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.

General Update

I know I began a short story last week, and I intend to continue that as soon as possible. But today I just wanted to provide a brief update.

I’ve spoken here often about improving my own time management. I am constantly working on something, but different projects require different amounts of time. For instance, editing a film, mastering a song, or molding a story are tasks that can be done in a day or a year. A great example that demonstrates this trend is the song that I’ve been working on for the past month. No matter how much I try to recreate the emotion through synthetic instruments on Ableton it has not matched the emotional impact it provided when I first played it on acoustic. I have to practice the song on a real guitar, stay true to the tempo, and learn the same chord progression in the key of Bb major. All the work I’ve put in through Ableton has been wasted, though I have created some unique synthesizers in the process.

Regardless of your aim in the world of creativity, a simple step back allows you to view the reality of accomplishing your goals. I fundamentally disagree with the longing to “get discovered”. Carving out a sustainable career is a result of a relentless effort to master the skills required for a specific profession. Eminem constantly references Dr. Dre for discovering him and exploding his career. Though he no doubt became a breakthrough artist thanks to Dr. Dre, Eminem was the one honed the skills that unlocked his meteoric rise. He needed a platform for what he was selling – but the product was already top quality.

I am trying to quantify the steps that I must take to produce a feature length film that will prove a profitable undertaking. Whether that means making more short films, knocking on doors, or building a large online following, I am game. I am certain I must have a completed script before I can be taken seriously in any avenue. Before that is completed, however, I am attempting to identify daily habits that will continuously bring me closer to my goal.

The two most obvious are daily writing/research specific to the story I am developing. The second obvious step is to educate myself on film financing.

I love wordpress and the audience that I can reach. It is the one task I can complete while I am at work. I also intend to return to creating youtube videos, but I need a more regimented system. Oftentimes I will write a script in a day, film it the following day, then require 2 weeks to edit all of the footage and music together. I’m considering creating videos where the focus is scene analysis on films that I’ve enjoyed. I feel I can come out with one of these each week. The most important aspect of creating youtube videos would be to dedicate no more than 30 minutes each day over the course of a week to create the video.

I am still waiting to find my film “Doctor with the Red Houseware” on Xumo. Once it is featured I will be happy to advertise it. As it stands, I have not released the film for free viewing on youtube. This week I am going to take steps to market the film again and set up for a free release online. I can do this by posting regularly to instagram and creating videos detailing the struggles encountered throughout the production process.

Anyways, hope all is well and to write again tomorrow. I do intend on further exploring the short story I began. It is a story I loved and one that I would consider producing. Because I have many ideas that I love I realize in my lifetime I will be unable to tell them all unless I sacrifice a little of the production quality in order to simply tell them. Have a good day.

Day 1 – Production

Today marks the first day of production for me. I mean yeah, it’s technically pre-production, but this is the day I get the ball rolling.

I will be posting a youtube video diary later in the day discussing my plans and ambitions for the project. My goal is to begin posting videos 3-4 times per week updating my progress. I will discuss every meaningful event, from casting, to prop orders, equipment changes, crew acquisition, and location scouting.

My overarching goal is to build momentum toward a kickstarter campaign. If I can build enough online support to start gaining sponsorship I can offset costs and purchase better equipment. Maybe I can even provide a bonus to the actors.

I will have some obstacles to overcome as it is completely unfamiliar territory for me. I have 0 comfort and 0 interest in performing monologues in front of the camera to “sell my self.” I honestly think the word Vlog is disgusting, embarrassing, and disgraceful. But the reality is that entertaining videos take a lot more work then I am able to put in while simultaneously developing episode 5. The alternative is to produce 5-10 second humor clips, but I am not trying to be a tik tok star I’m trying to be a filmmaker.

I will publish the video later today and intend to post the link here as well. I’m guessing I’ll get around 20 views but that’s ok. This is where building a community starts so I’m going to do it.

A Cardboard Mask and Other Things

This isn’t going to be a very long post but I haven’t printed anything for days and feel compelled to write something.

