My Adventures in Filmmaking: The Beginning
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…