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Feb 19, 2015 8:14PM

Follow along as we see how Jake Jarvi engages the nearly 40,000 fans of his web series, PLATOON OF POWER SQUADRONYou can see all of Jake's work at:



The video update below contains my musings on the gender stereotyping perpetrated by the performers of audio books. And I didn’t mention it in the update, but my favorite audio book readers are probably Edward Hermann reading Scott Turow books or Jim Dale reading the Harry Potters. Hermione’s a little too whiney, but other than that, he does a smashing job.



As a young upstart, you think—I’ll just develop my skills as a storyteller. Writing and directing. If I write and direct really well, someone will pay me to do it and take care of the hard stuff like scheduling.


Then you get a little older. Well, I can’t show that I can write and direct unless I have something I’ve written and directed to show people. I’ll just make something.


After trying that a couple times by just throwing things together with a couple days notice and seeing who’s available this weekend—This all feels so slap-dash. I better figure out how to actually schedule this thing. I hate scheduling… But nobody’s volunteered to do it. Okay, let’s try this.


Now we live in the age of crowdfunding and my hobby has sprouted a lot of paperwork to boot. When I was a kid, I never thought I’d be saying—Man, I love making movies with my friends! Except during tax season.


We forgot to send out 1099s to the people we paid over the certain amount, and I guess we could face financial penalties or something? I’m not really sure, but it’ll probably all work out. It’s just crazy to me how my after-work hobby has given way to so many other responsibilities. When going to work is more relaxing than going home, something has taken a turn.


Thanks for reading.



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Feb 13, 2015 9:16AM

Follow along as we see how Jake Jarvi engages the nearly 40,000 fans of his web series, PLATOON OF POWER SQUADRONYou can see all of Jake's work at:


The video below features Eliza and I talking about how social media has us interacting with modern celebrities on a whole different level, and an explanation of one of our favorite audition spots in Chicago.



You guys know that I Google search our show every once in a while to see if anyone is saying anything new. I did that this week because we didn’t get into a web series festival I submitted us to. I wanted to look at what people we don’t personally know have said about our product to see if I could get a little insight into why we wouldn’t be accepted. I probably would have just let it go, but I saw a few shows on their acceptance list that are unimaginatively rehashed generic web-blah with a fraction of our audience. Seeing that I was like… Ooooooookay. Now, I may be just overthinking it. Maybe they’re tired of web series about super powers, or maybe the voice of the show isn’t their cup of tea. These are entirely possible. It’s also possible that I think too highly of our storytelling, given my very intense personal investment in PoPS.


But one thing stands out in every review of our show, even from the people who apparently like us a lot and are reviewing it to try and get there friends interested. Phrases like “It’s not the best looking show, but…” or “It may not be very professional looking, but…” or “Despite the look and the questionable VFX…” or, allow me to quote directly from one I found yesterday:


“I will say the acting and special effects are not award winning (although the show has won numerous awards). But what would you expect from a show where all the people making it are doing it for love not money and really all the shows pitfalls just make it all the more love able like a scruffy dog who has a penchant for rolling in mud.”


Our show is the equivalent of a scruffy dog that likes to roll in the mud. And this is from someone who is trying to get people to watch it. In that same review:


It is genuinly funny and has some actually really intense story arks…”


So… I’m going to say we get passed over for some competitions because of the fact that no matter how much better we make the visuals and the VFX, it’ll never look pro. Let me tell you why.


It’s my fault.


Even if my director of photography sets the exposure levels perfectly so the darks aren’t noisy and whites aren’t blown out, I color correct the episode. Unfortunately, I do it quickly. Meaning, in order to get the actors to where I want them, sometimes I pull up the overall levels too much, blow out the whites, or overcompensate in contrasts. If I sat there for a long time, dicking around with power windows, isolating sections of the frame and specifically adjusting three or four distinct grades within one shot, I might be able to make it look as good as it should.


Conversely, if I wasn’t moving the crew at a thousand miles an hour during production, they might have more time for switching out bulbs, flagging hot walls, key lighting the actors, and generally sculpting those frame isolating elements on set. But I can’t spend people’s time like that. I’ve always wanted to keep set moving. That’s why I so intensively plan ahead.


