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My Adventures in Filmmaking: The Beginning

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Before my recent contributions to LeBlog I’d been on an almost two year hiatus. There was a litany of reasons for this: working 80 hours a week, becoming a high school teacher, moving across the country to Orlando, FL, almost getting shot, getting married, and moving back across the country to Texas. On this site I’ve previously extolled my theatrical endeavors and history, but over the last few years I’ve done something a little different: I’ve gotten into film acting and filmmaking.

Now, don’t get too excited; you’re not going to see me in anything. It has been mostly acting in local shorts and beginning to dip my toes into producing my own. So, what this article is about is mostly to shamelessly promote a few of the projects I’ve been in before (they vary in quality) and share where I’m looking to go with it.

This is “The Egg” based on the short story by Andy Weir (writer of The Martian, book). This was made as a proof of concept. The concept: That we could make a film that didn’t suck. And I would argue that it doesn’t, outside of the bad sound. Sound is a killer and really sinks the whole affair. I also had more people slated to play “God” in a woman and an adolescent girl. They bailed on me the day of shooting. The entire thing was shot in about 8 hours. It was also my first time working with editing software, and scoring something. I used the Interstellar score, which, now I can’t get the file back off of YouTube because of it, and no longer have access to the original. So, there’s that. I’m pretty proud of it for a first effort.

After that I moved to Orlando to teach. I wanted to get out of my small town for a while and do something different. So, I did. Full Sail University is located in Orlando so I auditioned for a short while I had a couple of weeks before school started, and made Black. It changed a lot from the original script, and I don’t feel like it coalesced into anything meaningful. I’m also less impressed with my performance as I really struggled with being on set for 8 hours with only 10 minutes of acting. There are some cool shots here, and I got to see some pro-level equipment in action.

Before moving from Orlando and back to Texas (and before eloping) I had a few weeks to kill. So, I auditioned for a webseries and got cast in a small part. I don’t often get to play idiots, or be funny, so I was excited at opportunity to be in Misfits and Margaritas. I’m relatively happy with this performance, but wish I had more direction about how close the camera was in certain shots, so that I could adjust the “stillness” of my performance. Tight closeups demand way less movement and much more suggestion in film acting, and I didn’t realize just how close some of the shots were. It was a fun night and I’m glad I got to be a part of it.

Upon moving back to Texas I was confronted with two options: return to theatre or venture forth into film. I started acting because of movies. Art has always been my outlet and savior from the depression I’ve spent my life battling. It’d been 2 years without any real, sustained artistic output, which had been a struggle for me. So, I decided to jump into making films. Only one problem: I had no equipment. If you don’t know, getting even a low-level set of equipment will run you a few thousand dollars. Instead of waiting, we decided to use what we had on hand: an iPhone and free editing software and cheap scoring software. Without a mic, we decided to forgo dialogue and work on telling our story visually. Thus, “Night Shift” was born over a Saturday night. It was a ton of fun, and it came out better than we expected.

I also took Werner Herzog’s online Masterclass, as he is one of my favorite directors of all time. In the syllabus we had to make a film with the following requirements: 1) shot on a phone, 2) made in under two hours, 3) two characters, 4) one of them wants something from the other and gets it, and 5)under 3 minutes long. In response, we made “At Night”. It was a fun lark, but my original ending had to be scrapped when my GoPro stopped working (it was an underwater-afterlife scene). So, it ends with a whimper.

So, there you have it LeBloggians. I am currently writing scripts to be produced of various lengths. I have two short films, a webseries, and a feature film all ready to go. All can be done with next to no budget. I am currently saving money to buy a Sony A7S camera, as well as sound equipment. Before that big purchase I’m looking to buy a few add-ons (about $500) for my iPhone to make it shoot more cinematically. Basically, the same add-ons that were used for the surprise film hit Tangerine.

The most difficult part of switching to film from theatre is the lack of community. Here, I had a few hundred people who would come to my shows, and share feedback and want to be a part of it, and would want to know what was next. That is partly why I share this here: I’m looking to build a community to share art with. Also, to collaborate. If you’re a writer and have something you’d like to see produced, let me know. I’m only a writer by necessity when it comes to these films. I’d be happy to read stuff by others or collaborate on project ideas. Or, if you happen to be wealthy and want to back a project by the inherent talent you see represented by what I can make in a day with no money please send me your money.

