Archive for February, 2014

Hurting My Friends

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th with tags on February 27, 2014 by PoPS blog

I’m finally on the cusp of releasing that 30-second horror short. Finally! Releasing something in the horror genre. We shot it two nights ago and I spent a good portion of last night putting it together. Next week’s video update will lay out a bunch of the behind the scenes.

I don’t know why I have to complicate everything by finding the most difficult way to shoot something, but I sure seem to. The entire short is only three shots and we spent probably three or three-and-a-half hours setting up and shooting the first shot. A tracking shot and a series of focus pulls with precisely timed choreography. Plus, the whole shot is kicked off with poor Eliza trying to make a prop land on the ground in a specific way. We had about 30 false starts between the completed takes we did get.

During all that time, while Eliza was hanging a prop off of fishing wire wrapped around her fingers, my friends Carlyn and Shawn had to be crouched on their knees on a hard wood floor for hours, waiting for their signal to go. That’s why this post is called hurting my friends. Their knees got wrecked. Eliza’s circulation to her fingers kept getting cut off. Everybody was getting a little frustrated with the pain and precision by the time we called that shot good. Plus they were covered in fake blood. Gotta get covered in fake blood, right?

Anyway, everyone suffered through it and we’ve got a fun little short film that I hope to put up on my channel tomorrow. Then it’s back to piecing together PoPS. It’s been a fun couple weeks of diversions, but it’ll be good to make progress on episode 8 again.

Speaking of the diversion, here’s the video short I worked on for Craig, Clone Hard:

And here’s an extended, 42-minute interview I did with Harold Ramis for work a few years ago. He was wonderful to speak with:

Thanks for reading.

-Jake

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Explaining Horror

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th, Movies on February 23, 2014 by PoPS blog

The Creation Imperative

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on February 20, 2014 by PoPS blog

     A lot of YouTubers have been getting book deals. It’s cool. And particularly in the “Nerdfighter” community—the online community that rallies around the duo under the username The Vlogbrothers—it strikes me as only natural. One of the vlogbrothers, John Green, is the author of The Fault in our Stars as well as several other YA novels. As such, the audience heavily identifies as readers and many a reader also likes writing. However, I think it’s even more elemental than that.

     Those who maintain an actually active YouTube channel tend to be creative folks. They either think of lots of ideas for sketches, parodies, comedy, and socially relevant content, or they’re very good at expressing their unique worldview in the vlog format. The bottom line is that they’re always creating the next thing. Mostly, the next thing is another YouTube video, because they have a platform and an audience, but this is a very new medium. If YouTube or community-driven online video never existed, they would still be creative people, they’d just be filtering their energy into something else. Like these books they’ve just written. They didn’t write them because they’re YouTubers and it’s a fad for YouTubers to publish books, they wrote them because an idea caught their imagination, they saw that idea through, and they’re good at expressing themselves. Writing a book is a lot like vlogging. It’s a solitary exercise that takes concentration and an ability to express yourself. It’s something a single person can do. That’s why it makes sense for vloggers to make books instead of movies. Here are two of the vloggers who just got book deals recently:

Alex Day

Elmify

     It also probably doesn’t hurt that publishers, much like record companies, are looking to represent people who already have some kind of online presence, since that’s a hard thing to manufacture.

     The cliché about “having to write” that writers throw around has bugged me for awhile. “I write because I have to.”/“If you’re a writer, you can’t not write.”/”I’ll go crazy if I don’t write. It’s the only thing that keeps me sane.” You know, blah, blah, blah.

     It always struck me as a singularly pretentious notion. Toss a writer in a locked room without a pencil and they’d tear their flesh to craft sentences in their own blood. “My thoughts need construction and form! They must be preserved! You may take my tools, but not my arsenal of adverbs!” Not writing is actually very easy. There’s movies, TV, video games, online content, books, graphic novels, audio books, and once you’ve exhausted all of that, there’s exercise, cooking, exploring the outdoors (only relevant for half the calendar year if you live in the Midwest), tidying up, talking to friends or family, and sleeping. There’s all kinds of ways to not-write. I don’t-write all the time.

