Another 48 Hours

This weekend, I will be doing my 19th or 20th short film competition. I’m not sure on the number.

I’d like to say “everyone loses count after a dozen or so,” but it might also be because I’ve passed the big two-five (I say this purely to make 30-somethings uncomfortable). If you’re not aware of the 48 Hour Film Project or its sister competition, the Four Points Film Challenge (formerly the National Film Challenge), check out their website.

The films include some of my favorite times directing as well as one of my all-time favorite “day player” appearances (if you see it, yes: I did that makeup). I’ve done just about all the different jobs one could do in cast and crew.

This year, I’ll be working with one of my “home teams” again, Tohubohu Productions. This will be their second 48 this year — they’re kind of addicted.

One of the nicest things about these weekend film competitions is that –good, bad, or ugly– you have a film at the end of 48 hours. So if you need a kick in the pants to get going and make a film: see when it’s coming to your part of the world (it happens on six continents).

Voiceover Update: Ripcoil (VR Game)

Since some of my previous voiceover updates either have no audio online or have audio that has been removed, I figured I’d point to another bit of voice work I’ve done in the past year.

Ripcoil is a game for Oculus Rift. I can’t help but think of Tron — and one reviewer deems it every college freshman’s dream come true.

I got to be the stadium announcer you hear during the matches, which required me to record roughly 147,000 different responses depending on whether the players triumph or fail. Here’s a video review with some game play. You can see the match and hear me at about 1:30 in the video, but he actually responds to one of my quips at 3:10 or so, which I love. It makes me feel like I did my job as a voice artist (NSFW Caution: the reviewer uses some profanity).

Those of you who find the announcer really annoying may be slightly gratified to know that my voice was bit hoarse after the multi-hour session needed to get every variant line laid down. Of course, that was only the case for this Sunday, SUNDAY, S U N D A Y ! ! !

Prepare for Warp Speed. No, Really.

This is the 30th entry in a surprisingly long series of posts about Star Trek’s future and its fandom called Crisis of Infinite Star Treks.

A lot has happened in the months since my last Crisis post, so let’s focus on Discovery.

You mean we should check the orbit?

Fine, Star Trek: Discovery. We now have:

Aja Romano has a nice summary on Vox of what we know, and perhaps should know, about the upcoming series. The article is cautiously optimistic, as am I (and I’m very excited about both Michelle Yeoh and Jason Isaacs as Starfleet captains — they’re usually good in any role in which they’re cast).

Bill Allen on TrekFanProductions.com sums up many of my feelings about encountering new Star Trek TV series. His specific misgivings are different from mine, but they echo my journey through each new iteration of Trek, a journey that has always ended well (maybe not good final episodes, but good endings).

In the end: we have a brand new, official Star Trek series. And as Mr. Allen points out: that’s cause for celebration in Trekdom.

Given my previous installments, I should mention that, yes, Axanar continues (Not like Star Trek Continues, but still…). In case you hadn’t picked up from my last Crisis installment, I don’t have any hopes for us seeing further Axanar: certainly not the feature-length version and probably not the “two 15 minute segments” version. Posturing and acrimony remain should you care to throw yourself into that particular Briar Patch. I keep an eye on things, but at this point, my flying leg kicks on the matter are known.

In the meantime, if you’re itching for Star Trek fan films to tide you over until September 24th, there’s plenty to choose from. (This is assuming you have already re-watched all the canon TV series on Netflix). You can check out some of the latest episodes of the aforementioned Star Trek Continues. In fact, if you go to that same website with the Bill Allen post, you’ll see a whole page of fan film productions you might want to check out.

Fall will be here before you know it. It’s no longer a training cruise, people.

Prepare for warp speed.

P.S. Oh yeah, this Fall, there’s a Star Trek homage/parody from Seth MacFarlane which looks like it could potentially pick up the torch of Galaxy Quest. I’m hoping both shows are good.

