Monday, March 7, 2016

This is Filmmaking

The first light

My dad always says that my mom is "driven." This generality applies to myself as well. Perhaps I got it from her.

It relates to how I view my usage of time. If I have something to show for myself after a certain period of time, then I view that period of time as having been successful. Lately though, I have seen that there is a fundamental flaw in that point of view.

Mark and I in front of our homemade light 'Megatron'

About 6 months ago, my good friend Mark Farag (who is a filmmaker as well) quit his job and moved into my dining room. We had grand designs of getting several films made, including older projects that may have gone stale and new and exciting projects that were just developing. And, while we did work on some of those projects here and there, the time was overwhelmingly spent playing Call of Duty on PS3, eating Hunan Chicken from Great Wall Chinese, and carving pathways through our apartment while ranting about any number of topics.

Needless to say, neither of us finished a film project.

We scored some 1K Babies

And a couple of weeks ago, Mark moved out. But, as I look back, I realize that this time was filmmaking itself. It is similar to any other artistic medium, in that the experiences that we have are what we draw on to do our work. So, as we were playing video games into the wee hours of the morning, we were discussing ideas and experiencing images and simply living life. Zooming out further, I see that we both had an incredible amount of experiences during this time. I spent a couple of weeks in Europe. I met a lovely British woman that I'm currently seeing. Mark met me in Europe and then continued to travel there for almost 2 months. He laid an old project to rest that had no life left in it (RIP 'Dead Smoke'). I wrote a screenplay for a short film. He wrote treatments for 2 or 3 short projects. We went clubbing in downtown Orlando. Mark drove down a horse path while location scouting and got his car stuck for several hours until Miguel pulled it out in pitch black with his tow truck. We played tennis. We found some old Mole Richardson lights for sale in a warehouse and bought 2 1K babies each. We built some 4x4 diffusion frames that we nicknamed Minions. We built Megatron, a halogen light that is supposed to output the equivalent of a 5K while only drawing the power of a 1K. I could go on and on. And I wouldn't take back how we spent that time.

One of our homemade 4x4 diffusion frames at work

The raw materials that became 'Megatron'

Hinged and Unhinged

The point is, even though I haven't completed a personal film in over a year, I am gaining experiences that are ever pushing me toward my next film.

The time has not been wasted. This is filmmaking.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Fresh Business Cards

The Front

I am not a Taoist. I do not believe that there must be a balance of dark and light in the world. But, I do believe that many things have dual natures, including myself.

Some have said that this image is scary. Rather, I hope that it is honest. The reverse is the inverse (similar to the header of this site). It reflects a saying that I hold tightly to. It is a Latin phrase coined by Martin Luther: Simul Justus et Peccator. Look it up if you're interested.

My brother and I in Korea, June 2015

My brother Patrick drew this original image of me when we were playing Scrabble last Christmas. He has always had a unique drawing style and I am thankful to be able to utilize it here. Thanks Bro.

What do you think? Does it capture my essence? Is it too vague?

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Shitty Year

Just a bit over one year ago, I wrote about my general goal for 2014, to "Get Shit Done." I did get shit done, though it wasn't the shit that I was hoping to get done.

I got divorced. So, that was the main shit that got done. Not that my marriage was shit, but the whole situation in general was.

The rest of the year was a blur. It was quick and painful. Like I was beheaded but never died. I keep blinking. And screaming in the windows. Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you. This is to myself. I don't hate my ex-wife. Actually, I hope the best for her. And I love her. I will always love her. She was my best friend. Now, there is no one.

The student.

Except God. Though it may seem that He has stepped out. A comfort has been C.S. Lewis's incredibly candid work, A Grief Observed. Though he was writing about the death of his wife, it still involves the loss of a spouse and so, many of his ideas and feelings brush against mine:

"Meanwhile, where is God? This is one of the most disquieting symptoms. When you are happy, so happy that you have no sense of needing Him, so happy that you are tempted to feel His claims upon you as an interruption, if you remember yourself and turn to Him with gratitude and praise, you will be-or so it feels-welcomed with open arms. But go to Him when your need is desperate, when all other help is vain, and what do you find? A door slammed in your face, and the sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become. There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once. And the seeming was as strong as this. What can this mean? Why is He so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?"

The sage.

Lewis wasn't afraid to ask the difficult questions. Many times, Christians are. And they come across as plastic and disconnected. People who are entrenched in their own naive world that is bright and cheery, colorful. But, that isn't what life is like. And that isn't what real Christianity is like. Jesus wasn't a weak white hippy that said that everyone should simply get along and be good. He was a severe Middle Eastern radical who hung out with the shittiest people in society. He realized that the world was a dark place. And it needed His light. And so did Lewis. And so do I.

