A Peak behind the Curtain

I didn’t have time to make a comic yesterday, which means I failed my weekly social media commitment. Truth be told I ran out of time. I work graveyard shift Wednesday through Saturday and fell asleep straight when I arrived home.

The above still is the east parking lot to the hospital. I thought it would be interesting to breakdown why this animated episode has taken me so long.

Each and every creation takes time – obviously. But I believe in this undertaking because the process will become more efficient in the future.

Lets start with the background. It was designed together and exported as 6 separate layers. The layers are placed together in order of dominant perspective. The layers are as follows:

  • 1.)Front streetlight
  • 2.) Brick Wall
  • 3.) Rear Wall
  • 4.) Rear street lights
  • 5.) Pavement
  • 6.) Street, shops, and skyline

Most photography programs interpret layer order as dominance. For instance, if you have two boxes of the same size, one green and one blue, the layer on top will be the only one that is seen. Place the blue layer on top and you will see a blue box.

Now we move on to the other images. We have background characters and vehicles. These were also designed and exported as PNGs. These PNGs are placed among the background layers before the scene is rendered. For instance, I can see from the image above that the background characters were likely placed on top of every scenery layer. The vehicles vary. If I wanted to have a car moving behind the rear wall, I would simply place it between the rear wall and the street and shop layer. As long as it appears above the street & shop layer, but below the wall layer, I can make it appear to move behind the wall and on the street.

By keeping images separate I am able to reuse the same assets in different scenes. If I need a sidewalk and street in a new background I can simply drag and drop the isolated layer into a new scene. The same goes for the background characters.

Because of my strong belief that efficiency will improve with my asset library I have devoted more time to this episode than I am otherwise comfortable with. When I know an asset is being designed with the intent of reproduction, I spend extra time to design it in order to meet all future requirements. That means each 2d image includes a front, side, and rear profile. For each vehicle I also have a bright, illuminated layer specific for activated brakelights. Each character has a minimum of a front and rear profile. The main characters also have a left and right profile.

Hope this was informative in some way and you find joy in your day.

A Hierarchy of Objectives

new logo for “TMW Productions” that I made yesterday

I have been tirelessly editing 5 separate youtube videos that briefly summarize the work that went into the production of “Doctor with the Red Houseware” – a 32 minute film that has now been picked up by Xumo, Tubi, Box Brazil Play, and Lookhu.

It seems counter-intuitive, but the reality is that artwork dies as an unknown soldier if it is merely brought into existence. In other words, I have discovered that the least inspiring actions are often the most important. Similar to people and society.

For example, gaining acceptance from filmhub required a 2 week effort to create a new poster, render the film according to new specifications, and capture stills in 16:9, rather than the 1:35 aspect ratio that the film was mastered in.

One of the best practices of any modern artist/entepreneur/pipe-dreamer is to sit down and identify exactly what they seek to accomplish. Each and every day we have time to work. But simply working is no guarantee that you are moving anywhere.

Off the top of my head, I can think of a numerous “to-do” list – email a singer a track, re-record the roulette wheel sounds, add to my film financing notes, identify an accessible film market, record narration for youtube videos, read the 3 writing books I purchased, etc.

Only 1 or 2 of these objectives can make a fat impact on my filmmaking journey. Shaking hands with professionals at a filmmaking marketplace would be by far the most beneficial to me, but promoting a film that I’ve already completed is a necessary final step in its production.

I must be diligent with time. I love writing on wordpress (though adding photographs or italics makes me want to punch a wall…it wasn’t always this way), but it is time. Every task requires time, yet every task is necessary. So how can a nobody like me get anywhere?

Deadlines. I’ve begun requiring production of myself regardless of how unprepared or overwhelmed I feel at the onset of an uncomfortable undertaking. Attacking with a blunt axe-head to escape a whimsical dungeon.

By tomorrow I will have 5 youtube videos ready to go. I will release each video separately in order to promote the film’s release. I will simultaneously market the film through Instagram. I can than put “Doctor with the Red Houseware” behind me and focus single-mindedly on the writing and financing of a feature length story.

