Saturday, June 4, 2011

An Education: Things I've learned from twitter Part 1

This is the beginning of a three part series concerning my experience on twitter and the benefits of being on and staying on.  Bullet points today of general thoughts and the next post will be concerning #Scriptchat and other good stuff.

1. You can form real lasting friendships with 140 characters as your format and all those who say you can't are either ignorant or just haters. Probably both.

2. Forget watching the news, I realized i check my twitter feed for all the latest updates of things brewing around the globe.

3. You cannot run a successful film and or build an audience without a faithful twitter presence.

4. Twitter is a two way street. You wanna get something out of it, be willing to invest your time, energy and personality and you know, genuinely care about people, their projects and how you can help them succeed.

5. You shouldn't be a screenwriter or filmmaker and not be on twitter. You're cutting your legs out from under you. The bevy of advice, feedback, and all around good times is a steady encouragement to my muse and all its ramblings.

6. The people on twitter are cool. Where else can you carry on a conversation with a producer, photographer, actor, small business owner, screenwriter, and stunt guy all in one false swoop? Film school does not offer this sort of access at all times.

7. Twitter is about giving back. Its a give and take. You make DVDs for me, I send a Mac your way so you can finish coding a nifty pre-production software that will blow minds. You should WANT to give back.

8. Twitter is for people who never want to stop learning. I have an awesome infographic of the History of Science Fiction posted on my wall in my office because some nerd like myself had to share it in his feed. (its AWESOME btw) I've benefited in so many different ways, that being just one of the examples. Be it people like Sheri Candler, Jon Reiss, Edward Burns, Chris Jones, Film Courage Radio, or just any filmmaker/screenwriter I know whose posted something, a helpful link to film budget legal documents, QR code generators, or the newest episode of Script Cops, they're there and they're helping and guiding to greatness. Even if they don't know it :-)

9. Your logline for your screenplay is only short enough when you can post it in one tweet. #Screenwriting and social media working hand and hand, who knew.

10. Twitter has taught me to care more and hate less. Its opened my eyes to how many different cultures operate even within the boundaries of 140 characters and I feel like if you want to learn about the world from the confines of an office, twitter is the way to go.

Next up: #SCRIPTCHAT and other awesomeness.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Campaign Update

 Capped the first $500 in only three days. Tickets to Seattle are running at $503 for the weekend in June that I need there's still much swag to be purchase so if you have a few extra bucks to spare I'd be eternally grateful. Check out the pitch and help me rock the West Coast :D

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Seattle or Bust!

A lot has happened in the past few weeks of my life and that of THE SAVING's journey in the film fest world. We screened at Ego Fest in Brainerd, MN organized by the lovely and heavily bearded Phil Holbrook. We're also scheduled to attend and screen at the Lovett School HS Film Festival in Atlanta Georgia next weekend (April 30th) but what's all this about Seattle? Well The Seattle True Independent Film Festival aka STIFF is what's up. THE SAVING was accepted to STIFF last week and I decided a bit on a whim which has now flourished into a grand scale scheme of sorts that it was high time I made it out to the West Coast. And what better opportunity to get out there then the West Coast premiere of my debut short film? Yes, that was a rhetorical question.

Few days later I've already secured a place to crash for the weekend thanks to the generosity of a few awesome friends/family but the plane flight  still happens to be up in the air (a terrible pun I know) so that's where this lovely thing called indiegogo comes in. Yeah indiegogo the amazing site that allowed us to raise the budget for THE SAVING's production and get those DVDs out to all our fantastic backers (which are in the process of being finalized and prepped for send off! WOHOOOO!!)

The goal is $500, 20 days to raise it. All to cover round trip plane flight, nifty swag bags, and PR supplies I plan on dragging along to the Festival to plaster the whole of Seattle with Indie Film World Domination. The campaign goes LIVE at 12 AM tonight/tomorrow (or however you say that) and the perks are pretty killer if I say so myself. Really made it a point to use the backer perks as way to not only to include the people who support THE SAVING but in the whole STIFF film festival experience, from the people I meet to the movies I'll be watching. Its all going to be just mind blowing. So. Much. Gorram. WIN.

