Running a Meetup Group – 5/29/20

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If you’re looking for helpful advice on how to run a meetup group, this post isn’t for you.

So this is pretty much a lazy bull shit post so I urge you not to read further, I just think I need to get in the habit of posting regularly again. For Mountain Cult I don’t really have anything to do until I secure a location for episode 4.

Ok, so here’s what I did – I realized I new very few people interested in filmmaking, and in particular acting, and also saw that my local area did not have any local groups that would serve my interest. So I launched my own – the Riverside Film Network.

Well, guess what – the corona virus has had this strange effect on people where they don’t really leave their homes or go out in public places. So the first 2 meetings I had with the group were suggestions to create a short youtube video, which one lady kindly did. Also my good friend joined the group and created one, but that was just to troll me.

Now that the covid-19 lockdown is winding down, I’m preparing to announce our first meet up. I’m pretty excited about the possibilities of the group, but also apprehensive. I don’t want to be the constant driving force behind a group if the participation is insignificant. At the same time, however, I am the one who started the group, so it’s success/failure is largely on my shoulders.

Do you have any experience with meetup? If you are a writer I highly suggest you join one. Being in a public group is a great way to motivate you to continue striving toward your goal and is the first step in networking regarding your specific interest.

Ok, that’s it. Here’s my stupid ass short film if you haven’t seen it yet. God knows I’ve posted this thing enough times already.

Intermission – 5/23/20

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After posting episode 3 and marketing it over the past few days, I’m feeling much better than I did during my last post. I’ve gathered over 180 views on it, which for me is a remarkable feat. If you’ve been following me for a bit, you’d remember that I ordered all my equipment, built a camera, and started learning about filmmaking earlier this year. So I’m overwhelmed with gratitude for each new youtue subscriber I have gotten.

Since episode 3 is wrapped up, I’m taking a short break before I begin writing and organizing for episode 4. A major reason for that is me and my girlfriend are looking for a new apartment to rent. Unbeknowst to her, that apartment is going to be used as the “cult” headquarters in my future videos.

I also did some amazon shopping in preparation for episode 4. I’ve purchased a bb gun that looks so damn real I’m afraid to bring it out into public. I also got a second a hard drive, which I finally installed today. Yet to be opened is my new lavalier microphone, which will allow me to record a back up audio track and record audio in shots where it is difficult to hide my current condenser mic. I also purchased a second lens – a sigma 30mm. It’s in the box and I can’t wait to try it out.

There are a couple decisions weighing me down currently. For one thing, my current hard drive and NVME card is nearly full. I’d like to delete all my stored footage, but once I do that I will lose the ability to edit my past projects. Because the story is loosely adhering to a feature length screenplay structure, I’m hesitant to lose that ability. If I go back to my first two episodes, I will be able to improve the coloring and clean up the audio. I can then edit out a few of the credits and combine the clips to create the first 20 minutes of a feature length movie. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to market it for distribution at some point.

Anyways, these are my thoughts. Hope you have a great weekend and stays tuned for more updates.

Burnt out – 5/22/20

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After weeks of locking myself up and editing a stupid phone screen to make it look black, I completed episode 3. I’m tired as shit, void of sleep, and genuinely sick of promoting the stupid video.

I’m proud of how it turned out – it’s easily the best thing I’ve put together. Ok, it’s not great, nothing special, whatever…. I built a dolly, learned how to color grade, and discovered some new editing techniques to create some low budget “special effects”.

I apologize to all 3 of the people out there who may have been following my blog post. I had to stop posting on here because editing was eating up ALL of my off duty time. Now that the video is completed, and posted, I should be able to interact again more regularly.

I’m already looking forward to the following episode (I’m not burnt out from filmmaking, mind you) and have a handful of actors who are supposedly willing to perform. I have a great idea for the next episode, I just want to make certain I have my resources all lined up before I type out the story.

This weekend I plan to promote the video. It is such a pain in the ass to go through different social media platforms yelling at people to “look at my work! Check it out!” but someone has to do it. Since you have a wordpress account, you’re probably already aware of that.

I just wanted to stop by here and vent out all my frustrations because I know that’s the type of content you signed up for. What better way to start your morning than to listen to someone gripe about stupid shit. I always end my post with “anyways” and even that annoys me right now.

Anyways, I posted the video down below in case you wanted to check it out. Feel free to almost click play and then click back instead so you can read a different wordpress post.

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.

Location Scouting – 3-20-20

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The first episode of the web series is all but wrapped up. I’m really happy with how its turned out but I still have some colorgrading and music to add before I post it. In the meantime, I’m preparing for the next day of shooting.

I have a different friend who’s willing to participate this upcoming Wednesday. That’s not a for sure thing, however, as he lives quite far from me and there’s also a statewide stay-at-home order here in California.

Regardless, I’m formulating plans for the second episode. I want to get ahead of the curve so that I can post regularly to youtube. It’s no secret that consistent & regular post help you build an audience on social media.

I don’t want to give the plot to the first episode away entirely, but I’ll share some of it with you in case you’re interested in my process. In episode 1, My character’s wife has gone missing, so he kidnaps a hiker with a high index of suspicion that the hiker was involved in her disappearance. My character believes this hiker has links to a mysterious cult that performs human sacrifices deep in the wilderness. The first episode takes place in my characters barn yard-turned-prison cell. The second episode will take place at one of the locations below. I went on a hike today and took some pictures around the area I’m considering. Feel free to share any ideas for which area I should select for the episode. As of now I’m limited to myself and one other actor.

