Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Interviews - Asia Stryker

Asia is possibly by earliest and best friend from the film program. She graduated last year, but we've worked on many projects together, starting with a student capstone called Spit, which we co-produced. In fact, I owe much of my experiences as a student filmmaker to her getting me that producing position. It was my biggest jump into student filmmaking, opening the door to many more opportunities afterward. 

The quintessential producer, Asia has found her passion for the mechanics of the industry. Organizing people, resources, and time to pull off one project after another. She understands the process deeply, and any project she touches finds itself strengthened and streamlined in her unfailingly professional care. 

But, while she busies herself with the nuts and bolts of the craft, the beauty and magic of the art doesn't escape her either. So take 12 minutes and listen up to what she has to say about this business of film, and her experiences therein. 

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Actors Acting

After my interview with James last week, I asked him if he had any advice on how I might better run this here little blog. He had a great idea (which isn't surprising), and I am going to implement it as follows:

Each Monday, I will pose a question, perhaps with some context, perhaps not, and then I will ask very sincerely for you to post your thoughts in the comments. The following Monday, I'll respond to those comments, and give my own opinion, and then pose another question. Pretty simple, right? Of course, in order for this to be at all interesting, you'll have to be bold and type out your ideas for others to see.

OK, here goes.

Did you know big-budget films are often so expensive because of big-name actors? If you look on, and see that a given film cost $150 million, you can be certain that at least a third of the budget went to the talent (all of the actors).

This is even true with smaller-budget films. I won't give you the exact numbers, but I will tell you that about 30% of our budget for Weighted went to our actors.

What is it that actors do? Well, duh, they act. But what does that mean? Here's a link to a short series of videos called "14 Actors Acting." It's pretty cool, and you'll recognize most of them. Here's one of my favorites from the series (I pulled the embed from YouTube, but you'll want to use this link to watch them all through):

These are broadly recognized experts in their industry. Very few people would argue whether they've mastered their craft. So the question is this:

Are actors worth what they're paid

Take a moment to answer in the comments below.

Friday, June 24, 2011

The Friday 'Stache

Today's 'stache was suggested by DonaMagicShow, via one of his Tumblr posts. Thanks, Brandon (I'll even forgive you for misspelling my name...and my blog.)

I'm not an editor by any stretch of anyone's imagination, but I have done some editing. And I've always used Final Cut (most recently, FCP 7). So I've been following the release of Final Cut Pro X, the latest iteration of the software and a complete redesign. A few months ago, there was a lot of hope that this version would bring with it some much-needed improvements, thereby cementing this product's place in the world of the professional editors. After all, that's what and who the software is for.

Well, it's been released, and it is, as my friend Josh says, "like a bad fart joke." I, the non-editor, am so infuriated by this horrible, horrible new version that I am unable to adequately express myself concerning the matter. Real editors are even more upset, as evidenced by a recent, editor-motivated sketch on Conan O'Brian:

I understand that there will simply be a mass exodus to CS 5.5's Premiere. I'll probably join it, because I will never, NEVER use the new version of Final Cut.

OK, enough of that. Here's something wonderful from Julian Smith:

I discovered, just yesterday, a YouTuber named Vi Hart, who describes herself as a "Mathemusician." Regardless of whether you're a closet math dork (like me) or not, her videos are very charming. And beautifully simple. This one was my first exposure:

This lovely thing recently won the Webby Award in Animation:

For those of us working toward graduation (or having recently achieved it), here's a speech:

Lastly, on behalf of Quiet Dignity, I'd like to ask if you think this is funny, and why:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Interviews - James Alexander

James and I go all the way back to BYU-Idaho, which is something I think both of us have trouble remembering, so long ago, years before we each became film students. I remember thinking he was weird. And smart. And sort of intimidating.

I still think those things. 

But now, after working together, taking classes, and sometimes hanging out when he deems me cool enough, those are all entirely positive sentiments. James is a uniquely talented and fiercely professional filmmaker. All of my associations with him have been edifying, and this interview was no exception. 


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Monday, June 20, 2011

A Very Beautiful Loglines

Last week, a friend of mine wrote a post about screenwriting. This is not unusual, since this person is herself an aspiring screenwriter, but the topic of this particular post was particularly focused on something I think gets mostly forgotten by people who hope to one day prove to the world that their writing is worth something. Or anything....anything at all.
"A logline, or a one-liner, is something that big muckety-mucks in the film world use as a cheat sheet to the big question on any film goers mind: what is this about? It is a couple of quick and to the point sentences answering just that question." 
The first thing any screenwriting hopeful should understand is that no one, no one wants to hear your half-hour, rambling summary of whatever you're working on. Not even your mother, though she might pretend to, bless her.

