The video update below is a ten-hour time-lapse of me sitting in my tiny home office working on our show.
Today I’ve been thinking about filmmakers.
Filmmakers using the internet to launch themselves into the tent-pole
cinema game, internet filmmakers trying to leverage that same mechanism
into studio deals for themselves. Obviously, I’m not talking from
personal experience. Just observation.
We’ll start with the teaser for The Leviathan.
Everyone went crazy for this thing four months ago. Director Ruairí
Robinson, who’s helmed several animated short films, one of which was
Academy-award nominated, made this proof-of-concept trailer:
The Leviathan -- Teaser from Ruairi Robinson on Vimeo.
A couple days after he put that on Vimeo, Neill Blomkamp (Writer/director, District 9)
and Simon Kinberg (Writer/producer, the latest X-Men movies) signed on
as producers and Fox Studios snapped up the feature rights. The story
told within the short is nothing at all, but there’s no denying the
impressive look of it. It looks like tent pole filmmaking. Plus, Jim
Uhls (Fight Club screenplay) name is on the trailer, so that must mean there’s some kind of story.
Still, the big headline is HOLLYWOOD STUDIO BUYS
INTERNET VIDEO SHORT FILM. This kind of thing happens every once in
awhile and every filmmaker on the internet tries to do the same thing.
Since many studios only seem interested in stories they’ve seen be
successful before (that Leviathan trailer is a sci-fi Jaws, right?) everyone starts trying to churn out shorts or trailers that look like what studios are buying, AKA rehashing stuff.
And it can work, apparently. This article from Film School Rejects
titled “Terrible Trailer for a Movie that Doesn’t Exist Getting Turned
into a Movie” discusses this same phenomenon citing a mock-trailer for a
movie called The Garden directed by E.B. Rhee. The article
states that as a flashy, VFX-heavy, internet video that’s drummed up
some attention Warner Bros. subsidiary Polymorphic Pictures grabbed the
not? The CGI is shitty, but the studio will hire a different company
for that anyway. The acting is all wooden (admittedly because there’s no
story/foundation present), but all of these actors will be replaced.
The story isn’t interesting or new, but Polymorphic will hire a dozen
writers to shape and reshape the script until it’s unrecognizable. Make
no mistake, the most likely outcome is that Rhee gets paid for the
rights, he’s replaced by a known director, his actors are replaced by
known actors, and his script (co-written by Aaron Strongoni) is
workshopped by more established screenwriters until the whole thing is
shelved anyway.” You can check out the rest of that very worthwhile article at Film School Rejects: http://filmschoolrejects.com/features/short-film-the-garden-movie-trailer-bought-by-warners.php#ixzz3iitbZ0ia
In an update awhile back, I talked about how the
studio system used to grab up the new filmmakers of each generation who
were showing the industry what the new generation wanted to see. It was
how the industry evolved. Now, the internet is spoon-feeding the
industry what it’s already seen over and over again in the hopes of
gaining admittance to the studio system. Because of the remake and
reboot culture. We talk about the nostalgia of this time, and part of it
is absolutely that. Just look at Kung Fury:
It looks like VHS (just with great VFX), because
of our nostalgia for watching fantastic movies in the format. That’s
both giving the internet what it wants and proving that you can make
something impressive looking. But the studio systems climate of
nostalgia is mostly just based on grabbing something that has already
been proven fiscally viable at one point. There’s no speculation there.
You can chart the property’s previous box office, adjust for inflation,
balance it with the box office estimations on big name acting talent
attached, and if it tanks like the Poltergeist reboot or The Fantastic Four reboot, you can tell your boss, “Hey, I charted this whole thing. It all worked on paper,” and your ass is quasi covered.
It’s also all about the millions studios have to
spend on marketing, making talent that already has social media
followings in place a bigger draw, because they can send a tweet about
an opening weekend to an entire generation of people that have stopped
watching TV commercials. They talked about that at a South by Southwest
panel with casting directors this year where they essentially said
producers are more interested in finding successful people on YouTube
and Vine than in acting class showcases or comedy clubs. That comes at
the end of this article at The Guardian:
I guess this is all just more on how the
internet and the film industry have to realize what each of those
markets wants. It’s not the same thing. At all.
More on that next week.
Thanks for reading.
The video update below is about ADR. I mentioned
it in the previous update and a few members of my audience had some
questions about it. So here we are.
I’ve been listening to a lot of the Scriptnotes podcast recently. One episode a week just wasn’t
cutting it anymore, so I had to subscribe to their app and get access
to all of the old episodes. As someone seemingly forever trapped in a
fascination orbit around the work of writer/director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), I, of course, listened to his episode first.
