Tag Archives: filmmaking

Just Make Something

Excuses, excuses, we all seem to have them for not being creative.
We justify our lack of progress with statements like, “It was raining,” but then never reschedule a re-shoot, or here’s a classic example of grade A bull malarkey, “I’ve just been really busy.” Busy doing what exactly? Do you have anything to show for this said busyness? No. Translation: I don’t care. The truth is most of us are content with hanging out with friends in our down time or lurking on the net for countless hours wasted. Sick of this mentality? Then fix it.

Now, I could be broadly speaking to any creative type, whether you’re a writer, a painter, a photographer, a dancer, a…chiropractor? (hey, some people are artful at breaking bones – see Ip Man), it doesn’t matter. But I am primarily speaking to filmmakers. You may think your film career is going to line itself up nicely before you now that you have a fancy degree in Film/Media Production from your liberal arts college, but the reality is unless you start shooting weddings or senior portraits ASAP, your cash flow is going to be redirected toward the gross amount of college debt you’ve accrued and not to the sweet lenses and new DSLRs you slaver about. If you have free time, there are no excuses for being inactive in your passions. And not to be preaching religion, but if you have gifts, or things in which you are inclined to exceed, it’s a disservice to your Maker (or yourself) if you don’t continually strive to enhance those fortes; it’s just sinful and sad to be “lazy” as Josh Bailey’s recent blog talked about.

Intention can come after attention.
So, grab your camera, or grab your mom’s ridiculously nice one (which she bought and probably has no clue how to use (ask first, of course)), or ask your friend that has one if you can borrow theirs, and go out and just film something. Anything. You don’t need actors, but if you have them, great, use them! Sometimes all it takes is to simply walk around and turn the thing on and ideas come rushing in, so you don’t have to have a clear intention of what you’ll be capturing on film. Sadly, most of the time, it doesn’t work this way. It can seem very pointless and defeating, but I can assure you it’s not. Even if one of your outings doesn’t turn up anything usable, you still succeeded in learning how to use your camera slightly more efficiently, and that’s making headway in my book. Love your camera, and it will start loving you back.

Take myself, for example, I get home from my day job and I’m utterly exhausted, but on my drive home, the image of two people dancing in the shallows of a lakeside at sunset pops into my mind. What do I do with that image? Let it stagnate? File it under the “That’s A Pretty Image” section of my mind’s dusty library? Abso-freaking-lutely not! I go home, call my friends up, this great couple I know, and tell them my vision and ask if they want to sacrifice some of their free time to help me film it. And what came of it? Well, we went down to the sound and filmed it at the last minute during the waning golden hour.

The point of this is to encourage you to grab those moments, and like initiating a new workout routine, you need to force yourself to do it. Do it whenever you can, and I promise you, you will see an improvement in your skills, and the production quality will go up tremendously. If you need help, ask for it. Here is a great place to start. That’s the whole purpose of Filmpunch – to share and grow together. I don’t have a formal education in film, but I can confidently say that those who seek experience by actually experiencing will have more to show at the end of the day than those who stew about being a professional and remain inert. With that, I leave you with my latest project that was a culmination of various random outings goaded by the many brief inspirational flashes that struck me at the most uninspiring moments, or in the hours I was content with being lazy, and I’m pretty pumped with how it turned out. Disclaimer: I am not a professional, but I am getting better, and that’s what just getting out there and making something does to you.

I couldn’t sleep one night and I was sitting in my office and I realized that I was an independent filmmaker.
–Darren Aronofsky

The Greatest Two Weeks of My Life

Kyle Bailey is a film student at Asbury University in Kentucky, and most importantly, a member of Filmpunch. Not only that, but he’s one all-around amazing guy with whom we had the pleasure of working side by side on the set of Olan Rogers’ Pop Rocket this past summer. Here’s what he had to say:

The Greatest Two Weeks of My Life by Kyle Bailey
Filming Pop Rocket was my very first independent movie making experience, and my first experience working with professionals. Meeting Olan Rogers, Jake Sidwell, Thomas Gore, Brett Driver, and a few other YouTubers I’ve looked up to for years was an experience within itself (getting to work with people you look up to always is). But it didn’t take long for me to realize that what I had seen in their videos didn’t even show half of who they were in real life; they’re real people with hopes and aspirations, just like you and me. Lots of friendships were made over those two and a half weeks, including Andy and O’Ryan aka the Filmpunch Guys. You two are some of the most talented and humble people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. Thanks for being amazing.