Here's an example: Weighted is about a boy who can fly and his sister, who can't.

There can be more, of course. It depends on how much of the story you want to reveal in its logline. There are augmented versions of the above example that get into more of what happens, and why, and even how the whole thing resolves, but the kernel of the story is right there in that one sentence. That really is what Weighted is about. So whenever anyone asks me, I have a really short, simple answer for them. And guess what, that's all they really want to know anyway.

But my friend goes on to point out another, less-obvious purpose for these little buggers.
"And the reason that I have to be good at them, besides simply selling one, is that it doesn't serve you as a writer to keep endlessly writing a screenplay or novel about something that you're not quite sure about. The story starts to take some interesting detours in and out of genre and theme and SENSE when you don't know precisely what is supposed to happen."
In other words, you better know what your story is about, in the simplest possible terms, or it'll never be good, even if you manage to miraculously finish it.

Here's a link to the whole post. Read the whole thing through--she's an engaging writer, so I promise you won't be bored.

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Friday 'Stache

This week's 'stache comes from the first person to specifically grow facial hair for 2190. I can't quite express how much this means to me. Thank you, Anthony Ambriz.

And to those of you who are capable of growing hair on your upper lip, I say go, and do thou likewise (meaning: grow a sweet 'stache, take a picture, and send it to me.)

For our first video, a simple gag from Quiet Dignity:

My friend A. Todd (one of the most talented filmmakers I know) is working on a feature-length documentary this summer, and he put together this short film to promote it because, as it turns out, even documentary costs money.

Thank you Mr. Travis for the RhettandLink suggestion in last week's comments. I very much enjoyed it (so suffocatingly Utah I can barely believe it), and will now share the hair with the rest of you:

I also recommend taking a look at the behind-the-scenes video, which itself is startlingly similar in tone to the actual commercial.

Lastly, I want to direct you to this Facebook event, which describes how you can participate in an online screening of a recent BYU capstone film called Gerald. I've seen the film. It's good. Quirky, funny, and oddly resonant--I recommend you take a look if you can.


That's it for this week's 'Stache. To earn a fat stack of cool points, leave some suggestions for future Friday 'Staches in the comments below. (Like Travis. What a guy.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

In Three

As embarrassing as this is, I haven't been able to fit in an interview since last week, so today, I'm just going to share some advice I gave to a friend who's hoping to get into BYU's film program.

Part of the application requires a three-minute film. This is by far the most daunting part of the process for someone trying to apply for the program, especially since this filmmaking venture comes before they've had a chance to make a lot of film-type friends to help them, and they've likely had very little experience up to this point anyway. Add onto that a dread fear of having an admittedly novice piece of work get judged by a group of very smart, very experienced professors who alone hold the key to entrance into the program, and suddenly a three-minute film seems more like the most important thing you've ever had to do.

The advice I gave him (edited down a bit below) will apply to anyone who is looking to make a short, three-minute narrative film. A lot of it is pretty basic, but it's often the very basic things that are most difficult to remember when you get busy with a project like that. So here it is:
  1. Simplify - as it stands, there's no way you'd be able to cover that much material in 3 minutes.
  2. Keep that core idea, and then figure out one simple question: What does your character want? Your three minutes will need to cover the following:
    1. What happens to the character in the beginning that motivates the want?
    2. What does the character do about it?
    3. How does the character try to get what he wants? (There should be several escalating actions/reactions/situations)
    4. Does the character get what he wants or not?
    5. What are the consequences?
  3. Be very specific and concrete in all of your choices--the setting, and exactly what happens in each scene, and why it's important.
  4. Depending on those concrete decisions about what, exactly, will be in your film (person, place, thing, etc.), the tone of the story will be either humorous, dramatic, scary, suspenseful, or whatever. I suggest a mix of humor and suspense. It's easier to pull off comedy in 3 minutes than drama or anything else. 
  5. Again, keep the concept simple. Try to boil the whole thing down to ONE THING. Person wants thing. Who is the person, and what is the thing? 3 minutes is shorter than you think it will be. Always. No matter what. That is the primary thing that hamstrings people when they set out to make a 3 minute film. Everyone, without fail, comes up with a concept that is too large, covers too much, and cannot possibly be told in 3 minutes. 
Maybe you're not working on a three-minute film, but most of the above advice actually applies to almost all of narrative screenwriting. So consider this the first of many screenwriting tips you'll find in this blog over time. 