I’ve spoken much about distinguishing between actions that move you toward your ultimate goals and those that provide minimal return. I consider instagram, wordpress, and youtube as minor annoyances that I could enthusiastically abandon. I will not however, as a consistent effort in these self-promotional activities builds an audience, a brand, and a community.

I created The Riverside Film Network (a Meetup group) because I didn’t have any local network of filmmakers to communicate with. That group now has 200 members, a consistent conversation on its own discord server, and weekly discussions. The group includes producers, actors, agents, and writers. This wordpress blog has over 1000 followers, and my youtube channel has 70 or so (lol).

Consistently releasing material over time, regardless of its quality, is more beneficial than spending years crafting an imaginary plan for success.

Continuity Issues – 04/02/20

DSC02898

Josh arrived in gym clothes when informed he will be playing a veteran hiker in episode 3

My younger brother came through on Tuesday and spent the entire day acting in episode 2 with me. It was my first day getting through an entire 5 page script in a day, but not without its share of issues. Unfortunately for me, I’m finding those issues in the editing room.

Continuity – we all know what it means, but much more importantly – we all know it goes unnoticed when something is done right. For our episode, we had a dog cage in the background with a bunch of stuff tossed on top of it. The first 3 takes all have that junk in the scene. After that, we decided it would be a great place to film a few takes from. Then we never put the junk back on(!)

DSC02912

I have 2 takes that have a dog bed on the floor. The other 5, such as this one, do not.

Building on the theme of continuity, there is one great take where my necklace is exposed on the outside of my shirt the entire time. That take is now garbage. Another moronic decision I made was to mumble during a shot of me carrying 2 cups of coffee from an artistic angle. That take is also garbage – there’s no audio that matches up with how my lips are moving. The icing on the cake for the day would be the bacon. I cooked some up for us to eat before filming began. I have video of it cooking and audio of it sizzling. What I don’t have are any shots of it being on the table or of us eating. Why? Because bacon is to delicious to wait for filming to begin. The result is a couple of unusable takes of random bacon shots. I’m still considering using them, however I’m worried someone watching the episode will start wondering whether the plot is about a house burning down from a kitchen fire.

1585723335_tmp_clothes_shot 25%

Here is the only take I have from this beautiful angle. A microphone is hidden in the tree.

Now episode 3, which I began filming Sunday, has the potential to have harder issues to overcome. My two favorite shots from the day are practically unusable. I only have one take from a gorgeous vantage point. That would be fine, except I’m hidden behind a tree branch the entire time. The other take features me walking up the hill. In the bottom of the shot are the pile of clothes my character has been searching for. This was the last take of the day when we were out of time and out of steam. Out of sheer laziness, I opted to have my scene partner record the shot handheld so I would not have to run and grab the tripod. The end result is shaky. This is not his fault – I’m discovering quickly that I cannot stand any footage that is not 100% stable. I hate it with a passion – same goes for zooming in. I like pans, but I’m not good enough to use them yet.

Something else happened on Sunday. My camera began overheating, despite the fact that it was a perfectly nice 70 degree day. I’m now convinced it is because the take required filming in direct sunlight. Because of this, I’m ordering a lens hood and lens filters for our next outdoor shoot. I’m just hoping I can get them by Sunday.

As you can see, I have a lot to learn about photography & directing. Even those these problems keep cropping up, I’m terribly excited about how much editing work I’ll have in the next few weeks. My friend is eager and available to film again. That means that I won’t be limited to a 3 hour window and can afford to take multiple shots.

DSC02907

The tripod is literally inside of a dog kennel for this shot.

The funny thing about filming is that it feels like it takes so much effort and time for even a 5 minute story. Yet everytime I enter the editing room, I always find myself wishing I had taken this shot, or done a take from a certain angle a few more times. I heard someone say that editing takes 6 times longer than filming the same thing. I didn’t believe that at first, but now I know this is, at best, an understatement.

If you haven’t seen episode 1 and you’d like to give it a glance, or even a like, check it out below.

An Onscreen Minute – 3-18-20

gun on the ground

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.

brad stare

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.

notabbguniswear

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

DSC02433

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

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.