I had decided that once I got down to Nashville, I would keep a journal detailing everything that happened each day and night we filmed. It’s a very unique feeling to be in the midst of something special and know that you’re recording it for others to see. So much happened during my two and a half weeks of filming, and hopefully, I’ll do a good enough job of recounting my favorite parts. I’ll start off with my impressions after being there for a day:

“I’ve looked up to Olan and Jake as both being creative powerhouses, and it’s nice to find out that there are actual people behind the videos—people who care about their work and their friends more than getting views or being famous. They’ve both got something special and I’m blessed to be a part of it.”

Like I said before, that’s one of the things that really impacted me—I was working with real people who had real talent and heart, and that made a difference in how work was accomplished on set. In fact, this next entry talks about just that:

“I know that this is a budgeted production, but I’m used to stuff like this at school.  It’s almost bare bones, but there’s a vibe in the air that’s much more friendly and open than any I’ve ever felt at school. This is how sets should be run—messy, wild, rugged, with laughing at the forefront of the seriousness of what’s going on. I love it.”

I’m a film major at my university, and there’s a huge, state-of-the-art media facility at my disposal. I’ve directed TV shows, worked cameras, and been in musicals in that building, but none of the productions I’ve worked on can come close to having the same sense of camaraderie that the set of Pop Rocket had. Everyone got along with each other while getting things done quickly and efficiently. If there was a problem, we talked about how to fix it the quickest and easiest way possible, and then we did.

Filmmaking Sucks!
A large number of entries I wrote talk about how tired I was after each day of shooting. I did a lot of different things on set, including setting up green screens and soft boxes, making countless tracking markers, and about a hundred other odd jobs that needed to be done, oh and lest I forget cooking heaps of hotdogs. One of the things I enjoyed the most was getting to take behind the scenes photographs and videos. But I’m not going to sugarcoat it: filmmaking is hard work—seriously hard work. Late nights and early mornings for two and a half weeks will take their toll on your body and mind, and there are moments when you question whether or not what you’re doing is really going to make a sound once it’s released. Here’s an example:

“Today was definitely one of the more exhausting days. I got a bunch of experience shooting on a full green screen set that I helped build. Aside from that, I got to help out with the actual filming. I swept lights across Olan, Jake, and Thomas when they were on the hover bikes to make it look like they we’re racing down a city skyline. It’s something subtle, but I’ll be able to show it to people in the video and say that that’s what I did…if it makes the final cut, of course.”

You do so much work to make a five or six second shot look the absolute best it can, and even then, sometimes it’s not good enough. The simplest little problem can seem like a mountain that will never be climbed. But those moments can and will pass. Any problem can be solved with the right amount of thinking…and duct tape. And Reese’s. Always Reese’s.

Here’s the last things I wrote in my journal:

“I learned so much in such a short amount of time, and I’ve been influenced by so many people, Olan and Jake in particular.  My time with the crew and cast has been just amazing. I’ve made so many new friends and memories with people I never thought I’d get to work with, and those memories will undoubtedly last for the rest of my life. It’s been a crazy two weeks of filming, fun, hardships, and work. I’ve never been a part of something this big before, and it’s staggering to think that I was even able to come down and help out. I wouldn’t trade these two weeks for anything in the world. The relationships I’ve made with people, the experiences I’ve had, and the product that’s been created have all had profound impacts on me. I can’t wait to start making movies of my own. It’s the only thing I want to do, and it’s the only thing that will satisfy me. So I’m going to do the absolute best I can to make that dream a reality.

Here I Go…
Making movies isn’t just art. It’s not just a career path. It’s something that can literally change lives. Movies are one of the easiest ways to bring about that change, and creating them is one of the things I cherish most in my life. If what I help create can change someone’s life for the better, then I’ve done my job right. I have no doubt that Pop Rocket will change people for the better; it’s got heart to it. I’ll leave you with this: if being on the set of Pop Rocket has taught me anything, it’s that working together on a project everyone loves and wants to see succeed will bring those people closer together. And a group that works well together can accomplish just about anything. Don’t let the little things get you down, and never ever stop looking for inspiration. That’s the key to making something you believe in a reality.

You can follow Kyle’s work here.

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Filmmaking Sucks!

Let’s be honest here, being a filmmaker sucks. I mean, really, it sucks. Nope, I’m not messing around, it downright sucks. Why on earth would anyone want to be a filmmaker?

I can hear you now:

“O’Ryan, what the crap are you talking about? I thought you wanted to be a filmmaker?”

I do. But I won’t lie to you, being a filmmaker sucks.

“OK, OK I get it, it sucks. You can stop saying it now and tell me why it sucks so much.”

Well, if you insist.

INT. Night: Small bedroom

We see a gaunt figure hunched over a keyboard, silhouetted by the glow of a computer monitor. Through the light smoky haze we notice several crumpled papers and empty Starbucks cups strewn across the desk and spilling onto the floor. An ashtray overflowing with spent cigarettes, still smoldering.

Suddenly, the pile of discarded story bits begins to glow and tremble. The air is filled with Taylor Swift’s “Love Song”.

Is this some sort of magic!?

Reaching into the pile, the man pulls out an iPhone.

He stands.

MAN

(deep breath)

Hello?

(beat)

What do mean this draft is worse?! You haven’t even had time to read it all yet!

The Story
You have worked for days, months, maybe even years on this story idea. You finally get it to a place where you think it’s good enough to share with someone, and they don’t get it. So you go back and rewrite it. It’s better than ever, so you share it again, and they say they liked the first version better…

Being Indie
You’re crushed, it sucks. But you believe in your story. So you collect your ego and you push forward. You start saving money to buy the gear you think you need. But what do you really need? It’s all so expensive, and there are so many new and better things coming out everyday… You can’t possibly afford to turn this story into a movie. Where do you even start?

“Who cares about money, I’m an Indie Filmmaker!” you say with your head held high.

Even though you’re forced to make sucky compromises, you decide you will make this movie anyway.

Casting begins.
You’re looking high and low for the perfect 5′ 11.5″ tall Prince Charming to whisk your audience away like the sleepy lost princess they are, but he is nowhere to be found.

“Well, there’s always that weird naked guy from Craigslist with the tattoo on his back that keeps sending me pictures… maybe he could…”

You instantly realize that a few of your friends might be willing to act in your movie. Not awesome, but better than Naked-Back-Tattoo-Guy.

Unless, of course, that’s what you were looking for…

You’re finally on set.
This is it! You are actually making this thing happen! You’ve got your cast & crew, all your fancy new equipment, and you even thought ahead and got food for everyone.

Then, everything falls apart. It’s hotter/colder/rainier than you expected. The crew is complaining because that cost-effective equipment you were so proud of wasn’t intended to operate under these conditions for very long. Your actors are complaining because they don’t feel like their part is exploring the character enough. You’re frustrated and tired. So you decide to take a break. Eat lunch. Regroup.

Everyone is sick of hot dogs…

Editing
So you made it through filming. So what, you made a few compromises, you finished (almost) on time. You got some really good shots. That is, until you start putting it all together.

You realize that you forgot to grab a few inserts, or that follow-through shot. Some of these shots break the 180 Degree rule. Or half the great shots that you really have are out of focus.

You’ve made it this far; you can’t just give up now. Besides, you’re an “Indie Filmmaker”. It’s okay if most of the film is out of focus…right?

Effects?
You’ll pretty much have to re-render this out about 5 times, either because you forgot to turn that one thing back on, misspelled something, or exported it in the wrong format.

note: Long renders followed by continuous face-palming is to be expected.

Uploading
Yeah, that’s going to take a little while. Oh, and once you get it up there…you’ll probably realize at least one more thing you forgot in the render. So be prepared to upload at least twice.

Oh, what’s that…you got your first YouTube comments!? Hooray!

In conclusion
Filmmaking sucks, and you’re probably going to suck at it for a while, which will just make it suck more.

I can still hear your earlier question ringing in my head.

“I thought you wanted to be a filmmaker?”

I do, I very much desperately do.
See, even though filmmaking can suck, hiding underneath all that suck if you look hard enough is something amazingly unexpected: Camaraderie, Creativity, Expression, Sadness, Happiness, Joy, Heartache, Ecstasy, and ultimately, Satisfaction. The experience as a whole is what makes this art form so worth it.

Here’s the thing, many of us start into filmmaking thinking it’s going to be all fun and games and that we have it all figured out. Then, when the suck starts flying and it’s not at all what we expected, some of us bail out. The fact that you can say you “made a movie” afterward isn’t what makes filmmaking truly amazing, it’s the blood, sweat, and tears that go into producing the final result. It’s not easy, but if filmmaking is really your life’s passion, it will be so worth every moment of suck that you’ve paid. In fact, you may even come to cherish some of the suckiest moments because of the friends and memories you made with those who endured it with you.

So, if filmmaking is really, truly the career path you want to follow, endure it, and revel in the experience, because once you see it up on that big screen, it will all be
worth it.