I want to tell you that Friday has some cool things in store, to in part make up for the somewhat dry nature of this post. So I WILL tell you that. Because it is true.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Muscle Time!

NEWS: I am holding in my hand (or was, before I began typing [hunting and pecking is for the weak!]) a DVD of the fine cut of Weighted.

Producing said disc has eaten the lion's share of my day, so here I am, at 6pm, just now starting today's post. Eventually, I'll get to the point where I start these things early, and queue them up so that I don't have to rush to get something out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Eventually. Probably right before I give up on this blog entirely.

This is the worst thing you've seen all day.
Kidding! I know how important this is to all of you. I have made a commitment.

I do have some advice today (SHOCK), and it's current, which means this is something that I have recently re-established as valuable and important. 

It is exercise. 

Does that sound like a cop-out? Well, it sort of is, but it's also the thing I feel most strongly about in this very moment. You see, I'm one of those people whose need for sleep seems to fluctuate pretty dramatically. I know people who can get by on six, or five, or three hours of sleep every night and somehow survive and stay productive. (I hate those people.) I need nine. 

I feel like it's not too hard to deduce that this puts me at a terrible disadvantage. While many healthy, normal people seem to get by just fine on six or seven hours of sleep, and wind up with a 17 or 18 hour day of work, play, and reasonable laziness, I have to make due with 15 (or less, if I'm stressed or overworked). 

BUT. I've learned, finally (again and again and...), that there is a consistant pattern to my level of physical activity (i.e. exercise), and the amount of sleep I need. Everyone agrees exercise is good. Duh. But here's the thing that always takes me by surprise (embarrassingly): I need much less sleep when I exercise regularly. I find myself feeling better and having more energy, and waking up naturally, no less, after seven hours or less.

Why am I telling you this? Why would you possibly care? What does this have to do with being a film-type? 

This is a time-making tool, this exercise business. And I've talked a lot about filling your time with good things, projects and the like. Getting experience, getting well-rounded, making connections and keeping them. Being a professional at whatever it is that drives your passion. How many times have you wished you needed less sleep? How many times have you caught yourself uttering that absurd cliche "if there were only more hours in the day..." 

OK, I'll leave the horse alone. It's starting to splatter, and blood stains miserably. 

I'm sure that everyone is physiologically different, but let me go ahead and recommend exercise as strongly as I can to every living human. You may not start at nine hours and end at seven, but you'll most certainly gain time, and, far more importantly, energy--that other thing there never seems to be enough of. 

Yes, I just spent an entire post telling you to go exercise. Sue me.*

*Please don't sue me. 

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Friday 'Stache

One day I might have to worry about putting random pictures of people I don't know on my blog, but today is not that day. So feast upon this fiery image while the season lasts.

Dave Ackerman has a surprise for us this week (seriously, watch this one all the way through):

Quiet Dignity released a new video yesterday, which is primarily noteworthy only in terms of how many takes it took to get one in which the guys in it weren't laughing uncontrollably:

Lastly, Devin Graham released a new video recently that is simply sublime. I challenge anyone to disagree that the images here are infectiously pleasing:

I know. You'll miss 2190 for the next couple of days, but in your darkest moments, remember that on Monday there will be a fresh new post, ready and waiting just for you (plurally).

And because I love you (plurally), here's another little treat. You're (plurally) welcome.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Interviews - Bree Evans

Bree Evans is a charming, thoughtful and well-spoken. She's also talented, energetic, and hard-working. In short, she's a great filmmaker, and an even better student of film.

Most recently, she's been producing one of the three senior capstones in BYU's Media Arts department, and she'll be the first to tell you it was a dramatically challenging project. As far as student films go (on shoestring budgets), Mr. Bellpond's Masterpiece is about as aggressively ambitious as they come, and everyone who's seen the footage so far has been glowingly positive about it. They're calling it gorgeous.

But that's just the latest. Bree's been intensely involved in filmmaking for years now, so she's got some significant things to say--particularly about the role of women in film. I hope you enjoy listening to her insights as much as I enjoyed extracting them.

Download this episode (right click and save)

Monday, June 6, 2011


I made this. (with help)

It should be clear by now that I think movies are pretty important. I'll admit that my advocacy can be a bit rabid, but there's a reason for that.

Let's talk about the letter G. A 'G' in the MPAA rating system stands for "General Audiences." General audiences. That's an interesting phrase. I think it means "most of everybody."

