That’ll be me someday

My last post was inspired by a meme I came across and I wanted to share.

I’ve always known I’d pursue film in some capacity, I just didn’t know when or how.

A few years ago I attended a training workshop for my part-time teller job. As an ice breaker, the host asked us what our favorite childhood toy was and I had to text my mom to ask her because I couldn’t seem to remember. Not because I couldn’t decide, but because the only recollection I had of entertainment didn’t include toys. In no time at all she responded, confirming the memories I was immediately brought to:

I didn’t have any.

Since childhood, what I loved most was watching movies. Piles of VHS tapes would litter our living room floor no matter how many times my mom would try and put them away. Sometimes the cases would be my toys. I’d build castles out of my favorite films as I waited for the tape to rewind so I could watch again.

And again. And again.

 

As I mentioned in the last post, theatre is where I started (production-wise), but movies were always my hobby. That’s not to say I’ve watched all of the important ones, or even the really popular ones; I’m actually quite embarrassed of how few “influential” films I’ve seen. However, if I wanted to do something that would make me happy (that wasn’t working near a stage), it was indulging in the filmic escape.

Somewhere along all those years of feeling movies – feeling them more than anyone else I knew –  connecting to them, attaching myself to them, I knew it was all I wanted to do. I knew it was something I needed to be a part of.

Those closest to me often wonder what part of my brain it is that makes me strangely weak. I’m unnaturally sentimental and hyper-sensitive when it comes to cinematic media. When trying to put it plainly for those who haven’t been able to observe this peculiarity in me, I explain that I’ve cried watching a Windex commercial and it’s highly in-character of me to do. The feeling you get in your chest when you fight back tears is all too familiar for me when I’m watching something (almost anything) meant to evoke even a little emotion.

I don’t think that’s normal, but it propels me further into this passion of mine. If anyone else were to feel even an ounce of that feeling, and I were able to be a part of what created that, it’d be quite humbling. So onward I go: learning, absorbing, and loving every moment of the filmmaking process.

Cameras, lenses, perspectives, frames, and whatever else I need to understand in order to fully embrace the medium is what I’ll do. No matter how foreign it has at one point seemed to me, it has always been a part of what brings each film life. The beauty in each picture and how it contributes to the story is insurmountable, and is therefore of significant interest to me as I discover more about filmmaking.

Once in a while I think back to a time when I had no idea what cinematography (cinnamon tography) was or how it would affect me, just that I could be mesmerized by what I was seeing, even if I didn’t understand the movie.

 

spoon full of cinnamon

 

All in my Head

As most of you know, 4381 Productions is currently deep into production for Door, a short psychological horror film that I originally wrote last spring. I decided to take on the role of director as well, along with serving as co-producer.  While I have directed small group projects multiple times, with crews no more than 3 people, this is my first time directing a larger sized crew all within a sound studio. Oh, it’s also in the midst of a worldwide pandemic. And as the days go by, Murphy’s Law becomes more and more real. So, naturally, I am, how you say, stressed.

Now, don’t worry, this blog won’t be about my own personal emotions, but this production has highlighted some things about myself as an artist. I realize how I need to bring more confidence to my decisions. I realize how I need to communicate my ideas more clearly to my peers. I realize how I need to have more solid plans in place ahead of time.

I realize I shouldn’t be as hard on myself as I have been.

This is my first time directing. I’m still learning. It’s okay to mess up. I know this film will be shot. It will be completed one day. Not saying that I will always feel confident about this film, but I’m on my way to getting there.

In the meantime, enjoy some unedited B-roll footage I shot today for a forest scene in Door. Now let’s get to work.

Also, a thesis update: I am currently on page 40 of my screenplay, but I have the next 15 pages planned out, getting me to about the halfway mark. My index card wall has definitely proved itself useful.

I knew a man Bojangles and he danced for you…

Jerry Jeff Walker passed away. From an interview #paulschneider and I shot some years back.

 

#greatgonzos,#gypsysongman,#hillcountryrain,#jerryjeff,#jerryjeffwalker,#littlebird,#mrbojangles,#paulschneider,#pickuptrucksong,#pissininthewind,#sangriawine

Attending my first conference… Virtually

This week Adobe is hosting their annual Adobe Max Conference. This year the conference is completely online and free to anyone with a Adobe account (you don’t even need to be paying for the subscription). The three day event showcases new Adobe updates and softwares, features industry speakers and celebrity guests, and hosts labs and workshops to help application users.

While the event has been going on, I’ve been tuning in in-between my classes and when I take breaks from working on assignments. The amount and range of content they’re putting out is incredible and I can barely keep up. Luckily, a lot of their sessions will be available for a whole year on Adobe’s website. So whatever I’m missing now, I can check out later.

I found this workshop from yesterday particularly helpful. In this session, Emmy award-winner Christine Steel gives tips for working faster in Premiere Pro. I know a lot of us edit with Premiere, so I’m hoping you will also find this useful. I’m very excited to implement these short cuts in my next edit.

A moment in Chernobyl

I’ve wanted to watch Chernobyl since it came out. It took me forever to because I never had HBO but finally a friend let me have their account and I was able to watch the first episode.

Honestly I thought it was great. My biggest take away was in a scene where a firefighter is going to fight the fire caused by the explosion thinking it was just a fire. His partner worries there may be chemicals but he assures her he will be fine. Once at the scene it becomes clear there is something more going on there. He is told he needs to climb to put out another fire and is hesitant but carries on. He looks up and it cuts to his partner, at home seeming looking out the window worried, then back to him.

I just really like that moment cutting between them. It connects the two and how they are thinking about each other in those moments.

I haven’t gone into episode 2 yet but I’m excited to see how the story unfolds and how all the characters are affected by the disaster.

Kid (anything but) Simple

Coming from a theatre background, everything technical about film has at one point intimidated me.

It’s taken my own personal experience to realize how different the two mediums really are.

Obviously, I have always been aware of the fundamental differences, but the more film productions I work on, the more I begin to truly understand for myself that they are not as alike as they originally seemed to me.

Even after having studied film and media production, no one could convince me that theatre and film aren’t both valid and incredible forms of art.

I love both methods of storytelling, but there’s still some uncertainty I have in the world of film. The technicality that scares me most is the one thing that makes the mediums most different.

 

 

The camera.

Since going down a filmmaking path, I have been continually fascinated by (but also insecure about) how much cameras can do, how much they can evolve, and how incredibly important they are to the art of filmmaking.

My relationship with one is not nearly as comfortable as it could be, for it’s the one relationship I never had the chance to build anywhere in the theatre — from the booth to the stage.

Mise-en-scène for me was the proscenium and second takes only existed in rehearsals.

The intimacy and framing that a camera provides is a beautiful tool that adds a completely different dynamic to storytelling, and I’m constantly in awe of what filmmakers can do with it.

 

 

There’s something I can’t quite put my finger on, that feels nice about having worked on Kid Simple. The irony of me having to operate a camera to film a theatre production seems backwards, but in a balanced kind of way.

I don’t think I’ve come far enough to say I am perfectly comfortable with a camera and its settings, but I’m not as afraid of it as I was.

Of course, I figured helping out on set would mean I’d help with what I know best and I’d leave the rest for others with relevant knowledge. However, the limited crew (and my being there every day) meant I would somehow end up as the first AC (not what I was expecting, considering how little I know about cameras). This even led to a day on set where it was just me behind the Canon. DP for a day. Operating the camera. On a theatre shoot. Who would’ve thought?

 

 

Although I learned a tremendous amount, there’s still so much more to learn. This production has been very interesting (to say the least) and with every complication that arises, I still am glad I am a part of it.

Present tense.

As in — it’s not over yet.

As we rush to pull together a complete edit, I feel the irony sinking deeper. From start to finish I’ve been on the side of production that I’m least experienced in (i.e. not theatre), but as a result I feel I understand more about these two loves of mine.

 

 

Now, back to editing.

 

 

Maybe I am the Artist my Brain Convinces Me I am Not

Imposter Syndrome is a hell of a thing. It comes in a lot during my depressive episodes (thank you manic depressed brain) and usually I can fight it off pretty well. Well, that was all until a global pandemic hit and we artists could not create as frequently as we could before. I took various photos, was shooting projects, and writing scripts on a sort of frequent basis before COVID-19 messed with our lives. Suddenly, I found myself not be taking many pictures, could not shoot video, or had the motivation to, and I would not write my next script until it was an assignment. I started to think maybe this is it and I am not the artist I think I am. I mean, it also did not help that every day on wretched social media (god I can’t wait to finally be off that hellhole) everyone was touting that artists had to create their magnum opus during this quarantine because Shakespeare wrote King Lear during a quarantine.

Now, yes I could have tried to write at least a page every day, but the state of the world around me was not helping the motivation I was lacking. It started to feel like maybe I am really not cut out for any of this. I started to feel that maybe that purpose I kept telling myself I had was all a pipe dream. These thoughts are heavy on the brain especially when one is self-isolated. Of course, I was still podcasting every day and writing articles for my website, but none of them were on the level of creativity that I view my photography or films. I was not doing the thing that I found so much love and relief but also challenged me to keep creating.

That was until we had to shoot some work for Digi Cin and I took a trip to South Padre Island, TX to document the muddy ugliness of the Gulf of Mexico. The waves were strong and aggressive. It was as if mother nature herself was angry and it made for some of my favorite moody clips I have documented. I had some rage myself, mostly directed at people not following mask protocol and not socially distancing. I felt rejuvenated and finally felt that I was creating something that felt authentically me. Since then, I have finished a new roll of 35mm film and I have a shoot planned with a pole fitness athlete.

The pandemic has stifled a lot of things that we love. We cannot allow for the uncertainties of life to diminish the drive to create art that we have. I am sure that I will get back to writing more scripts soon, but for now, I am enjoying the number of creative projects I am working on. It finally feels like I am the artist that my brain won’t let me believe I am. It feels like I am finally me again.

Fun fact: The wind during this day was so strong that it knocked over my tripod over. Thankfully the gods of photography and cinema were looking out for me because my camera and lens are perfectly fine. You cannot imagine the heart attack I almost had. I’ll let that one come naturally at the age of 40 like it is supposed to.

Some BTS from Icarus

Icarus wallowing in self pity

Just wanted to share some BTS from Icarus.

We wrapped principal photography a little over a week ago. This whole productions was a lot of fun! David O’bar spent MANY hours in in makeup everyday to get crispy for us.

Don’t miss the video clips linked below. The first one is of some special effects lighting that we set up at Agnes Arnold Hall to make it look like there was a fire. The second one is a BTS shot of some talent rehearsing a stunt for a particularly brutal fight scene.

BTS of Icarus
Director Luis Garcia and AD Adam Pena directing David O’bar

 

The Burned Woman SFX Makeup
Zoie Ellis getting into her SFX burn makeup.
David O'bar getting into his SFX burn makeup
David O’bar getting into his initial SFX burn makeup
David O'bar getting into his SFX burn makeup
David O’bar getting into the second stage of his SFX burn makeup
Icarus wallowing in self pity
David O’bar in the final version of his SFX burn makeup

 

Video Clips:

The Burning of Agnes Arnold Hall

BTS rehearsing a stunt for a fight scene

 

 

Nightmare

Hello, 4381 Productions,

Here is my take on the [E]motion project. The song I used was Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare” and I think the title matches the atmosphere. I hope you guys enjoy and the comments are open for any feedback.

“Jesus Christ, thats..”

Hello 4381 Productions,

Gadgets, girls, gin, and gut-wrenching stunts are just a few things that come to mind when I think about what makes spy movies. Every good spy movie has them or its own version of these ideas, even the bad ones. Before the early 2000s, audiences lived in a world where the biggest spy thrills were coming out of the James Bond franchise led by Pierce Brosnan in the 90s. While Brosnan’s first entry into the franchise, Goldeneye (1995) was a critical and commercial success that many claimed was a fresh new style for Bond, the subsequent sequels drained interest in the genre from audiences. When Jason Bourne came on the scene in 2002 with his debut film The Bourne Identity, people felt as if the spy genre had been reinvigorated with new life once again. And while I agree the Bourne films were necessary in advancing the genre forward, I find Bourne himself to be the least compelling lead character in any spy flick.

Two major spy films were released in 2002, the 4th Brosnan Bond film Die Another Day and The Bourne Identity. If Goldeneye was a fresh new start Bond, then Die Another Day was a return to form. After two fine sequels to Goldeneye and the Bond franchise slowly dying (as usual), the producers of Bond films were willing to try anything with this 4th entry. This Bond film features all of the ridiculous concepts you would see featured more in a Roger Moore Bond film. Things like mechanical suits that give electrical powers, an ice fortress, surfing giant waves with a hand glider, a bodyguard with diamonds ingrained in his face, and plenty of other outlandish ideas. Needless to say audiences didn’t respond well to this, the followup sequel was turned into a video game and the Brosnan Bond era was over.

As it turns out, audiences were looking for something new, something real, and along came Jason Bourne. The Bourne Identity was released the same year as Die Another Day, but managed to be more successful because of it’s gritty realistic take on the genre and intricate plot. Bourne and the original 2 sequels are all stylized in the same way with lots of handheld camera, practical stunts, real locations, and non-stop action all featuring Matt Damon. Both Bond and Bourne films did relatively well at the box office, but critically Bourne was better received. And don’t get me wrong, I think these movies are good in their own right, but the character of Jason Bourne is lacking and boring, which in turn drags down the compelling nature of the series.

Bourne never has any real problems. Sure he can’t remember who he is and he’s always running from someone who’s trying to kill him, but he is so highly trained and skilled that it is impossible for him to lose. He never loses a fight, ever. He’s incredibly intelligent, resourceful, and has no exploitable weaknesses (besides just shooting him, but no one can seem to do that). Even when Bourne uncovers another revelation about himself, it is hard to find it compelling when it doesn’t really change anything. And while all of this makes for some great action scenes, Bourne is the same character from the beginning of each film to their conclusions only with more knowledge of his sketchy past. In response to this style of spy movie, the next era of Bond led by Daniel Craig took a lot of pages out of Bourne’s book. Featuring gruesome scenes of Bond getting tortured and showing vulnerability in the character is what continues to make Bond relevant today.

Characters in fictions aren’t supposed to be perfect, they’re supposed to be flawed, they’re supposed to go through a problem, and make a change, but Jason Bourne has no flaws and doesn’t change. Even Superman is weak against kryptonite and despite being the strongest super hero in fiction, he is still flawed and he can lose. This is what makes god-like characters compelling, giving reasons for their stories to be shared on the big screen, because they aren’t perfect and like us, they can make changes too.