Check out the pitch. Support Indie Film. Back the Awesomeness. And watch the magic take place.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

I'm down with theft.

Stolen from Phil Seneker (@PhilSeneker on twitter) I love this and it basically captures many of my opinions. I wish i had the ability to convey all this in my own words as well as Mr. Jarmusch does but *shrug*, i'm stealing something that speaks directly to my soul.

"Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, painting, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don't bother concealing your thievery - celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: 'it's not where you take things from - it's where you take things to'.

~ Jim Jarmusch

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In comes the New Guard: Interview with Devin Watson!

Bit of an Intro...

I met Devin on twitter many many months ago when I was in the crazy mind set of raising funds for THE SAVING on indiegogo by going on a sleep strike every night. He bailed me out around 2AM with a donation. I haven't forgotten it since. Besides being a very generous guy he's also pretty freaking brilliant. We've had a lot of thoughtful and awfully humorous conversations via twitter and email (hand cannon's ATTACK!) and I've enjoyed reading his blog and getting to know him on a variety of different levels. And yes Stephanie he makes horror movies.

A couple weeks ago Devin and I were discussing the ins and outs of effective production procedures and he decided let me in on a little secret. He's building secret weapon, targeted for the use of indie filmmakers in the pre-production stage all the through post. Indie film world domination much? I asked Devin if he'd be interested in letting everyone else in on his little secret and he kindly agreed to an interview. Prepare to have your mind blown.

And without further ado, Devin Walker: Filmmaker.

1. To start us off, tell us a little about yourself, how did you get into filmmaking? Did you have a career before catching the film bug?

    I got into filmmaking first by being a cinephile. It wasn't until around college that I got the screenwriting bug and then after that the filmmaking flu. Before that I had written a pile of short stories, a novel, and even some bad poetry. My career before all of this (back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth) was as a software engineer and a developer with a background in Computer Science.

2. You said in our Skype conversation prior to this interview that Hollywood still runs on Excel, what exactly did you mean?

    Spreadsheets are still de rigueur even for many large film projects because what little software there is doesn't cut the mustard. That is mainly due to a disconnect between the companies making the software and the filmmakers using the products.

There aren't a lot of programmers out there that are also versed in the process and understand that making a film is literally thousands of variables all changing at a moment's notice. I've heard many horror stories from filmmakers during the production of their films where someone will try out some software to help their production but ultimately give up after many hours of futile effort and go back to using spreadsheets. That's where the disconnect lies, and honestly it's not hard to see that this is one area that many think cannot be done right.

3. What was your inspiration to create Pre-Producer?

    I had my own troubles during the production of The Cursed back in 2007, too many to mention in one single paragraph. But needless to say, it was the impetus for me asking, "This is the 21st Century, why are we still using donkey carts and buggy whips when these problems were solved so long ago in so many other industries and the military?"
    When I started the initial design it was more about scratching a personal itch. But as I showed the early prototypes to a few other filmmakers their reaction told me that I had hit on something that many people wanted but could never put into words.

4. In 3 sentences summarize what all Pre-Producer can do for the indie filmmaker?

    Pre-Producer can:
        - Analyze, break down, and manage your film project.
        - Organize and manage many of the tasks which are tedious but also difficult such as reports and cast and crew.
        - Also does a realtime pencil budget as you go along to give you a rough idea of how much you will need to shoot your project (which can be imported directly into the Budgeting program).

5. What were some of the challenges you were faced with and are still working through while developing this software?

  There were two types of challenges to this. One was social in nature. Early on there was, I want to say, some opposition from certain parties that said flat out to me that what I wanted was impossible.
    The software had to be extremely easy and intuitive to use. Given the sheer amount of information required to run a production of even modest size means you can get lost in a sea of data unless it is well organized.
    Another unique problem posed by a film production is the fact that everything is an interconnected fabric whether you may know it or not. Change one tiny thing and it can have a ripple effect somewhere else.
    I also wanted it to be a central point of communication for cast and crew. That meant having the ability to send SMS texts, e-mails, print, you name it. And this all had to be as intuitive and easy as possible.
    The biggest challenge was developing a scheduling system that took into account all of those real life factors that go into shooting a film, and be able to generate a shooting schedule that is the most optimized for your conditions.
6. How did you overcome these challenges?

