Archive for July, 2014

Just Like High School

Posted in Hypothesis the 9th on July 31, 2014 by PoPS blog

     This week we’ve thrown a production together super fast and it feels so much like shooting videos in high school. Part of it probably has to do with the truncated pre-production. The two-week entry period for this contest started on the 24th and on the 25th I finally felt like I had a good idea for an under 3-minute short. I wrote the script and hated it. Scrapped it. Back to square one. I woke up on the 26th with an idea for a short little visual story. I’ve always heard filmmakers talk about waking up with an idea, but this is the first time it’s ever happened to me. I was rolling out of bed just before 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning with Eliza saying, “Where are you going,” and me saying, “I think I’ve got the short.” Made some coffee, wrote the thing, and liked it. I printed it, 3-and-a-half pages of mostly blocks of action and scene description, and handed it to Eliza. She liked it. I sent it to Craig, who’s been the most vocal about making a unique, contained story for this contest instead of using a sequence from PoPS. He said: “I think it’s really cool. Definitely give you good opportunity to show your skills. It doesn’t have a lot of that trademark Jake dialogue, but I’d say if you can pull it off in time it might be the one.” I just had my email open so I thought I’d throw in the verbatim exchange here. I shotlisted it, we quickly grabbed some props, cast it from our regulars and folks we’ve met during the web series, and decided to shoot it over two nights in a really cool public location I knew of but didn’t ask permission to use. That’s what probably made it feel the most like high school. Just heading into an public area and shooting with your friends.

     Three nights later we were out piecing it together. It’s all outside in this beautiful ravine and we only had work days available to shoot it. So, I left work a little early for two days and we’d have from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m., when it would just get too dark to shoot, to get everything we needed. So about 6 hours total. Last night we wrapped four of the five actors. I’m going to have to meet with the remaining actor tomorrow night to get the last half page of stuff. Tonight, I start editing and I can’t wait to see this thing come together. It all just looked so gorgeous in playback.

     Every once in a awhile it’s nice to get out there and shoot something super quickly that has nothing to do with complicated pre-pro or large overarching stories. It really felt like one of those dash-and-grab chase movies we used to make after school. Just with way better equipment at our disposal.

Thanks for reading.

-Jake

PoPS video update 216-The Tribulations of Web Series Creators

Posted in Hypothesis the 9th on July 27, 2014 by PoPS blog

Competitions

Posted in Hypothesis the 9th on July 24, 2014 by PoPS blog

I’ve been trying to write episode 9, but I’ve been inundated with a bunch of distractions.

When I stumbled upon the announcement that Project Greenlight was coming back, I actually threw my hands up in the air. I was sitting in the middle of the office I work in. Hands in the air. No one noticed, but it could have been awkward. I loved Project Greenlight. It was always fun to submit something, participate in judging, and follow the progress of the filmmaker as they made their film.

I never had anything to submit when they were looking for directors. We’re talking 2001-2005 here. Hell, I’ve only just started assembling decent reel material 10 years later. But now they’re looking for a director with a 1- to 3-minute short and I have to decide if I make a short specifically for the contest or grab a 3-minute section of PoPS to submit. The fact that I have a fallback option if I can’t pull together a quick short just shows how far I’ve come. Hell, we pulled …JACK together in under a week and that won the #scaryshorts contest. The stakes for Project Greenlight are a little higher though. It’s got a visibility that’s staggering. Just getting through a couple rounds of the competition could be amazing for the visibility of PoPS. This has always been the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory of the film industry. Everyone that’s ever romanticized the dream factory of Hollywood is looking for the Project Greenlight golden ticket. So, I’ve been trying to think of a quick short that can be as polished as the scene I picked from PoPS, but that’s also a complete story. I’ve got a couple ideas percolating, but the deadline’s coming up. The entry period started today. I guess we’ll see.

Then I saw a web series I subscribe to talking about Streamy nominations, so that took up my entire field of vision for a couple days. They used to have an entry fee of $95 PER CATEGORY for submissions and I was all, “WHAT?!” Now, it’s a flat $95 fee and you can submit a series in a bunch of categories. So I did it UP! I submitted us for Comedy, Action-Sci-fi, Indie, Best Ensemble Cast, Best Lead Actor, Best Lead Actress, Director, Cinematography, Writing, Editing, and VFX. Then the submission with the most Fan Submissions sent in automatically gets a slot in a category, so I hit Twitter and Facebook and made a minute-and-a-half Streamys begging video for our audience in the six categories that allow Fan Nominations:

It’s been a very self promotion’y time. Still, it would be super cool if the show got nominated for something.

Despite all that, I’ve written the first nine scenes of episode 9 and I have a pretty good handle on the way all the threads are going to come together. We’ll see how everybody feels about this one. A LOT of reveals in 9.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake

PoPS video update 215-How to Closed Caption

Posted in Hypothesis the 9th on July 20, 2014 by PoPS blog

The Truth About Writing

Posted in Hypothesis the 9th on July 17, 2014 by PoPS blog

 

    The truth about writing is that it’s absolutely the hardest part of the process. It’s not the writing itself. That part pretty much happens if I sit down, put the laptop on my lap, start the Arcade Fire album playing, and stare at the screen long enough. I’ll type a little, delete a little, type something a little different, and slowly push, push, push the story forward. In fact, it comes pretty easily once I figure out the entrance point to a scene. I know what the characters all want and I know the kinds of things they say, so I just have to make sure that each scene has an objective and that I meet that before moving to the next scene. And that there’s at least one or two things that interest me in a scene outside of meeting that objective. Funny lines or character moments or a cool or captivating sequence. TANGENT!