We got this shot, boom, next is that shot. We’re seven shots from wrapping.


You don’t like something about the lighting for this set-up? Can you fix it in less than five minutes? No? Well see how far you can get in five minutes. It looks great, let’s shoot it.


Always. It’s only gotten worse as our crew has gotten busier. I want shoot days to be as short as possible, and I want there to be as few of them as can be. I don’t mind spending copious amounts of my own time on my projects, but I don’t want to impose too much on the lives of others. That’s why I do so much of post by myself.


That’s why I try to spend as much of our crowdfunded money on the time people spend on set. Because set is hard and I NEED them. I appreciate the time they spend on set so much, I want it to be as financially rewarding as I can make it.


Time spent on set is so much harder than sitting in a comfortable room by yourself, on your own timetable, doing VFX, editing sound, finding music, color correcting, all of those post production things. So, even though I’m not a pro, and I’m not going to make it look as good as a pro, I feel like throwing a big chunk of the budget at any portion of post-production isn’t right. That’s why we’ll never look pro. That’s why PoPS will always be a muddy mutt. Because of me.


Thanks for reading.



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Feb 5, 2015 4:43PM

Follow along as we see how Jake Jarvi engages the nearly 40,000 fans of his web series, PLATOON OF POWER SQUADRONYou can see all of Jake's work at:


The update below features a visit with our big donor, Harris, who donated $6,000 to help us reach our Indiegogo crowdfunding goal. A part of his perk involved flying him out to appear in the episode, which we did last weekend. We also got what are purportedly the best burgers in Chicago, mine and Eliza’s favorite pizza in Chicago, took him to experience the bar-arcade renaissance currently sweeping Chicago, and his flight was the last to leave our airport before a complete and utter airport shutdown thanks to a blizzard. It was flippin’ eventful. And A LOT of fun.



Every once in a while we’ll have a production day shooting strictly visual shots. No dialogue. Just a series of beautifully framed vignettes for sequence building. It’s so awesome.


I love writing dialogue, and I love watching great dialogue scenes. A passionate exchange over conflicting perspectives can be absolutely riveting. The Social Network, Lincoln, Gone Girl, Clerks, Before Sunset, Before Midnight, The Breakfast Club, A Few Good Men, Reservoir Dogs, Swingers. Just a few of the more modern examples. But dialogue scenes aren’t particularly fun to film.


A good performance can be captivating to watch, but for shooting, give me a day of camera moves, cool angles, and action. Not necessarily action scenes, either. I’m talking more about sequences. Back in episode five of PoPS, we had a day of shooting all of the Super Sorority sequences, seeing them in their environments and learning about their personalities. We did a lot of camera moves on a slider, focus pulls, and tableaus. It was a lot of fun and every shot looked really cinematic and exciting.


We just had another couple of those days over the last week. On Friday, we found ourselves shooting at a college campus in an amazing looking lab classroom and around campus. On Saturday, I picked up Harris, our big donor, from the airport and we headed over to a water treatment plant to shoot a quick dialogue scene. He did a great job and we wrapped within an hour and a half of arriving. Then on Monday night, the day after the big blizzard of ’15, we went to our friend David’s apartment to shoot 13 highly visual set-ups. One after the other. They all felt so cinematic and cool. They told a story and looked amazing. We shot for about two hours before packing up all the gear and rental props and heading home. That was one of those nights where we were a totally barebones operation. Three crew members, one actor, knocking down amazing shot after amazing shot. It’s nights like those that really remind me how much I love the medium. Sequence filmmaking is the absolute coolest.


Thanks for reading.



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Old Media is Starting to Sound Kind of Old (BUILDING A SUCCESFUL WEB SERIES)

Jan 30, 2015 6:01PM

Follow along as we see how Jake Jarvi engages the nearly 40,000 fans of his web series, PLATOON OF POWER SQUADRONYou can see all of Jake's work at:


The video below breaks down how there are still plenty of original voices working today. They’re all just under contract to turn vintage toys and board games into action franchises.


I’ve been posting regularly on this blog for over 4 years now, and in my first entry I talked about how people were starting to realize that YouTube had more than cat videos. Now, this week, I’m surprised to see that the US White House understands that more than George Lucas and the news media at large.