The Shiny and Chrome Future of Cars… According to the Companies Themselves

Not long after I shared an article about some of the latest innovations in self-driving cars, news broke that Volvo was planning to have all its cars be electric or, at least, hybrid by 2019.

Well, Volvo isn’t the only one with grand plans for the automotive future. Alexis Madrigal in The Atlantic goes over the plans of about a dozen car companies for the cars of the future.

Though, spoiler alert: none of the car companies have plans for flying cars. None.

What’s he supposed to drive?          A Corolla?!? Shame!

I suppose that’s for the best.

Still, if all their lofty dreams come to pass, streets and highways will look very different by 2025.

Mark Evanier, Motivation, & “The Speech”

Continuing the last few Monday posts I’ve done about motivation, I figure it’s time to add in a link to something that serves as cold water in the face: a wakeup in both ways. Mark Evanier, whose series on rejection is one I’ve referenced, has a certain speech he’s delivered on occasions to fellow writers and creatives… and occasionally he’s needed to hear it himself.

Maybe you need it because it’s Monday. Perhaps you’re just wondering if you’re cut out for creative work. But some days, you just need The Speech.

The “Cadillac of Self-Driving Cars” May Be… Cadillac

One of the trends I casually, yet actively, watch is how “self-driving” automation is coming along. I’m sure many of us have followed Google’s efforts as well as Tesla. So I was shocked to read Alex Davies’ piece in Wired about the self-driving technology of Cadillac… which I suppose may mainly point to my pre-conceived notions of Cadillac.

But I bet I’m not the only one.

Motivation for Procrastinators

Since I wanted to cover motivation for the next few Mondays, as I mentioned last week, I figured it was important to bring up procrastination.

One of the most entertaining articles about the subject was written by Tim Urban on his longform blogging site, Wait, But Why. In fact, the procrastination article is actually several articles, but well worth delving into.

Now, I enjoy Wait, But Why quite a bit, but what if some of you are already putting off reading through what I already said are a couple articles?

So, to combat the procrastination you might have about reading Tim Urban’s several posts about the topic, why not start with a 15-minute video on the subject? Come on, it’s under that 20 to 25 minute technique we were talking about last week. It’ll work!

 

A Monster for Every Taste!

As many of my fellow filmmakers know, I’m not overfond of most horror films (apologies to Lonnie and my other filmmaking colleagues who love ’em). At the same time, I do love “creature features.” This is probably due to two reasons.

First, like many kids of my generation, I enjoyed the steady stream of good, bad, and less-than-spectacular kaiju films played endlessly on TV on Saturday afternoons. In our case, it was good ol’ WDCA, Channel 20 that educated us as to Godzilla and his many foes.

Second, my dad loved sharing all sorts of 50s monster movies he grew up with, including Ray Harryhausen classics such as The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and other seminal giant monster movies like Them!

And while I will happily check out just about any creature feature (hello, Mongolian Death Worm), it’s clear not all creature features are created equal.

In fact, I have to give my hat off to my dad for pointing out a critical difference most great creature features have over their unremarkable cousins: they make fighting the creature as interesting as discovering the creature — if not more so.

In the “meh” creature features, an undue importance is placed on the discovery of the creature. Characters can spend up to half the movie blundering about the ship, house, ancient temple, or whatever the setting is. Meanwhile, the viewer patiently waits for a solid reveal of the creature. For these underwhelming creature features, the main card up their sleeve is the monster itself. They know it… and so they stall playing that card as long as possible. After that, the only thing they can do to raise the stakes is have more gore, more peril, or possibly more monsters (which usually lead to more gore and more peril). The resulting stories seem invariably random and do not provide the characters little, if any, agency. (This is different from Godzilla or other kaiju moshing on plastic tanks, which is an esteemed tradition).

Contrast that approach to some of the great creature features I just mentioned.

