In Medias Res

I started my undergraduate studies in the admitted Fall of 2013. I remember, with photographic clarity, the day I moved in to the decades-old dorms just off of Old Main on the (remarkably/unfathomably) beautiful campus of Sam Houston State University campus. I was excited. Bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, terrified and indescribably excited by the notion of staying outside of some sort of notion of “home” past a certain recognized time of day/night (AKA midnight). I was completely unaware of the inevitable demise of one’s frame of mind in score for a person completely out of their depth and completely lacking of any sense of a community.

The year…literally the year I applied to and was enrolled in the program within the communications major track within SHSU, the entire academic community within the school of communications on campus that specifically pertained to the major track I was and have been interested in and passionate about since before transferring to University of Houston) was disbanded and no longer viable as a community applicable to the students on campus. I had put all of my unplanned, ineffable creative eggs in the basket of a school that favored criminal justice majors over any liberal arts majors at any time of the droning, depressing day in Huntsville, TX.

I found myself staring down the options of going to class which, at that point in my career (which was horribly early and in need of a very simple change), was not a wasted choice or…of following the unforgettably serene backroads of Huntsville instead. The choice is pretty obvious. It is why it has taken me so long to get to my senior year. I was supposed to walk on May 8th. Seven years have passed since I chose to give up a gap year in favor of joining a film program that managed to send its students to Cannes Film Festival once and once only. Plans of returning to Cannes or anywhere else were canceled the year I was enrolled at SHSU.

Irony is a good thing for the soul. It keeps you honest, and it is great content. Irony might have been the biggest factor in molding myself into the person I am today. Without the rather tragic irony of my “failed attempt” at higher education the first time around, I would not have found the community I was able to call home until early March of this year.

Happy graduation to all of the seniors who have worked their asses off, in various yet equally compelling ways, to get to this moment. We may not be walking across the stage, but our biggest steps remain ahead of us. Only this time within reach.

Dreamer’s Ball Music Video

I am very proud of this video. I put in a lot of hours shooting it with my actors, and I put a lot of hours editing it. It is still very clumsy, but the amount of work I put in is my point of pride.

The dreamer’s ball is where we all go when we are missing someone who has left us behind. This video is an exploration of how some people choose to go to the ball. Maybe some of them never come back.

I hope you enjoy!

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A Tale as Old as Time…

J. Cole’s ‘Wet Dreamz’ is a classic, coming-of-age tale of a young man and a young woman sharing their first time together.

In all seriousness, though, because of the overall tone of the song, I wanted to keep my shots light and fun. I did not want my actors to be uncomfortable nor did I want to shoot any unnecessary action for action’s sake.

Unfortunately, I was unable to procure all my footage. I was, however, able to source my “vintage” Barbie dolls to fill in the gaps that my hand-drawn storyboards probably would not have done justice in conveying the story. {Side note: “Playing” with my dolls turned out to be more fun than I expected. Definitely want to explore a stop-motion short in the near future.}

My hope was to use all the equipment I possibly could to better my understanding of lighting and gripping, but life and nature kept trying to keep me from shining (a busted water pipe that shut down the nation’s 4th largest city and SARS-CoV-2, aka Coronavirus, that shut down the world). However, I have always loved working with nature. I used natural light when it was available and with whatever available artificial light there was I tried to have it work for me, rather than against me. I have most of my own camera/lens equipment, although, I will need to update some pieces in the near future. And anything else I did not have, I let my creativity carry me through.

Most importantly, this was yet another learning opportunity for me. The ideas are ever present in my mind and I can visualize a story in the most spectacular of ways. I always have a nervous sort of excitement when I’m in the director’s chair, but once I say ‘action’ I know I’m exactly where I want to be. This was only my 3rd time directing and, like a fine wine, I’m only going to get better with time!

The Long Black Veil

I wrapped up my music video project. I am happy with how it turned out. I definitely learned a lot about myself and helped me grow as a filmmaker, such as how I like to storyboard and how I love to have shortlists. There will always be issues that arise on set, but personally I love to figure out every possible thing that can go wrong during the pre-production stage rather than finding out during production.

 

If I were to give one piece of advice it would be to do the best possible work with what you have and to breathe when you are watching your footage on playback.

 

I do not do anything now…

…but once I was on the edge of the world.

The highway was one lane. The bus too big for the road. There was no stopping here. The shoulder was a steep fall into the sea. I took these images long ago, but have never scanned them. The negatives were thin. That is to say my exposure was off when I took these. Again, there was no stopping, the sun was setting and I had no idea I would find myself it this position. I just started taking pictures while eyeballing the exposure. I did a poor job of things. Improperly exposed negatives can be thick or thin. An underexposed image will produce a thin negative. Exposure time in the dark room becomes problematic because any light through the negative is almost too much light. Over exposed images will produce thick negatives or denser negatives. In the darkroom, longer exposures are required and the image can get muddy or depending on the subject matter will be perfect.

I wasn’t thinking of any of that when I took these. I was thinking of how horrible it would have been to be a sailor in a shipwreck off the coast of Peru. Tossed and turned and pummeled and exhausted from a battle with the ocean. Swimming to the safety of the shore only to find this coastline waiting for you. I was thinking about that as I took these images through a tinted bus window rolling along the highway, my life in the hands of a bus driver I did not know. That was almost two decades ago. Now, I finally scan these thin negatives, clean up the water spots, the scratches and the dirt and hair. I start to think of that shipwrecked sailor coming to shore. Then I notice them. Two figures on a hillside looking out on the ocean without a boat, a road or even a footpath in sight. I wonder if they ever made it home.

 

Step Into The Wonderful World of Pepperland

Probably around 2009, I was a huge video game fanatic. I would mostly stick to Nintendo games as they were family friendly and all-around fun. I would go to “work” with my dad and he would give me a nice five dollars. I would save up and buy the newer Nintendo titles that I could afford. Another thing I would do is wait for E3,  an electronics show in LA. On top of electronics, video game companies would show of their new consoles and video games to accompany them. They would upload all their new game trailers onto YouTube, where my brother and I would gleefully watch them all. One trailer that caught my eye was from Activison. They showed off their newest installment of the Rock Band franchise, The Beatles Rock Band. For some reason, the music caught my attention and I had to know more about The Beatles. This is pretty much how I became a huge fan of The Beatles.

In my deep dive into all things Beatles, I would come across their films. A Hard Day’s Night, Help!, Yellow Submarine, Magical Mystery Tour, and Let it Be were all for free on YouTube (at the time YouTube was lax on uploading full movies). I watched a couple of them, but Yellow Submarine has stuck with me forever.

Yellow Submarine is based on a song of the same name, sung by Ringo Starr, from their LP Revolver. The lyrics and movie diverge a lot, they almost have no correlation. The only thing connecting the song and movie is the submarine. The movie itself is a psychedelic animated children’s movie with the worst dry British humor you will ever hear. The Beatles don’t really have a personality in the film and the Blue Meanies are just ridiculous. You don’t really watch it for the dialogue, it’s more about the animation and music that really get you invested.

In terms of music, obviously the movie is composed by Beatles’ songs, but it is also anchored down by the orchestral scores done by Sir George Martin. The soundtrack is a part of The Beatles discography. The album itself is half new Beatles’ songs and half Sir George Martin songs. I highly recommend a listen, mainly for the song “Hey Bulldog”, a hidden gem in this album. In the movie, there is a nice balance of songs motivating scenes and scenes motivating songs. All in all, the music is fantastic and already a great excuse to watch this film.

Another part of the movie to look forward to is the animation itself. Visually, it is vastly different than anything made before. The animation team was not afraid to use colors in anyway. Not only does the film work with light colors but it also can transition into dark colors flawlessly. While this film makes use of limited animations, it’s influence can be seen in shows like Sesame Street, the Electric Company and School House Rock. The movement in the animation is also something to look for. While it is not the smoothest animation, whenever a character moves, there personality and emotions are shown. For example, the character of Jeremy Hilary Boob PhD (yes that is his name) is always busy and very erratic. So when he walks, he is always walking on his toes and is always shown in a different pose or position. The emotions are shown to the audience instead of just being told to them.

I was lucky to find this movie at a young age but looking at it now, I can really appreciate this film more. I recommend a watch if you are into great color palettes, psychedelic visuals and great music. Yellow Submarine is available for purchase or rent in the iTunes movie section.

To Live

Since 4381 is a dictatorship (joke) and lord Houk has struck down the notion of watching Ikiru together (not joke) . I decided to watch it in secret on my own.

 

I don’t want to say too much about the movie but I will say that it is a must-watch.

I think we all have interesting scales or templates for rating movies in our heads. For some it’s “Sweet it had two explosions and three hot babes. That’s an easy 10/10” for other’s it may be more complex. I probably speak for the majority of young film lovers when I say that I don’t completely understand why I like most of the movies I like. But that’s ok. That’s why we watch and study them. To understand ourselves, and others. One thing I am confident about is when I say a movie is a “must-watch”.

There are movies out there that I’ll give a “it was good” or “you gotta see it, it’s so beautiful” or maybe “ehh its fun, cheesy though”. When I give those ratings, most of the time I have no idea what I’m talking about and none of them compare to the “must-watch” level. But when I give it the “must watch” rating, that’s a level of art and creation to me that I feel changes peoples whole perspective on life and creation.

 

Ikiru will allow you to reflect on how you spend your time and what it means to put effort into the things that you focus on throughout your life.

I’m excited to talk and dive deeper into what this movie means to others and to myself. If you have any thoughts on what this movie means to you, please let me know and I’d love to hear it!

 

Also, 2001 is a must-watch. If you disagree that’s fine but you’re wrong. You don’t have to like it, but you have to watch it.