This last week, three YouTubers had the chance to sit down and interview President Obama. They asked questions of their own devising, and questions that had come from their YouTube audiences. It was a solid, respectful conversation and Obama got a chance to address many more millennials than I’m guessing he has in years. The reaction of the news media at large was to attack the process, calling the interviews weird, and attempting to marginalize the people asking the questions. Hank Green, the YouTuber I most follow wrote a piece about it which is really excellent and which I’m linking here:

Moving onto George Lucas. Now, I can’t find any audio or video of the actual quote, but I’ve cross referenced a few of the online trades and when George Lucas and Robert Redford sat for a chat in front of a Sundance audience, he supposedly said something to the effect of—I never thought people would sit and watch cats do stupid things all day. Maybe he was making a joke. Lord knows I’ve dropped the odd cat video reference myself on the occasional podcast. It’s shorthand for the absurdity and specificity of internet interests. But it can be interpreted as patronizing the new format. Kinda like—Nothing of quality can come from that cat video box. That’s the way the internet has been interpreting it at least. And it just makes him sound so out of touch. I mean, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are partnering up with popular YouTube creators to make original web content. Admittedly, they’re launching that content on Vimeo, so I guess they don’t want anyone to see it, but it shows that recognized Hollywood heavyweights are aware of what’s happening on the web. And the Obama administration can see it too.

All of this just makes Lucas and the big news conglomerates seem wobbly. Hank Green’s article said it all. It’s just sad to see people threatened by conversation and a format they can’t easily buy and squash. I’m not saying people like me are a part of this conversation. I’m just saying it’s happening, and the old guard are trying to wish it away by marginalizing and calling it ‘weird.” They’re like the popular crowd who left high school convinced of their legacy. Then they’re surprised when they go back to the high school and none of the kids have any idea or care at all who threw a game-winner or was elected to prom court 20 years ago.

Thanks for reading. And you should definitely check out that piece by Hank Green.


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NexTV News: How to Turn Your Home Into a Product Photography Studio

Jan 21, 2015 4:45PM

At NexTV, we work with artists who are tired of banging their heads against the wall that separates the BUSINESS from the ARTISTS....and we show them the way in. 

How to Turn Your Home Into a Product Photography Studio

Many kinds of photography require you to go out to a specific location to get your shot, such as landscapes, wildlife and architecture. But, there are a few styles that let you work from a controlled studio environment. Product photography is one of these styles that can be photographed in a spare room.

Choose a Room

Any room can be turned into a studio given enough space. One of the largest benefits of working in your home is that you can control the environment. For example, choose a room where you can control the lighting through a window or with overhead lights. If it's possible, find a room in your home where there is enough space on either side of the window to take images comfortably. Having room on either side is important for being able to shoot multiple angles.

Set Up Your Background

After you pick where your studio is going to be, it's time to start setting it up. The first item you need is a table to help you elevate your product. It also gives you a place to set up other equipment.

Next, you need to set up your background. Product photography often uses an infinite backdrop, which is a long piece of material with a curve instead of a corner. These backdrops keep shadows from forming behind the subject that can be distracting. The easiest material to use is paper because it is cheap and can be found in many different sizes. Cloth also can be used, but it has some disadvantages. Cloth is generally more transparent than paper in situations like these, so make sure to use fabric with a dense weave. Wrinkles are the other main disadvantage, and if you can see them, then your camera can pick them up, too. Ironing the cloth can keep wrinkles to a minimum; however, wrinkles can be used as an effect if that is the desire.

Manipulate Your Lighting

Once you have completed these steps, you need to focus on your lighting options. Your window can be used as the key or main light, which means you need to shape the remaining light to fit your needs. Keep in mind that you may need to manipulate the light coming through your window if there are any hard shadows. You can soften the lighting with blinds or drapes if shadows are a problem. Furthermore, if the product you are shooting becomes dark on one side or casts its own shadow, you will need to bounce in light. This is called a fill light, which can be made with another piece of white paper that is taped to a flat surface and can be moved wherever the light needs to be filled. Get this fill light as close to your subject as possible without it coming into frame to give the lighting across your subject a more even and attractive tone.

Finally, it's time to start shooting. Building your own studio is a lot faster and less daunting than most people think, and this is doubly true when photographing small objects.

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