I Might Start a Vlog…

Guys, I’m thinking about starting a vlog. It’s not something I’ve considered before because I don’t love being on camera or speaking spontaneously and especially for the style I’m thinking about it will require camera and editing skills far beyond what I have. I can already envision the amount of media collection and organization that will be called for, and I know I will want to kill myself. But still, I’m thinking about it.

I think it’s because I have two things going on simultaneously in life right now:

  1. In my freelance “content creation/consulting” career, I’m working with a client who is considering adding various types of video content to her business.
  2. I’m writing a fictional screenplay where the main character is a YouTuber/Influencer.

The result is that I am researching, reading about and watching more YouTube vlog-type content than ever before. And I’m thinking… “this looks interesting!” It’s kind of like personal essay, kind of like blogging, and kind of like documentary…

Would it be fun, or just a ton more work? Actually I can tell it would be a ton more work. Would it also be fun?

More as this story develops.

This Is US… I mean, RESEARCH

This Is Us Research…

this is us banner

I have always loved to watch TV, and read books. Yet both of these activities tend to be tinged with guilt. Probably because, for most of my childhood, whenever I was doing these things, I was avoiding other things I was supposed to be doing, practicing piano, doing my homework, sleeping.  As time passed, and I became my own internal mother, it was easy to insert just about anything into the supposed to be slot.  Cleaning, arranging my sock drawer, doing my taxes, spending extra time at work.

And when I became a writer, it got even better. Because it’s super easy to counter almost ANY activity with “should be writing,” and get a nice little guilt buzz from it. (At this very moment,  as I’m blogging, I’m feeling guilty because I should be writing.) So, even though watching and reading are necessary components to what I do — I’m pretty much hard-wired to feel guilt.

There is, however, a (partial) guilt-loophole. This is, if I go to a meeting, and the producer or executive references a book or a show, then it’s like homework.  It’s research. Watching or reading it becomes the thing I should do, which is awesome. I get to read comic-books, young-adult novels and books on eclectic subjects, all without my guilt-alarm ringing!

A couple of weeks ago, in a meeting, someone mentioned that a show I’ve been pitching has structural similarities to This is UsI’d seen a few episodes early in the season, and — in the context of the conversation, felt like a slacker because I hadn’t kept up. So now, with permission, I launched vigorously into watching the rest… and fell in love.  I binged-watched the rest of the season over about three evenings and cried so much I had to go buy a new box of Kleenex to get through the last night.

Part of what makes the show so effective is how it often parcels out emotional bombshells and surprising reveals very lightly in terms of its story-telling.  No big set-up or announcement, just a passing reference to something the characters already know but the audience doesn’t. So there’s this tone of, Oh, by the way, did we not mention that… “These people you’ve been watching are siblings.” “This happened in the past, not the present.” “This person is dead.””This person was married.”

These reveals immediately prompt questions that don’t get answered right away — as they discuss in this Variety article.

It’s a really neat trick, and I’m planning to go back and study it when the season ends next week.

I like this quote from the article, where they talk about how the creator pitched the show:

He did say that over the course of time, he would always have those big moments and those big hooks and surprises and reveals, but that they wouldn’t have to be every week because once you’re invested in these characters, a smaller moment could feel as big as those huge moments once you’re totally engrossed in the stories of these characters’ lives and the decisions that they make.

Once you’re invested in the characters, and engrossed in their stories, a smaller moment feels bigger…


What I’m Making: A VINE! Sort of….

HAPPY NEW YEAR! I woke up this morning and thought, “I should learn how to make a Vine. For those who might not be familiar, a Vine is a 6-second (or less) video made with a mobile phone application called “Vine.”   Although I have a couple of friends who play around with it, I was only driven to action by  a perfect storm of circumstances:  1) I read an article in the New Yorker a couple weeks ago, 2) I’ve been thinking more and more seriously about shooting a short film in 2015,  3) I woke feeling slightly energetic without anything on the agenda for an entire day (such an amazing feeling!) and 4) I just got new contact lenses and can see the world around me much more clearly.

In preparation for the short film (short but long compared to six seconds) I know I need to practice seeing the world and events more in terms of images and that I also need to think more about how those images can be assembled.

Making a Vine seemed like the kindergarten version of this– just putting  a few second-long snapshots put in order to tell a very simple story. How hard could it be?

The answer–if you haven’t guessed already, is that IT COULD BE HARD.  I basically did EVERYTHING WRONG. In my defense, I wasn’t ready! I was still watching some kid’s instructions for how to use the app on YouTube when Paul said, “I want to walk to the donut store.”  He also wanted to leave right then. Only as I scampered behind him, pulling on items of outerwear did I start to piece together a vague plan: I’d get a few shots of Paul walking to the store, and then a final shot of him holding his donut. Great. I opened the app and shot my first scene of Paul walking.

Several blocks later, I decided it was time to shoot the second scene. But… Had I held the phone vertically or horizontally? I decided to hedge my bets by getting a shot both ways. I hadn’t had a chance to look at the post production part of the application, but surely it would allow me to omit one of them later, right? Or probably it would let me rotate the images. Probably. I’d figure it out later…but definitely I could fix it in post.

As we walked I concentrated on taking REALLY SHORT moments of video. Because six seconds is like…practically instantaneous. And what if the app cut me off after six seconds and I didn’t get the last shot? Quicker was better, I figured.

We arrived at the donut shop. It was closed.  When we decided to walk to a nearby cafe, I started shooting the new adventure. Maybe the editing part will let me break it up into two Vines. I would have Vine 1, going to the donut shop,  and Vine 2, going to the cafe. And if the cafe was closed too, then I could have parallel endings for both. Endings…Uh-oh.  We were already a couple blocks away when it occurred to me that I’d been so distracted by the shop being closed that I’d forgotten to shoot the ending I was thinking of.  We had to go back and do pick-ups. As I shot the last scene, I realized I should have begun with a “first scene.” of Paul saying something like, “let’s go get a donut.” It would have been a beginning. It’s good to have a beginning. And a middle. And an end. Oh well, I could shoot the beginning when we got back to the house and then re-arrange the clips. I’d fix it in post.

Once home, I embarked on my mission to fix it in post.  Half my footage was horizontal and one scene was upside down.  Clips that needed to be longer were so short you couldn’t perceive them. And it’s possible the program deleted a couple that were too long, I’m still not sure of the rules. Without going into great detail, I will say that the amount of fixing my footage required was well beyond the in-phone editing capabilities of Vine. In the end,  I downloaded two new applications and a new browser and opened the iMovie 9 I’ve never opened since buying the computer three years ago. I also watched a half-dozen videos, read some articles. Five and half hours later, I had what you see above. And by the way, failed at “hacking” the system to upload it back onto Vine.

So my first Vine is not technically a Vine at all. But I like to think that when the time comes for my next six-second venture, I’ll be ready.


Under Construction

This blog is going to look pretty funky for a few days–or maybe weeks or months.  I’m in the process of trying to build a website around the blog, which seems like a good idea–but I’m not exactly sure how.  So I’ll be experimenting with the whole thing, and hopefully not deleting seven years’ worth of blog posts in the process!

 It’s been on my list to have a writer’s website for awhile, but it came to a head recently. As I’ve mentioned, I  have this staged reading coming up…

(Wait–I need to insert an announcement here:

MPW Stage and Screen Festival
Staged Readings of Three One Acts
1416 Electric Avenue
Venice, CA 90291

Note that if I had an “events” section or page it would be there, but I don’t, so it’s not…yet)

I have this reading coming up, and the director asked me, “do you have any actors you want to recommend?”

There was a time, when I belonged to small a theater company here in LA, that I would have had twenty actors I had worked with directly and would love to use.  Nowadays, I have some friends, and friends of friends, who are actors.  They are not “Wow, I know this person would be absolutely perfect.”  They’re more like, “I think they could be good–they seem the right type, and speak in complete sentences at parties.”  But I haven’t worked with them.  Also, I don’t know the director very well,  he may have actors that he works with and really likes working with already, which, in these circumstances, seem ideal. So, basically, I have a small group of folks that I’d like to have the opportunity, if there are some openings, but I’m not ready to be solely responsible for casting them.  In this town, that happens A LOT. 

In this case my thought was, “I’ll send their websites to said director. Then he can look at their headshots and reels, evaluate their training, experience etc”

The trouble was NONE of them had a website.  I ended up sending pictures from Facebook, IMDB links (one had a link with no picture) or their bios from posted play or film sites.  I still put them out there, but it was harder, and they don’t look as serious.  

And I have to wonder, is that happening to me?  I doubt I’m missing out on a feature film assignment, but I meet a lot of people who have projects.  If they happen to idly think of me, am I making it easier for them to give me an opportunity, or mention me to someone else who might?

Not so much.

So it’s time for a website–and as loyal blog readers, you’ll get to witness its growing pains!