Sunday I carried out my meetup group for 2 hours then filmed a short sketch that I thought was funny. It involved me wearing a Diet coke box over my head and impersonating a “mask expert” while being digitally edited into an actual news clip. I thought it was funny, but my close friend didn’t, and my girlfriend didn’t. I guess I just looked like an idiot with a box on his head.

One of the worst feelings in writing comes when you pour your heart into your story and another reader takes for granted the considerations you’ve already made prior to their analysis. I received feedback for my latest draft on Monday and it was overwhelmingly positive. There were no major structural issues and it is ready to film. I was still discouraged, however, to hear a few suggestions that I’d already tried and knew wouldn’t be effective. I am happy to make adjustments as needed but I am disappointed when my vision for the film isn’t effectively conveyed on paper. I have a deep rooted fear that my brain does not operate according to convention and consequently my characters don’t always behave as expected. I am unable to verify their motivations without the input of another so I need diligent readers in order to know it “makes sense.”

So these and a handful of other events demoralized me and I took a few days away from everything I’ve been doing. Yesterday I scheduled a new online meetup event for this Sunday and last night I took down some notes about strengthening my existing character arc. I am hoping to send out for casting, shop for props, and reserve a location next week.

It’s actually great news I’ve just been focused on the negative a lot lately. Have a great day and thank you for reading.

#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.

Dramatic Action

Old picture. Funny I never realized how out of focus it was until now.

I’ve decided my next youtube video will shine a spotlight on another low budget short film. It will not be as much of a review as a study. I will have to a.) find a film b.) contact its creator and c.) dive in deep. I would like to critique the story in an honest but complimentary way. I feel that bringing attention to another creator who has similar ambitions can help build a community and propel my own viewership. I will either do this or make a video about my girlfriend’s cat and his plot to kill me.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time combing through the scripts I received. I forgot how good a practice critiquing another writers work can be – it’s much easier to recognize faults and areas for improvement. Consequently I’ve been able to return to my own script with a fresh, critical mind. As I read my own pages I realize the dramatic action is lacking.

Drama is the major reason we turn to cinema. Regardless of the genre we love to see characters wrestling over moral grey areas. We find ourselves intrigued by characters who behave against our expectations. And when we find protagonists who overcome their own faults we find hope for overcoming our own short comings.

I’ve condensed my script down to 16 pages. The driving force of the plot revolves around a “who-dunnit” type clue. My character follows this clue to the first suspect, who points him in the right direction. After meeting with a group of potential perpetrators, he narrows down his choice to 1 man – whom he attacks.

This simple plot has me wondering what type of character change best fits the story. To find that I must begin with figuring out what his final dramatic action it is – it may be the attack, the accusation, the assertive decision, or the decision to trust his missing wife over the conclusion he has formed from the notes contents (Ah yes I think I like that one).

So we first figure out what the climatic action will be. It should involve a choice between two options – one option finalizes a change, and the other option is what the protagonists would have chosen as his former self. He must go against his former nature in order to complete his arc. Story is, after all, a study in moral development.

Every scene in a story should involve some form of dramatic action. It is not enough for events to simply occur as characters observe their happenings. Your characters should effect the world in which they live, and the world should effect them. The inciting incident – or occurrence that ignites the plot – should be the event that sparks this change. Each experience that follows should add pressure for the character to change further. The final judgement on who the protagonists becomes can be summarized with the theme of the story.

In short, Kelly is snoring on the couch and this post has helped me clarify my thoughts on how I will approach my edit today. I’m still waiting for feedback on the current draft that is out to a few separate readers. Once I sense that my story has impressed, appealed to, or entertained a reader I will move forward with casting the actors and reserving a location. Moving to this stage has taken me months longer than expected. Though I regret the passage of time, I do feel compelled to enter production with a story that is solid. If you can start with that, you have a chance to make something special. Film a story that is shit on paper and all your effort will produce is shit on a screen.

Have a great day and remember to feed the birds. They die if we do not feed them.

Pancakes On a Wall

Here is a wall without any pancakes on it.

The best path forward…. the secret to success… top 5 ways to break in…

It’s all bullshit. About as helpful as dating advice.

It’s 4 am and I am providing coverage on 2 separate scripts. The writers are at different levels of their craft but they both include a lot of scene description. I fucking hate scene description. I don’t care who nods, wears designer shoes, or sleeps in the dark room when each of the 5 characters are as indistinguishable as chicken nuggets.

You might be wondering to yourself “Hey buddy I think your brain may be broken.” And to that I say “My brain is works.”

This post is about the monotony of progress. We know it’s laughable to dwell in the pipedream of thinking our extraordinary talents will spontaneously be realized and thrust into the spotlight. But I argue it is equally delirious to think following some magic guidelines will help us achieve the future we dream about. Every “new method” of advancing to the top of the pack will always be overcrowded with other wolves gnashing over the same objective.

If you’re trying to make a career out of originality, wouldn’t it only make sense to find your own way forward?

It’s 4 am and I am providing coverage for two feature length scripts because the writers will return feedback for my own work. An idiot in my shoes would more than likely be sending an untested scripts out to agencies and producers. A rich idiot would send their work out to a script coverage service and pay for notes.

The major advantage of working with others at the bottom is that you form a relationship and can work toward similar goals. Each person you communicate with becomes a companion along your journey. This is where you make the “connections” that are so important – not through a service that trades your money for their praises.

After I get done with the providing notes on these screenplays, I intend to formulate an idea (and hopefully film) a video for my next YouTube video. Soon I will be cataloging my experience making Mountain Cult Episode 5. Until then, I get to make videos about whatever I would like.

The last video I made, which I’ll post a link to below, was for such a niche audience that I’m pretty sure I only made it to satisfy my own curiosity. I am interested in making my next video more appealing to a mass market, though I’m not yet sure on how. Comedy seems to generate a lot of clicks, but I am trying to stay away from that. Controversy also seems to generate clicks, but that’s not really something I’m comfortable with.

So many people seem to think that success and failure in life can be attributed to a single moment. In reality it is a series of events, often spanning years if not decades. By continuing to push videos out I will build an audience – it’s no different than wordpress. By continuing to discuss my web series I will build up anticipation for its eventual release. By staying up at 4 am to provide feedback on scripts that don’t appeal to me, I am disciplining myself to treat my passion like it is already a career – regardless of the doubtful undercurrent that sweeps up my subconscious.

I hope this post has confused and angered you for ever having read it. If you “get what I’m saying” then I am relieved because I feel my hypotheses are as sturdy as buttered pancakes slapped on an aluminum wall.

Have a great day and make sure to click that star without wasting time bothering to open the actual post.

“Thank you may I have another”

I received feedback yesterday from Katie (plays Diedre) regarding the script. She helped make me aware of a few issues I wasn’t aware of – hitting the audience over the head with clues, handing out bombshell revelations like they’re candy, and removing lines of an earlier draft that made it special.

I’ve become pretty good at accepting criticism over the years. When I began writing receiving feedback felt like getting stabbed in the back. After I learned a few things I became stubborn and distracted by my own rebuttal. It is only after much experience I’ve become comfortable with allowing the reader to speak freely and uninhibited.

Something to keep in mind as a writer is that no story is perfect. You can purchase a movie that has received exemplary reviews and spend the entire 120+ minutes whining about how ridiculous the action is. It’s never about being perfect, but it’s always about producing an enjoyable experience. Just because we scream “You idiot!” during a slasher does not mean we are unhappy.

I’ve began implementing the changes Katie suggested already. When the plot and characters work together logically the story writes itself. Most of my adjustments involve the delete key, which is both easy and exciting (my goal is still 15 pages total). When I am done with this draft I plan to send it out to new readers who will be experience it for the first time. If I receive good reviews from them I can began purchasing tools and equipment, hire actors, and reserve the location I will be using to film.

The next short video I’m going to post is looking decent. If it weren’t for me feeling ill this morning then I could guarantee that I would post it later today. Currently I’m worried that I will feel much worse as more time passes.

We’ve made it to April and the weather is beautiful. Hoping you enjoy your Friday regardless of whether you think you will.

Filming A Shitty Short then Exercising

I filmed the biggest crapfest ever put together on Sunday. Absent of rest and well beyond sleep deprivation, I decided to push onward and record the material I would need for a new youtube video. This was a mistake.

I had 5 different drafts of the same 1 page script. Each successive draft incorporated different devices intended to enhance the story. The idea was simple – a guy busts into an apartment to rob the place, but finds the homeowner is seated, waiting for him, and armed with a gun. Somewhere during the shit-storming process it turned into “homeowner is a bombmaker for James Bond level spies.” And then the person breaking into the home developed a new motivation – to inform the bombmaker that the FBI was on the way to raid the apartment. The new twist became the homeowner was actually an informant, and the invader who had been purchasing his weapons was going to be arrested. And to put the icing on the shit, the homeowner ends the scene by tossing an orange at the invader. Of course, it explodes.

Well I’m sorry to say the absence of common logic was not enough to dissuade me from filming this turd nugget. I brought out my gear, printed the 5 separate drafts, and set to work. But I noticed an immediate issue – I had 2 characters to play and didn’t have the lines memorized. So I recorded them then played them with a recorder in the background. I would say the lines after hearing them. Easy enough, right? There was a time when I was proud of myself for having this revelation.

Costume time – what would a CIA type home invader where? Well a white undershirt and a short sleeve button down sounded good. What’s that? I only own one short sleeve button down that was a never-used costume for a much thinner actor? No problem. As long as I sucked in my gut I could hardly tell the shirt was 3 sizes too small. I just left the top part unbuttoned.

So I begin filming. Right away I figured out the recorded lines were said too close together. So I left the camera rolling and the audio recording as I edited the lines further apart. Later on, I would discover, I didn’t have takes recorded because the camera had overheated and shut down.

I performed all my lines as Joe, then switched to Burrough. It wasn’t until this point that I realized the true idiocy of failing to memorize the lines – I had no idea what context or emotion applied to my statements. I started repeating the same lines with random emphasis and emotions. Fix it in post, you know?

So I finally upload all the data to my computer to begin editing. Merging the audio and video becomes a major chore because I filmed without a clapper. I have one video clip that, for whatever reason, I have no audio for. And I have an audio clip that I have no video for. And I have another clip that the white noise in the audio is so pronounced it’s unusable. Oh, and about the character Joe –

I was having trouble with his longer lines so I put the script in front of me. “Not a problem, he’s wearing sunglasses”. Bull-shit. A 2nd grader could see my eyes dropping to read each sentence behind my not-so-polarized lenses. And the T-shirt? Dear God. I went on my first run yesterday in 3 months, just to give you an idea of how awful it was. Think Chris Farley in David Spade’s suit.

I was still determined to finish and post it up until I realized the 6 takes I thought I had were really only 3. I’m not afraid of embarrassing myself but I’m also not going to post something when that is all this video will do.

I may rewrite the story for something that makes sense, do 3 drafts instead of 5, and try again tomorrow in man sized clothes. I am slightly defeated but also relieved to have saved myself from putting too much time into the editing room prior to cutting the chord. As a side note, I do have a rock-headed belief in “finish your shit.” That means to not give up on something just because it is bad, and put it out for others to judge regardless. But I also believe everything we do serves a purpose. The final reason I decided not to move forward with this video is that it makes me appear unprofessional, childish, and cringey. The videos are made to grow my following, not dwindle it.

Anyways, hope you all are having a great day. There’s a lot of good things in the works for me right now but this was a definite setback. Hopefully you had a nice laugh at my expense because I’m over here looking at salad recipes. Have a wonderful day.