Paramedic Robot: First Stills

I found myself at a crossroads following the completion of “Doctor with the Red Houseware.” I felt it was the most I could do without a reasonable budget.

I knew my next project would require a budget and would ideally be a feature. I felt that going door to door asking for investments would be a painstaking process. I decided rather than enter into a venture that would consume time & emotion, I would be wiser to dedicate my efforts toward expanding my current audience. A large scale audience could be used for leverage when the time came to request funding for a project.

I started thinking about animation and methods I could use to expedite the process while still delivering a marketable product. But no matter how I organized the production, I accepted the fact that the initial development of a variety of assets would require time and dedication.

I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I am resentful of how long its taken me to get through episode 1. Because I utilize different camera angles for the same thing, I had to create separate character portraits for front, rear, left and right profile views. It sounds simple on the surface, but when you include things like watches and sheers on one wrist or in one pocket it rapidly complicates things – especially when the hand with the watch is capable of holding a variety of objects. Now keep in mind watches have a top and bottom, and I have to apply the same “grabby hand” to all 4 profile views.

I am relieved that I have completed the most time-demanding tasks for the project and can finally begin moving with efficiency. I have developed 13 minutes of animation toward the first episode and the production continues to move faster. My goal is to complete 1 scene in one day. My hypothesis is that if I can develop a new episode each week, or every other week, I will reach an audience. So many bloggers, how to instructors, and reviews gain in popularity due to their ability to constantly produce more content. If you set out to create entertainment for consumers, you typically discover that a quality product is far too demanding to produce with that frequency if you do not have a bankroll.

So I just wanted to provide a brief update for any who cares. I hope that I will be able to post a link to episode 1 here soon. More importantly, I hope to regularly provide new content within the coming months. As the volume of assets grow in my library, so does the ease of building a new background. Hope to update you soon.

Film Journal – locating on a budget

I havent written here much lately. I’ve been consumed with work and making episode 5 happen. I did come up with a great story about a man realizing his situation was not confined to his luck but his effort to affect others positively, however i was drunk and it was 3 am and seemed like a bad time to flee my bed and girlfriend to go write. I have finished film journal 3 and in case you’ve been monitoring the progress of my web series, I’ll post the link below:

Becoming the Next Great Youtuber

I’ve completed my first “Youtube Update” which is featured above. The video is relatively simple and low effort, but that’s sort of the idea – to pour the majority of my free time into Episode 5 while regularly featuring updates on the development of it.

I put a lot of thought into how I wanted to portray myself for my ultimate goal. I wanted to make the video entertaining while still remaining focused on keeping the actual content meaningful. I did this by featuring somewhat humorous drawings to demonstrate the events unfolding in the scene I describe.

I feel it’s important to treat the work I’m doing seriously because of the genre the film will fall into. If I develop an audience that is only seeking a short laugh then they will not care about the actual content I am trying to produce. But if I focus entirely on the filmmaking process I will not be growing an audience for Episode 5’s release. Simply put, I’m aiming for a balance between entertainment and informational.

Without a doubt I could have improved the quality of the video, but that would have cut into the time I can devote toward episode 5’s actual production. Check it out above if you’d like.

Same Story Different Lens

I’ve finally received my first feedback regarding episode 5. Pat, one of the members of my meetup group who has been a regular at our weekly zoom meetings, was kind enough to read the script and provide feedback.

She felt it would be easier to communicate over zoom and boy I am happy to have done so. Though she proclaims that she is “not a writer,” her feedback was more helpful than any I have received in the past.

We went through script event by event and discussed the different issues she had and items she liked. We deconstructed the climax and worked together to find a better one. She dissected the opening and explained why my main character was a dick. It was awesome.

I’ve spoken on here before about how I feel we are limited in our creativity by the mechanics of our brains. I am logical minded so I that every action my character takes winds up being motivated by practicality rather than true empathy. I’ll provide an example from my story to show how she opened my eyes.

Episode 5 begins with a memory:

My main character, Ryan O’Hara, is at home dealing with a plateful of bills at the kitchen table. He is on the phone trying to finalize a major sale, presumably to help himself out of debt. His wife, Melanie, enters in the background. She is armed with a gun staring out the window blinds. Ryan is forced to end his phone call prematurely in order to calm her down. When she tells him that “they are coming after me” he treats her with apathy and returns to his phone call. He wakes up from the memory with a sense of regret.

