10/12/14 Videos

Huntington Dog Beach and a BMPCC

This past weekend, Angela and I took a quick trip down to Huntington Dog Beach just to get out for a little while. I took my Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera because, despite having it for nearly 6 months, I still haven’t tested it out very much. We arrived about 45 minutes before the sun started going down, so our time was limited.

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03/11/14 Essays # , ,

The Art of Faking It (part 3)

The Art of Faking It (part 3)

After a day and a half worth of shooting, I began to look over the footage we got and start to edit it together. I hated it. Nothing looked the way I had imagined it in my head except for one shot. The lack of dialogue made the story feel like it didn’t flow. And, on top of that, I then realized there were a few key shots that I somehow forgot to capture. October was about half over and the deadline to finish for the contest was fast approaching and all I had to show for it was a jumbled short film that I was not proud of. I still needed to turn this in for class credit too. I needed to somehow turn this into something that I wanted to be associated with, so I started thinking of a voiceover that could help walk the audience through what’s going on without holding their hands and being overly obvious.
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27/10/14 Essays # , ,

The Art of Faking It (part 2)

The Art of Faking It (part 2)

The new semester started up that August right around the same time that I found out about the film contest. We got our first assignment in our Advanced Production course and I suggested to Ben that whatever we make for class should also fit the rules of this contest in order to kill two birds with one stone. We now had a way to earn a grade and get some exposure.

After a couple weeks of brainstorming ideas back and forth through simple word association techniques, I had the idea. I came up with a short film with no dialogue as a way to hide the fact that most of our friends are not good actors. And I found a way to include all the rules set by the contest.

At this point, the green on the trees was starting to fade to yellow and orange. September was morphing slowly into October and our time was running out to complete our film. Still, we pressed on and arranged schedules and refined the story more and more. Because there was no dialogue, instead of writing a script, I drew out story boards and explained them with the beats of the story. I even started writing the music for the film.

The story follows a grim reaper by the name of Gary. He works in a college town and is responsible for killing the various people in it. He does this by simply touching their shoulder and after some time, the victim will die a seemingly natural death. Once Gary is assigned to kill a girl in a bookshop, however, he has a change of heart and decides to quit his job, come back to life and fall in love.

I finally found my actors and scheduled the time to film. This would be the first film I directed anything that didn’t have myself or Ben leading. I also really felt the pressure with this one because it was a more involved production than I was used to. Rather than basically goofing around for a few hours with my buddy, I now had to make sure camera settings were correct, that I had the right lens on, my actor was in the right spot and in focus, and because we were filming in public, I had to make sure that the shot was clear from people in the background. On top of that, I also had to make sure that I was remembering to film all the shots I had laid out and because most films are shot out of order, that can be so much of a challenge that major productions will have one person completely dedicated to that job. That wasn’t the case for this small student production. I was basically in charge of everything except being on screen (even though I made a small cameo as a victim).

This is the second post in a series about creating my short film I’d Live For You and how I didn’t quite feel like I knew what I was doing at the time. However, after some research, I discovered that even some major directors don’t always have everything planned out. Stay tuned for more in the series. Or don’t. Whatever.

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20/10/14 Essays # , , ,

The Art of Faking It (part 1)

The Art of Faking It (part 1)

At the end of the summer in 2012 I came across a film contest called Parameter. It was presented by the website A.V. Club and was a challenge to create a 3-7 minute short film following some very specific rules such as having a theme that deals with an escape from every day existence and picking from a number of other random parameters that needed to be included. I had never participated in film contest before this, so once I found it, I got excited because it seemed like something I could easily participate in. I had until the end of October to complete my mission.

I had only been making short films for about a year before I found out about this contest. I started taking video production classes at Washtenaw Community College the previous fall where I met my good friend Ben Armes. About half way through our first semester in the program we started working on our own projects outside of class just for fun. We even filmed our first short film together in one day for about thirteen hours straight. A few weeks later we had a completed 5 minute short film called The Start.

At the beginning of the summer, Ben and I worked on several very brief short films, mainly as a way to experiment with new equipment and to continue learning during the summer break from school. The majority of these micro-shorts were written very quickly and directed the next day. I usually took care of both of those duties and appeared on screen. Ben would act and then edit the footage. We’d either film it ourselves or find a friend to help with that. This is where I really started to get my footing as a director.

Being that I was working with one of my best friends, directing seemed very easy. It also helped that we have a pretty good idea of how each other thinks so communication was very easy. I would present Ben with the script that I wrote, explained how I thought it should look, and within about fifteen minutes our preproduction was taken care of. The next day or so, we’d film it and then within the next week, we’d have a new short film. However, future endeavors would prove to me that directing isn’t always that easy.

This is the first post in a series about creating my short film I’d Live For You and how I didn’t quite feel like I knew what I was doing at the time. However, after some research, I discovered that even some major directors don’t always have everything planned out. Stay tuned for more in the series. Or don’t. Whatever.

