The video below finds us in the midst of a weekend away. Giving thanks for a time to give thanks and allowing ourselves to legitimately relax.
When you're working on a low-budg', independent, passion project, you are at the mercy of so much good will. You need people all around you who want to help you make your show solely because they think what you're doing is cool or possibly just for the sake of helping somebody. Today, I'm thinking particularly of those who control locations. If somebody you've never heard of arrives out of the blue and asks to film something in your store/bar/home, the path of least resistant is to say “No.” We're all busy already. If you say “No,” you're not adding anything new to that already heaping plate of activities and responsibilities. You don't have to do anything. You can just go on doing whatever it is you do without having the hassle of dealing with something new and—for the uninitiated—mysterious. So let's hear it for the folks who say “Yes.”
We've had the best luck with independent, one-location operations. If you can contact a place and get ahold of the owner and originator of a business within one transfer or by leaving a note, they're more apt to help out. Maybe it's because they know what it's like to try and force something into being, maybe it's just to try something new, but they're the most laid back about the whole thing. The more franchised an operation, the more levels you need to move through, the harder it ges to reach that “Yes.” I think it's because once you reach a certain level of the company, the person being asked already has so many different things under their purview they'd rather not have something else to have to remember. Plus, like I said, mysterious. If you don't know all of the factors involved in what someone is asking you, why risk the disruption? It makes sense. That's why Half Price Books was so unexpected. They allowed us to shoot back when we were recording on mini-dv tape and getting substantially less views. I have no idea why they did it, but I love them for it. They're a franchise with a ton of locations throughout the US. They had literally NOTHING to gain by letting us film in their store. But they did it anyway. The super coolest. Not to say all the others aren't. All the independent places that have opened their doors to us—Dark Tower Comics, Bridie McKenna's Pub, Close Knit, The Honky Tonk, The Wooden Nickel—such nice folks. I love them all.
This is all on my mind because it's friggin' hard to find a parking garage to shoot in. Just saying.
Thanks for reading.
The video below talks about the nature the rest of life getting backed up while deep in production mode.
Thanksgiving time! Time to think about what we’re thankful for. Even though I’m thankful for so many things—my wife would top that particular list—my internet presence is based primarily around video production, so I’ll keep this post limited to that.
I’m very thankful to be working on the eighth episode of a story of my own devising. I’m thankful to have a group of people around who are willing to expend so much time and energy helping me make it happen. That’s a very rare thing indeed. Anyone who started making movies with the family video camera as a kid can attest to that. You start out with a group of your friends coming over to be a part of it. Soon that group dwindles to a few. Soon, you’re lucky if one of your friends is willing to stick around when that camera comes out. Eventually, you find the other kids that were obsessed with their family’s camcorders. Telecom and film classes are good for that. Then, as long as you’re making something people are into, they’ll keep showing up. I can’t believe I’m still mostly working with the same group of folks we started with 4 years ago. I’m thankful for the massive cast of new characters we’ve now assembled. I’m ridiculously thankful that people help us fund the show. I can’t believe it. Making our episode 8 goal on Indiegogo was so exciting and I couldn’t believe it actually happened. For some reason, it was the most exciting one yet. I’m thankful that podcasters have taken keener interest in PoPS this year for reviews and interviews. I’m thankful that we’ve been accepted to more festivals this year and I’m incredibly grateful for all the awards, especially winning Best Series at GenCon. I’m thankful that Eliza is such an awesome producer and helps me keep as much of my sanity as possible while planning for and executing difficult shoot days. And I’m very grateful that we only have two and a half episodes of PoPS left to shoot. Finishing this show will be huge and feel like way more of a milestone than turning 30 did. Whatever the next project is, I’m very curious to see what the post-PoPS world is like.
We had another shoot day this week.
Day 14-Monday, November 25. Cast and crew were fully assembled about a half hour behind schedule by 8:30pm at an awesome discount arcade we love called Nickel City. My sister Emi, who does a lot of music for the show, finally got to attend a production night.She crossed through the back of every shot in different guises. Her finest performance though was as the girl in the background playing Dance Dance Revolution. Truly, her background dancing talents have been wasted thus far in her life. Wantonly so. While waiting for everyone to show up, I handed out nickels to the early arrivers so they could take advantage of our locations many games. We had about 15 minutes of playtime left after we finished shooting too. A group of us headed out to Steak and Shake to decompress with burgers, shakes, and coffee after a very stressless shoot night. It was awesome.
We’re in the eye of the storm right now as far as production is concerned. October was a madhouse and the beginning of November was hit and miss. Thanks to rain-outs and the pending holiday, we’ve now had two weeks in a row with only one shoot day per week. We’ve gotten like three pages in two weeks. Once December kicks off, we’ve got a few weeks of more regular shooting. Indoors too, where it can’t get rained-out. But I feel like I’m just drifting in a production purgatory right now. I feel like I should be trying to get more done, but I don’t regret not trying to pack too much in around the holidays. We did that during 6 and…nightmare.
I’m glad we started shooting this episode as soon as possible. It’s already snowed three times this month and it’s intolerably cold out even though it’s not even December. We’re paying for that mild winter we had while shooting episode 6.
I hope you’re all well. Thanks for reading.
The video below has me opening up to our audience with my deep, dark thoughts and fears when it comes to this video stuff I do. Every once in a while it's good to voice your insecurities to your YouTube audience. It makes everybody feels included and brings you all closer together. I titled this update “Heart to Heart” and it got views and comments a little faster than usual.