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I like the rustic look of this little outpost

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The multiple directions really appeals to me artistically, but I’m afraid this area would get interrupted by drivers during each take

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This is a pet cemetery. Is that creepy or cute?

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More cemetery 

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This will probably be my spot. Trees and hills go on for days, it easily accesible, and far enough from the main road audio don’t pick up the vehicles trudging along below. 

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A miniature dog walking park that nobody uses. Kind of unsettling. Small chance for some interruption during filming. 

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Another solid spot. That horizon line looks amazing. I like how the trail disappears right behind the bushes, too. 

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Some kind of hawk flying overhead. Not a film location but the bird is pretty bitchin’. 

So, there you have it – a regular trail with scenic background, a pet cemetery, and an unused dog walking park. Also that rustic looking barn. Not sure which spot I’ll use, but I need to figure that out first before I can develop an episode for it. I’ll also need a reason for me and the other actor to be at that spot, searching for clues about my character’s wife’s disappearance. I better get it sorted out quick, because my golden day to film is only a handful of days away.

Editing is a nightmare – 3-19-20

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If you’re a writer you know the feeling of crushing procrastination. You love your story but there’s a certain roadblock you can’t quite wrap your head around. Why does your antagonist take this action if what he really wants is this? Why doesn’t the protagonist make the reasonable decision to contact the authorities and instead take matters into their own hands? The lists of rock-and-a-hard place choices is endless.

Well I’m finding out swiftly that goes the same for video editing. There are two action sequences in the short I’m editing (if we can even call them that). I already spent my entire Sunday afternoon cleaning up a simple sequence that features me unclasping handcuffs, unlocking a latch, picking up a rifle, and entering a cell room. As the week progressed I moved deeper into the scene where I’ve met my next major sequence obstacles.

My scene partner looks at the piece of jewelry in his hand, continues on with his dialogue, then hurls it into the cell wall and flees the cell. That’s it, it sounds so simple (and maybe it should be) but it’s turned out to be the crux of my scene. We have multiple takes of the same sequence, but none of the pieces seem to fit together. He pulls out and looks at the jewelry at different times. He practically jogs out of the cell after distracting me. And I am slow to flinch and grab for the jewelry.

It amazes me how such a simple action can make my scene look so f*king stupid. You remember The Office, when Michael Scott shows the James Bond type movie to his coworkers and they all laugh at him? Yeah, this is what that feels like. Funny enough, my only goal right now when I make a short is to keep it from looking like some teenagers put it together on one boring afternoon with an Iphone.

Anyways, thought I’d share my bullshit with you before I get off work and try to figure this sucker out. I’m messing around with different editing effects on Adobe pro premiere, such as zoom in/out and slow motion/speed up. Some of them look really good. An issue with slow-mo is I shot at 30 frames per second, when it appears much better if you shoot at 60 fps for that. When I decided to start directing, I made it a goal to let the story come first. I’ve never seen a film where insane visual effects improved the emotional impact of the story, so I’m trying not to get too invested in that aspect of the process. Anyway, thanks for listening to my complaint.

An Onscreen Minute – 3-18-20

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As I mentioned we filmed again this past Sunday and I had high hopes going in. Brad and I were on night shift the hours before and began production on zero sleep. We planned to have our 3 pages filmed and completed by ten AM, when it would start raining. We weren’t done in time. I was supposed to have a black costume but we weren’t able to find one. The new, extended XLR cable I purchased wouldn’t attach to my recorder. After seeing the footage and audio on my computer – I couldn’t be happier.

I made a genuine effort to give an passionate acting performance. Brad surprised me because he did an awesome job and had some incredible takes. Keep in mind I drag him out for this and pay him nothing. He’s never acted in a single thing in his life.

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Everything I uploaded and watched I have been completely happy with. Don’t forget I already filmed and edited the first minute of the scene one week prior,so the angles and wardrobes had to be continuous in appearance. But dear God is editing a pain in the ass.

If you’ve never edited anything before you might be shocked at the amount of time that it requires. It’s tempting at first to just throw the pieces together like some shitty quilt and sow, but after one brisk re-watch you will see that your video looks like something Michael Scott would make on the Office. Then, you learn a few tricks – like how to zoom or adjust the focus of the picture – and all of a sudden every little scene has an effect. Now you’ve got Gremlins 2.

Going into this, I knew I wanted story to be the emphasis of whatever I shot. Think about Martin Scorsese and how crisps the images are. There’s not a lot of big effects or crazy slow-mo shots in his films. They are focused on raw human emotion & reaction. That’s the kind of story teller I would like to aspire too.

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The really wild part about editing is the amount of time it takes to make your film feel shareable. My total cut is going to be about 3 minutes 30 seconds. That’s fucking nothing. But it’s taking me since Sunday to finally get it to a place where I’M able to watch the entire thing and feel alright about it. Anyway, just wanted to update you. I want to have it posted before next Wednesday, when I’m loosely planning to film a second episode with a different unsuspecting friend who has no interest in being actor.

 

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.

Rain Day – 3-13-20

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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.