    I learned to just ignore the naysayers because I knew I was on the right track. What got me was that these were folks in the same industry as me saying something was impossible, when we're all in the business of making things possible.
    One area that I'm proud of getting right is the ability to import a screenplay and have the software analyze it for breakdowns automatically. The way it reads a script is very close to how a human does it, only much faster. That gives you a solid base of information that is accurate and only takes a few seconds to a minute to do. From there, you can build on that information almost indefinitely.
    Taking care of ripple effects required working along an event-driven architecture that's near realtime where each piece can know when something else changes. As those changes take place the other parts of the software that have to know about it do, and react accordingly.
    Since spreadsheets are one of the most commonly understood designs, many parts of the interface use that same grid style to make it very easy to transition away from the spreadsheet without losing that know-how. It may look like one, but it's definitely not underneath.
    The one edict that I try to adhere to in regards to the information is this: you're never more than 2 clicks away from any piece of information you need about your production.

7. Do you have a time table for its completion?

    Pre-Producer is currently in beta, which means that we believe it's stable enough for others to try out but it's not fully polished. We're looking at about another 2-3 months of work getting feedback from beta testers and incorporating those features into the software as well as fixing any bugs.
    By the end of beta we'll be RTM (Release To Market). That means there will be versions available for Windows, OS X, and also mobile devices such as Android and iOS. There's also a few other small applications we want to have available for mobiles that tie seamlessly into Pre-Producer.

8. How much are you looking to sell the software for once the program is perfected?

    The software was intended, first and foremost, for independent filmmakers. I know from my own experiences how tough it can be. Of course studios can use it as well and it can scale to those productions with up to 6 shooting units and 4 cameras.

    To keep it accessible for the indies, it's going to be priced according to a simple subscription model. We haven't settled on a price just yet, but it will be very inexpensive for what it does. If you think about it, you're not doing pre-production constantly throughout the year, unless you're a studio. You wouldn't want to incur a large annual cost for something you use one month out of the year. For studios that want to use it with a large churn in productions, we'll have an enterprise license that lets them use it.

9. How can the we as filmmakers get involved and help out?

Any serious filmmakers that want to try it out and give feedback are welcome to contact us through this blog. Bear in mind that Pre-Producer is running on Windows for the moment, so if you use a Mac only you can use Boot Camp or Parallels to give it a whirl. The functionality will be exactly the same in both versions however, and you'll be able to import a project from one version into the other without any hassles.

10. If Pre-Producer had a mission statement, what would it be?

    Make better films faster and easier.

11. What is at least one piece of advice you can offer a filmmaker newbie?

 Don't overlook the pre-production process or give it short shrift. Knowing the business in "show business" is just as important as being an artist.

There we have it folks! Told you he was brilliant. If you are interested in beta testing Pre-Producer just post a comment below and I'll hook you up with all of Devin's contact info.

You can find him on twitter @Dklon.

Out with the old, in with the new.
NOW, Go forth and make more movies!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

So...."Why?" and a lot of other questions...

You've probably heard, THE SAVING is going feature. And yes, its totally INSANE, exciting, challenging, and really really really kinda cool but feel free to ask the next question that pops into your head; WHY?

THE SAVING was a good short. Standing on its own two feet, it was a good short, good characters, good camera work, good acting, good editing, good score. I'm down with good, but I'm even more down with AWESOME. We're going to make THE SAVING feature film, awesome. Its that simple but then again, its not. You know what excites me even more, the challenge, taking characters that rocked out 9:57 seconds and make them work for 60+ minutes. That is nuts. I have no qualms about that. I also have no qualms about my level of experience. I've made one legit short. There, I said it, doesn't exactly bathe me in accolades given out by the filmmaking gods. 

