Film and Early Marketing

We finally began production on Mountain Cult episode 5 this week. It’s obviously been a long time coming, so I’m thrilled to finally have completed a day of footage. From first glance everything looks and sounds great, but I won’t know for sure until I’ve had time to sit down and dig deep into the edits.

Too say I’ve been overburdened is an understatement. Our major film date is July 19th. In order to get everything in order, I’ve had to cast 4 actors, order necessary props and wardrobes, assemble a crew of 2-4 assistants, and order additional equipment. These expenses obviously add up, but I’ve done well to save throughout the year and have a proper expectation for how much the entire project will cost me.

I will launch a 30 day kickstarter campaign in August. My initial plan was to launch it in July, but after some thinking I feel it would be more wise to wait until I can give it my full attention. There is a good chance we will be filming for 1 more day in August, but that shoot requires much less preparation. I’ve set my target goal on Kickstarter for $3000. That will cover my budget along with the cost for the merchandise I plan on offering. I have learned how to apply graphics to T-shirts and coffee mugs -two items which I feel may incentivize willing investors.

Another major goal of mine is to release the film for an audience of 1000-10k on youtube. Episode 4 has amassed over 500 views. That’s really a pitiful number in the grand scope of youtube but getting random internet strangers to watch your short film certainly isn’t easy. I’ve come out with 5 episodes of film journal as of now and so far the experiment has proved embarrassing, waste of effort, and almost exactly what I anticipated. The key concept behind the “show” is to use it as a platform to discuss myself and my films – neither of which currently have any marketing attraction. My theory, however, is that by remaining consistent, entertaining, and informative, I will gradually develop an audience over time and that audience will look forward to the release of the film being routinely discussed.

I have been strongly considering releasing videos about various conspiracies because I feel that is my target audience for Mountain Cult. The major drawbacks for this direction are 1) In order to add value to the topic, I will have to do research and spend more time than I am willing and 2) Doing “reaction” type videos puts you in danger of copyright strikes, which could effect monetization down the road.

I have created a discord channel for the show as well as an instagram page for “TMW productions.” It is so funny to me that I’m learning all these social media platforms because I hate them so passionately. I already know I likely won’t utilize either of these two mediums but I do know that I should. I am so pressed for time as it is, but I am convinced that devoting 1 hour per day to marketing will make a bigger difference in viewership than simply pouring in more hours in the editing room.

On July 19th we will perform our big shoot. I must go into that day prepared beyond anything I have done before. I desperately seek to film 9 pages, which will definitely be a record for me if I accomplish it. I will survive if we need to return for a second day, though I will be greatly disappointed.

Anyways, I miss writing here and hope to do so more often in the near future.

Film Journal 5 – Casting

My journey toward production continues as I’ve recently begun casting the film. I’ve found an outstanding actress to play my character’s wife and am truly excited to have her on board. We begin filming next week.

I’m casting 5 other actors for another scene that will be filmed in July. That process is well underway and I’ll be viewing their auditions tonight. I have also ordered more film equipment and believe I have everything ready for the big shoot in the future. There are some more props that require purchasing and I don’t yet have the crew members set in stone. Regardless I am very tired and working hard at being prepared well in advance.

I have set up a Kickstarter pre-launch page here. From what I understand I am unable to accept any donations or contributions yet, but I’m excited to further develop incentives for individuals looking to support my bad habit.

Check out Film Journal – Episode 5 below if you’d like. Any time you comment or like a video it helps me immensely.

Brief Update – Film Casting

Mountain Cult Episode 5 is well on its way to development. Last week I reserved a date with the local antique shop that we will film the majority of the episode at. I have selected the date and location for a few scenes in the beginning of the film. I have an idea of where I want the one other location to be.

Casting began last week. Today I have to go through about 1000 different demo reels and select the actors and actresses who will move forward to the auditioning process. After that I must return to the script, find a single page, and send it out for them to perform a monologue. I must hammer down the script one final time and begin to analyze my needs and angles. I will be making a shot list. I must order any additional equipment and props I need well ahead of time.

This part of the process requires me to comb through the script and address all obstacles. For example, there is a creature from another dimension in the final scene. I have to figure out how I will distinguish this character from being human. Rather than focusing on how I want the character to appear, I must pursue the most effective portrayal that I will be capable of. One option is to use makeup and costume, another is to use compositing in after effects to alter the characters appearance digitally. Most likely I’ll be combining both methods. With digital effects I will need to know the lighting and shot type required. If attach 3d elements to the character I should film his scene on a tripod in order for the software to have an easier time tracking his movements (imagine attaching an object to an object moving within the frame. If the frame is moving simultaneously it adds another layer of movement that must be interpreted).

I spent far too long this week working on the graphic for T-shirts. I’d like to launch a kickstarter page and offer T-shirts for any person who helps to fund the film. I’ve come across a website called “Dafont” where individuals post creative fonts for other users to download. Most fonts are available for personal use. I need one that can be used for commercial use so that I can stick with it for the long term. For this reason I am currently using a stock font, but am highly interested in learning how to create my own. A great way to sidestep copyright issues (for music, graphic design, and general production) is to learn a new skill and do it yourself. My youtube videos lately have been featuring background music that I created in Ableton.

I would love to post here more, but I feel like I’m working 2 full time jobs. Gone are the good old days of getting blasted and playing RDR2 for 3 hours. This entire month is going to be a never ending shift. I’m really hoping to launch a kickstarter pre-launch today, but don’t know the first thing about it yet. Will write here again when I can. I should attach a picture of the current MC graphic and T-shirt but I don’t have the files on this computer.

Hope you have a great day.

Will Work for Nothing

It’s been a wild couple of weeks for me and each day I’ve been making progress to begin production on Mountain Cult episode 5. My involvement in youtube videos, my online meetup group, and my full time job has made posting here a challenge, to say the least.

The meetup group is kind of booming – we’re up to 90+ members in one group and 30+ in the other. Each week a small percentage of that gets together to discuss our progress toward our own short films as well as host a discussion about how to make a group project together. The group has attracted professional photographers, experienced directors, small film producers, and a sound mixer. I am very proud of bringing these talents together, but also am depleted for any extra time. On top of that, I host the meetings following my week working a full time job at a graveyard shift.

I have finally summoned the gonads to approach small mom & pop shops in my city and ask for permission to film there. I offer to film a promo-style video for their shop in exchange for the right to film at their location. I have been shocked to receive a positive response, as I previously anticipated I would get laughed out of the building. This is a huge stepping stone for my filmmaking career – you can’t do much if you are limited to your own private residence.

This Monday I will be filming a promo video in the antique shop I anticipate using. It will give me a chance to develop a commercial resume as well as learn the acoustics of the environment and find out how everything plays on camera. This weekend I will have to do research and come up with a script for the short commercial.

My next steps involve Kickstarter and twitch. I would like to launch an effective kickstarter campaign in July in order to offset some of my expenses. Before that I have more to learn about how kickstarter works. As for twitch, my knowledge is bare minimum. But I do know I have a friend who raised $600 there in a night and others have had similar success. I plan on releasing a new youtube video each week. I think I could offer something of interest if I livestream each of my editing session. Though I am no professional, I do have a lot of experience using the software programs Premiere Pro and Aftereffects. I also could feature Ableton Live, as I have been creating my background music there.

Feel free to check out my latest film journal below, and please like and leave a comment if you’d like to support my work. Every like I get means I will get 1 more minute of sleep.

#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.

Writing Intriguing Characters

Edward, played by Sebastian Sage, is one of my favorite characters from Mountain Cult.

Let’s discuss dramatic action a little more and how it can develop a 3 dimensional character.

Let’s make one up – we’ll call him “Bob.” Bob loves to feed his golden retriever every day. He takes him on walks where he tosses a frisbee and laughs when others greet him. He’s always got a diet coke in his hand and yes – you guessed it – he’s even got a goatee. He’s not ashamed of his baldness – in fact he jokes about it frequently – but he does wear a “Bass pro shop” cap every day of his life.

We all know someone like Bob.

I hope by now you have a strong inkling of who Bob is and what he is about. Probably a simple man, loving grandfather, and woodworking enthusiasts. Now what would be a dramatic element that could make this character more intriguing? Here’s a few suggestions:

  1. Bob is actually training his dog for dogfights
  2. Bob goes on long walks to find the next victim for his serial killing addiction
  3. Bob maintains a tumblr blog
  4. Bob mails death threats to celebrities he doesn’t like
  5. Bob starts taking steroids
  6. Bob catfishes college girls on tinder

A few of the above qualities are enough to craft an interesting premise from – meaning the bizarre behavior itself could be a plot. The smaller ones – like Bob taking steroids or catfishing on tinder – merely make Bob a more compelling and intriguing character. The actions don’t compute with our stereotypical understanding of Bob, therefore we feel he is a character worthy of a deeper assessment. In other words, he rises from being a side character to a main character. In some cases we even want to follow Bob around and can see him acting as a protagonist.

