom,” Lenny said.

A set of hands shoved Lenny from behind, and he fell onto his hands and knees inside the building. The door shut behind him, and he was filled with cold dread.

The pews were of old wood, vacant of any church parishioners. The statues inside were nothing like the Catholic saints he had seen growing up – these were of dragons flying, wolves eating, and at the front one giant black leopard, in the pouncing position.

“Hello,” said Lenny, surveying the empty building as his voice echoed through the chambers. His foot struck something – a spotted dog, with a knife in its head. Blood pooled around it.

The sound of glass shattering brought Lenny to jump. It had come from up ahead.

Lenny knelt down, rubbed the bloody dog behind its ear, then tugged the knife out from its skull. He stuffed the blade into the waste of his jeans, then adjusted his ragged shirt to hide the handle.

“Lenny,” said the voice ahead. It was a sort of whispered moan. The type of voice you’d expect to hear from a dying creature. “Bow down to me.”

“Fuck you.”

“Bow down to me!”

The smoke from the candles inside swirled together, materialized into a sort of foggy witch, then sucked the knife out from Lenny’s waistband and plunged it straight through his foot, nailing him where he stood.

“Arrgh!” grunted Lenny. He gripped the knife but a sort of magnetic energy kept him from withdrawing it. The black smoke dispersed into a cloud of locust, swarming the inside of the church. Lenny slapped as they attacked at his face, and when he opened his mouth two crammed their way into his throat. Lenny coughed them out.

The locust dissolved into dust, floating like a dark cloud throughout the empty church.

“You’ve caused me great distress.”

Lenny shook his head, and returned his focus to the knife. He couldn’t get it to budge as his own blood puddled around his foot.

“You entered and were never invited. You destroyed my gate, and have brought with you a curse upon my sons. You will die for this, Lenny.”

  • Return for Part II tomorrow
    • Thomas M. Watt

 

 

TrackingB Screenplay Contest

 

trackingB

I’m determined to finally get some exposure for my work. As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve decided to begin looking for representation. According to one article, TrackingB holds a great contest annually that frequently results in representation for it’s winners. The panel of judges is impressive:

THE INDUSTRY PANEL

Berry Welsh – SVP, Production & Development – Tribeca Film
Megan Spanjian – VP, Scripted Television – The Weinstein Company
Peter Dealbert – Lit Manager – Pacific View Management
Melissa Darman – TV Lit Agent – Verve
Dustin Davis – Director, Current Series – ABC Network
Brad Petrigala – Lit Manager – Brillstein Entertainment Partners
Ryan Andolina – Development Executive – Amazon Studios
Amanda Krentzman – Director of Development – The Jackal Group
Jillian Apfelbaum – VP – Imperative Entertainment
Ryan Cunningham – Lit Manager – Madhouse Entertainment
Chris Mills – Lit Manager – Magnet Management
Justin Killion – Producer – Cool Guys & Nerds/1st look deal at ITV
Mike Goldberg – TV Lit Agent – APA
A.B. Fischer – Lit Manager – The Shuman Co.
Josh Goldenberg – Lit Manager – Kaplan/Perrone
Erin Betz – Coordinator, Drama Development – ABC Network                                                           Josh Adler – Lit Manager – Circle of Confusion

They will host a feature length script contest later this year, but currently are accepting entries for their television pilot competition. I’m going to enter Just Leasing and Cheaters Prosper once I feel they are ready. I encourage any of you to enter the contest as well – let me know if you do, that way we can hold one another accountable. The final date for entries is March 26th, and the winners will be announced around July of this year.

*Final Cut Pro is the industry standard for screenwriting, but I use a templateSCRIPT TEMPLATE (with instructions). If you’re new to screenwriting, feel free to download my screenwriting template here.

  • – Thomas M. Watt                 

Updates – 1/16

Snapchat-2076654764955396101[1]

What the Hell did I run over?

Not too many productive writing developments yesterday. I do have quite a story from my date, however – I got the 1st flat tire of my life, and wasn’t able to change it using only the parts that came with my truck. It was incredibly embarrassing, but I was fortunate enough to have the assistance of AAA to help me out. Much later we went to the beach and stumbled upon a group of people sitting on a bench in the dark who were dressed in black robes. I don’t know, that was wack, and I just had to get it off my chest. Death eaters?

I am interviewing for a firefighter reserve position in a couple of weeks. This is significant because I will have to cut my hair and shave my face – which means serious continuity errors for Cheaters Prosper. I initially sought to resolve this problem by laying out a schedule that would allow for the entire film to be finished within two weeks. My older brother pointed out to me that a haircut signifies an emotional change in a character, and helped me realize that I could film the final climatic scene with a different style (the major scene takes place on the last day of the film’s story, after all).

There is one other scene left for me to act in that takes place on the second day of the film, and a haircut would be problematic for that. The only alternative I can imagine would be to rewrite the scene so that I communicate with Jax over the phone, but I’d much prefer to avoid doing that.

I’m hoping to shoot a handful of scenes this Sunday. I’m planning on using my friend Dan for the majority of the remaining scenes, as my older brother is simply to busy to request more of his time. I will have my brother film the important, interior scenes we still have to shoot.

It’s time for me to get some shut-eye. I will have a better post for you tomorrow.

  • Thomas M. Watt