Wednesday, December 28, 2011

DJ Movie Playlist/Soundtrack

This coming semester I plan on taking the first Screenwriting class, and I've been working in my head on an idea that would become a screenplay if I were to get in (I'm currently waitlisted). I won't really go into details right now, but generally the idea is about a young man who, while trying to figure out what he wants to do with his life, becomes a DJ and gets involved with an underground music scene, with both positive and negative effects.

Since music will be such a large component of this film, I've made a playlist of songs that I think capture the feeling of the movie. Maybe they will be used as a soundtrack, maybe they will simply be inspiration when I write, but I figured I would share this playlist with you. Some of the songs may seem out of place, but don't worry; they make perfect sense in the context of the film! Anyways, I hope you enjoy this playlist!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone has had an awesome day of time spent with family and friends, gift giving, and hopefully a lot of eating. I definitely did, and I'm looking forward to this next week of relaxation ahead of me. Right now I'm typing this while listening to Jack's Mannequin on my brand new Klipsch speakers (!) while Kristen sits on the couch next to me poring over The Hunger Games. I think it's safe to say we are content.

I'm not really sure what the point of this post is, other than to just make good on my promise to post more.  I'm going to start posting some of my videos again soon, but I guess besides that I'm just struggling to find things to write about. All I know is this will be really boring unless I find some way to make it interesting. So I'm gonna post this video by FND Films:

They are awesome; I'm a huge fan. They filmed a behind the scenes video that was really interesting so I'll post that at the bottom of this post. Merry Christmas, and I'll talk to y'all soon!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An Update and Jack's Mannequin

I swear, one of my New Year's Resolutions will be to post more consistently on this blog. In all fairness, it has been the end of the semester and it's been a busy couple weeks for me. In addition to final projects, papers, and exams, I went in to the sleep disorder clinic and was diagnosed with Restless Leg Syndrome, Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, and Psycho-Physiological Insomnia. In other words, I don't know how to sleep.

But the semester is over and I'm home for break, so you'd think that means more posts. Well, I'm gonna try, but hopefully we all can understand how busy the holiday season can be. But I'ma try to work around it.

I've been writing in my creative journal more recently; I guess maybe the stress is giving me more ideas write down. I'm hoping to take screenwriting next semester (the class is full now, but I'm second on the wait list) and if I get in my plan is to write the screenplay on my DJ/Mixing idea, which I won't disclose here now, but I might discuss it more as I get more into writing it.

All right, well before I go I wanted to post a song that I've been pretty obsessed with ever since I first heard it. I don't normally put songs on repeat, but this is one that I absolutely have. Andrew McMahon just writes extremely powerful and emotional lyrics, and the music here is a perfect complement. This song is for anyone who's feeling down and looking for hope.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Video Ethnography Project on Impact of Film

It's the last full week of classes, and I've got a lot of big projects and papers to get done, so unfortunately I've been neglecting the blog. I know I said I'd post pictures of Cancun, but that will probably have to wait until I'm back home for Christmas Break, which should be in about two weeks. I'm gonna try to post when I can, But I'm afraid I can't make promises.

For now, I wanted to post my anthropology project, an ethnographic video study where I examine the role that film plays in the lives of students at the University of Michigan. I'm also working on a video with my group for Production 290, so there will be another video up soon. 

But here's my ethno project, and I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Winter is Here

I've been in Mexico over the past week and haven't had a chance to post, but a CancĂșn blog is imminent. For now, (and taking it into a completely different direction), it's the first big snow of the season! I love the holidays and get really nostalgic around this time thinking about the things I used to do as a kid, like playing out in the snow, hockey on the ice, making hot chocolate, setting up the Christmas tree, and listening to Christmas music. And, of course, hoping against all hope every morning that it would be a snow day.

I just love this time of year, because even though it's cold outside, the holiday season always feels so warm to me. The season is shared with your closest friends and family, and everyone coming together to celebrate has so much spirit and warmth to it.

Anyway, I just thought I'd take a moment and enjoy this wintry weather that blew in over night, because as soon as Christmas goes, I'm going to hate the snow and cold and just wish spring were here already. Post-January is when the snow gets muddy and there's less of it, and on top of that it's still cold and there are no holidays to be looking forward to (as in, no days of from class to look forward to).

So enjoy it for now!

Monday, November 21, 2011

"Recycle" - A PSA

Well, look who's been neglecting blog duties! ...Oh yeah, that's me... Anyways.