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15/10/14 Let's Make a Movie # , , ,

My Wall

My Wall

Coming up with ideas for short films is really not that hard. You could essentially turn any real life moment into a scene in your film. All you really need to do is just point your camera at the action and film it. Pretty simple, really. But who would want to watch that? I know I wouldn’t.

For the past year or two, I’ve been trying to develop ideas for short films based on relationships. I love a good hard-hitting drama. Blue Valentine is amazing. It’s something that’s relatable for a lot of people and I’ve always found myself in some sort of relationship, whether it’s romantic or just friendship based. The problem I’ve been running into with these ideas is whenever it’s time for the drama to kick in, I get stuck. They say you’re supposed to write about what you know and I know relationships, but I hate the drama that comes with them and I try to avoid it like the plague. Whenever arguments take place in a relationship, my brain freezes up and I just turn silent and confused. That’s probably not all that healthy when in a relationship, I know.

The result of relationship drama film ideas is about three or four unfinished scripts that all stop right around the start of what would make them really interesting. It’s basically been my wall. I realized a few weeks ago that just because you like one style of film doesn’t mean you need to try to write about it. Maybe I like those dramas because they say for me, the stuff that I get frozen up about. And if they’re already saying it better than I ever could, why not try something else. Maybe something that not many people are even trying to base conversations on at all.

My whole life I’ve been called “weird”. I don’t know how true that is. I’ve just been trying to be myself. Again, they say to write what you know. The last few ideas that I’ve been trying to develop might be considered weird. But, at their core, they do still revolve around relationships. My hope is that I can take what I like about relationship-based stories, and what I like about weird/bazar stories and mash them into something that not many people are doing. Hopefully by doing this, I’ll be able to build a door into my wall and get to the other side. But who would want to watch that? I don’t know exactly. But if I’m true to myself and make something that I would want to watch, then it doesn’t really matter who else wants to see it. I know I will.

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11/10/14 Let's Make a Movie # , ,

Let’s Make a Movie

Let’s Make a Movie

As I was on the toilet earlier today (come on, everyone poops…), I had an epiphany. Maybe not an epiphany, but a really good idea. At least to me. This is a normal thing for me. For some reason, I tend to get a lot of good ideas while I’m sitting on the throne.

I’m currently reading the book Hope for Film: From the Frontline of the Independent Cinema Revolutions. In it, the author Ted Hope basically talks about his experience producing a lot of Independent films. I’m almost half way through it at the moment and I just finished the chapter that talks about his foray into social media. He mentions that he first really got into using the medium right before he helped produce the film Super which was directed by James Gunn and stars Rainn Wilson. I’m not sure exactly what line or sentence that he wrote that inspired me exactly, but while sitting there something hit me.

Afterwards, while I was sitting on the couch letting my mind wander, that little bit of inspiration grew and I thought that it would be really cool to see someone share the entire movie making process with the audience. I know that things like this sort of exist right now, but not in the capacity that I’m thinking. Most of the time, we get a little bit of a behind the scenes look at a movie while they’re filming and maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll get to hear the lead actor talk about how wonderful it was to work with the director and how the cast really gelled. We don’t often get to see very deep into the actual movie making process.

After I tweeted out this little nugget of an idea, I got a reply that pointed me to The Starz channel original show called The Chair. The show follows two first time directors making their own vision of one script and all the drama that goes with it. I haven’t watched any episodes yet, but it looked sort of closer to what I was thinking. Still, from what I gathered from the trailer, it looks like it’s mainly following the production and not the entire film making process. It looks like a cool show and all, but it’s still not what I was thinking.

Then it really hit me. I’m a filmmaker. I’ve written and directed a few short films. I don’t know all the ins and outs of the filmmaking process or anything, but I’ve been sort of been around the block. All of my work thus far has been very low scale – no budget, hardly any “real” equipment – just an idea, a rough script, a camera, and a computer to edit it. Why don’t I just document the process on the next thing I make?

Here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. Publicly share my idea for a film (and hope that no one steals it and makes it before me)
  2. Publicly share my rough script and revisions
  3. Publicly document the pre-production process
  4. Publicly document the actual production process
  5. Publicly share the rough edits of the film
  6. Post the final cut of the film as VOD

All the while, at least up until phase six, I’ll be taking the public’s ideas and criticisms to help shape the film to be as good as it can be. For example, when I post a rough script and Joe Schmoe reads it and thinks a certain line of dialogue would flow better a certain way, he can share that with me, and if I agree with him, I’ll make the change. The same goes for the rough edits of the film. I’ll post rough cuts online – these will be un-colored and lacking any vfx (if the film needs any). I’ll take any helpful suggestions that are made and incorporate them the best that I can. And once the film is done, I’ll post it online either free or as Video on Demand (to hopefully recoup some of the costs of the production).

I’ve already got a few ideas that are brewing in my head. Once I can completely nail down the idea, I’ll be posting it here. So, stay tuned for phase one.

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