     When I pause and apply this creative imperative to just making stuff in general, however, it makes sense. I’ve just forgotten at this point what it’s like to not be making something. That sounds really self important too, but it’s true. Back before PoPS, I’d go through creative spells and I’d glom onto an idea, write it, produce it, shoot it, edit it, and screen it for my parents and friends. Done. Then I’d watch some movies for awhile and hang out until I’d feel that itch again. It is like an itch. Something pops into your brain and you’re like—Yeah, cool. That’s a new way of expressing that. And then you start piecing it together to explore it, all while injecting it with as much of yourself as possible. What’s entertaining, what’s relevant, what resonates with you? Then you want to put it in front of other people to see if they get it. If the same things draw them in.

     It’s not just the fact that these YouTubers are making time to write whole books in addition to their video making schedule, it’s that while I’m piecing together episode 8 of PoPS I’ve jumped into two completely unrelated shorter projects to create something a little bit different. I used to create shorts to get the fulfillment of storytelling while I day-job’ed at retail shops. When my day-job became creative—writing articles, reviews, and making videos—I started PoPS in order to fulfill my own personal means of storytelling, I create weekly updates and weekly blog posts as a means of continually engaging the audience that has developed around that pet project, now I’m creating and collaborating in other shorts as a third level of creative outlet so I can do something a little different than my main storytelling hobby. That’s why I started to resent the idea of “I can’t not write.” Because that phrase stopped communicating a compulsion to creatively discover, and starting feeling like an order. “You can’t not create!” I felt like I couldn’t leave the computer long enough to watch some g-dang TV.

     I’m trying to get better about balancing the drive to see projects through and explore different avenues of storytelling with the necessity to stop for a second and just hang out. Once you get any kind of audience together, the constant pull to work on things becomes pretty incessant. You don’t want them to forget about you. But without the audience, that pull would still exist. It just does.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake

PoPS video update 194-Talking About Episode 8

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on February 16, 2014 by PoPS blog

The Vlogger Style

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on February 13, 2014 by PoPS blog

      As I was looking for a change of pace last week, I got a text from my buddy Craig—plays Donald on the show, has a legitimately successful YouTube channel as comedy-vlogger Wheezy Waiter. He was all-Hey, you want to blow off work early today and help me film an action movie for my channel?

     Uhhhhhh…yeah. Action movies are the most fun to make. But I’m not really the kind of guy that can blow off work. Thankfully, my current job involves a lot of freedom of movement and individual time management, and I don’t want to take advantage of that. Having come from the punch-in/punch-out world of retail, having the ability to move freely and manage my own time is like finding a friggin’ Aladdin’s lamp. So, I want to respect the amount of time they’re paying me for and earn my check.

     So, I was all—Can you just do a regular vlog today, and we’ll shoot that on Saturday.

     And he was like—Sure.

     I rarely shoot with other people. These days, if I’m on a set, it’s usually my set and we’re piecing together a carefully mapped out puzzle from my script and shot list. So it was just a breath of fresh air to get to work with Craig on one of his vlogs. The process is so incredibly different. He just makes things up as he goes. He has a series of story beats he wants to hit and then just starts filming a scene. Each shot has one specific purpose—something as simple as: In this one I need to get from the corner to the coffee maker—and then he just vamps for 10 or 20 seconds saying things that strike him as funny. He’ll grab the best stuff in the edit and there he goes. We were using rolling office chairs and skateboards as dollies, I was sliding the GoPro along the ground shooting 120 frames a second, we would get to a scene and just make it up, try to say some jokes. It was a lot of fun.

     I knew his process was to make it up as he went, but I haven’t really done this kind of thing since high school. It felt a lot like shooting videos for Telecom, our high school’s TV production course.

     I’ve gotten so locked into the idea that everybody’s time is so precious, I better have a script I like and a precise idea of what’s going to happen so we maximize our shooting time. That means everyone will give up less of their free time getting something we can definitely use. Craig gets folks together and says, “We’re going to shoot something and it’ll be funny.” And then he does it. It’s very loose, very free, and a lot of fun.