I've got a busy day ahead of me since tomorrow's my last day of classes before break (Mexico here I come!) so I'm gonna make this one quick today. One day in class our teacher came up to us and asked us to make a commercial really fast to air on the video announcements. She said the school was ramping up their recycling program and wanted a few PSA's to show.

Someone else in the class, Joe Ingamells, actually came up with the idea for this video. Or at least, a very basic idea. We decided we wanted to get someone to be in it that everyone knew, and Joe suggested we use our quarterback, Cody Marks. From there, the idea for the video evolved very quickly. We got Cody out of class, filmed with him, came back and edited it, and the video was done by the end of the hour. I've always enjoyed this video for some reason, maybe because it playfully takes a jab at the idea that "Cody Marks can do anything!" Also, the MuteMath song helps.

And without further ado, enjoy!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Squirrel Attacks Another Squirrel

This is just a quick little video I thought I'd share today, nothing special. This clip is part of a larger video we did called "The Chips," which essentially was where we filmed me eating chips at various locations on campus, set to music. I just thought this was funny enough that it warranted its own video. Eventually I'll get around to posting "The Chips," but for now, enjoy one squirrel attacking another squirrel!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

"Moving On" - Michael Giacchino

Holy crap. I could spend hours and hours writing about the show LOST. I watched every episode when it aired since its beginning in 2004. I spent countless hours online at other blogs devoted to the show, and I have since watched every episode about five times.

But I'm not writing this to talk about LOST, specifically. Instead I wanted to point you to a specific piece of music from the show. In fact, this piece is taken from the last few minutes of the show, and it gives me chills every time I hear it. Michael Giacchino, the composer, is a genius, and you don't need to be a fan of the show to appreciate this music. There is so much emotion poured into the music itself.

Anyways, I really wanted to share this track with you, so I hope you enjoy it!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

WAKE UP! - 8tracks playlist

Just thought I'd share with you the playlist I made to help me wake up in the morning. I shuffle the order every morning so it doesn't get old too fast, and so far it's really helped me get ready for the day.

I have a couple other mixes on 8tracks, in case you wanted to check them out. I may embed a couple of them here in a blog post every now and then as well.

Monday, November 7, 2011

"Dumb Luck"

It was my entire life for over a third of my junior year. I eat, slept, and breathed "Dumb Luck," and as a result I'm very proud of it. Yes, I tend to see imperfections rather than focusing on the pluses when I re-watch my films, but what I realize is how much effort I put into Dumb Luck, and how that effort translated into a successful 30 minute short film, the longest film I have ever completed.

It started with the idea that I wanted to do a project for Video Production that would take up the whole third trimester of my junior year. I wanted to make one collective project, instead of a series of smaller projects, as had been the precedent set previously. So I discussed it with Mrs. St. Clair, got the okay, and began to come up with a story.

As I've mentioned a number of times previously, I believe Mike and I were a decent team, and we had already done the "Linden Eagle News Gone Wrong" video, so I began with the thought that it would be the two of us in the lead role. I in particular wanted a large role for myself because up to that point I had done relatively little acting in my videos, despite acting being an interest of mine. I wanted to get a chance to be a main part of a larger project.

Instead of putting the two of us at odds, however, I decided that Mike and I would be working together to reach a goal. I had to be reasonable and choose something that we could feasibly film, and I decided that we would be trying to catch a robber. The comedy would come from the idea that we were "secret agents," and that catching the robber was an important mission of ours.

I wrote the actual script in just a day or two, and then revised it only a little, before it was ready to go. I showed it to St. Clair, and she said that I would need to get approval from the principal. So I sent him the script too.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Incorporating Structure Into Your Life

The past few weeks have been pretty brutal on me. Exams, papers and a lack of both studying and sleep put a huge toll on me physically and mentally, and I'm finally feeling like I'm back on track and in control of what I'm doing.

See, I did a pretty big over-haul today. First I made a list of homework that had to be done this week, and I resolved to actually do the homework even if it was only reading an article or chapter from the textbook (which I have learned the hard way is very important to do). Once I finished the homework list I added to it things that I wanted to make time for this week, such as TV shows, soccer games, and birthday dinners. I figured out which days this week I should be doing each thing in order to keep stress levels down and to stay on top of my course work. Then I added other non-priority items to the list that I wanted to do this week but could wait on, such as reading a few leisure books, exercising (and as I write this I realize I may need to move exercising into the priority column), movie watching, and, unfortunately, this blog.

As much as I'd love to be able to put a ton of effort into this blog, I'm realizing now that on my list, it's a pretty low priority. However, another thing I'm realizing is that as long as I manage my time wisely, I should still have plenty of time for adding in some of my non-priority items. It's just a matter of figuring out how much time I have for everything. I believe they call this time management, and it's definitely a useful skill to master.

Lastly, I added a column of things that I had coming up or things I wanted to do in the near future, such as school projects, papers, exams, and other things such as selling my football ticket for Thanksgiving Break (Cancun, here I come!).

Then here's the real kicker: I'm sticking to it. Of course, it hasn't yet been a day but I'm confident in my ability to stick to something once I set my mind to it. And the fact that my performance in school could be better is a pretty big motivator.

Other things I have done or will be doing to help myself be healthier physically and mentally are watching my diet and incorporating more vitamins and water into it and establishing better sleep habits, which for me involves two things I have trouble with: falling asleep and waking up.

I have trouble falling asleep because I tend to start thinking about everything before bed. This is no exaggeration. I will literally jump from topic to topic for sometimes hours, all the while becoming more and more frustrated with myself for not being able to stop thinking. There are a couple remedies I'm going to try, like taking melatonin before laying down and not over-stimulating my brain before sleep. There are different methods for everyone but I tend to find that TV and music nurtures my thinking habits instead of squashing them.

When I started to think about what I could possibly write about today, I realized that what I had done was develop a structure, a plan, and to set goals to accomplish, and this can be incorporated into your creative endeavors. The world is naturally chaotic, but many people, myself included, find that they are more productive when there is some sort of structure to what they are doing. Maybe there's a deadline, maybe it's a roadmap or an outline, or maybe it's just a to-do list. But it never hurts to be prepared, and establishing structure in your life only prepares you for what you want to accomplish in your life. So I encourage you to think about what you want from life or from your creative project and come up with a plan that suits your goals. It can only help you.

I plan to discuss this concept of "planning" more thoroughly tomorrow when I talk about my short film, "Dumb Luck." So check back in for more updates, and thanks for reading this whole thing! (It's a bit on the longer side, but I had a lot to say). Adios!

Monday, October 31, 2011

"When the Lights Go Out" - An Exercise in Suspense

Happy Halloween everyone! And what better way to get your day going than with a short horror film? I made this video with a couple friends last year in the winter, essentially because I wanted to make a scary movie. I love scary movies because, in my opinion, a film's job is to make it's audience feel something, and the horror genre is one the most successful genres in that respect.

I didn't want to try to use a lot of effects or monster masks or makeup or anything, I just wanted a simple idea that I could play around with. See, I've tried making scary movies before, and I've never quite succeeded at making one that I thought was good enough. All the others have come out cheesy or stupid and funny, not scary. So with this film I wanted to try and use suspense to build fear, and as a result of this I decided to do a giant one-take.

So the most important scene in the film, the one that takes up a few minutes by itself, is all one take, and it was the first take we did. We ran through it a couple times, then filmed it once and thought it was good.

I took a basic idea - a kid home alone for the night starts to think that he may not actually be alone - and played around with it. Yes, I know story-wise it's not very original, but I consider this film more an exercise in suspense than anything else. I didn't want a very complicated or distracting story because I wanted to focus on what the camera should be doing and what the actors should be doing to make it scary. Where should they be in relation to each other? These are the things I focused on, not plot or story.

This was filmed one weekend while I was home visiting, so when I came back to school I edited the footage and put the video together, and for once I was really happy with a horror film that I had created.

I still have a lot to learn, but I love the genre and I thought anyone reading this might get a kick out of seeing this (I mean, it IS Halloween). I hope you have a good one, and I hope you stay safe tonight!

Friday, October 28, 2011

How to Survive Halloween!

Halloween weekend is upon us! I would have to say, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. For some reason, I love the idea of being someone (or something) else. I'd like to think that that makes me predisposed to be an actor, but that may just be my own arrogance talking.

But for some reason, I also love scary stuff. I love scary movies and haunted houses, hayrides, mazes, etc. In fact, the past few days I've been trying to watch a few scary movies in preparation for Halloween, including The Thing, Jaws, and Drag Me to Hell. I'm hoping the horror movie fest continues into the weekend.

