The video update below features the last known footage of me before my short was selected as one of the top 200 inProject Greenlight. I basically talk about how busy we are. More chatter about how busy we are after the jump.
I have so much to do right now I cannot stop thinking in lists and time slots. Before we go any further, watch this video of one Project Greenlight submitter reading the email saying he was selected for the top 200. He ingeniously started recording from his laptop camera every time he got an email that day so the moment would be captured, no matter the outcome. This...is...perfect:
I commented on that video asking if he had a hard time sleeping the night before the announcement emails were sent out and he responded saying he's a big fan of PoPS. So, good times.
For real though, the night before the emails were sent out I kept having these dreams that looked like Coke commercials, all golden-hued California dusk light falling on people getting their top 200 notification and jumping and hugging in the street in tracking slow-mo shots. Then me lying in our shadowy, pre-dawn bedroom, not getting one. Like, all night.
So, now that we are in the top 200, here's everything that's going on right now:
-I've dropped into hyper-work mode at my money-making job to try and get all of my work done before going to L.A. in 7 days. I have to write three more feature stories and two restaurant reviews for the magazines. Two of the evenings before I go are also taken up with going to the restaurants that need reviewing.
-I have to shoot, edit, and upload three videos this weekend. The usual update, my Project Greenlight bio video, and a fundraiser video for the episode 9 Indiegogo campaign. Luckily, with Labor Day, this is a 3-day weekend.
-For the bio video, I need to go to the hardware store tonight to get the materials for a specialty prop, and I have to build that.
-I have a call back audition for a significant role in another awesome web series on Saturday in the middle of the day, but I'm combining that with grabbing some clips for the bio video. So it's a two-for-one trip to the city, before we go to the western suburbs for one of the restaurant review dinners.
-I need to finish writing AT LEAST the villain arc of episode 9 because I just scheduled the first three days of filming for the night after I get back from L.A. Another of our actors is moving away and his character needs a satisfying exit. His last night of shooting is currently scheduled for the day before his projected departure.
-One of the actors from PoPS asked for a cut of his scenes for his new website, so I need to put that together. That won't take too long though.
-On Tuesday night we're planning a live show with Craig for the PoPS fans to thank them for voting for us in the Streamy Awards. That might also be a nice time to launch the fundraising campaign.
-Wednesday, on my lunch break, I need to go pick up my new suit and make sure it fits right, then after work I'm due to go film with a friend for the web series that he's doing. Not the one I mentioned earlier.
-On Thursday at 7 A.M. I fly to L.A. to hear the winner of Best Indie Series announced later that night.
-And, this is kind of silly considering all the things I've just outlined, but for three months I've been planning to go to a drive-in movie theater on Friday night for an amazing horror movie triple feature. The Return of the Living Dead, the new 4K restoration of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Creepshow. All for 10 bucks. How the frigging frig could I let myself miss that line-up? AT THE DRIVE-IN! Nope. Can't. I'm totally going.
That's what's happening right now, you guys. If I can land all of these things in the next 6 days, then I'll feel like I can do anything.
Oh, and since I haven't posted it here, here's our 3-minute Project Greenlight Entry.
Thanks for reading.
The video below features me talking about writing procrastination, our giving up of the booth at Gen Con, and a little bit about our Project Greenlight entry. It's two weeks old, 'cause I missed a week. The video update for this last week just chronicled my trip with my wife to Gen Con and Indianapolis. It's very hangout'y and not very creator oriented. It's on our YouTube page in the update playlist for those who are interested.
OKAY! What a week, you guys. Nominated for Best Indie Series in the Streamy Awards. Once I saw that we were nominated, I checked out the competition. Really great shows; different voices, very different flavors, it's awesome to see that we're up against really amazing content. The quality of the other shows actually feels like validation for what we're doing as well. I never received an official nominee notification email, but I read our name on the Streamy's site as I scrolled through and felt a wave of relief sweep over me. It's always nerve wracking to make a big deal out of something on the channel, ask the people watching to go out and support you, and then not have it pan out. I feel like Ive let down the audience. So getting in as an Indie series nomination makes their participation and belief worthwhile. And the Streamys are always talking about the passion involved in web video. Hard to be a more fitting example for the passion of storytelling than the Indie category. No money, just stories.
The next day I got an email from the Streamys that was all, “Please RSVP by tomorrow. Will you attend?” I then checked my SPAM folder and there it was, the nominee notification and RSVP request. Eliza and I hadn't even talked about it, but we asked Craig and our manager at CDS and they both said I should go. Unfortunately, we can't afford to get Eliza out there too, but two weeks from today I land in L.A. again. I'm really excited. Not simply about the Streamy's either. I'm going to try to line up a collab video for while I'm out there, I'm crashing on the floor of a friend of mine who moved out to L.A. after we killed him in the show, and I want to get to the New Beverly. The September schedule isn't up on their site yet, but I don't even care what ends up on the bill, I just want to marinate in the atmosphere of cinematic adoration in the New Bev. We booked my flight last night with the help of Eliza's brother, himself an avid travel enthusiast. Excited. Me.
So, as the end of the initial voting for Project Greenlight approached—tomorrow is the last day—I found myself getting increasingly nervous that nobody had the chance to see our entry. Their voting system is set up to be very cheat-proof, with peer judges being assigned random videos to rate and no way to look up an entry. The only verification of submission was an email saying Submission Success or if you tried to submit again you'd get a pop up saying, “You've already submitted.” So I was fairly confident that our entry went through, but their was no way to actually see it's official entry page. And as the deadline drew closer, I could see more and more people feeling the way I did. Comments sections on Project Greenlight Facebook posts started to get filled with: “Did anybody see ONE SECOND CHANGES EVERYTHING? I'd love some thoughts.” or “I hope ROOM 302 makes it into the top 200. Anyone judge that one?” Shows you two things: 1, Everybody wanted some kind of confirmation that ANYONE on the judging side of things saw their project. 2, as creators, we just desperately want to know what someone thinks of what we made. I was feeling the validation itch as well, but I didn't want to do one of the “Anybody see...” things. So when they posted asking for our opinion on the funniest entry people had seen, I recommended an entry I saw called NO ONE's READY FOR THAT by searching for Project Greenlight entries on YouTube after I'd maxed out my 50 official judging entries. I also went fishing for anybody who'd seen mine by saying. “Absolutely the funniest one I saw. I'm not even connected to it, my short was called Whoops. Theirs was just really meta and hilarious.” Totes paid off. Somebody commented “I loved whoops!” Someone saw it and they liked it. My sincere-compliment, backdoor-desperate-plea-for-validation worked! Since the first round of judging ends tomorrow I'll be making Whoops public very soon. My extensive searching for Project Greenlight entries has also displayed to me the sheer number of people entering. It feels like it's not just quality that will end up in the top 200, but a little bit of luck too. I still hope for the best. I'd love to direct a Miramax feature.
Lastly, our follow-up screening at Gen Con was great. I get so wrapped up in all of this stuff that when I actually sit down and watch a full episode it's nice to remember that I really like the story we're telling. I think we've got something unique happening within all of this super powered wrapping.
Time to start thinking about the next Indiegogo campaign video and the live show we owe the folks who voted for us during the Streamy's nomination process. Oh, and finishing the script for episode 9.
The video update below features an interview with another member of
our audience who also creates his own passion project in his spare time.
Together we talk about how to schedule that extra-occupational time and
how it's only up to you to motivate yourself.
spend so much of my time thinking about stories and storytelling. Most
of my time in the car is spent listening to audiobooks, I read through
every lunch break, I want to watch at least one episode of something at
the end of every day, I listen to so many podcasts wherein filmmakers
tell the stories of the ins and outs of the business of storytelling, at
my job I'm always trying to take my assignments and tell at least some
kind of interesting narrative in 700 words or a three-minute video, and
then my hobby is about continuing this episodic evolving storyline we've
been working on for five and a half years.
After thinking a lot
about the different mediums of storytelling—oral, written, musical, and
visual—I keep coming back to how film is just the best. Of course, this
is only my opinion, but for me it's the medium with the greatest ability
to connect. It has the unfair advantage of incorporating all of the
methods, the empathy of oral communication, the logic of a written form,
the pathos of music, and the intrigue of visual communication, and
combining them into a single device meant to manipulate and communicate.
I wrote a short film a couple weeks ago with a
storytelling theme, specifically about movies watched in a theater. I
scrapped the short film script but the theme has stuck with me. Movies
in a theater are a particular kind of magic. Stephen King calls books a
uniquely portable magic, and there's definite value in that. For me,
he's talking both about their ability to transport a reader as well as
how easy it is to carry them around with you and fall into and out of a
narrative at your leisure. Now, with people watching stuff on cell
phones and tablets, visual entertainment has become quite portable as
well, but this time it's a disservice to storytelling. It's a
transference of power. It's about our interaction with the medium.