I’m hoping to make a few more short films over the next year or so, and then make the webseries and possibly feature film I have planned by then of 2018. My feature film is a mashup of Shakespeare plays that crosses the story of Othello, Hamlet, Macbeth, Coriolanus, and more into a new story. I plan to film it all in a theatre (the world is a stage) in highly stylized fashion in the vein of a cross of Birdman and Dogville. But, before then, I need to suck less. So, that’s why I’m making this and sharing it with you all. To suck less together. Thanks for reading and watching.

Here’s to what’s next…

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Posted on September 23, 2016, in Movies. Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Wow. You have been busy the last couple of years! I’m glad you found the time to rejoin us here. You said you were looking for a sense of community and that’s something I have always prided myself on with respect to the site. We’re a small group, but I think the sense of community here is strong.

    Daffy has been busy preparing for a Walt Disney World trip, so he might not see this for a while. I hope whenever he’s freed up, he sees your post because I imagine he can relate to your artistic endeavors. If I didn’t have kids, I imagine I might be doing something similar. I applaud that you are putting yourself out there and I hope we here at Le Blog can be cheerleaders if not collaborators.

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    • The cheerleaders is more than I could ask for. Collaborators was just on the off chance. You never know who is reading.

      And thanks for the belated congrats on getting married.

      So, in case you’re wondering: Here is my story of why I lost my apartment in Orlando, moved back to Texas, but not before living with my future wife’s Aunt and Uncle for 5 months, story. And the worst part? I never even went to a single theme park in Orlando.