By the way, what was up with the movie's fascination with mouths?

So one year my friends and I decided we'd make a Halloween-themed video. We wanted to include a variety of different Halloween stereotypical characters in a funny way, so we decided we'd make a "how-to" of sorts that deals with how to avoid or deal with these Halloween horrors. We had a lot of fun making this video; so much fun, in fact, that we made a bloopers video out of the extra footage we shot.

Watching these older videos always make me feel so nostalgic, because to be honest I miss the days when we used to get together to make a video just because we were bored and wanted something to do. They weren't projects (they turned into projects but they weren't assignments), they were just something we did because we enjoyed it. And I miss doing this.

But since we're getting close to Halloween, I figured I'd post these videos today. Next Monday, on Halloween, I'm going to post a recent short horror film I made to hopefully get everyone in the mood for some scares. But for now, here's some light Halloween-themed fun!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Music Tuesdays: Coldplay - "Mylo Xyloto"

It's a late post tonight. Now I know this album only recently came out, and this morning I hesitated about whether or not I should devote this post to "Mylo Xyloto." After spending the day listening to it, I finally decided to write the post.

First of all, I'm generally a fan of Coldplay. I'm not familiar with everything in their catalogue, but I really enjoyed "Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends," and I enjoy a few other songs by them. I wouldn't say I'm a superfan, though.

That being said, I'm really enjoying this album. I think it helps that it has a strong "fall" vibe to it, which helped as I was walking around outside today. The album has a lot of upbeat, anthemic songs that delve into synth territory a little bit. Sometimes while listening I likened the sound to Passion Pit a little bit (by the way, "Manners" is also a phenomenal fall album.

In addition to the upbeat songs there are a couple slower, guitar-centered tracks with a little string accompaniment. Now, I've only had a chance to listen to this album a few times through so it's tough to draw any conclusions as of now. The reason I decided to write a blog post about it is because it gave me a sudden burst of creativity earlier today. As I was listening, I let my thoughts swirl around in my head and suddenly had a couple ideas that, as soon as I got on a bus, I wrote down into my creative journal. Granted, they were only a few line fragments, but this music inspired me. And that's why I decided to share it with you.

Regardless of whether or not you consider Coldplay to be the poor man's Radiohead or for whatever reason you can't stand the band, please give this album at least one listen through. If it does nothing for you, then what can you do? Some things work for some people and not for others. But if it doesn't help, how much worse off would you be? If it does help, wouldn't it be worth it? I guess this paragraph comes from people who dismiss bands without giving them a proper listen based on expectations or on supposed knowledge of the band.

Anyways, I'll leave you with one other song I enjoyed from this album, and I hope you have a good night!

Monday, October 24, 2011

YKWIH? 6 - Florida Edition

After "Competitive People," which was released at the end of January, a couple months passed without any videos. This was our senior year of high school, and we were racing towards graduation, so it was difficult to find time to get everyone together to film another video. Finally we had our opportunity in (I believe) April. Most of us were taking a road trip down to Daytona Beach for Spring Break, so we figured we'd film a video while we were there.

It worked out really well that on the way down, at one of the gas stations, I won a Flip camcorder from a prize machine, and we used that camera to film this video.

I know we were anxious to film a video, but at the same time we wanted to enjoy ourselves, so we took our time coming up with clips. We started with the idea that the video would be beach vacation themed, so we included things such as the water, sandcastles, hot tubs, pools, etc. Mike Zurek, who was in the New Years video, came along with us to Florida and had the idea (I think) of coming back to the underwater breathing contest guy, who would still be underwater.

The Wendy's baconator scene actually took place, and at one point I just decided to take the camera out and film it. We thought Matt and Ross in pain was funny so we threw that into the video. And like I said in an earlier blog post, we also included Matt freaking out on the beach when Ross kicks over his sandcastle.

Since it had been so long, and because we had such a good time in Florida, we wanted to make this video special. As a result we shot a lot of stuff and used all the time we had. The clip in the bedroom where Matt is terrorizing Mike was shot literally right before we walked out the door to check out. When we finally got back home and started organizing everything, we decided to throw in some of the bloopers too because we thought they were hilarious.

It took another couple months to have this video released because once we got back from vacation it was difficult to get everyone together to finish it, but we finally did and at the bottom of this post you will see the result of that.