He talked about scope creep, a phenomenon his work suffers from wherein
the scope of a project continues to grow and get more unwieldy the
longer he works on it. The effects of scope creep are obvious in Southland Tales and The Box. Southland Tales became practically unintelligible as a stand-alone picture, and The Box gets derailed by unnecessarily exploring the
mind-boggling mechanisms used by the shadow organization pulling the
strings. Kelly just seems to get intrigued by tangential aspects of the
story he’s telling and wants to pull them all in until it’s completely
unwieldy and the audience’s investment gets smothered underneath the
weight of so much extraneous stuff.
I’ve experienced scope creep over the course of
PoPS, as well. Obviously. There were certain plot devices and ideas I
wanted to explore at the outset, but other things came into play as we
went on. Some of them were direct results of feedback I was getting from
the audience. In episode 7, a lot of people were really excited to see
the girls up and fighting. Other members of the audience brought my
attention to the ways in which the fight scenes were lacking. So the
main plot of episode 8 became about proving we could do better fight
scenes. The whole damn episode is called Fight. I mean, Eliza had mild
whiplash for a few days after shooting her fight scenes we got so
specific about the head snapping involved in taking a punch.
Originally, the entirety of PoPS was supposed to
happen in 10 10-minute episodes. Episode 8 was 61 friggin minutes long.
That’s technically a feature by most film festival standards. I just got
more interested in the characters and how they were coping with these
powers and with each other. And the more characters we got, the more I
wanted to flesh out each of them. Give them more storylines. See how
they handle different scenarios.
Most of my scope creep comes down to making sure
things feel justified. In order to make crazy things happen, you
sometimes have to spend time moving people and circumstances into place.
The crazier the payoff, the more time it takes to set up justifiably.
Sometimes you realize that the characters have to
take time processing the aftermath of some of these things. We’ve
devoted many minutes of screen time to characters discussing things
we’ve already seen to try and process them like actual people do. That’s
kind of counter intuitive in screenwriting. “We’ve already seen that!
Why are they still talking about it?!” But those are some of my favorite
I think scope creep is justifiable if it’s more
about keeping characters grounded rather than trying to make a world
larger and more complicated.
The two videos below are the opposite ends of
the spectrum for my channel, outside of the PoPS series. The first is my
version of an annual video collection called Letters to July, created
by YouTuber Emily Diana Ruth, a series where you narrate quiet,
introspective of reflections on where you currently are in your life
while a series of video snapshots unfold. The second is a standard vlog,
proving that I’m hard at work with a six-hour time lapse of my working
at VFX on the computer.
Maybe it’s weird to talk about online engagement
when my blogging has been so spotty over the last few weeks. We’ve just
been traveling around so much lately that I’ve been using my blogging
time to catch up on work and actually accomplish the things instead of
setting aside the time to reflect on and blog about the things.
Two weeks ago, I put up that Letters to July
video. It’s the most fun I’ve had putting something together in awhile.
First of all, I’ve just been dying to shoot something in the anamorphic
style 2.35 aspect ratio. I don’t know if that sounds ridiculous or not,
it’s just the truth, and seeing my final footage all 2.35 cropped made
me so happy. Plus, playing in a tone I don’t typically employ was a nice
break as well.
But when I talk about engagement, this is the
sort of thing I’m talking about. YouTube communities do different types
of themed videos all the time. Many times they revolve around a certain
YouTubers temporary creative crises and then everybody weighs in with
their own thoughts on the platform, but sometimes everyone makes a video
about charities, or everyone talks about a list of 5 particular things,
or everybody gives a tour of their room. Just a fun thing to do.
I think Letters to July is a particularly
addictive formula. It’s quiet and lovely; everyone loves distilling
their lives into a series of nicely rendered images, just look at
Instagram; and it has a very particular timeframe. You can do one
anytime in July. Since it’s annual, it’s also a nice way to check in
every year and see how you’ve changed and where you now are.
But engaging in these kinds of
community-oriented videos is exactly what I’m talking about when I tell
people how to connect with online communities. Whenever people ask me
how to become involved in online communities they basically want to hear
THE TRICK that will get people to WATCH THEIR THING. But this is all
part of that. I actually follow other people in the online communities
and engage with them when they draw me in. Other people within those
communities recognize that I have a common interest with them and they
might check out my channel based on our mutual interests. It’s probably a
very small part of how we got our audience, but I think it’s pivotal.
The problem is it has to be genuine. You have to have an active interest
in the content and the community in which you are engaging, because
it’s pretty easy to spot a vlogging phony. So, it’s a commitment. If you
dive in though, and you actually start becoming a part of these
communities and comments conversations, it’ll probably stop feel
mercenary and promotional relatively soon. Because it’s just
participating in an excellent and ongoing conversation with some really
great folks. Over and over.
into the film industry is no easy feat. To go from making home videos
to silver screen gems, there are certain jobs that can help you make the
transition. The following jobs are some of the best to pursue for
videographers who are hoping to build up their filmmaking chops and get
some relevant experience under their belt:
short films have become increasingly popular among magazines and other
publications. They’re created to promote an idea, event or product —
much like a video advertisement or trailer — in an artful way. The
video shorts are meant to fully immerse the viewer in the brand’s
concept. Kinfolk Magazine is an online and printed publication that uses
this art form to reach its readers on another platform. The magazine
will post videos to promote the release of its newest issue,
showcase an interview with a featured subject, and have many other one-
to two-minute clips. Magazines like Saveur, Bon Appetit, Condé Nast,
Afar, Dwell, Life & Thyme and many more all have video sites that
feature artfully curated and filmed video pieces.
websites are beginning to include video testimonials on their websites.
Amazon, Google and LifeLock are companies that utilize videographers to
help them create these powerful videos. Creating testimonial videos
allows the customer to have a voice. They are short videos that feature
interview clips of satisfied customers. This job requires some
knowledge of photojournalism and interviewing techniques, for you to
have the greatest success. Testimonials are an amazing way to connect
potential customers to services.
hospital videographer’s job is incredibly multifaceted. These
professionals are in charge of nearly all the video for a hospital. The
video projects could range from professional education, parent and
patient education, research, lectures, PR work, media packages and
diagnostic medical photography. The salary ranges from about 50-80K, but
the rewards of this job reach further than just pay. Working at a
hospital allows you to truly help people and make a difference in their
lives. Through a position like this, you’re able to contribute toward
making a better environment for patient care. This is a job where you
must exercise your technical video skills as well as your people skills.
One especially exciting part of the job is that you’ll even get to
scrub into surgeries and be in the action.
wedding and event videography seems like it may be an antiquated job
for aspiring videographers, it is still incredibly relevant and a useful
stepping stone. Fortunately, wedding videography has been evolving as
brides and grooms are preferring more creative video footage and a fully edited video composition.
Production companies, like SharkPig, are leading the way in wedding
videography with their modern methods of capturing the special day. Its
goal is to create video that goes beyond the norm and give clients
something that’s artistic and enjoyable to watch multiple times.
SharkPig extends beyond wedding videography and is also involved in
creating commercials for McDonalds, Pfizer, Burt's Bees, UGG, Paul
Mitchell, and many more. As a production company, it has mastered the
art of beautiful wedding videos and is growing into doing even more
This week’s video update includes travel to a
mysterious location and a talk about overblown movie stakes in
blockbusters while walking in the rain.
Well, here we are. We started shooting episode 9 on November 3rd and we had our final night of initial production on June 2nd.
That seems like a long production period. The vast majority of the
episode was shot in November and December and the rest of it was tiny,
little, one-shot cut-aways or one-off scenes with brand new cast in new
locations. But I now have it all. I’ve just got to find the time to put
it together. Let’s recap the final two shoot days.
Saturday, May 30th. The Thursday
night before, I had two of my friends meet me at Chicago Costume Co. to
get fitted for some costumes. On the shoot day itself, it rained all
day, as evidenced by the last video update. So, after calling my
contact, Kyle, to get this facility opened after they’d already closed
due to rain, he met us and we got prepped starting about twenty minutes
late. We shot as fast as we could, trying to keep everything dry with
umbrellas while we shot outside, and we did a pretty decent job of it.
Afterward, we took everybody out for lunch at the Brat Stop in
Wisconsin, as the facility was right on the border.
Tuesday, June 2nd. The final night of
shooting. We were using a friend’s workshop as a location and I had it
all planned to do this green screen compositing effect in the background
of a shot. Then we found out it would be possible to actually hang one
of our actors off of this real motorized hook and move him around. So we
did it. He had to stick his arms through this big furniture strap
hanging off of the hook, basically hanging from his armpits. We could
only do it for a few seconds at a time because that thing actually hurt
quite a bit. I took the ride myself to see what it was like. That
footage will be coming to the episode donors as soon as the episode gets
released. After the shoot, we took the cast and crew to Parson’s
chicken and talked how awesome Mad Max: Fury Road is and how much we miss video store culture.
Yeah. Another episode in the external hard
drive. I know we’ll have one evening of reshoots, but I’d like a full
cut first. Hopefully, I’ll have one within the next couple weeks.