     Maybe the biggest eye opener was when we were running out of daylight and he was like, “I don’t know, man. What are you doing tomorrow? We might have to shoot another day.” And it sounded like a big thing. A two day shoot. Then after we couldn’t shoot anymore we went to a sandwich shop for a coffee and his girlfriend Chyna met us there. When he told her we were going to be shooting another day she said, “Whoa! A two day shoot.” A little bit joking, but with enough sincerity that it hit me again. Craig’s projects are one-day shoots. He decides to shoot something, he shoots it in one day, and he puts it up. PoPS episode 8 is a 25-day shoot and the end date keeps getting further away as schedules refuse to line up. It’s just a completely different deal. Lots of fun though.

     I’m going to do some effects for the Craig video, maybe this weekend, and I’ll embed it here on the blog once it’s released.

     I’m still getting ready for my own one-night shoot on this 30-second horror movie. Of course, I can’t just let it be simple, I’m trying to assemble all the little pieces I need to make it happen. Props that need to be designed, and some fake flooring to facilitate an easy clean-up.

     I’m still working on editing episode 8 too. No worries there. I’ll keep chipping it away at it. Just recharging my batteries with a couple fun little projects.

Thanks for reading.

 

–Jake

PoPS video upidate 193-Talking About Talking About YouTube

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on February 9, 2014 by PoPS blog

Keeping Yourself Engaged

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th on February 6, 2014 by PoPS blog

The best way to stay engaged is to never set a date. The span betwixt a ring and a legally binding contract ain’t just 30 steps down an aisle. Here’s a helpful tip, if you never make any decisions, it’s impossible to plan an event. Wait. Why am I—a happily married person—trying to help people not get married. OH! I mean how to stay engaged in a project. Got it. Sometimes I get so confused by the titles of my posts. Why must the English language be so malleable and filled with double entendre?

When you’ve been working on a series for five years—and this post actually marks five years, our first shoot day was February 7, 2009—sometimes it’s hard to keep yourself engaged. I’ve been ruminating on the machinations of four super-powered roommates and one confused, inter-dimensional ne’er-do-well for 1,826 days now. Prior to this, I’d plan out multi-episode storylines and they’d fizzle out within a couple episodes. Either because of a falling out within the production team or because, without an active audience, the story would lose it’s new-story luster. This story just happened to be the one that we were working on with YouTube started picking up steam. It happen to be the first one with a cast member capable of generating some traffic our way. It the first time where a significant amount of people kept wanting to know the answer to the big question: What happens next? That does more than anything else to keep me engaged as a creator. PoPs was always designed as a 10-episode thing. Did I think we would still be working on it five years later? I don’t think I would have been able to conceive of that. I’ve always been interested in each of our stories. The time they took to make never seemed to mean anything, prior to this. I mean, it’s not like we were doing anything else. Being in production on something like Green’s Nursery or Twisted Thicket held nothing but vague ideas of festival submissions and the feeling of working on SOMETHING. I wasn’t just wasting my time. I was telling stories. I even made episode one of PoPS because I wanted to enter it in a pilot competition. That was the main impetus. Putting it online was essentailly the afterthought when it didn’t get selected. Now I only submit to festivals with a web series category and it’s just to get the submission requirement for an IMDb page.

Still, five years of thinking on one story can start to wear a little thin. Every once in awhile you need to break it up. That’s why we made Channel Battle:

We shot it in one night and a week and a half later I was putting it up on our page. It felt great. Sometimes I’ve worked on projects for friends that were a switch-up. My buddy Suede, the villain on PoPS, is a musician and he needed a show of his edited:

It was like 20’ish songs, 3 cameras, and then several editing passes based on notes. After that project I was relieved to get back to working on PoPS. Back to the land of linear storytelling in a fictional land.

But I’ve planned maybe three shorts in the last year that I’ve back-burner’ed because I didn’t want to lose momentum on PoPS. I was seriously trying to get one together to shoot in October, but I realized it would conflict with trying to get episode 8 exteriors shot before the cold season. PoPS took precedent. Still, I’m feeling a little restless. We have to get our last 3 shoot days of episode 8 done, and it’s looking like early March for those, but I need a little side project. Enter the Studio 360 Scary Short Film Fest. A 30-second horror film, to be judged by Wes Craven. There’s no real prize to speak of, it just sounds fun. Surely, we can make one of those happen in the next month.

So I suppose the best way to stay engaged is to take little breaks if you start to get worn down. Focus on a different story, if only for a couple days.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake