Monday, May 30, 2011

Feed Yourself

I got an email last week from a guy hoping to get some film students involved with another student venture (business related) that could potentially turn into something really cool for everyone involved. I won't go into detail, because it would be unnecessarily boring, but the point is that of course there was no way I could personally get involved, so I pointed him to Kyle Stapley, who updates the BYU film department's blog with film-related opportunities and internships.

A couple weeks ago, I talked about reaching out and taking opportunities as they come. At this stage of my life, where and when I am, stuff sort of rains on me. I have to turn things down constantly. I'm not bragging--especially since almost all of it is unpaid. But I constantly hear from younger students who are looking for more opportunities, paid or not, to cut their teeth on the business and processes of filmmaking. Many of these students even go so far as to email people like me personally.

Here's my response to one such recent email:
...whenever you find an opportunity to work on something, drop everything and go do it. It's helpful to bug people in a systematic way, too. For instance, it's certain I won't remember that you, specifically, are looking for set experience the next time I'm looking for people to help out on a project. So keep track of who you've asked, and then ask them if there's anything you can help out on every month or so. Once you get on set, you'll meet a whole bunch of people, and if you're proactive, you can usually easily find more opportunities from there.
I'll stand by that advice. I think it's good. But there's a better way.

It's knowing what kinds of resources to keep your eye on. I think this is a decent blog, but of course it's just one venue. For BYU students, I would strongly suggest finding a way to follow film.byu.edu, so that you know immediately when it updates.

Let me put it another way: It would be ABSURD not to.

Do you have a system of keeping up with online resources? I'm talking about RSS feeds, here. If you don't know what those are, I'm probably the wrong person to explain them, but the short of it is that setting up a feed reader (I use Google Reader, for instance) is a must.

Here's how it works--you remember to check up on one thing every day, and that one thing (your feed reader) updates you on all the other things you most certainly won't be able to remember to follow consistently on your own.



There is no excuse, in this era of almost total digital connectivity, to be out of the loop when it comes to local opportunities to get involved in filmmaking. All it takes is learning and using the tools.

So, as a re-cap, here's what you should do:
  1. Go set up a Google Reader account (or another feed reader of your choice)
  2. Learn how to use it (Google is wonderful with tutorials)
  3. Subscribe to the film.byu.edu blog (if you're a BYU student)
  4. Subscribe to 2190
  5. Subscribe to the xkcd webcomic, because it's awesome
  6. Subscribe to whatever else your eager heart desires (every blog has an RSS feed, and so does almost every website)
  7. Faithfully check your Google Reader (or other feed reader of your choice) daily
This is something about which I feel pretty passionate. Some of my best film-related experiences have resulted directly from following film.byu.edu closely; I am a huge advocate of feed readers in general, and Google Reader in particular. This may come off sounding overly bold, but trust that I am entirely sincere when I tell you that, in my estimation, feed readers are nearly as important as email accounts. Please take a moment to consider that, and then take a few more moments to go set one up if you haven't already. 

***

Do you use a feed reader? If so, which one? What are your most valuable/awesome subscriptions? Please, share in the comments below. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Friday 'Stache













First off, because I'm so happy with it, the newest sketch from Quiet Dignity:


I love Good Neighbor Stuff, and lately they've been branching out to do other things. This is one of my favorites--it's part of a series called "Fresh Perspectives." 


The mighty James Alexander directed a music video for John Hendricks recently, and I think the fruits are sweet.


Lastly, this has very little to do with filmmaking, per se, but last week, a friend pointed me toward something called RSA Animate. You may have heard of this already, but it's new to me, and I think it's...well, quite neat. If you're familiar with TED talks (everyone should be familiar with TED talks), it's like that, but with cool whiteboard-style animation. This one's my favorite so far:


***

Last week, I got some great feedback on the videos I posted, which made me happy, but no suggestions for other YouTubers (channels or videos) that I should check out, which made me sad. So, if you've recently discovered a video or channel on YouTube that you love, please, share it in the comments. 

(Also, if you haven't yet--and chances are good that you haven't--be sure to "Like" 2190's Facebook page.)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Interviews - Aaron Carson

A few weeks ago, I had talked to a friend of mine, Mr. James Alexander, and asked him for advice on how to improve this blog. The best advice he gave me was to do interviews with filmmakers (independent, student, professional, amateur, whatever).

I decided I'd go ahead and do that. 

Originally, I planned to just transcribe parts of an interview. Then, of course, I had to decide how I'd record said interview to be able to go back and transcribe later. THEN I figured if I was going to be recording the thing, I might as well make the whole thing available for people who cared to listen.

Finally, I decided that if I put a little bit of effort into making the interview short and pertinent, I could save myself the tedium of transcription and just make a podcast.

So that's what I did. 

The first official 2190 interview is with Aaron Carson, a recent friend and fellow filmmaker. I got to know Aaron better on the set of Weighted, as he helped us with our "stunt" work (we had our actress pretend to fall off the edge of a roof) and VFX stuff (with Nick Dixon). He has a unique and somewhat unexpected background when it comes to his study of film, as well as some great insight and advice for people who are also pursuing the art and industry of film.

So go ahead and take ten minutes out of your busy life to hear him out (and do your best to ignore my annoying voice.)


Download this episode (right click and save)

What did you think? What could I/should I do better in future podcasts? What other kinds of questions should I ask? Should the interviews be longer? Shorter?

As always, any and all comments are welcome and encouraged.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Other Stuff

Not me. I wish.
I almost made a terrible mistake.

Filmmaking, as a pursuit, will never be satisfied. Ever insatiable, it will exact every last scrap of everything you have to give. I found out early on that it would be easy to sacrifice my whole soul upon the alter of film. 

I think most people who are involved in any way with this industry and art have discovered the same, whether consciously or not. But it's important to look at this truth in the face, and recognize what this medium will absorb if allowed. 

No single thing in this world deserves all of anyone. Everyone ought to be divided, perhaps not evenly, but severally. Family is important, and friends. Politics, and religion, and hobbies. Let's none of us forget about books, either. 

But it's easy to forget, even after coming to a conscious recognition of this stuff. I almost cancelled my membership to the Quarry (my rock climbing gym), because I figured I didn't have enough time. That would have been a terrible mistake. Yes, the hobby takes time. And, yes, I could use that time toward the hungry beast of my "career." 

And I would have been poorer for it. 

Here's the other shoe: this stuff--everything not tied directly to film--makes better artists and students. I am a better filmmaker because of my non-filmmaking passions. If all I ever did and thought about was film, then I'd have nothing to say. Aren't movies about movies kind of annoying and dumb? And boring? 

Me. Timp. Last year.
So I'll keep climbing. And reading, and spending time with my non-film student friends and family. I'll keep being an entire person.











What kinds of things round you out? What do you fill your life with when you're not filling it with film?

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Friday 'Stache


Friday is quickly becoming my favorite day to post.

Why?

Because sharing cool stuff is the coolest. Period. (Spot the redundancy.)

Welcome to the second weekly Friday 'Stache.




From Dave Ackerman, some dating advice that you shouldn't follow:


A strangely kinetic violinist, photographed grandiosely by Devin Graham


And, finally, an apologetic video from Quiet Dignity that, I think, turns out to be funnier than the sketch for which it is apologizing:


Feel like promoting a relatively unknown YouTuber you love? This is the place. Put a link in to their channel in the comments, and I'll take a look and post noteworthy stuff in the future. 

Also, if you haven't taken three seconds to "Like" 2190 on Facebook yet, you should do that right...

...wait for it...

...

NOW!