In between the Florida video and the "Competitive People" video, we took a school trip to New York City and filmed a couple clips there. However, because of our busy schedules this video was never completed, and half of the footage is lost. It is doubtful that this video will ever be completed.


Well, there you have it, the whole series. Yeah, it's short, and I wish we could've done more, but I am really happy with this collection of videos and I hope you enjoyed watching them. Starting tomorrow the posts will be back to the normal schedule (which I'm still tweaking), but check back in tomorrow to see what's new, and I hope you have a good week!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

YKWIH? 5 - Overly Competitive People

I don't quite remember how the idea came about for "Overly Competitive People," but I know that we started with the idea that we wanted to have a lengthy monopoly scene where everything would go wrong. We figured we couldn't do a video with only that one scene so we threw a couple more clips in too.

After Lee's successful guest stint, our friend Connor wanted to help us out with a video, and I think he did an awesome job in this. In general, this may be my favorite YKWIH video, but at the same time there are a couple issues I have with it.

Most of them are small, but the biggest issue for me is that we could have done the first clip a little better. I feel like the idea of what was going on during the air hockey scene was there, but we didn't carry it out as successfully as we could have. But what can you do...

Also, in general it's just hilarious to see Matt freak out. He freaked out at the end of the New Years video, he freaked out here, and in the next video we have him freaking out in Florida. It's awesome.

So tomorrow is the last of this series of videos. When I post tomorrow I'll also put up a page just for the "You Know What I Hate"s. Starting Tuesday I'll be back into the swing of things talking about music that's inspiring me lately, and I think that since it's getting close to Halloween there will be some themed posts about that.

Until then, have a nice, lazy Sunday!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

YKWIH? 4 - Ignorant People

For ignorant people we had our friend Lee join us, who was really excited to be a part of the videos. And we designed a character for Lee based on the broad idea that we hate "ignorant people," so he became inconsiderate of others, he asked stupid questions to prompt sarcastic answers, he left pointless messages on answering machines (hey, what's an answering machine?)...

The one scene with Matt getting out of the shower and shooting a sarcastic remark at Lee is one of my favorite memories of filming these. We had Matt improvise his line as he walked out of the bathroom, and when we shot the first few we burst out laughing and couldn't use them, even though they were brilliant. I just had to throw them into the end of the video. The same thing happened with Matt falling down the stairs, but I only threw one of those in there.

I believe this video was filmed earlier in January, but we didn't get around to filming the part in front of the webcam. So when we got together to film the next YKWIH at the end of January, we first finished up this video. That's why Ross and I are wearing the same clothes in both videos.

Overly Competitive People tomorrow!

Friday, October 21, 2011

YKWIH? 3 - New Years Edition

This one will be fairly quick, and really it doesn't need to be long because it's fairly self-explanatory. New Years was right around the corner, and I was having a New Years party, so we figured it would be the perfect time to make a video about New Years. We took a quick look around the room at what "props" we had, and then we went to work.

Kudos to Emilee Owen for coming up with "yay rape." It was a genius move and it worked out perfectly. And of course we had to throw in "the chips." Also, we decided to throw in Ross' crazy face one more time. It was an opportune moment.

Sorry it's so short tonight, but it's a Friday night and in the midst of us trying to decide what to do, I figured I'd post here quickly. If anyone has any questions about something I didn't cover, ask me in the comments and I'll answer as soon as I get it!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

YKWIH? 2 - Personal Bubble

We filmed the first half of this video at the same time we did the brain farts video. For one of the shots, Ross made this really funny face, and we decided that for the second video we essentially wanted a bunch of those moments. We threw a little one into the first video (where Ross is under the piano) and then we got to work.

In order to allow us to film clips of Ross making that face, we needed a theme to build it around, and we came up with friends who don't understand the concept of a personal bubble. Ross would be the creepy friend, and the video evolved from there.

After the first couple clips we realized that a video of purely that face would get old after a short while. So we filmed part of Matt and I talking to the camera and then put off filming the rest of it until later. When we came back fresh another day, we filmed a couple more ideas and the video finally came together. We were really excited about this one, and we couldn't wait to start working on the next video.

NOTE: We ran into problems with the iMac microphone not picking our voices up really well, and it's pretty bad in this video. The scenes in front of the webcam are pretty quiet and all the clips shot with a different camera are at normal volume. In future videos we tried to speak up but it would still be quiet from time to time.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

YKWIH? 1 - Brain Farts

As I sat down to make myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, I realized that I had yet to write a blog post today. Well here it is.