Ultimate accessibility breeds apathy. The movie theater has always been a
destination. It's a big, bright window into a world where people are
motivated, there's an understandable cause and effect underlying
circumstances, and astounding things are guaranteed to happen. Roger
Ebert called movies the greatest empathy machine there is. Okay, I
looked it up, he said,
“Movies are the most powerful empathy
machine in all the arts. When I go to a great movie I can live somebody
else’s life for a while. I can walk in somebody else’s shoes. I can see
what it feels like to be a member of a different gender, a different
race, a different economic class, to live in a different time, to have a
different belief.This is a liberalizing influence on me. It gives
me a broader mind. It helps me to join my family of men and women on
this planet. It helps me to identify with them, so I’m not just stuck
being myself, day after day.”
That's awesome. And speaks of
the truth of cinema to me. But when we had to travel to the big, bright
window to observe these people I believe it was also aspirational. We
looked up to these larger than life representations of the best of us
and knew that we could face change and come out a better person for it.
We could overcome spite and greed and violence and emerge as a better
person just before the credits. We traveled to these stories to feel
them and aspire to them. They dimmed the rest of the world to take up
our field of vision and transport us. Now that they're on our hip and
can be interrupted by a Facebook status update letting us know that an
acquaintance of ours doesn't much feel like exercising today, it doesn't
carry the same weight, magic, or ability to mesmerize. The stories
arrive at our beckon call and can be muted and paused so we can get off
the train. The stories are now our prisoners, we are no longer their
All of this to say that I'm in love with movie
theaters. And the largest benefit of living near Chicago is the ability
to participate in the revival cinema screenings that rotate through a
few of the old movie houses downtown. Watching Chinatown
on the big screen, I finally saw why it was so good. I'd only ever seen
it on VHS before. It's a whole different world in that theater. It's
the pedestal on which all good stories belong.
Whoa. Got a little pretentious today. Thanks for reading.
The video update below features a conversation between myself and
another web series creator as we discuss the minefield of practical
problems and impractical expectations encountered when trying to
manufacture meaningful visual genre fiction in your spare time.
This week we've thrown a production together super fast and it
feels so much like shooting videos in high school. Part of it
probably has to do with the truncated pre-production. The two-week
entry period for this contest started on the 24th and on
the 25th I finally felt like I had a good idea for an
under 3-minute short. I wrote the script and hated it. Scrapped it.
Back to square one. I woke up on the 26th with an idea for
a short little visual story. I've always heard filmmakers talk about
waking up with an idea, but this is the first time it's ever happened
to me. I was rolling out of bed just before 8 a.m. on a Saturday
morning with Eliza saying, “Where are you going,” and me saying,
“I think I've got the short.” Made some coffee, wrote the thing,
and liked it. I printed it, 3-and-a-half pages of mostly action, and
handed it to Eliza. She liked it. I sent it to Craig, who's been the
most vocal about making a unique, contained story for this contest
instead of using a sequence from PoPS. He said: “I think it's
really cool. Definitely give you good opportunity to show your
skills. It doesn't have a lot of that trademark Jake dialogue, but
I'd say if you can pull it off in time it might be the one.” I just
had my email open so I thought I'd throw in the verbatim exchange
here. I shotlisted it, we quickly grabbed some props, cast it from
our regulars and folks we've met during the web series, and decided
to shoot it over two nights in a really cool public location I knew
of but didn't ask permission to use. That's what probably made it
feel the most like high school. Just heading into an public area and
shooting with your friends.
Three nights later we were out piecing it together. It's all
outside in this beautiful ravine and we only had work days available
to shoot it. So, I left work a little early for two days and we'd
have from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., when it would just get too dark to shoot,
to get everything we needed. So about 6 hours total. Last night we
wrapped four of the five actors. I'm going to have to meet with the
remaining actor tomorrow night to get the last half page of stuff.
Tonight, I start editing and I can't wait to see this thing come
together. It all just looked so gorgeous in playback.
Every once in a awhile it's nice to get out there and shoot
something super quickly that has nothing to do with complicated
pre-pro or large overarching stories. It really felt like one of
those dash-and-grab chase movies we used to make after school. Just
with way better equipment at our disposal.