Let’s take a look at the main character Ryan from my film series Mountain Cult –

He is impatient, obsessive, and a loner. He does not trust others and refuses to let others help even when he should. He is abrasive, controlling, and has tunnel vision for his missing wife. He is also fearless in his pursuit of her. He is stubborn to a fault. He believes that he alone can confront a secretive cult and outsmart members who are much smarter than himself. Ryan’s the type of dude to chug 10 beers then decide to mow the lawn.

Alright, so he’s interesting, not extremely likable, but features bravery, persistence, and loyalty – characteristics that align with a protagonist. Now let me do some out loud brainstorming to figure out what type of actions could result in him being a 3 dimensional character.

  1. Ryan repeatedly dreams about the same clown kicking his ass while he struggles to punch back
  2. Ryan writes poems about the sounds leaves make
  3. Ryan is afraid of flies
  4. Ryan never learned how to read
  5. Ryan’s favorite food is veganese
  6. Ryan only listens to classical music
  7. Ryan gets jealous of small and scrawny dudes because he’s insecure about being built like a trash can

Even though many of the qualities are comedic to us, they can still serve the story. An important consideration whenever you introduce comedic elements to a story is whether they subtract from the tension in the story (if you are NOT writing comedy). A true comedy is about funny situations, not merely funny character traits. The Marvel movies are a great example of what I’m referring to here – even though they are riddled with funny one-liners, the jokes themselves never reduce the tension in the moment.

Here’s a quick example: Joe enters the store to rob the place. He aims a gun at the man behind the counter and demands money. The man behind the counter squints and says “Joe? I haven’t seen you in forever!”

That line reduces the tension immediately. In changes the story into a comedy. Now imagine the man with the gun slips on a toy upon entering, then carries on with the robbery. We may laugh at the mishap, but the tension is still there – meaning it could be a heist story or thriller. His character made us laugh, but the situation didn’t.

Ok lets mold one more character for the sake of 3. Let’s invent Julie – she’s thirty years old, stocks shelves at the local grocery story, and shrugs at the idea of marriage. She binge watches documentaries about serial killers, eats cereal at any time she chooses, and smokes something every 30 minutes. Her ambition in life is to find the perfect temperature for the air conditioner setting, and she loves her dog named Bucky – who is a German Shepherd (which she bought illegally on the black market through a “friend”).

Julie is a familiar character to me, and someone I could definitely root for. Her lack of ambition is surely a fault, however, her contentment with mediocrity is something that’s both relatable and oddly enticing. Let’s see what dramatic actions she may take that would cause us to reconsider our assessment of her:

  1. Julie trades stocks at night and has amassed over 3 million in earnings.
  2. Julie has an uncontrollable attraction to Benjie, the doofus manager who wears glasses, tucks in his shirt, and gets flipped off by her daily.
  3. Julie once single-handedly cleared and saved a burning bus filled with children
  4. Julie lends horror DVDs to the kid next door with the overbearing parents
  5. Julie organizes a funeral after the town drunk dies and gets the entire town to attend

Again, a few of these are story worthy. Some of the ideas (like the last one) require a major character change (arc) for them to occur and be believable. Ideas like her having a crush on Benjie merely make her a more intriguing character.

Anyways, that’s all I got for today. I hope you found some use or chuckles out of these ideas. I also hope that I’ll be able to find a proper dramatic action for my own character in order to make him more appealing. Most of the items that I’ve listed are forms of irony – the proposed characteristics contradict what we anticipate the character would do or care about. That’s what makes them interesting – it adds color to their otherwise black and white demeanor.

I’ve spent my downtime while at work viewing other low budget short films searching for one worth of analysis. Oh boy do I feel better about my own abilities. If you ever want a night of cringe inducing laughter start checking out homemade movies that cost less than $100 to produce.

I’ve contacted one creator so far. Hopefully he will get back to me promptly so I can work on the video this weekend. Aside from that I have continued to reading through the 2 scripts I have from other writers in order to return coverage notes. I am not looking forward to the reception my feedback receives.

Hope you have a great day today and please don’t apply any of these ideas to your own life in hopes to make yourself more interesting. You may get you arrested.

Script Drafting: Importance of Revisions

I made a video about screenplay revisions and how each draft better prepares a filmmaker for production. It took me longer than I’d prefer but I’m happy I finished it. I really wanted to trash it but felt it was important to post regardless of my internal shame and regret. Check it out below if you’d like:

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.