Okay. The first "You Know What I Hate" video, which covers brain farts, was created mainly because we just wanted to make a video. Building off of the brainstorm videos, Matt and I developed this idea that we could make things we dislike funny. And it took off from there.

Once we knew we wanted to talk about things we "hate," we sat down and started to make a list. Brain farts was one of the first ideas we came up with, and we started coming up with little scenarios to explain this dislike. We included Ross and Mickey of course, and then filmed and edited the video one evening.

I think that about covers this first one. Obviously if anyone has questions please feel free to add them in the comment question for me to answer. And yes, the next post WILL BE TOMORROW.

Monday, October 17, 2011

History of the "You Know What I Hate?" videos

All right so this week I'm gonna do things a little differently. See, two years ago my friends and I decided we wanted to make a "web series" consisting of short, hopefully funny videos that were connected by a common idea but with a different theme each week. This thinking eventually led us to starting a (short-lived) series called "You Know What I Hate," where each week one of us would take the lead in the video and describe things that bothered us, along with video examples. So this week I've decided that I'm going to forego the typical posts and devote every day to one of the "You Know What I Hate" videos, describing how we came up with the idea and giving some behind the scenes scoop. I might post additional content, but I'm only promising one post a day this week. And tomorrow I'll start with the first video in the series.

I'm starting tomorrow because before there was YKWIH, there were the brainstorm videos. They are basically a precursor to the format that the YKWIH videos follows, so they will seem fairly similar. The difference is that in the brainstorm videos, we are trying to come up with ideas for "future projects." For those of you who are familiar with it, these videos are where the phrase "eat all the chips" came from. I'll get to the chips later.

So without further ado, here are the two brainstorm videos we made prior to starting on the YKWIH mini-series. NOTE: You may have to turn your volume up a little bit because the videos get quiet every now and then.

Friday, October 14, 2011

"Road Trip" - A Mikenny Productions Skit

Mike and I made this video our junior year of high school, as a fun little video that wasn't part of a project for our video class. Mike had come to me with the idea: he and his brother wanted to visit their friend Jon, who lives a ways away, and Mike figured we could make a video on the way there. I guess from there it wasn't such a big jump to the two of us getting on each other's nerves. I think we both love the comedy that comes from us being at odds with each other, and that made perfect sense within the road trip idea.

So we set out to film. Mike, his brother, our friend Cameron who was to film for us, and myself. We crammed ourselves and the equipment into Mike's car and took off. Before we left I had written a very basic outline of what would happen over the course of the road trip, but the video was largely improvised on the spot. We didn't finish filming on the drive to Jon's, so we dropped his brother off at Jon's house and then continued to film for a while.

There were a few issues when we got the footage back to the editing room. The first was that Cameron had forgotten to turn the shotgun mic on for the scene at the gas station, so we were forced to recreate the ambient noise, dialogue, and everything else with sound effects. Another was that the last thing we had filmed, the final argument between Mike and I, didn't turn out and we had to reshoot it. Instead of going all the way back to Jon's, we used Mike's snow-covered street and tried to disguise it as a road. We also went and shot the ending at this point at Mike's house. Once that was done, the editing for the video was completed without difficulty.

One thing I regret now about the video is the lengthy opening titles, as I don't think they're necessary. But that's how you learn, right? Anyways, enjoy the video!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

When Inspiration Fails You

Apologies for the lack of a post yesterday. There is no excuse to give, as I had plenty opportunities to post. The reason I didn't, though, is because I had nothing to say. I spent some time trying to come up with something to write about, and when it came down to it I had nothing. As much as I'd like to post every day on here, I know that inspiration is not going to come every day, and I definitely don't want to try and force myself to write something that has no point.

So yesterday gave me the idea for today's post: what to do when the inspiration doesn't come. Inspiration is impossible to control, and you can be inspired at any time of day as a result of any number of situations. But for some reason, sometimes it just doesn't happen. Sometimes when you sit down to write your novel, screenplay, piece of music, or really any other creative work you hit a wall. You get writer's block. You don't know what to do.

