Archive for February, 2015

Creators Are Too Public Now

Posted in Uncategorized on February 26, 2015 by PoPS blog

This is one of problems of the social media age. Yes, it’s provided more creators with platforms for their stories, but it’s also given creators a platform for whining about creating.

Creating has always been a difficult enterprise. Filmmaking is a collaborative activity; it takes a lot of people and coordination. People are going to butt heads and compromise is constant and inevitable. Creators used to grouse about that privately, face-to-face, with peers, friends, and loved ones. The audience didn’t know anything about all the struggles. They just saw the end product. It looked so together and effortless. They didn’t think about what it could have been, what didn’t work out the way the creators wanted, none of that. Now, we know about every little conflict all of the time. Deals falling through, behind-the-scenes disagreements, whether the final edit is director-approved or not. The once-invincible creative mind now vents their insecurities out loud in public.

Maybe that’s good. Maybe we needed to humanize the people who crafted the national conversation. Maybe we needed to see that they’re all just people like us. But a lot of the intrigue and mystery has disappeared. We don’t get the chance to be impressed or filled with wonder very often anymore. We don’t have to wonder How did they do that? because we can click the annotation at the end of the video and be taken right to the behind-the-scenes.

I’ve brought up Donald Glover/Childish Gambino a couple times on this blog, because he’s a guy who’s maneuvered both the traditional and new media channels of creating and he always seems to be wrapped up in the subjects I’m thinking about. He did a very public airing of insecurities on Twitter awhile back. He wrote out a list of fears and concerns on hotel stationary, photographed them and uploaded them to Twitter. It caught a lot of attention. Some people wondered if it was a weird cry for help or social media suicide note. All it was, was someone feeling vulnerable. And they had an immediate portal available to them to broadcast their moment of weakness directly to the people who are most interested in what they’re producing. The thoughts expressed were real and human, but they seemed to exist in opposition to the public persona that Glover was in the midst of cultivating. (Which, frankly, was fine by me, because that persona was of a disinterested, apathetic, dead-eyed millennial and the act was a little standard and boring.) But since then, he’s gotten off Twitter for the most part and his very interesting, very strange music videos have no behind-the-scenes videos and no explanations. It makes them a billion times more intriguing and re-watchable, looking for clues to what the hell is going on exactly. There also seems to be some kind of other-worldly storyline playing out through them and it’s really fascinating. Especially because he doesn’t talk about the intention of the storyline or the events in the videos publicly. It’s all there for the audience to speculate on. I’m totally in.

Once again, a strong language warning on these two videos: But something very interesting happens in the middle and end of this video:

and the breakdown in the middle of this video blows my mind. This whole video is weird though, and I feel like it’s an elaboration on the video that came before:

Edgar Wright hasn’t Tweeted since January 1st of 2015. And that Tweet was simply: So my New Years resolution for 2015 is to spend less time on here. See you in a little while. Love you all.

Boom.

I think we’re all getting a little tired of the distraction and the transparency.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake

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PoPS video update 245-Why Youtube is Discouraging

Posted in Uncategorized on February 22, 2015 by PoPS blog

My Hobby Requires Paperwork

Posted in Uncategorized on February 19, 2015 by PoPS blog

As a young upstart, you think—I’ll just develop my skills as a storyteller. Writing and directing. If I write and direct really well, someone will pay me to do it and take care of the hard stuff like scheduling.

Then you get a little older. Well, I can’t show that I can write and direct unless I have something I’ve written and directed to show people. I’ll just make something.

After trying that a couple times by just throwing things together with a couple days notice and seeing who’s available this weekend—This all feels so slap-dash. I better figure out how to actually schedule this thing. I hate scheduling… But nobody’s volunteered to do it. Okay, let’s try this.

Now we live in the age of crowdfunding and my hobby has sprouted a lot of paperwork to boot. When I was a kid, I never thought I’d be saying—Man, I love making movies with my friends! Except during tax season.

We forgot to send out 1099s to the people we paid over the certain amount, and I guess we could face financial penalties or something? I’m not really sure, but it’ll probably all work out. It’s just crazy to me how my after-work hobby has given way to so many other responsibilities. When going to work is more relaxing than going home, something has taken a turn.

Thanks for reading.

-Jake

PoPS video update 244-Gender Stereotyping in Audiobooks

Posted in Uncategorized on February 15, 2015 by PoPS blog

Why We’ll Never Look Pro

Posted in Uncategorized on February 12, 2015 by PoPS blog

You guys know that I Google search our show every once in a while to see if anyone is saying anything new. I did that this week because we didn’t get into a web series festival I submitted us to. I wanted to look at what people we don’t personally know have said about our product to see if I could get a little insight into why we wouldn’t be accepted. I probably would have just let it go, but I saw a few shows on their acceptance list that are unimaginatively rehashed generic web-blah with a fraction of our audience. Seeing that I was like… Ooooooookay. Now, I may be just overthinking it. Maybe they’re tired of web series about super powers, or maybe the voice of the show isn’t their cup of tea. These are entirely possible. It’s also possible that I think too highly of our storytelling, given my very intense personal investment in PoPS.