I'm not interested in the 'G' rating, per se, but I am interested in the concept of a general audience, because it represents the status quo. The blockbuster crowd, if you will. These are the people, comprised of almost everyone, that determine the social value of cinema. I speak mainly of Western culture, and that for two reasons: 1) it's the one with which I am most familiar, and 2) it produces the vast majority of the world's most watched films.

I'm interested, deeply, uncomfortably and always, in the way movies are perceived by "general" audiences. What is the popular opinion? It's not the only opinion that matters, but it is certainly the one which will most heavily influence the shape of film to come. It is the one that drives the medium's economy. It dictates what gets made and seen by the greatest number of people.

And the popular opinion is that movies are, at their core, little more than diversion. They are the G audience's favorite pastime. They provide an escape from the harsh realities of life, and an alternative to the cold disappointments of mediocrity and tedium. If a movie isn't fun, it isn't worth it. If it doesn't make you feel good, it's bad.

Would anyone ever dare say such asinine things about music? Painting? Sculpture? Do people even say that about sports, which are themselves by definition a form of recreation, first and fundamentally?

But this is the G opinion. How it got there is a topic of discussion much to large to be tackled here, so instead I'll ask a simple question: Can it be changed?

I say yes. Not because I'm an optimist by nature, but because I believe that the relationship we have with film, as a general audience, is unsustainable. Michael Bay's explosions are experiencing diminishing returns. Ever bigger bangs draw increasingly smaller crowds.

But it's not something that will just fix itself. You're probably reading this blog because you feel the way I do. Movies are important. Film is an essential and wondrous language, and should be put to much better use by all of us. So I propose, for you and for me, a straight-forward challenge:

Watch better films, and watch them more than once. Watch them searchingly, actively, and talk about them more often and more deeply. Never let anyone get away with tossing off the false, destructive idea that movies aren't meant for more than a tub of popcorn.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Friday 'Stache

Let's kick this Friday off with an announcement, in the form of a website: Dr. Fubalous.

This is a project that a few of my friends have been working on for, I believe, over a year now. They'll be shooting it all in July. Knowing the personalities and talents of the people behind this webseries, I predict unmitigated magnificence. You can (and certainly should) check out their Facebook page immediately as well.

Next up, a behind-the-scenes of the John Hendricks music video I posted last week:

That video is courtesy of a project called Urban Media, which is devoted to short documentaries about local urban culture (focused primarily on local musicians). The episodes are pretty high-quality, and the creator, Anthony Ambriz, has been very proactive and dedicated about the series. Regardless of whether you're interested in the subject matter, you should take a look at the content he's produced for an example of higher-caliber YouTube material.

A few days ago, I took a solid couple of hours to watch about a year's worth of Julian Smith's videos on his channel. It's likely you've heard of him, and it's even more likely you've seen his most famous episode, called "Malk." This is his most recent (pay close attention):

Notice that the concept behind this is very simple, and very straightforwardly executed. It's one shot, which means it took some thorough blocking and planning, and probably a number of takes. It's also as cheap as YouTube videos get. Given a decent camera and an as-is setting, they probably spent nothing on this video. And I think it's hilarious. Granted, this is exactly my kind of humor, and not everyone will dig it, but this is very much the kind of thing Quiet Dignity is trying to do, so it's encouraging to see this kind of idea executed so simply, expertly, and successfully.

That's it for this Friday's 'Stache. Once again, please share any thoughts you have in the comments below. What impressed you about what you saw? What didn't? And, most importantly, what have YOU found on YouTube (or anywhere else on the Webotron) that you really like and hope other people discover?

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Interviews - Austin Craig

I met Austin Craig quite randomly at a tiny house party that better resembled a blind double date than anything else. This was before he became famous as the Orabrush man (not to be confused with Morgan the Orabrush tongue). He was the first person I ever saw using a G1, and I immediately liked him. Mr. Craig smart and laid back. Friendly and intense. He comes across as a valuable person to know and talk to, and as you get to know and talk to him, you find out it's true.

Now, nearly three years later, his life seems to have been consumed by Orabrush, which, as you'll hear affirmed, isn't at all a bad thing. Probably he won't be in the tongue-cleaning business forever, but it's certainly gotten his name out. What's more, the enterprise has given him tons of invaluable experience in a radically expanding and vitally important medium: YouTube.

Fortunately, Austin was generous enough to let me pick his brain for ten minutes. As always, his insights are pointed, interesting, and extremely well articulated. I hope you enjoy hearing the interview as much as I enjoyed giving it.

And, for good measure, and because I promised it in the interview, here's one of my recent favorites from Orabrush:

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