Archive for April, 2015
I feel really sick this week, you guys. Throat hurts like nobody’s business, sore all over, and mild dizziness that comes and goes. Good thing we’ve got a long production day tomorrow!
Speaking of that, over the last few months we’ve had production days that I haven’t blogged about. So let’s get caught up.
Saturday, February 7th, we held auditions for a bunch of characters in singular scenes, all of them a couple pages long, each of them projected to shoot in a few hours in afternoons on weekends. Great casting session at Next Door Chicago, the best public meeting space in the city, as far as I’m concerned.
Saturday, February 21st, we shot a scene with three characters in a found footage style. Not something we’ve done on the show before, but it was really fun having Ryan, our DP, who expends a lot of energy making things look good, expending that energy trying to make his camera operation look extremely amateur. We shot for just under two hours, wrapped early, and I took everyone out to lunch at a Chicago pub with exceptional food. We shot the scene with our great gear and after I put in all the VFX, I spent an afternoon applying the look of an old VHS tape to the footage. It looks soooooooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!O!O!O!O!O!O!O!O!O!! good.
Sunday, February 22nd, not a production day, but Eliza and I spent the day driving around for PoPS. I’d had a particular piece of production design in my head for several months and we drove 90 miles round trip just to get one element for it. I always feel like I should be more specific about this stuff, but I never want to spoil anything. Also, this thing in particular I’m never going to talk about or point out to anybody. I want to see if anybody ever points it out in the comments. I think it’s one of the cooler long term planning gimmicks in the series.
Sunday, March 1st, a day in the cold. There’s always a few. A few weeks before I’d visited a potential location and the owner agreed to let us shoot there. The day we get there, he’s ready to push us out the door as fast as he can, telling us we need to make this fast before we’ve even brought all our gear in. I calmed him down with a $200 location fee (a rip-off considering how little time we actually spent inside the place), but at least we had a warm room in which to fill out our paperwork and get the interior shots we needed. This day was also as many kids as we’ve ever assembled into one scene, none of whom had we ever worked with before. Fortunately, they were all great. They were focused, their acting was fantastic, and they stood out in the cold for hours as our projected two hour shoot stretched into 4 hours. I should have known better. 4 pages=at least 4 hours. Most of the kids had to take off as soon as we wrapped, but we had dinner with one young actor and his dad. We had a good time unthawing together over warm food and taking turns huddling next to the restaurant’s fireplace.
Sunday, March 21st, having learned from the previous shoot day I scheduled this 4-page scene from noon to 5pm, with a lunch break in the middle. Luckily, we were also inside, but it was essentially 2 and a half pages of compositing VFX shots and green screen stuff, so I wanted to make sure we had a little wiggle room to address any issues. This is a scene we had scheduled for a couple weekends before when we had a last minute issue crop up and I had to totally rewrite the scene from scratch. I think the scene we ended up with is closer to my original concept for the scene, is a more emotionally interesting scene, and we ended up getting an outstanding performance from our young actress. She really nailed it. I had a tense moment leading up to this one when I sent our actresses mom the rewritten scene. It dealt a lot more in what I will call coming-of-age issues and she was concerned her 11-year-old daughter might feel uncomfortable with some of the content. Luckily for me, when this 11-year-old was approached with the scene, she reportedly said, “I’m an actress…that’s what I do…act.” So, she was fine with the whole deal. And she was awesome in it.
This weekend, we have a full Saturday of shooting some highly visual scenes and a Sunday with a couple very quick scenes. I hope I don’t pass out from dizziness while we’re doing them. That’s me being overly dramatic. But I’m a dramatist…that’s what I do…drama. Or dramedy, really. Well, it’s more comedy than drama most of the time, so…comma.
Thanks for reading.
As I said at the end of the last video update, we’ve gone a little podcast crazy. One of the podcasts I listen to has gone off the rails a bit recently. So much so, that the host has even stopped talking in favor of typing everything out and having the computer’s text-to-speech program deliver the whole show. Sounds crazy, right? It kind of is. In fact, listening back to the whole show it’s almost like a really long oral record of a suicide note. In so many episodes of the podcast the host talks about wanting to connect and how creativity is all about connection, yet, over the course of 30-some episodes, you hear him fire his co-host, which further isolates him inside his own perspective, start doing more episodes without any guests at all, basically talking to himself until…now…where he’s talking through a computer’s text-to-speech software and a series of disconnected audio sound bites and the lyrics of songs. Kind of fascinating, actually. And even as you hear him get more bitter and depressed, and his perspective shifts until he sees his own creative efforts as pointless (something every actively creative person knows all about), he seems to present the whole show as if he’s doing us a favor. That’s what we’re talking about this week.