But one thing stands out in every review of our show, even from the people who apparently like us a lot and are reviewing it to try and get there friends interested. Phrases like “It’s not the best looking show, but…” or “It may not be very professional looking, but…” or “Despite the look and the questionable VFX…” or, allow me to quote directly from one I found yesterday:

“I will say the acting and special effects are not award winning (although the show has won numerous awards). But what would you expect from a show where all the people making it are doing it for love not money and really all the shows pitfalls just make it all the more love able like a scruffy dog who has a penchant for rolling in mud.”

Our show is the equivalent of a scruffy dog that likes to roll in the mud. And this is from someone who is trying to get people to watch it. In that same review:

“It is genuinly funny and has some actually really intense story arks…”

So… I’m going to say we get passed over for some competitions because of the fact that no matter how much better we make the visuals and the VFX, it’ll never look pro. Let me tell you why.

It’s my fault.

Even if my director of photography sets the exposure levels perfectly so the darks aren’t noisy and whites aren’t blown out, I color correct the episode. Unfortunately, I do it quickly. Meaning, in order to get the actors to where I want them, sometimes I pull up the overall levels too much, blow out the whites, or overcompensate in contrasts. If I sat there for a long time, dicking around with power windows, isolating sections of the frame and specifically adjusting three or four distinct grades within one shot, I might be able to make it look as good as it should.

Conversely, if I wasn’t moving the crew at a thousand miles an hour during production, they might have more time for switching out bulbs, flagging hot walls, key lighting the actors, and generally sculpting those frame isolating elements on set. But I can’t spend people’s time like that. I’ve always wanted to keep set moving. That’s why I so intensively plan ahead.

We got this shot, boom, next is that shot. We’re seven shots from wrapping.

You don’t like something about the lighting for this set-up? Can you fix it in less than five minutes? No? Well see how far you can get in five minutes. It looks great, let’s shoot it.

Always. It’s only gotten worse as our crew has gotten busier. I want shoot days to be as short as possible, and I want there to be as few of them as can be. I don’t mind spending copious amounts of my own time on my projects, but I don’t want to impose too much on the lives of others. That’s why I do so much of post by myself.

That’s why I try to spend as much of our crowdfunded money on the time people spend on set. Because set is hard and I NEED them. I appreciate the time they spend on set so much, I want it to be as financially rewarding as I can make it.

Time spent on set is so much harder than sitting in a comfortable room by yourself, on your own timetable, doing VFX, editing sound, finding music, color correcting, all of those post production things. So, even though I’m not a pro, and I’m not going to make it look as good as a pro, I feel like throwing a big chunk of the budget at any portion of post-production isn’t right. That’s why we’ll never look pro. That’s why PoPS will always be a muddy mutt. Because of me.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake

PoPS video update 243-Celebrity Interactions

Posted in Uncategorized on February 8, 2015 by PoPS blog

The Days of Just Visuals

Posted in Uncategorized on February 5, 2015 by PoPS blog

The last video update featured a visit with our big donor, Harris, who donated $6,000 to help us reach our Indiegogo crowdfunding goal. A part of his perk involved flying him out to appear in the episode, which we did last weekend. We also got what are purportedly the best burgers in Chicago, mine and Eliza’s favorite pizza in Chicago, took him to experience the bar-arcade renaissance currently sweeping Chicago, and his flight was the last to leave our airport before a complete and utter airport shutdown thanks to a blizzard. It was flippin’ eventful. And A LOT of fun.

Every once in a while we’ll have a production day shooting strictly visual shots. No dialogue. Just a series of beautifully framed vignettes for sequence building. It’s so awesome.

I love writing dialogue, and I love watching great dialogue scenes. A passionate exchange over conflicting perspectives can be absolutely riveting. The Social Network, Lincoln, Gone Girl, Clerks, Before Sunset, Before Midnight, The Breakfast Club, A Few Good Men, Reservoir Dogs, Swingers. Just a few of the more modern examples. But dialogue scenes aren’t particularly fun to film.

A good performance can be captivating to watch, but for shooting, give me a day of camera moves, cool angles, and action. Not necessarily action scenes, either. I’m talking more about sequences. Back in episode five of PoPS, we had a day of shooting all of the Super Sorority sequences, seeing them in their environments and learning about their personalities. We did a lot of camera moves on a slider, focus pulls, and tableaus. It was a lot of fun and every shot looked really cinematic and exciting.

We just had another couple of those days over the last week. On Friday, we found ourselves shooting at a college campus in an amazing looking lab classroom and around campus. On Saturday, I picked up Harris, our big donor, from the airport and we headed over to a water treatment plant to shoot a quick dialogue scene. He did a great job and we wrapped within an hour and a half of arriving. Then on Monday night, the day after the big blizzard of ’15, we went to our friend David’s apartment to shoot 13 highly visual set-ups. One after the other. They all felt so cinematic and cool. They told a story and looked amazing. We shot for about two hours before packing up all the gear and rental props and heading home. That was one of those nights where we were a totally barebones operation. Three crew members, one actor, knocking down amazing shot after amazing shot. It’s nights like those that really remind me how much I love the medium. Sequence filmmaking is the absolute coolest.

Thanks for reading.

–Jake