And along with Lewis, I find that in the end, God is there. Even when it doesn't seem to be so, God is there. God is there. God is there.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Get Shit Done

A new year has somehow found me.  The old one slipped quietly out the back door.  I didn't have the chance to curse it for its woes or thank it for its blessings.  But they were there.  Rather than write copious amounts of words about each of them, I will compile a short list here:

  1. Celebrated 5 years of marriage (Blessing)
  2. Racked up unwanted debt (Woe)
  3. Wrote/directed short film, The Eyes of God (Blessing)
  4. Worked in an Autism Spectrum Disorder classroom at an elementary school (Blessing)
  5. One-on-one assistant to a student with Autism (Blessing)
  6. Road trip to New Orleans to rebirth a stagnant documentary about a Blues musician (Blessing)
  7. The wife and I got jobs at a non-profit that we're passionate about (Blessing)
  8. Celebrated my wife getting her AA degree (Blessing)
  9. Moved to Orlando, FL (Blessing)
  10. Enjoyed visits from my parents and my brother and sister (Blessing) 
  11. Met other filmmakers with similar goals/passions (Blessing)
  12. Helped to shoot an edit a colleague's short film, Diary of a Terrorist (Blessing)
  13. Lived with Abigail's great grandmother for a couple of months (Blessing)
  14. Met new friends (Blessing)
  15. Visited old friends (Blessing)
  16. Grilled my first steak (Blessing)
  17. Watched my sister go through two brain surgeries (Woe)
  18. Watched my wife fulfill a dream of advocating for less fortunate women through Noonday Collection ( Blessing)

There are plenty more that I could list, but I think that's enough.  Needless to say, there are many more blessings than there are woes, and if I am honest with myself, the woes are just cloaked blessings.  The struggles that we face generally help us to grow more than the times of ease and pleasure.  Struggle in life is important.

#3 and #6 mentioned specific personal film projects, of which I'll make mention here:

The Eyes of God is a short film (~13:00) that I wrote/directed back in June, along with the help of many other talented individuals.  A rough cut was completed then, but I'm doing some revisions and I hope to drop the final version in the upcoming weeks.

At the end of December, I took my friends Mark and Darcy and we set out on the road to catch up with Peter Collins in New Orleans.  I started shooting a short documentary about him around 5 years ago, but my vision was shaky at best, and so I decided to go back and reinvigorate the project with some new footage and a stronger sense of direction.  Pete is a musician from New York who has seen a hard stretch of road in his life.  But it has become clear through his music and his lease on life that once again, the struggle is important.  This seems to be a recurring theme in my life lately.  I'm hoping to wrap this project up in the next 3 months.

New Year's with Friends (Blessing)

On New Years Eve, my wife Abigail had a wonderful idea.  We were celebrating with a few friends and she decided to bring over some white balloons and markers and we wrote some of our goals on them and released them into the night sky.  I have several goals, but one that I hope will sum up this year at the close is this:  Get Shit Done.

And I hope to do just that.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Her Eye is Full of Light

There are many different approaches to making movies.  Most filmmakers enjoy one or several aspects more than others.  Some enjoy being able to sit back and focus completely on the performance aspects of a shoot while their crew mans the camera, pushes the dolly around, mics the scene, and brings them coffee.  Some are much more lax than others in terms of cinematography and lighting.  Others enjoy running around maniacally, painting props and weathering costumes right up 'til the last available moment.

I'm somewhere in the middle, but edging more towards the fanatic.  In the beginning this was born out of necessity (and mostly still exists for the same reason), but it has always given me time to think and an outlet for my nervous energy.  I remember one particular shoot about 10 years ago where we loaded a shopping cart full of costumes and props and dragged it down into some woods behind Buchanan Elementary School in Davenport, Iowa.  I was crashing through those woods, helping people get their costumes on, dumping syrupy blood on others, and using excessive amounts of duct tape.  And I loved it.

In any case, one of the aspects that I continually focus on (and struggle with) is cinematography.  It is so wrapped up in the fabric of a film that I can't tear a large part of my focus from it.  I like to be on the camera.  I like to be the one shooting the scene.  I like to push record as I call action.  And I hope that in some way, this focus has given me a decent sense of composition.

Half a decade later, after I tore through those blood streaked woods, I took my then-girlfriend Abigail to a hill behind Buchanan and proposed.  This isn't the space for details, but it was a beautiful and blessed time.

My wife enjoys taking photographs and I was looking through some old ones that I found on my computer today (I was supposed to be reading, technology be damned!).  I realize that I often haven't appreciated her talent for taking photographs and her artistic abilities in general as much as I should.  She has a good eye and has made some beautiful images over the years.  Here, I will share only a few that I found gathered in one simple folder on my hard drive.  She has hundreds of other delightful photos that you can see @  Her eye is indeed full of light.

The lovely lady herself.
Inspiring and beautiful literature for the pilgrimage
Valentine's Day 2011

An uncommon snow in Gimhae, South Korea
Loving the day off together
She loves flowers and I love cake

Descending Circles
Also an artist
Her fruit
Common and Inoffensive in Korea
Pride comes before a Fall
Currently, I'm researching and seeding a new screenplay.  It is tentatively titled, Chronic Vision, but I wouldn't be surprised if that changes.  More on that later.