A lot of people who grow up pursuing creative enterprises tend to see their projects as important. I think you have to in order to feel the need to create them. If it isn’t important to you, why would you spend so much time doing it? However, they tend to confuse the reality of the situation—that their work is important to them—with a much more grandiose idea—that their work is important to everyone.
Now, with the internet, where people who work long and hard enough can find a few other people that consider their work valuable, there comes a period of time where that impulse becomes even more confusing. There’s a time at which the creator experiences some of the success they’ve always wanted—getting real feedback from people they’ve never met who are emotionally invested in their project—but without the other aspects they’ve always associated with success—industry recognition or money. That imbalance starts to create a kind of rift in the mind of the creator, where they start to see the audience as this unappreciative content devourer with unrealistic expectations and an unquenchable thirst for the creator’s unique voice. Why? I went through this phase with PoPS quite a few years ago. Where I had this chip-on-the-shoulder attitude and felt like the audience was forcing me to sit here at this desk doing VFX for days and hours because they NEEDED my story. Like, I legitimately started to resent the people who were kind enough to watch my show. What.the.EFF? I think it must be a fairly common reaction born of the validation felt when people agree that your work is good, but the disappointment when you’re whole life doesn’t change because of that.
That’s where the entitlement comes in. This podcast host is like—“You guys showed up because I did this thing, but I don’t feel like doing that thing anymore, so I’m going to do whatever I feel like and since you’ve been sitting around waiting for me to make something, that should be good enough for you.” It’s like—“I don’t feel inspired. Here’s the bare minimum I can produce. They better appreciate that I give them something from my brain even if it’s something I put zero thought into, because every half-formed thought from my creative brain is worth concentrated study and appreciation.” At the same time he’s condescending about all sorts of other artists that he thinks he’s above and talks down to any audience member who might be thinking of engaging in their own creative enterprise. Wow. I guess I’m about one more episode away from unsubscribing to this slow motion train wreck. Didn’t realize I was so annoyed by it.
I’m probably also annoyed that I ever had that kind of audience-resenting reaction in my own life. That was a long time ago, though. Balance can be a hard thing to land in any aspect of life. Mostly, I think we just have too many avenues for public complaint now and too high opinion of ourselves in general.
We see that all the time when we’re driving. The rage we feel when we get cut off or if someone thinks they had the right of way at an intersection. That head-shaking look of resentment when someone forces their will to affect your day. The realization that we’re not the main character. We’re all just one big ensemble cast of seven billion.
No one is waiting for us to do anything. They’re too busy doing their own thing. The fact that it’s important to us should be enough.
Also, we got a very nice mention on Grantland.com in a list of the 10 weirdest channels streaming on Roku. You can tell how far I’ve come in my own mental health on this topic when I’m so thrilled to get such a nice write-up sandwiched between a bird watching channel and a channel on war games with historic miniatures. Check it out if you like, we’re the second-to-last show on the list:
Thanks for reading.
I finally did it. Yesterday I achieved the ultimate dream. I accomplished everything I meant to do all in one day. I transcribed over 3,500 words of interviews during my work day; read several chapters of Patton Oswald’s new book Silver Screen Fiend; worked for a half hour on a VFX shot for episode 9; went to the gym and ran 4.6 miles on the treadmill while watching some of Scream 2; had dinner with my lovely wife; spent another half hour finishing that VFX shot, thereby completing my daily one-hour quota for PoPS weekday work time; and watched a whole movie, She’s All That, before going to bed.
The really nice thing is that none of it felt particularly like I was overextending myself. I felt a little dazed at the end of all the transcription, but that’s just par for the course. Nothing makes my brain feel as overheated and mushy as a long, full day of working with words. Punching the keys for hours and hours is a different kind of tiring. It never feels better to sit in silence for a few minutes than after closing the laptop on one of those sessions.
I did a lot, it was a nice balance of have-to-do and want-to-do, and at the end of it I really felt justified in laying down.
I’ve also finally realized that in order to be productive I have to spend less time on all social media platforms. And it’s not a simple 1:1 transfer of the time I spend on Twitter could be spent on making something. It’s the fact that the more I look at all of the things being accomplished by everybody else, the less motivated I am to do anything myself. The fact that anything I make will immediately get lost in the social media shuffle makes me feel like nothing is worth doing. So, by not looking at it while trying to work, my mind is on the things I find interesting about this singular part of this particular project, not how what I’m doing is just another tiny drop in the vast onslaught of creative content being uploaded to the internet every day. Process, not product. Exploration, not output.
That’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.
Thanks for reading.