     As I was saying, the writing itself isn’t the hard part, it’s the road to the writing. Actually sitting down and unpacking the laptop instead of finding excuses not to do it. It’s the only part of the process without any raw materials. You don’t have a shot to composite VFX into, or raw footage that needs editing, or sound files that need to be synced to footage, or shot list from which to check off a shot at a time, or a script on which to shot list, all you have are some ideas for scenes, moments, beats, and lines that have been sitting in your head. That’s so doggone intangible. And making sense and order out of it seems like so much work.

     I think this is what most outlining is about. The more tools and guidelines you have before you start typing, the less intimidating the blinking cursor on a blank screen is going to be. At least you have a notecard telling you where the story starts and then what the next scene is, and the next, and the next. All the notecarding and outlining also serves as a nice procrastination tool that feels like momentum without actually having to type anything concrete. And it’s pivotal part if working with someone else. If a story is being shaped by two people you need to know all the scenes, their objectives, and order before starting out. Then you can pretty much hop scene to scene fleshing them out.

     For PoPS, I pretty much just get the two or three storylines up and running. I know where the characters motivating the A-story start and where they want to end up, I know where the characters motivating the B-story start and where they want to end up, and I start writing and see how they get there. Most of the time I’ll have several rough ideas for story beats in between and I’ll just try to find the most logical and motivated way to get the characters to those points. I don’t have a written outline or any notecards, I just kind of know what has to happen. That’s why it’s so hard. It’s all so nebulous. None of it exists and you have to make it exist. You just have to sit there typing and deleting and typing until it makes sense.

     It doesn’t get easier once a script is started either. Maybe a little. The scariest is the time when there’s absolutely nothing. Once you have a couple pages, maybe a scene or two, you can think—Well…at least I’ve started. But unpacking the laptop to keep working on it still feels like so much work. Because it doesn’t exist. You have to make it exist.

     That’s why it’s also the most rewarding part of the process. The fact that you can pull a story and characters out of thin air and make them entertain and inspire people outside of yourself is like magic. It’s amazing. If a group of people can relate to and care about a group of people that you made up, what is cooler than that? That’s connection. That’s communication on a deeper level. So cool.

     This is the first time I’m writing a PoPS episode on Celtx instead of Movie Magic Screenwriter 2000. I want to be able to write on my current laptop instead of the old Mac clamshell and have internet access for easy fact and word checking, and the Screenwriter software is too old to load on the new one. My main issues with it so far are that the margins aren’t as standard so my page count is higher than it should be. The page count on this one is going to be insane because less lines end up on a page. Also, I don’t think the breakdowns that it outputs are going to be as comprehensive or compatible with my current method of pre-production. But I guess we’ll see.

     It lets me organize action and dialogue, so I guess that’s all I really need.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake

 

PoPS video update 214-Cut Out of 8

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th, Hypothesis the 9th on July 13, 2014 by PoPS blog

Marathon vs. Sprint

Posted in Hypothesis the 8th, Hypothesis the 9th on July 10, 2014 by PoPS blog

     In answer to the question at the end of the last video update, it seems like Episode 5, part 1 is going to come out on top, which makes a lot of sense. I wrote the opening to serve as a gateway for the uninitiated and it seems to be doing it’s job rather nicely. Quite a few have mentioned that it was their hook into the series and made them interested enough to sit through the lousy quality of the first few episodes.

     Despite uploading a video to YouTube every week, I rarely think of myself as a “real” YouTuber. My “real” content—the content I put the most effort into—comes out a year at a time. One YEAR at a time. Internet-wise, that’s just plain irresponsible. A recipe for success it is not. It always feels like a success when the episodes come out, because of the amazing responses, but it feels more like releasing a new movie than an episode of a TV series. There’s this agonizingly long period of production and post production then a sudden build up and an opening weekend kind of vibe to the release. If the weekly updates or the short instructional videos I do are sprints, the episode is a marathon I’m running for a year. I felt like the slowest person ever. Or like I was proving something about dedication to a particular story that other YouTubers didn’t understand.

     Then came Rian Johnson.

     I’ve been on a bit of a young directors kick recently. I watched all the Richard Kelly movies again to see if Darko was still the only one that actually holds together. Yup, but only the theatrical version and by the grace of the viewer. The Box came SO close, but he muddled it up in the middle with his water-box nonsense and tied it to the worst Cameron Diaz performance ever recorded. Which is just unfathomable. I like Cameron Diaz a lot.

     Then I dove back through the Rian Johnson movies. Fantastic. And now to my point, it took him six years to get the financing to make Brick. That’s a haul. My one year of dedication to an episode is like NOTHING compared to six years of pounding on a project before he even rolled one frame on it. And that movie, you guys… Damn it. It’s sooooooo good. The way the script doesn’t slow down for you or hold your hand while explaining it. Every directorial choice. Some of the gimmicks don’t quite fly but he was swinging for the fences and overall it just soars. So considered, sculpted, and beautifully executed, on like no money. Gotta be one of my favorites. Just awesome.

     Anyway, if he can do that for a project he believes in, I can spend a year on an episode I believe in.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake