Category Archives: Filmmaking

Why do I Want to Create?

 

One unfortunate problem with choosing writing as a preferred method of communication is that it is a slow process. If you have an idea that you’re really excited about and ready to share with the world right now you still have to sit down and write for an hour or two, or even for days, depending on the scope of the subject. By the time you actually arrive at the point you’ve been eager to get to it can be days or weeks later. By then your enthusiasm may have understandably waned.

 

I was very excited to go into a series on the argument from reason, but it’s taken me weeks to get as far through it as I have and I’m only halfway done. At this point it’s difficult for me to summon the motivation to continue further. It seems that I may require some time to rest from that subject so that I can build up intellectual steam for the second half.

 

To that end this blog post will have nothing to do with the argument from reason, and will instead focus on a topic that my mind is still engaged with.

 

It has occurred to me lately that most of the things I would really like to do for a living are not very feasible. I would love to write for a living, but very few people make enough money writing to live off of or to support a family with. Of course I’ve understood that for a very long time: one of the first pieces of advice an aspiring writer typically receives is that you should never quit your day job. Still, I did hold some hope for perhaps becoming a columnist or freelance writer and that I could potentially make a living at that. Since then I’ve realized that, with the advent of the internet and the ability for anyone with a connection to become their own self publisher, the amount of amateur and freelance writers has exploded while at the same time the demand for such writers has decreased. Trying to make living as a writer in the internet age is like trying to make a living at picking fruit in Dust Bowl era California: it’s just not going to work out very well. Unless I manage to write a book that becomes the next Game of Thrones or Harry Potter (at which point I can celebrate by building a mansion in the woods and an early retirement) I’m going to have to hang on to my day job.

 

With writing out my next preferred profession was filmmaking. And though I’m still terribly interested in filmmaking (and would like to make a documentary or two someday) I’ve come to realize that it is not a viable day job either. Once again I have the internet to blame (along with the march of technological progress that has made high quality video recording equipment available to the public). There are now more people attempting to make a living off filmmaking and video production than ever before, at a time when the amount of money people are willing to pay for such entertainment has remained generally constant. There are aspiring directors, editors, screenwriters, and the like all over the world, and there are less jobs working for the big studies then there used to be. Hollywood is doubling down on a small number of huge blockbuster movies and there are less opportunities for an up and coming director to make a name for themselves. Steven Speilberg has bemoaned that even he can’t get funding for more personal and artistic projects. If Speilberg doesn’t think there’s a future in movies then what chance do I have? At this point I’d have better luck dedicating myself to becoming fabulously wealthy and then funding my own film projects than trying to work my way into and then up the ladder of the studio system.

 

I considered creating a webcomic that could grow into something that could provide a stable, or even lucrative, income. It’s happened for many other people, and I’ve always been fascinated by comics as a storytelling medium. I’m still considering it: but it is just as pointless to put your hopes in a webcomic becoming massively successful as it is to put your hopes into writing. Perhaps it will take off, perhaps it won’t, but in the meantime you’ve got bills to pay and a family to support. In other words: don’t quit your day job.

 

All this negative, yet purely practical and realistic, thinking has led me to ask myself: why do I want to write? Why do I want to make movies? Why do I want to make webcomics? And the answers I find are complicated. I love telling stories. I love sharing ideas. I love books. I love movies. I love comics. I would find great enjoyment in making my own. Still, why does it matter whether or not I can make a living at it? Essentially it doesn’t: it would just be really, really awesome if I could just create all day and be paid for it. But then the question is, who am I creating this for? Why am I creating it? For the money? For myself? For others?

 

Probably a little bit of all of those and a few other things besides, if we’re being honest. Things like my desire to be someone important, my desire to create something that the world will embrace and say “Here is a great creator!” So we have pride in there, and ambition. And then there is the irreplaceability of the creative professions: any competent person with the right education can be an accountant; but only Gary Paulson could write Hatchet. There are millions (billions, really, if I’m being honest) of people who could do my current job just as well as I do, if not better. But only C.S. Lewis could write The Chronicles of Narnia. Deep down I do not want to be replaceable. So that desire comes into it as well.

But lately I’ve been wondering…do I need the approval of the world to do so? Do I need to be a professional to create something unique?

 

Well no. But just because something is unique doesn’t mean it’s good. I made a lot of unique things out of popsicles and macaroni when I was in kindergarten but that doesn’t mean that any of them were important, or useful, or beautiful, or interesting. It’s all well and good to say that you should write for yourself: but the fact is that if I was writing this blog post for myself instead of for public viewing then it certainly wouldn’t be this long or this detailed and it would be riddled with grammar and spelling mistakes.

 

It’s a vexing problem. One I haven’t found the solution to yet.

 

At least I feel that I’m closer to an answer then I have been.

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Cool Down Timer: Listen to People who Aren’t Me

Two of my very close friends have just started a podcast! Beats me how long it will last, but I know they have at least one more episode in them. I listened in and thought it was entertaining if nothing else. Long time readers may recall that I used to  write posts about video games on occasion. Well the Cool Down Timer (I came up with the name for them, btw) is mostly about video games, so if you’re not too interested in them it might not be your cup of tea. On the other hand the podcast is also about two people talking about whatever (as is usually the case). So maybe you’ll like it anyway.

One interesting note is that both hosts are the two friends I used to make movies with all the time. They mention a bit of our creative process in the podcast, though never myself directly.

The Heroes We Need: Amy Carmichael

Sorry it took so long for another episode to come out! I hope you enjoy it.

The Heroes We Need: Beth Albert

The next episode of “The Heroes We Need” is up! This one features the life of a nurse committed to helping lepers in places where they were rejected the most. I hope you enjoy it.

Note: This is the video I accidently uploaded last week, so if you were an early watcher you might have seen it already.

The Heroes We Need: Dr. Paul Brand

The newest episode of The Heroes We Need is up! This week features Dr. Paul Brand, one of the most awesome humans I’ve had the pleasure of reading about.

Share it with your friends, this inspiring story deserves to be told.

EDIT: For most of today I actually had the wrong video uploaded. I don’t know how many people actually saw it, but I corrected the error.

The Backstory on “Heroes We Need”

ChaucerCanterbury

I came up with “The Heroes We Need” out of a moment of despair.

I’m generally a pretty happy guy. I tend to be optimistic. I’m not big on negativity. But sometimes (especially right before I go to sleep) I start to feel downhearted. Lately these nights have become more common. I’ve graduated college with excellent marks, but so far it’s been two months and I still haven’t managed to land a job. When I left school I wanted to get a job in my field. I wanted to work with either writing or video production. Failing that, I wanted to at least be working in a communication’s related position. Now, after weeks of silence from the places I’ve applied to, I’ll accept just about any job that will take me. I try to stay optimistic. I’ll find something eventually. But at night, in the dark, when I’m alone with my thoughts, it can be hard to stay cheerful.

Fortunately for me I’m not completely alone. I have my beautiful wife at my side. So one night, when I began to despair of every succeeding in life, I had someone to talk to.

What was funny is that my despair on that evening had been sparked by something good. Iron Man 3 had just arrived at the local dollar theatre, and I had been itching to see it. My wife wasn’t too interested so I saw it without her while she visited friends. The movie was excellent and I enjoyed it thoroughly. Since it’s a Marvel movie I naturally sat through the credits to see the bonus scene at the end. I watched the wall of names slowly crawl up the screen.  All the actors and hairdressers and CGI modelers filled me with awe at how huge a production it is to make a movie. One chunk of names in particular caught my eye. It was about two dozen people, all under the label of “Production Assistants.”

It made me think about the multiple openings for a Production Assistant that I had applied to, without success. Then I thought about how probably all of those two dozen people listed there, people who had somehow managed to find a position working for a huge blockbuster film, wanted to someday make movies of their own. They probably wanted to be producers and directors themselves. Just like me. The only problem is that I knew that most, if not all, of them would probably never make it.

So what does that say about my chances?

Here I am, jobless and without prospects, with only my dreams of making movies to push me on. Why should I believe that I’ll ever even get the chance to prove myself? I could see myself years from now, a middle aged man with a sensible career and a closet full of broken dreams. It hurt. But it felt infinitely more likely than my dreams coming true.

All this went through my head in the theatre, and visited me again as I tried to sleep. My wife knew something was wrong, and it doesn’t take much effort from her to get me to spill the beans. After listening to fears she asked me a very important question. She asked me what I would want to do with my life if I couldn’t make movies.  I thought long and hard about the prospect. What do I really want to do? What is my motivation here? I want to make movies because I want to tell stories. Good stories, grand stories, stories that inspire. I wanted to tell stories that would make the world a better place, and I wanted to do it through the medium of film. So if film wasn’t an option, how else could I fulfill my dream?

There was a reason that I registered for a Communications degree. It was because I wanted to tell people things they needed to know. I wanted to tell them about the poverty that exists in the world, and how much good we can do with only a small sacrifice on our part. I wanted to tell people about how you can be a Christian and also be an intellectual. I wanted to wipe out misconceptions and ignorance. I imagined myself as a speaker, working for an organization like World Vision and giving presentations to crowds about what they needed to know.

So that’s what I told my wife. If I couldn’t make movies then I wanted to make a career of telling people things they needed to know. Things that would change people’s lives and make the world a better place.

So she asked me why I couldn’t do that right now.

I have a camera. I know how to edit. Why not get a message off to the world? Why not tell a story that inspires? The problem was that I had no idea what to talk about. What would my message be? What kind of story could I tell with only myself and my camera?

I didn’t have a clue.

So my wife suggested we pray about it. She said that maybe I should make a deal with God. Now of course God isn’t a genie you can make bargains with. Still, the idea had merit. I prayed to God, saying “If you decide to give me an idea by Sunday, then I promise I’ll work as long and as hard as I need to in order to have the video done by Saturday.” I left it at that. If God didn’t want to give me an idea that’s fine. He’s God after all. But if He did then I better keep up my end of things.

When Sunday came an idea came with it. The sermon at church was about the story of Naaman the leper, who was healed by the prophet Elisha. As I was listening I remembered reading about some priest who had given his life to help lepers. Then I thought about a nurse I’d read about who worked with lepers all her life and how hardly anyone knows her name, even though she was a real hero.

Then it clicked together.

I wanted to tell stories that would inspire? Well there’s no need to make them up. The world is filled with stories of heroes. Their stories are far greater and more inspiring than any story I could come up with myself. Anyone can write a story where the hero acts selflessly and sacrifices his life for others. The reader can say “That’s easy for a fictional character, but I live in the real world.” On the other hand, if you point to the life of a man like Father Damien, what can we say? It can be done. It has been done. The only question is why the story isn’t told more often.

It reminded me of something C. S. Lewis wrote about the Medieval authors. Most of them didn’t care much about originality, and openly took previous author’s stories and simply retooled them.  Lewis wrote:

“If you had asked Lazamon or Chaucer ‘Why do you not make up a brand-new story of your own?’ I think they might have replied (in effect) ‘Surely we are not yet reduced to that?’ Spin something out of one’s own head when the world teems with so many noble deeds, wholesome examples, pitiful tragedies, strange adventures, and merry jests which have never yet been set forth quite so well as they deserve?…Why make things for oneself like the lonely Robinson Crusoe when there is riches all about you to be had for the taking?”

Premiere of “The Heroes We Need: Father Damien”

Here is the first video of my new series, “The Heroes We Need.” I hope you like it.

I’ll be talking more about my motivations behind making this video, as well as my thoughts on how it went, in a later post.

New Video Series: The Heroes We Need

As you may recall from previous posts, I’ve been attempting to make videos regularly in order to hone my skills. Last week I put up a video about webcomics, and this week I didn’t make a video at all. My initial plan was to make more Webcomics Nerd videos, and I still want to, but I’ve got a new video bug in my ear. So I’m proud to announce a new series of videos which will debut this Saturday. The series will tentatively be named “The Heroes We Need” unless I find a better name between now and then.

The series will highlight individuals around the world who were true heroes, devoting their lives to helping the poor and the weak. They’re the kind of people who are almost unknown outside of certain religious circles, but who all people, regardless of their religious beliefs, can take inspiration from. I know at least that they have inspired me. So I’m going to try my best to tell their story to an audience who may not have heard it before. The tentative title refers to the idea that these people may not be the heroes we know, but that they’re the heroes our society needs. At least needs far more than pop culture icons, athletes, businessmen, and politicians. Too often we value material success over compassion, competition over love, and ostentatiousness over humility and dedication. We need better heroes. Somehow I’m egotistical enough to think I can provide some.

The story of how I got this idea is a long and somewhat interesting one. You’ll be hearing about it on Wednesday.

The Premiere of the Webcomics Nerd

Alright! The promised video is up. You can watch it right here, immediately below this sentence!

Here’s a quick summary of what I got out of the experience:

1. Man, I can’t believe I forgot this already but having a script is pretty dang important. I went scriptless on this one and I’m not very happy with the result. I had to cut out about half of the video I had because it was rambley, unimportant, or poorly worded. What’s worse is that I had several points I wanted to talk about that I just blanked on completely. Next time I need a script for sure. What’s frustrating is that I already learned this lesson years ago, when I worked on my first silly little video projects as a teenager. Oh well! Maybe now I’ll remember it for good.

2. Remember how sensitive camera mics can be. On board microphones are excellent at picking up all the little sounds you don’t want to hear. There are a couple places where you can hear muffled talking and plates clinking. All that came from the next room over, despite the door and wall in the way.

3. Focus on the camera. I keep drifting my gaze off to the right. Gotta stop doing that.

4. Making your own image is better than grabbing one off the internet. I wasted a lot of time looking for a silly “arter” picture for the video, and finally just made my own on paint. It works for this because the whole point is not being able to draw, so I was able to make it nice and sloppy and still get my joke across. Much more satisfying than picking something random off Google images.

I’m not sure what my next video will be. I’m going to shoot for this Saturday, but no promises on this one.

The Video

Hey guys! Remember when I promised to have a video ready by this Saturday? Well I’ve been so busy on it I missed several updates lately. The good news is that I got it done about twenty minutes ago, which was still midnight here in Alaska! The bad news is that it’s going to take a few hours to export, and then I have to upload it to YouTube which will take who knows how long. I’d much rather get some sleep. Look for it Monday at the latest.