(thanks)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Better Busy than Bored

Last Sunday, at a gathering which involved something like a hundred people squeezed tightly into a small apartment to consume strawberry pie, I met with a guy who had previously contacted me on Facebook. Jonathan Walgamott. Go ahead and say that last name out loud.

Anyway, Jon was looking for help with some videography for a non-profit he helped start called Courage to Hope, the purpose of which is to try to combat domestic abuse. By chance, he ran across some of the stuff I’ve posted on Facebook, and decided to send a message asking if I’d be interested in hearing him out. I said sure. We chatted in the vicinity of a bunch of pie.

Why am I telling you this?

Several reasons, but, primarily, I’d like to lead by example when I can. I told Jon I’d be happy to pass along his request to other film-types, and that I’d also be willing to help write content that he could produce. It’s a non-profit, which means non-pay, but I believe in the cause (who wouldn’t?), so I think some small commitment is a good move on my part.

Here’s the principle: Commit to stuff. There are two parts. The first has to do with commitment, the second has to do with stuff. Altogether, the principle suggests (mandates!) that we fill our time with good things, and we fully invest in the things we’ve chosen.

A few years ago, I was sitting in class, and the teacher (Tom Morrill, from whom I learned more than I could ever adequately enumerate) mentioned that there was a student looking for a producer to help out with a capstone. He gave us her email address and told us to contact her if we were interested in helping out.

My first thought was, “Oh, well, I've never produced anything...” And then there came this epiphany: If I didn’t start reaching out and taking opportunities right then, as a young film student, when would I? It dawned on me that I’d never learn anything unless I committed to stuff that scared or stretched me in some way.

I emailed her.

Since then, filling my time with various projects and endeavors has become a habit. I’m not great at staying on top of everything, and I tend to overcommit, but I’ve learned that I’ll always be happier with being too busy than not having enough to do. If I find myself with enough time to watch stuff on Hulu every day, it means I have enough time to grab another opportunity, or commit to another project (or go on a date). It’s second nature. I often find myself overwhelmed, but I think that’s healthy.

So, if you’re reading this, and you’re feeling motivated to go take on something worthwhile, get some experience, and learn some things, send a Facebook message to Jonathan Walgamott, and let him know you’d like to get involved. You can tell him Jordan sent you (you don’t even have to mention that you follow my blog—I know it embarrasses you.)

***

Remember that time you were going to follow this blog, but then you forgot? I have great news! You still can! It involves only one. more. click. I know, I know--best news you've heard all day. You're WELCOME.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sharing is...sharing...

A message a received this morning:
Hey Jordan,

I took TMA102 with you as my TA, and I have a favor to ask of you. I am reapplying for the media arts program in the Fall, and after talking with my advisor, it sounds like their biggest concern with my application was my lack of variety in my top ten most significant [films/books/shows/etc]. I have only ever watched mainstream things for the majority of my life and am not sure where to go to find good media outside of mainstream. Jeff Parkin recommended I ask you for some good suggests of movies and books I may enjoy that are less mainstream.
I was immediately flattered. How could I not be?

Anyway, I ended up spending a good bit of time on the my response, so I figured I'd...well, I'd...

SHARE IT WITH THE WORLD!

...sohereyougo:
Dear student-who-for-the-purposes-of-this-post-shall-remain-unnamed, 
I have to admit this is a tough question to adequately answer. Please understand up front that any list I can reasonably provide is going to be very limited. I would suggest that you try to talk to a few other people, and dig into other online resources to help you discover lesser-known media.
First, some important filmmakers outside of the "American mainstream": Ingmar Bergman (The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries), Zhang Yimou (House of Flying Daggers, Hero, To Live, Curse of the Golden Flower), Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie).

Other specific films I'd suggest (in the "foreign" category) are: Persepolis (French/Iranian), The Band's Visit (Israeli), and The Host (Korean). 
More generally, these are currently my favorite directors (not including the ones you're sure to have heard of already): Danny Boyle (Millions, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours), Frank Capra (Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, It's a Wonderful Life), Guillermo del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth, Hellboy 2), Edgar Wright (Scott Pilgrim, mainly), Rian Johnson (The Brothers Bloom, Brick); Roman Polanski (The Pianist, Oliver Twist
Here's a list of all the Coen brothers' films you need to see: Raising Arizona, The Hudsucker Proxy, Intolerable Cruelty, O Brother Where Art Thou?, No Country for Old Men
Also, read that book - "No Country for Old Men" by Cormac McCarthy, and then read "The Road," by the same author.

Here's a list of books I love and think most people should read (author - title):
  • Charles Dickens - "A Tale of Two Cities"; "Hard Times"; "David Copperfield"
  • C.S. Lewis - "Screwtape Letters"; "That Hideous Strength"; "The Problem of Pain"
  • Pearl S. Buck - "Dragon Seed"
  • Yann Martel - "Life of Pi"
  • Bram Stoker - "Dracula"
  • Diane Setterfield - "The Thirteenth Tale"
  • Orson Scott Card - "Ender's Game"
  • Betty Smith - "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" 
  • William Goldman - "The Princess Bride"
  • Primo Levi - "The Periodic Table"
  • Ray Bradbury - "The Martian Chronicles"; "Fahrenheit 451"
  • Arthur C. Clarke - "2001: A Space Odyssey" 
  • David Gemmell - "Legend"
Here are a handful of TV show recommendations:
  • Breaking Bad
  • The Twilight Zone (the original series)
  • The West Wing
  • Studio 60
  • Samurai Jack
  • Modern Family
  • Lie to Me
  • Firefly
  • Home Movies
  • This American Life
Lastly, you should subscribe to and begin listening to these podcasts immediately:
  • This American Life
  • Radiolab
  • NPR's Intelligence Squared
  • The Moth
Some important notes: this list is not comprehensive; it is necessarily limited because I myself am limited. There's also no human way you'll be able to consume all of that media over a summer, but you CAN work your way through a lot of it. I would suggest watching one film from each director (commit to watching several films per week, and you can probably get through them all), one book by each author, and one episode of each TV series and podcast. If you really love any particular filmmaker, author, series, or podcast, you can of course delve deeper.
Finally, please be careful about content. A lot of what I've listed contains stuff that would most certainly and justifiably offend some people. It's all valuable, but whether you'll be comfortable with one item or another is entirely dependent upon you. It's a very personal decision, so please don't just dive into anything. Check it out first--the rating, the content, some reviews, perhaps.

This message is quite long. Congratulations on reaching the end of it. Happy consuming!
***

Your turn! Take a moment to post a comment with a movie, book, TV show, or podcast about which the unwashed masses are unlikely to have heard.

Also, take one more moment to follow:

Or just put my RSS in your feed reader. (I personally love Google Reader, and would undoubtedly perish without it.)

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Friday 'Stache

Devin Graham is quite a guy. He's the kind of person who will launch headlong into his work and never quit. He'll sleep two or three hours a day, on average, and maintain a manic energy that will surely kill him within the next few years. I've never known anyone who works harder, better, and more consistently than Devin. He's an exhausting inspiration.

Earlier this week, he spearheaded a workshop on BYU's campus about working with YouTube. It was one of the more useful two hours I've spent in the past few weeks. Maybe more. He brought together a host of local YouTubers, from the wildly successful Orabrush team, to The Angel Murkurker, a relatively new sketch comedy group doing some strange and impressive things.

In an effort to do my part and help promote our YouTube community (a robustly talented lot, I may add), and give a shout out to some of their best and most recent work.

For starters, here's something from Devin Graham:



He's not technically local, anymore, but he's a good friend and we went to school together. It would be absurd to leave his work out of a post like this.

Here's something from another of that workshop's attendees and contributors:



You may or may not recognize Dave Ackerman without his enormous pink costume.

And finally, for now, this is still my favorite from The Angel Murkurker:



Every Friday, from now on, I'll bring you stuff from other places. And we'll call it "The Friday 'Stache."


***

Please do the following:

  1. Share this post! (or any of its content)
  2. Follow this blog! (Like it on Facebook, or subscribe to the RSS, or...)
  3. Say something! (Commenting is easy AND pleasure-inducing!)
  4. Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Interwebosphere - Part 2: A Reader's Reaction

I work with a swell guy named Josh Gibson. Although his sycophantic devotion to Apple is lamentable, he is unarguably a very tech-savvy fellow. The boy knows his gadgets. More particularly, he understands the prominence of the Internet in our hyper-connected Age of Information.

After reading my first post about the importance of our online lives (Interwebosphere - Part 1: The Upstart Reality), he mentioned some interesting points that were, I think, quite insightful. I asked him, if he wouldn't mind, to summarize his thoughts and send them my way so that I could share them with a (very slightly) broader audience.

Although very important, resumes can be somewhat two-dimensional or flat. A resume simply gives a representation of an individual up until a specific point in time. It is static. An online presence, on the other hand, establishes an identity. It goes further in the sense that it can show depth in an individual. A well-kept blog, portfolio, or professional website communicates a much broader feel of a person. It shows time in a way a resume cannot. It can show devotion, professionalism, and passion. It is three-dimensional, even more human in a sense. Yes, finding jobs as a creative professional in today’s world can be challenging. However, it quickly becomes impossible when an online presence is not maintained and utilized. 
This should go without saying, but unfortunately it doesn’t. Be absolutely positive your online presence is professional and appropriate for whichever industry you choose to pursue. Nothing will destroy a job opportunity more than a “ilovehotbabes29@hotmail.com” email address or a YouTube video of you vomiting after failing to complete the gallon challenge at a friend’s birthday party. Think before you upload. Quality over quantity.

What do you think? Is he overstating his case? Understating it? Please share your thoughts in the comments below. (As an aside: If you think that this whole thing is just too obvious to dwell on, it means you should probably bring this up with people who don't.)

***

I hope it also "goes without saying" that if you find anything in this post valuable, you should feel free to share it with others. And the magic of technology makes it easy!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Shooting "Weighted"

Between 7:30am on Monday morning and 4am on Friday morning, our crew spent about 48 hours on set. Technically, those were days two through five, since we did spend six hours at the MPS a week prior.

Day 1: The LDS Motion Picture Studio

You can read more about this day here, in case you missed it. Meanwhile, enjoy a couple of these other photos.

Oh, the magic and artifice of filmmaking...Oh, the magic and artifice of filmmaking...


If Ben looks troubled, it's because that harness was pretty far outside of what most people would consider comfortable. 


Day 2: The Lee House

It was here that we filmed all of the scenes in Maya's and Damon's room, as well as a fun bathroom scene (which had nothing to do with a toilet). Coco Mack and Diana Lewis did a spectacular job of designing the two bedrooms. I literally giggled when I saw them.

Maya (Aurora = princess?)
Damon's Room

Me, after someone tried to explain how the RED works.

Derek: behaving like a man-boy

Ben: buried in blankets, bungee cords...and a man-boy

Me: mostly failing to be professional














That's Diana on the right, one of our designers, and on the left is a guy named Michael, who graciously donned a green suit and helped lift Ben Isaacs off the bathroom floor with a giant metal pole to make him "hover." He claimed the suit was uncomfortably warm, but we all suspected he was merely body-conscious. 















Everything went resoundingly well on our first big day of production. Everyone had a great time, which surprised...everyone. And despite my shockingly juvenile sense of humor, the entire crew worked hard and professionally all day. We finished a half hour early. 


Day 3: The Quarry

When I wrote the script, I had The Quarry in mind. I didn't take it for granted that they would let us shoot there, but I certainly had my hopes pretty high. I knew that if we had to compromise on the location, the film would suffer pretty terribly. 

It's at least possible that I'm directing, here, and not just chatting. But not likely

Action! (Shaun read "Catcher in the Rye" - his idea - like a champ)

I don't know. Set nap-time?
The greatest danger to threaten the crew at the Quarry was boredom, as there were never any terrible problems. But we managed to get through the day without damaging anything at the gym, and with all the shots we needed. Once again, we wrapped early--by about 35 minutes, I believe.


Day 4: In the Mountains

This was the most stressful day, owing mainly to the unmanageability of the great outdoors. But we were unspeakably fortunate, however, and it stayed clear and (almost) warm during all the daylight hours. We also had the park to ourselves, which wasn't guaranteed, but ultimately essential. 

Vivian Park

"Filmmaking" is often synonymous with "standing around."

All-natural alternative to sunblock, which we forgot to bring.

"Golden Hour" lasts for approximately six minutes up in the canyons, we found out.
Despite suffering through the spectrum of sunburns and frostbite, everyone remained unconquerably cheerful. We ended 45 minutes early. I also remember craft's dinner being particularly good--lasagne from Olive Garden, as I recall, and breadsticks. Good thing, too, because it was our most physically demanding day. Lots of hauling equipment. Lots of walking. Some efforts to freeze our actors to death near the end (Ben got drenched from head to toe and Aurora had to act in a tanktop after all warmth and light had fled the canyon).


Day 5: The Roof (Back at the Lee House)

The photos from this day are poorer quality, which is understandable, considering we shot through the night and ended at 4am. 

"You want me to do what now?"

"Yep, that's it."

"...please don't fall."

"Does it look high? Because it certainly feels high."
Despite appearances, we were very safe. We never took unreasonable risks, and no one fell or broke anything. A house's roof is really quite pleasant. Quiet. Vast, in a way. Everyone who had the guts to hike up there (I'm proud to be numbered among them) enjoyed it immensely. 

We ended the night with a hushed and unsettlingly strange group hug. All I'll say is there was some swaying and some synchronized breathing. At the time, it felt tender and appropriate. Looking back...well, it was 5am and then we all went home. 

That's a wrap.

***

Of course now we've got pickup shots and a WHOLE LOT OF POST to do, but we've finished with principle photography, and that's an enormous accomplishment. For more pictures, click on the words to follow:





Feel free to check out the website, where you can read about many of the members of the crew, and which we'll try to keep updated with all other interesting and/or pertinent information. 

And now, I promise to hold off for a while before I post anything else about this project. I'll doubtless have more to say before too long, but I'll be moderate. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

SOUND Online Magazine

Here's a bit of shameless self-promotion (as if this whole blog weren't that very thing): I am, as of the beginning of this week, officially writing for a new online magazine, headed up by my good friends Chase Larson and Kristin Clift. My emphasis will be, of course, film reviews.

I'm excited about this new magazine. Everyone involved is pretty talented, and I'm frankly honored to have been invited on board at the very beginning. The magazine will focus on music, releasing a "playlist of the week," but it will also cover an eclectic variety of other topics. Expect commentary on style, film (of course), politics, and whatever else kids these days seem to enjoy.

SOUND published my first review, of the recent Hanna, when the site launched at the beginning of the week. Check it out. Let me know what you think--of both my review and the magazine.

As always, I would be terribly grateful if you would take several seconds to comment.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Shoot!

Today through Thursday, we'll be shooting the majority of principle photography for Weighted.

Let me just say that it's wonderful to have such an amazing crew to work with. Thanks to the tireless efforts of everyone so graciously working on this project with me, I get to just show up and direct. In a word, I get to do my job, without having to worry about doing anyone else's job. That's the ideal, and that's what my crew gave me.

Thanks, everyone. You are quite straightforwardly awesome.


Look forward to a summary of our experiences next Monday.

***

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