In my mind this was an effective scene. It included a sense of suspense with Melanie holding a gun. There was a sense of irony in Ryan failing to take his wife seriously when he returns to the present day and suffers the same anguish by others not believing him about the mysterious cult. I was ok with Ryan choosing business over love because it amplified the guilt he felt by failing to be a caring partner.

But Pat saw things differently. When she read the script, she never got a reason to care about Melanie. Melanie seemed like a crazy person that Ryan was merely putting up with and not loving towards. Further, there was no indication that Ryan even cared about her. She felt it would be more effective to have Ryan tend to his patient’s discomfort and allow his phone to ring in the background.

I would still like to work in Ryan’s regret over not having been a better husband, but if I have to choose I’d rather make him more likable. I feel strongly that the first scene of any story either reels you in or pushes you away. If I can provide a character that audiences relate to and empathize with they will stick around for the ride. Furthermore, my opening scene in Episode 4 portrayed Ryan as self-centered, singularly focused prick. It worked for my character arc and internal change at the climax, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t turn viewers off and cause them to stop watching a minute or two into it.

I have also had the lead actress read the script and she will be providing her feedback this afternoon. I am excited to hear what she has to say and discover whether she came across some of the same issues.

It takes patience to complete a script to satisfaction, but it is worth it. Everything that occurs regarding the actors, props, events and location are born out of the story that is created. Producing 4k video with high quality audio, an emotionally moving score, and flawless special effects will always add to the quality of the story you are trying to tell. But at the end of the day we remember how stories moved us, not how great it all looked.

On the positive side of my conversation with Pat, she felt that the story was captivating and the ending packed a punch. The answer to the riddle was a shock to her and had strong payoff. I am very pleased to learn the bulk of my story will work. There are several items we still plan to discuss later this week, but overall I am excited and grateful about the feedback I have already received.

Episode 4 is Complete!!

Without going into too much detail, I’ve completed Episode 4 along with the trailer. To say I’m relieved is an understatement. I spent much of last week learning how to create a 5.1 surround sound audio mix. I’m still very much in the dark, but I did realize I had configured my dialogue to play out of the front left and right speakers (wrong!). In film and television, dialogue plays out of the front center speaker, music is mixed in the left/right speakers front and rear, and sound effects are (mostly) in the rear speakers. There is also the subwoofer which can deal with explosions or perhaps a submix.

Believe it or not, becoming a sound engineer in 5 days was harder than I first thought (I gave up on 5.1). But I was able to finally figure out how to set my tracks to stereo and deliver a more full dialogue sound without blowing out the speakers.

Enough with the gibberish – I’m done editing! This means that I can go outside for a jog and expose my skin to sunlight again. But it also means I’m ready to enter the next step – marketing, contest, and self-promotion. I know a lot of people on wordpress are writers who are currently working on a novel of some sort. Before I got into film I was doing the same.

In the modern age it is highly advised to be marketing while you are still creating your project. Honestly I feel this sentiment is laughable. There is so much work involved in the creation of anything, and that work is always introverted. I am convinced the human brain does not work fluidly among all quadrants, but that one area of focus takes precedence over another. The reason that matters is because creation of any piece of artwork takes an EXTREMELY introverted brain. The type that is uncomfortable with the moral and spiritual implications of braggadocio style marketing.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that controversy, pie-in-the-sky claims, and a unbreakable ego are tools that will help you promote yourself/your work. It’s that “confidence” we always hear is so important for job interviews, first dates, and success in life in general. The great irony of “confidence” is it always feels that when you approach your work with any semblance of arrogance (i.e., the viewer will enjoy my material because I am great therefore my work is great) is that quickest way to compose a steaming pile of shit.

It’s taken a lot of words to get to my point, but here it is – When you are creating art, you must remain introspective and humble to convey the truth of emotion you seek to bring to life. When you are promoting your artwork, you must stay true to the realities of the world – that people won’t look at your work unless you give them a reason to (that ideally fulfills a curiosity, longing, or necessity you have attached to your product). It takes two different brains and personalities to accomplish these very diverse tasks.