      My No Good, Very Bad, Horrible Winter Break Story (12/15)
      So, December 23 at about 4:30 PM Chelsea and I head down to my car for a trip to the gym (only the second time she’s ever come). We jump in my car after leaving from my apartment, back out of my parking space, and pull forward a few feet (still in the complex, it’s pretty big) when I notice a white Camaro coming very fast towards us, it whips just in front of us and parks just ahead on my passenger side. Seeing they’ve parked I pull forward, veering to the far side in case they need to straighten up or just to give ample room, and I’m right behind the Camaro when I notice the reverse lights come on, and it starts to back up quickly, I try to gun it and get out of the way, but to no avail. The Camaro smacks its rear bumper into the rear passenger side of my car just above the rear tire, hard enough to drive my car off the road and onto a grass embankment.
      I get out thinking that I’m going to now have to pay to register my car in Florida ($400 + license) when the cops come, but luckily it wasn’t my fault. So I get out with my phone to take pictures (Chelsea gets out too) and two people get out of the Camaro: one young woman and a guy, both in their 20s. The lady is already screaming and yelling, “how could I be so stupid?” “I can’t believe you hit me” ” your POS car hit my brand new Camaro” “take pictures” “call the police” etc. So, I’m taking pictures of the accident as she rants and raves, literally yelling. She tells me I’m going to pay for this, and then asks me how much money I have on me. I say none, that’s why I have insurance. I’m googling the number to call for the traffic police and finally get the number and call.
      Meanwhile, she’s only getting more angry as she roves around assessing the damage and blaming it on me (which I clearly can’t have hit her rear bumper with the side of my car, but I digress) and it is at this point she starts saying that maybe she should just kick my ass. I’m not engaging with her, but am monitoring everything as I talk to the operator. The operator can hear the shouting and asks what is going on, I explain. Then the lady starts shoving me, and I immediately raise my arms at the elbows (like an NBA player after a foul is called) and give ground as she’s shoving at me. Then she squares up and tells me to put ’em up because we’re going to fight. I obviously do not and am still not saying anything to her as I’m describing her to the operator who’s asked for the information, when she starts to punch me. Luckily for me she can’t throw a punch and isn’t very strong so they all land on my shoulders and arms. She keeps wanting me to fight back and says something about me being big and tough which makes me feel good in retrospect that all this going to the gym means I must have some muscles.
      Her passenger, upon hearing the cops were on the way, has entered another vehicle and exited the scene. At this point there is also a crowd growing as the shouting has attracted people to watch. There are also one or two people she knows there (from her apartment I’m assuming) who are trying to talk her down saying that it’s not worth it and the cops are coming.
      As she’s punching at me and shoving me and threatening me I keep backing up with my hands raised calmly talking to the operator. She doubles back at approaches Chelsea (who she’s threatened once or twice) and throws a punch at her (same result as mine). I hurry back and step between them ( as unaggressively as possible) just blocking Chelsea with my frame. The operator advises us to get in the car and lock the doors. I motion for Chelsea to get in.
      At this point I hear the lady say that she should, “pull her cannon” (read: gun) as I get in my side. She hurries after me and doesn’t let me close the door, as she claws at it, rips it open, leans into the car and starts pummeling (as best she can manage) me, then starts grabbing handfuls of dirt and throwing them on me (my car is still a mess). She ends up slamming the door closed, which I lock, and after she checks that all the other doors are locked, and hitting the glass, she goes to her trunk and starts rummaging and rifling through it.
      I should say that earlier she grabbed a bag and started emptying things into her glove compartment, which I can only assume were things she didn’t want police to find. However, now that I see her going through the trunk, I think about the cannon comment, and ask the operator if it would be okay if we were to drive off and put some distance between us as the cops are coming. The operator says yes, so I quickly start the car and take off. She chases and bangs on the trunk, but we clear the area.
      The apartment complex is large, and the road that is the parking lot is pretty windy, so we round a corner and can’t see her anymore. We then see a cop car, and try to flag it down, but they don’t see us. We stop, hoping to get their attention, but the cop car is now maybe 20 feet behind us. We are both looking backward at it, as the cop car stops at a speed bump, when the white Camaro comes flying around the corner (going at least 30) and slams headlong into the cop car. Glass and metal shatter and go spraying into the air.
      The cop that was driving opens his door and falls out onto his back with his legs still in the car, and he doesn’t move until he is taken out on a stretcher later. The cop in the passenger seat jumps out and arrests the lady that has gotten out. I’m describing all this to the operator as it happens. A huge crowd has now grown. In a matter of minutes 6-7 cop cars show up, an ambulance, and two tow trucks to tow away the two totaled cars.
      Our statements are taken, as the woman accuses me of hitting her car, pushing and assaulting her, and the police of police brutality. We are escorted to my apartment to get Chelsea’s ID (she left her purse in mine) and the cop tells us we probably shouldn’t live there anymore and oh also, when they searched her car they did find guns and ammunition. It dawns on me that I easily could’ve just been shot as we head down and to Tampa to get out of dodge for the time being (forgetting our Christmas presents).
      In lieu of everything that has happened we decide we need to move out of our apartments for our own safety. In the case that some of her friends or family decide it is my fault that she is going to prison (assault on a police officer, probably unregistered firearms, both felonies) and decide retribution is in order (plausible). And also just because our piece of mind has been taken away and we don’t feel safe. It’s a sketchy neighborhood and we knew that but figured if we kept our head down and were smart we could make it through the year (we had to find a place in a week, we worked in the area, and Orlando has an apartment shortage). But after some people rolled up and shot a guy dead on the steps in September, this, and the day before my mailbox was broken into and I had presents stolen, we just decided it was time to go.
      We’re currently staying with some family and using legal means to try and get out of our leases. We’ve packed up our things (a bit nerve-wracking) and are hiring movers to move them to a storage unit as we figure out what’s next. School starts back up next week.
      Thankfully it didn’t go as badly as it could have, and I’m thankful that the people she knew were trying to talk her down instead of adding to it, because a couple guys pushing and throwing punches would’ve been a lot worse than her (I’m also going to say my pacifism was part of the reason things went as well as they did, because I feel like any aggression on my part would’ve only escalated the situation, powderkeg and matches and all). It certainly hasn’t been the relaxing two weeks of Winter Break I was hoping for during my first year of teaching. It means moving AGAIN, and then moving AGAIN in a matter of months (which will make move 11 and 12 since I moved out at 19). All in all we had a good Christmas (we opened presents late, but stayed with my family in Tampa) and are safe and sound. It was a bit crazy, but hopefully the next big break is right around the corner. So, maybe it wasn’t so no good, very bad, or horrible after all.

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      • That’s an amazing tale. Around that time, we were dealing with a move that was very stressful for us, but nowhere near as dramatic as what you went through. We ended up spending almost two months with my parents which is kind of harrowing, but no guns or fists were involved. I’m glad you guys got out of there safe and sound. Too bad about the theme parks though. 😉

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      • Boy, that scene really escalated in a hurry; talk about intense and harrowing. I’ve some vehicular circumstances, both nothing even close to that magnitude. I think that experience is something you could turn into a short though, and have it play serious or maybe even light.

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