People also keep asking, "MJ why don't you do more short films first?"Stop the presses! Guess what, I am :D

Actually working on two right now, "Memory Lane Goes Walking" which I plan on shooting at the end of March and a stylized 80s short in the process of being written called "Burnout" One is a romantic comedy, the other a drama.

I think a few things need clarification as well. THE SAVING feature length version will not be directed by me. The reason? Because I know I'm not mature enough to handle that. I don't even have a problem admitting it. I need more experience on set, working with different people, gaining more understanding about all the facets of the production process before I'm ready to helm something that big. I've brought on the DP/Editor of THE SAVING short Timi Brennan to direct this thing. I have absolute faith in him that he'll rock this storyline the way it deserves. We're going to co-write together.

Now you're probably wondering what my job is going to be. Co-writer, PMD (Producer of Marketing and Distribution) and First AD (Assistant Director). So basically Timi won't be able to sneeze without me knowing :-) Call me a control freak. I know where I need to meddle and where I need to learn. He has leadership skills and an understanding of how things operate, be it the actors or others on set. Things I don't get, not yet. I need to learn from him. While THE SAVING short was basically my crash course on the world of filmmaking, the feature will be my fully submerged intensive course on making awesome stuff happen. I have a vision for the feature. I have since we started hashing out characters for The S. Mattheus Sessions. The trailer for the short said "An film by MJ Slide" which does translate to the feature also but in way a that that's very different from the short. And different is definitely not bad. Like all good projects, this one is now about the essence of collaboration. A meld of two creative beings.

The real question that's burning in the back of my head (and led to many a sleepless night in the past few weeks) is, am I scared? Scared of letting go of the characters, of moving onto another storyline? After wrestling with these issues and leaving a lot of people around me annoyed because I've walked around like a temperamental rain cloud I've concluded, no.

A lot of you don't know this, but for the past week or so Timi and I have been debating back and forth if we should do feature Saving or another feature script in our arsenal. Obviously there are a lot of strings attached to this decision but I got to a point where I sat back, put the ball squarely in his court and said something to the effect of "I'm with you either way. "Epic Saving" or some other story. I'm in the business of making good movies, telling good stories." It was last night that I let go. Don't get me wrong, I made my argument strongly in favor of Epic Saving (you would have too if read the storyline we came up with together) but that wasn't really it for me. I want to make awesome films. Timi and I work well together, in a way that's almost uncanny considering our age gap and different backgrounds. I trust him as an artist. I've read his other stuff. I love his other stuff. I want to work with him again. That's what it came down to. Finding a storyline we can both get behind, pour all our passion and creativity into (and our insanity) and make some epic stuff. To borrow a phrase from filmmaker Gregory Bayne,we're gonna "Go Make Cool Sh**"

I plan on doing a lot of learning during this whole process. About myself, film, people, and just life. Its gonna be hard, probably the hardest thing I'll face in the near future and  I don't say that flippantly.

Am I scared of messing up?

Will I let that fear stop me from doing the things I love? 
Certainly not! 

Will I mess up?

Will I be able to get over it? 
With the help others, most definitely. 

Will this grow me as a filmmaker? 
You better believe it! 

Am I prepared to take all this on? I have a feeling, not really. But isn't that the allure, stepping out into the unknown, surrounded by people who support you and are brilliant artists/creators in their own right, ready to take on something so much bigger then just them. Doing hard stuff.

Making magic, with words, people, and a camera. Impacting lives, changing people. Making a difference. Telling the stories my heart commands me to tell. The stories I WANT to to tell. Loving it all. The pain, the late nights, the misunderstandings, the arguments, the blow ups, the renewed caffeine addiction. I know it's going to sound weird (or maybe it won't, who knows) but I'm looking forward to every part of it, even the messy things. Because that's what filmmaking is. And I'm a filmmaker.

So MJ Slide, the filmmakers says, Lets Make Movie Yo!

PS. Pardon the ramble fest. Blogging helps my organize my thoughts. 

Saturday, February 12, 2011

And now da Movie Folks!


The Saving from Rebecca Davis on Vimeo.