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Avoiding actually using the Widescreen

September 21, 2015 Comments off

How much time was spent getting video to be widescreen, just to make sure that no one’s eyes actually go to the edge of the frame? I’m learning Apple Motion (which, three chapters into the Training Manual, I’m liking) and here’s the background for seemingly every tutorial:

Rockumentary Behaviors Start 1

Clearly, the feathered black edge is meant to make the sides something that your eyes avoid looking at.

And that’s the point with most color correction. How much color correction is designed to keep you focused on the center of the image – or for all intents and purposes, the fullscreen part of the shot? How excited were we when color correction tools made it easy to mask around the main character’s face and darken everything else, to direct our eyes to the lead character, and, essentially, void out the part of the screen that makes it widescreen?

Why do we need widescreen, again?

Just two glasses of wine and a Motion Workbook. I’ll be here annoying my wife with my insights all night – you just get the part I’m willing to type. :)

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Why I Don’t Like Amateur Science Fiction

March 4, 2015 Comments off

“That’s all any of us are: amateurs. We don’t live long enough to be anything else.”

 – Charlie Chaplin

This is a tough one to write, because I know lots and lots of people who have made or are making science fiction, and I’m sure this doesn’t apply to you. :)

But here’s why I don’t like amateur science fiction: Because it’s boring.

I recently read a comic called Saga, written by Brian K. Vaughan. It’s a pretty fantastic blending of Sci-Fi and Fantasy – lots of crazy characters that are common in both genres interacting in fun ways. But that’s not what makes it so good.

What makes it so good is that it takes those elements for granted: the crazy sci-fi (there are people with tube-style televisions for heads that can show things they want to project, but when they get emotional, they lose some of that control and start to show images reflecting their feelings), the great fantasy (there’s a spaceship forest where spaceships grow and if they like you, they might take you where you want to go), all that is just there. But the story is about the parents of a baby girl who are hunted and hated because they’re from warring races, and the child is considered an abomination.

It’s a chase, with our lead characters on the run from some truly powerful, fascinating, and gruesome people. It’s fun and exciting and just a good story. And it also has all these fantasy and sci-fi elements. But it’s just a good story.

And that’s where amateur science fiction tends to fail. I’ve sat through way too many films that are only about the sci-fi concept, and doesn’t seem to care that I’d like to be entertained. Also, most concepts, I’ve seen before, 50 years ago on the Twilight Zone, or read 30 years ago in an Alan Moore comic in 2000 AD (a book that’s been around long enough to have passed the future year of its title).

Because everything’s been done already. There’s no new idea that you can show me. And that’s OK, it doesn’t have to be new. But it does need to be entertaining.

An old teacher of mine (another old screenwriting teacher – Hi, Gil!) hammered this home with me. A guy in my screenwriting class thought he had the greatest idea for a film – aliens come and they eat our garbage and shit gold bricks. I wasn’t deep enough into storytelling to get what wasn’t working there- it sounded original, but felt empty. And Gil hit it on the head with the question “And what’s the story?” The guy repeated the same thing about the aliens. “But what happens?” And that’s the problem. The idea is a setting – it’s the same as “I’ve got an idea. It takes place in prison.” That’s not a story – there are no events. It’s not even the premise, it’s just one element of something that could take place in a story. But it’s not a story.

A story is about a guy who comes across a gold brick, and tries to hide it from his family that he’s trying to abandon (there’s a character with a goal). And he goes through ridiculous trials and conflicts to keep the brick from the family. As he finally is able to escape with his new-found wealth, the global economy is shattered when aliens are discovered and the gold standard is ruined by their bathroom habits.

Way too much amateur science fiction studies the aliens, instead of telling a story that could work whether it’s about aliens or not, and the aliens are just a cool element in a much cooler story.

Categories: Uncategorized

So Many Festival submissions…

January 15, 2015 Comments off

I was recently sent emails by both Festhome.com and withoutabox. Festhome is yet another new festival submission service. Looking at its FAQ page, it seems to be centered in Europe, and either didn’t proofread it’s FAQs or (more likely) isn’t centered in England, so it’s translated into English. Which explains the many grammatical errors and strangely/confusingly worded answers to questions I didn’t ask.