The title of this post is in regards to our one remaining exterior shoot for episode 8. This sucker will NOT get shot. The first night it was scheduled for it started raining a couple hours before the shoot. We called it off. It was re-scheduled for last night. The forecast said a few showers on and off throughout the night, so I called everybody in. I assembled the crane, we got a light out, it was drizzling but manageable. As soon as everyone was present and accounted for, it started raining in earnest. We hung out for about 15 minutes to see if it was going to let up. It only rained harder. We called it off and headed to an Irish pub for some food, where we discussed the definition and obligation of art. No joke. We're super intellectual over here. We also berated a new volunteer crew member for not having seen Gremlins. We're supposed to try and shoot it tonight but the forecast shows rain for only the hours we're planning on shooting. Yep. The Scene That Would Not Be Shot: a thrilling adventure in at least three reschedulings.
We did have a shoot day this last week though.
Day 13-Sunday, November 17. Cruised down to the city for a 10:30 a.m. call time. Shot a one page scene in an hour. Headed to another location for a 2/8 of a page scene. Shot it in 10 minutes. That wrapped our exteriors for the day. Headed indoors and the skies opened up. Deluge! No joke. Flash flooding and tornado warnings. We shot our interior scene while thunder rumbled underneath the dialogue and wrapped before 2:30 p.m. Boom. It felt like another grab bag day.
As for the last video update, it's been wonderful to be bombarded by people's insecurities as well as their vocal support for the show we make. Many express worry that they're wasting their time with the thing they create. It feels like no one will ever see, read, hear, or experience it. It feels like they lose passion for a project halfway through and start something new, leaving a series of half-realized visions in their wake. It feels like they're wasting their time on other things—a pointless job, procrastination—squandering the valuable time they could be using to work toward something they're passionate about. Also, a few of my friends have expressed it in person. Is their creation of any value? Are they wasting their time? I guess it's just one of the costs of creation. Never feeling totally fulfilled or satisfied with what you've created. I guess that's why we move forward and make the next thing. To try and get a little closer to perfect. Learn from that. Then try and get even closer next time. It's all we can do. The hardest step for a lot of folks is the finishing. You can't actually see something for what it is until it's finished and in the rearview mirror. As the creator of it, sometimes you can't see it objectively for years. If ever. But you won't know unless you see it through.
The video below finds me more rested than I have been in a month since rain days gave us a full week without shoot days.
On with the production recap!
Day 10-Sunday, November 10. This was a grab bag day. There's one every shoot. There are a couple little scenes in each script that are in different locations than anything else and so we cram as many of them as possible into one shooting day. Our first location was a cul-de-sac neighborhood in the suburbs. It was a one page scene. Everyone had arrived by about 10:45 a.m. and were done shooting by noon. After a quick lunch at one of the more delicious taco places in our neck of the woods, we arrived at our next location at 1:30. It was a less-than-half-page scene and we were done by 2:15. Moving on, we got a daytime exterior shot of an arcade location we're hoping to shoot a scene inside by the end of the month. It's an awesome retro arcade and all the games take nickels. Some of them cost as much as 4 nickels, but, come on, that's only 20 cents. Ryan, Eliza, and I hung out playing arcade games for about an hour while the sun went down and we got our last shot of the day. A night time establishing shot of a forest preserve sign. Grab bag day. Everything we shot will amount to about 30 seconds of screen time in the final episode. Maybe less. Because we're on the wrong side of daylight savings time we got our night shot by 5:30 p.m. and were home making dinner before 6.
Day 11-Tuesday, November 12. Freezing. Absolutely freezing cold. We all arrived at around 7:30 p.m. I was afraid to check the temperature at all when we were shooting, but when we finished up at 11, our Producer Tim pulled out his iPhone and it reported 25 degrees. Fahrenheit. Not only that, 2 out of 3 of my lead actors were sick. Craig had an awful cold, stuffed up like crazy, blowing his nose every five seconds. Greta claimed to be fine, but she was coughing every minute Craig wasn't blowing his nose. In fact, there was a moment when we were running lines inside, warming up for a minute, when they were both going at it pretty hard and Marshall, the third actor in the scene, had to break down laughing. As soon as it drops below 40 degrees, all exterior shooting takes on a certain amount of urgency. Even below 50 isn't great, but it's really under 40 that things start to feel a little dire. It was a really important scene filled with complicated dialogue, but we got it all in the end. Everybody scattered immediately following the shoot and Lize and I headed to get a midnight dinner at another delicious taco place. Noticing a theme here? One last thing to mention. The date was 11/12/13. Significance? Zero.
Day 12-Wednesday, November 13. The thermometer said it was warmer, but what does the thermometer know about windchill? Call was 7:30 p.m., we were all assembled by 8:30 p.m. Luckily, we didn't have much dialogue to get because our footage sounds like it was shot in a hurricane. It makes for some lovely, dramatic wardrobe whipping, but I'm going to have to piece-meal the soundtrack out of our foley library. But that's fine, 'cause it looks great. The performances were fantastic, we were just all freezing to death in between things. We were shooting in this alley all night, getting great looking footage while both actors were suffering from different ailments—I tell you, we got hit like a voodoo curse this week. But we're still getting our pages shot. As we were about to get our last shot at about 11:50 p.m. a guy who lives next to the alley stuck his head out of the second floor and asked us if we were going to go all night because he had to work in the morning. I told him five more minutes and did my best to make it happen. Poor guy. I hate that we ruined his night, but don't regret getting our sequence. Inner conflict. Good for novels and blogs, bad for the visual mediums. We were packing up by 12 and back home and in bed by 1:30.
Those two nights kicked my ass. Shooting is tiring, but shooting outside in the cold is exhausting. I was so tired on Thursday that after work I fell asleep on the couch watchingApril Fools Day before Eliza made it home. Still tired Friday morning. We're getting our pages though. Episode 8 is well under way.