In The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, they

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

In Them!, there’s a series of hints leading up to the fact

Spoiler Inside SelectShow

In both these cases and others, it’s not only the discovery of the monster, but how to defeat the monster that’s interesting. Not only that, the humans’ efforts to defeat the monster have setbacks. People have incomplete knowledge and incomplete skills, just like in real life. We’re invested in how the characters can possibly win, not simply along for a monster mash ride. (And hint: it’s more exciting if the humans seem to be using what little knowledge they have rather than being complete idiots: I’m looking at you, DeepStar Six).

Now I know my dad isn’t the only one who’s come to this realization. Odds are, many a filmmaker has come to the same conclusion. And some of them have probably made some interesting creature features, dozens of which I have not yet seen.

So, it was with great delight that I discovered that Wikipedia, the modern analog to the Junior Woodchuck Guidebook, has an entire page exhaustively listing just about every creature feature ever made.

Now, technically, they’re defining these as “natural horror” films, but let’s be real: many of these creatures are pure fantasy with just the thinnest veneer of science. For example, the list includes both the presumably possible danger of the great white shark in Jaws along with the ridiculous titular monster of Dinoshark.

In some ways, that makes me love them more.

So dig in, fellow cinemaniacs. Whether you want to see a film with deadly tree monsters, killer sheep, or simply a shark loose in a supermarket, I guarantee you’ll find something.

Feel free to share your favorites in the comments.

I Guess It’s Too Late to Change the Site Name…

There is a theory that placing two coat hangers in a closet produces more coat hangers through some frenzied yet illogical process of inorganic reproduction that’s best left unexamined outside of a Philip K. Dick short story.

If someone suggested that placing two web articles in the Internet equivalent of a closet would produce an article about writing, I would believe them (whether or not the person suggesting it was Phillip K. Dick).

This may explain the overwhelming amount of articles about writing on the Internet — and despite their freakish origins, I read a lot of said articles.

So in the spirit of my focus earlier this month on business plans and planning, I wanted to share an interesting article by Kristen Kieffer in The Verbs that goes over some of the things one should think about as they plunge forward along the journey of being a full-time writer. I especially like the reminders about all the different avenues, back alleys, and overall channels writing could make some ducats. There’s also the important question of one’s “author brand.”

I admit, with working on getting Jabberwocky Audio Theater back off the ground and improving Stonehenge Casting, I haven’t given too much thought about my “personal brand.”

And clearly, I should have thought about what kind of pen name I should have and how that informs what kind of writing I write. I mean, when I think of Bjorn and writing, I think of  him:

Pictures of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson are invariably intense.

Admit it: you wouldn’t want to be caught in a dark alley in Tromsø with this guy. It’s like every Ingmar Bergman slasher film you’ve ever seen. Don’t quibble with me about the fact that Ingmar Bergman is Swedish and, also, has never made slasher films: you know it’s true!

I suppose it’s not that bad. I mean, if I want to tell bitterly realist stories that end in families crying — or perhaps take a turn at nihilist crime fiction, I’ve got the name for it. But what if I want a bit more adventure? Something that has a bit more action or, dare I suggest, swagger? Well then I probably need another name. Something like “Jack Stone” — or “Brick Gunderson” if I wanted to keep some hint of Scandinavia. Construction materials need to be involved.

I guess it’s too late to change the site name.

20 Minutes (or so) to Motivation

I realized that I have a number of potential posts that relate to motivation, so for at least the next few weeks, I’ll have Motivation Mondays!

Because that sounds like exactly the kind of engagement program corporate HR would institute.

Oh, such mirth.

Anyway, I came across a pair of articles by Melissa Dahl in New York magazine.

One is about how to motivate yourself to work when you don’t want to, which provides an intro to the Pomodoro Technique. The second article (referenced by the first) is about the nature of motivation in the first place.

Both of these articles made me think about Cory Doctorow’s article about writing in the age of distraction, something that I’ve already talked about already on this site (raved about, really).

So it was nice to re-visit that thought of motivation and how so much of the motivation can be accomplished by simply doing. You start going through the motions and –whaddya know?– the motivation follows.

Of course, “just doing it” is often not as easy as it sounds. One can always procrastinate.

I could go on, but I think I’ll put it off until next week.