Festhome doesn’t seem to offer anything that FilmFreeway doesn’t, and in fact charges for every submission you make, on top of the entry fees. It does store films on their own servers at (they claim) high quality, which again doesn’t necessarily differentiate them from FilmFreeway.

The more interesting email was from Withoutabox, asking me to take a survey about their website. I wish I’d written down the questions, but have you ever taken a survey that feels geared for you to give a particular answer? Never having been asked to take a WAB survey before, I can only assume they’re trying to figure out why they’re losing so much business to FilmFreeway. But the survey kept asking what was most important to me – depth of entry information or simplified entries, as if the problem they’re having is a question of priorities, not that their website is a slow-moving dinosaur, and their search engine actually comes up with different festivals, depending on the… whim of the server…? I’ll put in the same key words, hit search, wait a strangely long time for it to be 2015 and a broadband connection, and be told no festivals match that criteria. Try it a little later, wait the same amount of time, and there’s my festival.

I did make a comment on the survey about how they’re asking the wrong questions to make their upper management think that the problem isn’t their lousy website, but is instead some other problem of not understanding their customer base’s priorities.

And it’s FilmFreeway with the win.

Educate me – is anyone using Festhome? Does anyone still prefer withoutabox. I only use WAB if the festival I’m looking for hasn’t migrated to FilmFreeway (yet).

p.s. I cheated on this one and edited for 2 1/2 minutes.

Categories: Uncategorized

1-4-3, 2-8-2

January 13, 2015 2 comments

henrybeard1I recently read about an essay writing technique called the 2-8-2. Two minutes of prep and organization, 8 minutes of writing, and two minutes of editing. I realized part of the problem with me keeping up with this blog is that I’m a perfectionist in my writing (it takes forever to write an email!) and if I’m going to keep the blog current, which I haven’t done lately, I need to streamline how I work.

I heard about the technique from an interview with Henry Beard, one of the founders of the National Lampoon, as a technique he was forced to use at his prep school. It’s designed to be quick, efficient and disciplined. We’ll see how long this lasts. My goal is to try and write at least 2-3 blogs a week, along with some short comedic essays that I may also put up here.

On a side note, the interview with Beard was in Poking a Dead Frog, by Mike Sacks – it’s a great book of interviews with comedy writers of all sort – from Mel Brooks, to Henry Beard, to writes for the Onion, to TV writers, to… lots of different people.

This one came in way under 8 minutes.

Categories: Uncategorized

Ayn Rand all around

October 1, 2014 Comments off

I was a big fan of Ayn Rand when I was in my early 20’s – which is when you should be a fan… the world is a black and white place made up of people in perfect health and incorruptible character. Exactly as she saw the world, and made it easy to fit yourself into her novels. They’re all pretty good, actually, if you can get past the first 20% – She’s not great at starting a story, but once it gets moving, they’re pretty exciting.

Of course, that’s assuming that you skip over the John Galt radio speech in Atlas Shrugged.

But here’s some pretty cool Ayn Rand stuff. First, a nice biography of Rand in comic book form. I read it a while back, but recall it being very even handed, telling her point of view as well as digging a bit into the likely reality of certain moments, without completely discounting her version of her history.

Then, there’s the Buffy the Vampire by Ayn Rand, which is just fun, and isn’t trying for any such even-handedness.

There also appears to be an Ayn Rand’s Devil Wears Prada, which I haven’t looked at, but can’t imagine how that’s really that much different than The Devil Wears Prada – maybe it’s been too long since I’ve seen it and am just remembering Meryl Streep too prominently.

Categories: Uncategorized

Sympathy Pains in Fayetteville

September 29, 2014 1 comment

Heya! We’re screening Sympathy Pains in Fayetteville (AR) this weekend at the Offshoot Film Festival. It should be fun – I’m planning on being there for a Q&A, and the people there seem great. We’ll be screening on Friday, Oct 3, 6:45pM, at the UofA Global Campus Building.

Hope to see everyone there!

 

 

Categories: Uncategorized

The 1948 Superman Movie

June 17, 2013 Comments off

Superman ch4Haven’t made it out to the new Superman movie, yet (something about a 1 month old daughter and an audio deadline…), but in the meantime, Retro Thing (my favorite sporadically updated website) has a great article about the original Superman Movie Serials. Here’s the Link

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