Anyways, I will be spending my morning editing the subtitles of my video in order to submit it to amazon on demand. I am also hoping to send it out to a few contests later today. Along with that I’ll continue to promote the trailer.

You can find the trailer down below. If you take the time to view it and leave a like/comment, I will do 5 jumping jacks. Thank you and I wish you a wonderful day.

Approaching Completion – 11-7-20

The first take I stood at a slouch to remain eye level. This was a mistake, as I had to repeat the posture for all 20 subsequent takes.

I’m going to keep this short and sweet. I am not far away from having episode 4 completed. I’ve put together the first working draft of the entire film, start to finish. I’ve gone through the audio and brought the levels up. The pictures are all color graded.

The only items I have yet to edit are:

2 scenes in which I need to adjust the pacing

Creating a blood spatter animation

That’s pretty much it. But I’m trying to go about completion the right way. I am confident that the episode I’ve created is my best work yet and can help propel me to the next level, whatever that is. I plan to send the film to a couple contests, I’m just not sure which ones yet.

I want to get 10,000 views on this video. I know it’s a long shot as episode 3 only amassed 300+. I know that on my own I can get it to 1000. But I’m aiming for 10,000. I had a small cast of 6 people help me with this. They have family members and family who will undoubtedly check the video out. That’s not something I’ve been able to say before.

Beyond the contests, my two other obstacles are

  1. Create a method for future supporters to assist in financing the next episode. If I can secure financing of any means, I will be able to create films more frequently. The greatest challenge I presently face is working a shit ton of over time to pay for things. On top of that, I haven’t been able to spend as much time with my girlfriend as I’d like to (I love you babe).
  2. Learning after effects. I can’t understate how excited I am that I’ve been able to create 2 shitty animations this week. The program felt like hieroglyphics for me 2 weeks ago.
  3. Marketing. I’m going to create a couple of trailers for the film. I’m going to blog regularly. I might even create a twitter account for the web series and invest in advertising.

Ok fan base of 2-10 people. That brings this post to an end. I hope you are all having a good week.

Almost There – 10-13-20

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I completed the re shoot with my brother yesterday, and I have to say I am improving.

We had 3 pages to complete along with 2 distinct video-only sequences. Our window from start to finish was 3 hours wide. I did some math and figured out I had 15 minutes to get one shot of James on the hiking trail. Easy enough, but after a few lens changes and angle shifts 15 turned into 45 – and it only got worse after that.

James hiking

Next I needed footage of James driving. I hopped in the back seat of his car and filmed various shots, a couple of them rather reckless – having your brother grab a realistic-looking BB gun out of a moving vehicle’s glove compartment is probably violating a few rules, would be my guess.

James grabbing gun

Anyways, this sequence took me an additional 30 minutes – And we still had to get the dolly shot I’ve so wanted to begin the episode with! After rushing through, I had a couple good takes. We found ourselves at the 1 hour remaining mark, with 3 full pages, and 2 separate locations.

Mike & James

Let’s back up for a minute to our first attempt to complete this sequence. We had 5 entire hours to work that day and only wound up getting through 2 pages. I spent a ton of time building a good frame and finding cool looking shots and angles. When James entered the scene, he was standing.

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Then he sat. Then we argue, and I follow him into the other room. That’s as far as we got (lol) before it became dark.

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Now let’s jump back to the predicament I found myself in yesterday – 1 hour remaining with 3 times the amount of footage to get from last time. And here’s the kicker – My bro wore a different shirt (!). On top of all that, the office we used wasn’t available. Basically, using ANY footage from our last day of work was impossible. And for me personally, there was no way IN HELL I wasn’t completing this scene again. Recreating lighting, set, and wardrobe for a low budget production is right beside goddamn impossible. But it’s not until you get in the editing room that you’ll realize your work is going to take 10 times longer. Honestly, I’d rather do a full reshoot 100% of the time.

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So I had no choice. The 4 modelos I had poured out, the table I had set up, the shot list I had made – they all went to shit. With 40 minutes on the clock and 3 pages to go, I had only one option – the one take shot.

So I set the camera up and changed the blocking around. James would sit before delivering his first line – it was the only option. On top of that, we had this cool backdrop wear I was in the darkness and he was in the light – not ideal for lighting settings, especially with him wearing a hat, but I got it to work. Basically, we had to fucking move – and get it right.

