All sorts of physical businesses are suffering during this global pandemic and I know many people, dependent on in-person gigs for their livelihood who now have no income stream (to say nothing of creative freelancers, as one Nation article notes).
So this video posted last week by Joseph Haj, artistic director of the Guthrie Theater resonated:
I was lucky enough to grow up going to the theater and live performances frequently, something I’ve tried to pass on to my kids. I hope that time will come again soon.
I’ve been pleased to see all the memes on social media reminded everyone that they’re taking solace in the output of artists, whether it’s books, music, or films.
So many of my friends are not only creative freelancers, but ones involved with film, theater, and television: creative pursuits where they have to go someplace to do their gig and get paid. And those places are, by and large, now closed (film and TV production has halted across the continent and live theaters are, by and large, closed).
This is not to diminish any other job which requires one go to a physical space to do it. So many of us have to do it (and I’m now acutely aware of all my friends in “essential” jobs that now find themselves on “front lines”), but part of the fun of doing some of these creative jobs is you go to a certain place and do your best to make some magic.
Perhaps no group is associated with some childhood magic-making in the 70s, outside of Jim Henson and his cohorts, as much as Sid and Marty Krofft.
While I’ll be honest that their many shows were never “must-see TV” like “The Muppet Show,” I absorbed them all, forming a critical part of my generation’s 70s psychedelic pop culture references.
Anecdotally, I’ve heard many positive things about working on the Krofft shows, so, especially given my own minor efforts to make magic, I’m always interested in what makes teams work.
Back on March 1st, 2015, I re-entered the web world with a personal website, something I really hadn’t had since the 90s, which in Internet terms is ancient history.
Perhaps because March 1st doesn’t correspond with any other anniversaries in my life, I keep on meaning to do an annual retrospective about posts and such on the blog, but keep on forgetting.
This year, however, I made sure to set a reminder for myself. As with any eponymous blog, this post is mainly a self-indulgence, but for anyone who wants to go back and check some of the posts (over 400!), here’s an accounting of the “greatest hits” and some of the “deep cuts.”
Of course, these posts topped the list. My series, Crisis of Infinite Star Treks, lasted almost the full five years. There were long and short entries and ones that I thought were better than others. The three that seemed to best represent the series are:
I was pleasantly surprised to see how many of my posts about writing got so many views. Writing and trying to do more work as a writer is near and dear to me… and frankly, one of the reasons I’m online anyway.
Granted, most of the posts are mainly linking to or commenting on articles or resources I found online, but it’s been great to share what I know. Some of the most read have been:
Integrally linked to many of these articles are the posts which talk more about motivation (one of them is up there). That was led to several posts about finding purpose, meaning, and motivation… often explicitly disconnected from a paycheck. These were a lot of fun to write (and probably helped me work through some thoughts):
As indicated above, part of the fun of a blog is the ability to indulge your whims and flights of fancy, often without a care for deadlines or the editorial rigor you yourself might expect from a magazine article.
Many of the posts grow out of articles I read online that I want to expand on, which include.
This week, I joined the Streaming Nonsense crew in their mission to review lesser known films available online. This time, we looked at The Velocipastor. Is it everything you want from a disillusioned-priest-becomes-dinosaur-and-fights-ninjas movie? Give a listen.
So, as a bit of follow-up, all last year he did a monthly income and expense report about his business, often detailing what worked and what didn’t, what his predictions were, and what the basis of those predictions was. It was wonderfully detailed stuff: data you almost never get to analyze unless you’re doing it yourself.
One of the notions you’ll see in the links above is the idea to just go ahead and do it. Carpe that diem, even if it annoys Latin scholars that you just mangled that phrase. Mister Keating has your back. Alea iacta est and maybe this time it’s a natural 20.
So, on the one hand, it’s nice to see an industry professional mirror some of those sentiments, which is what Christopher McQuarrie did on Twitter back in October. Not being a Twitter power user, I only picked up on it when someone posted No Film School’s recap recently in a writer group.
The main thrust of his tweet thread is that those asking him for where to find an agent, read their script, etc., are asking the wrong questions, because on one level, it’s about submitting to the status quo of “the lottery,” the often random way one finds success and builds a career in Hollywood.
That he notes he realized that he was asking the wrong question and after winning an academy award no less (surely winning the lottery), made me sit up and take notice. In fact, hearing some of the same notions from someone who is absolutely “in the system” and has “won the lottery” that I hear from indie folks encouraging each other was striking.
The whole thread is worth reading, but I wanted to highlight some parts. One is the overall implication that he has played –and won– the lottery, but all that gets you is the ability to play the lottery again. This squares entirely with repeated anecdotes I get from people that Hollywood is a very binary environment, where you can be a one or zero at any time as far as various people believe.
And another implication is that if you’re not making something, you never get to be a ‘one’ in anyone’s eyes. And sometimes that something is not seen hardly at all, or it is seen and judged lacking, yet you focus on the “execution and not the result.”
That’s what I liked about him going beyond the oft-repeated idea of “doing what you love” You have to execute and keep on executing until you there’s more people that find you to be a “one”
On the Wordplay site (where the “Never Wait” column comes from), they mention writing a script is like writing your own lottery ticket. But McQuarrie makes the point several times how making a film, making more than just a screenplay, is actually giving you more chances.
“And it’s infinitely harder to sell a screenplay than it is to sell one’s proven abilities.”
I love that he closes with the notion that the business isn’t something to be broken into so much as you are the business to be acquired, that the creative folks we might look up to like-as-not made their own luck, and many –if not all– of them failed spectacularly along the way.
Earlier this week, an under two-minute short film hit YouTube that takes the humble snowball fight and amps it up to 11.
It should not surprise anyone that this is directed by an action film veteran, David Leitch, whose name may be familiar to those who’ve seen John Wick (he was the uncredited co-director). He’s gone on to direct additional action movies and he brings substantial experience as a stunt performer and coordinator to those film… and to this one. Just check out the behind-the-scenes spot they did as well:
As you might expect. Discussion of this short has spiked among many of us indie filmmakers — and after the initial amazement, some do grumble that the film an anything-but-low-budget product from a full film crew, including an experienced stunt team, that’s training these child actors. Oh, and it’s all a big commercial for this iPhone too. (Spoiler alert: all those fancy camera rigs you saw them slip the iPhone into cost extra!)
I get it. This wasn’t an indie effort. And those corporate resources are definitely something to consider if one is trying to shoot a similar looking project. But what are some of the coolest things about the short film? For me, it’s the story, that simple concept of taking a snowball fight and making it an epic battle — because don’t many of us remember the snowball fights of our youth as such? And think of how much drama is imbued with every clearly thought out shot!
So, yes, I get that this is a commercial ploy to want us to go get this latest iPhone, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t motivational. Because a lot of filmmaking ingenuity is in the planning. True, execution is hard and can be made easier by big budgets and crews, but none of that is insurmountable. And for stunt coordinators? I might know some people.