So we went through it. 4 takes in and I was still tripping over a few lines, he was forgetting others. And then, with 5 minutes left on the clock, we fucking nailed it. Even the way I threw the beer at the end and it exploded was perfect. I was happy, he was relieved, I knew – undoubtedly – we had our take.

beer throw

Now, he started taking off, but agreed to take a look at the footage. And then my fucking heart dropped.

The biggest disadvantage of appearing in my own films when I’m also the “cinematographer” (or only guy who knows how to focus a camera) is I rely heavily on auto focus for shots on me. I don’t trust the people I work with will focus a camera properly. But the issue with autofocus is it might not lock onto the object you want it to. Without someone behind the camera adjusting even that, your footage is constantly at risk. And that’s what happened during our great take.

So, I told my brother (didn’t ask) we’re doing 1 more. It was nearly just as awesome. But I can tell you after getting to the editing room – God almighty and I happy we did that one last take. James might have been pissed, or suffered repercussion, but if we didn’t do that last shot again the entire day would have been wasted.

So I opened this post talking about how I was improving. The lesson yesterday didn’t having anything to do with technical prowess, or fancy blocking, or speaking with varying pitch and tempo. The lesson was about completing what I set out to do.

It is so rosy and exhilarating when inspiration hits us and we see the wide, bursting vision of the project we identify as our new vocation. In the beginning, everything is shiny, everything is perfect, everything is faultless. But as we pick up our tools and hammer the first nail, we start recognizing just how ill-equipped for our journey we truly are. But that’s the time that forces you to become better.

Episode 4, and this entire show, is not about proving how awesome the story is to everyone else. Its purpose is to convey the story as effectively as I can. But if I don’t complete it, if I toss it in the trash once I realize it’s imperfect, then I am less than a poor story teller – I would be wasting my time.

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. If you’d like to follow along with “Mountain Cult”, click on the link below to watch the previous episode.

Going through changes – 5/28/20

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This goat has nothing to do with this post.

Been back on “the grind”, as they like to say, promoting my latest youtube video and liking and subscribing like a mad lad. I’ve been using discord for the first time in my life, which I predict will become the next social media giant because it is an awesome, and largely unknown, platform for social media promotion.

I’ve surpassed 200 views and am rapidly approaching 250. That is no small achievement for me, laughable as it may be, for I had to work 3 times harder to get 100 views on earlier videos. I’m proud to say I feel that it has been easier to promote due to being a better quality video than the previous.

After a week of stepping away from the series in aspects of production, I’m ready to begin preparing for episode 4. I have 5 actors who are willing to perform a role in the upcoming episode, which is awesome because I’ve previously had a very difficult time convincing friends their involvement will not result in shaming their family and hiding their faces in public.

I’ve purchased lighting equipment and 2 realistic looking bb guns. I’d like to order more guns, but amazon refuses to ship bb guns in california due to new legislation banning the kind I am looking for (I’m not a big gun rights activist but I think this is stupid as shit). For now that’s a minor problem, but the real issue is –

Location. I want a headquarters to call home for the cult members. Me and my girlfriend just happen to be searching for a new apartment to rent. She doesn’t know it yet, but I’m going to be making my decision based on which will be the best for me to film in HAHAHA (if you’re reading this I love you and I’m sorry).

So that brings me to the “going through changes” thing. I can’t really focus on developing the next episode until I have my locations squared away. I already have a vision for the basic plot of episode 4, but being an ultra low budget production I have to utilize my resources first. I’ll save the airplane crash until episode seven thousand.

As a side note, I have been doing some thinking about how I can challenge my main character and make his plight more interesting. He is a man struggling with sanity in a quest to find his missing wife. His core belief appears to be that trusting anybody is a mistake. I need to introduce a new character who will challenge that core belief, and I need to produce some changes in him to create more depth. I also want to introduce the idea of fun into the story, because I believe that’s why we enjoy stories – we want to feel a sense of joy. We turn to thrillers because we want to sense fear and suspense, sure – but we also want simulate the experience of hanging out with a friend. That’s why we turn to stories when we’re down.

Anyways, just thought I’d throw an update out there mixed with some ramblings. I hope you’re having a great week. If you haven’t checked out the show yet, feel free to watch episode 3 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.