So what do you do? I've said not to try and force yourself to write when you're not inspired, but that's not to say you should just ignore your project. I think it definitely pays to regularly get yourself into that creative mindset and try to find inspiration, even if you don't get anything out of it. For example, a writer should try to sit down at his computer or typewriter every day and try to write. Maybe that creative barrier is still there and you end up writing nothing, or very little, but by getting yourself into that routine it tells your brain that now's the time to be creative, and you're more likely to find inspiration. You still can't control it, but a routine gives you better odds of finding inspiration when you really need it.

Other than that, how do you find inspiration? Well, that's really the whole purpose of this blog, to document things that give me inspiration and to discuss where the inspiration came from for my videos. My hope is that maybe someone reading this will get inspired to do something creative. But how do I find inspiration? Like I said, it can take any form and can come at any time, and it's everywhere. Listen to a lot of music, both music that you listen to often and love as well as new music. Read a lot, not just books but newspapers, magazines, textbooks. Read back through your creative journal to see if an entry sticks out. Even movies and television can be inspiring. Hell, even a jar of peanut butter could inspire you.

If inspiration doesn't come one day, don't worry and don't beat yourself up over it because eventually it will come. Don't stop looking for it and sit idly by waiting; instead, ready yourself to be prepared for when inspiration does come.

Of course there is one thing that will never fail: StumbleUpon.
(I'm half joking.)

I'm posting another one of my videos tomorrow!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Music Tuesdays: MuteMath - "Odd Soul"

All right, here we go, here's what music is inspiring me this week: a band called MuteMath.

I first heard of MuteMath when I went to see The Fray in concert (go figure, huh?). Mute Math was the opening act, and they were incredible. The band's live shows are extremely energetic and and the music is phenomenal. So after the concert I picked up their first self-titled album and was blown away. I listened from start to finish over and over. A few years later I picked up their second, entitled "Armistice."

Last Tuesday, October 4, MuteMath released their third album, "Odd Soul," and their streak of genius continues. A few days before the release I attended a concert at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor where the band performed a few songs from their new album as well as favorites from their back-catalogue. I even got a picture with the drummer!

Us with drummer Darren King

Lead singer Paul Meany
After the concert I was even more excited for the new album, and when I finally got my hands on it, I was not disappointed. There is not a single bad song on "Odd Soul." Sure, I may be partial to a few, but I'm the type of music listener who needs to listen to complete albums at a time rather than random songs, and this album is perfectly suited for it. The sound on the album is very soulful and has been likened to the Black Keys, but that is merely one layer to these tracks. There is so much artistry going on in each individual song and in the album as a whole that it blows me away. This might be my favorite album of the year so far.

So yes, get your hands on this album, hopefully in a way that supports the band! Listen to it from start to finish, and fall in love with MuteMath. To get you started, here are the two singles from "Odd Soul," although there is much more to the album than these: "Odd Soul" and "Blood Pressure."


New Single by The Fray - Heartbeat

Okay, this doesn't count, I'm gonna be posting for real after my Spanish class today, but The Fray's new song "Heartbeat" has been released today and I wanted to share it with everyone.

First off, I recognize that not everyone is gonna get into The Fray and that I definitely know people who have a problem with the band, but when I first heard "How to Save a Life" I found myself attached to the piano arrangements and lyrics. The album really struck a chord with me, and I've been a fan ever since. Recently, my fandom has waned, but I have to say I'm pretty excited about their new album, called Scars and Stories, which will be out in February 2012.

Anyways, here's the new single by The Fray, and check back later for another post!
Heartbeat by The Fray

Monday, October 10, 2011

"Linden Eagle News Gone Wrong" - A Mikenny Productions Skit

This is one of my favorite skit videos we made in high school for Video Productions. At the time, we were fully immersed in the video announcements for the school, which were played at the end of the day. Basically, two "anchors," the talent, would sit on camera and read the announcements instead of them being read over the PA system by the principal. The problem was, they're just as boring to watch as they are to listen to, so we tried to make them more interesting by throwing in little jokes in between announcements or do little skits at the end of the video.

The problem was, we were discouraged from adding a little humor to the announcements, so we were constantly fighting to allow the extras to be included in the video. I mean, personally I looked forward to the videos more if there was something to liven up the announcements, and it was something to look forward to at the end of the day.

And not only were we discouraged from adding little skits, we were also discouraged from reading the announcements in an interesting way (such as with accents, with odd voice inflection, as a different person, etc.) because they "distracted the students from comprehending what we were saying." We argued back by saying that if the announcements weren't interesting, the students weren't going to watch them anyways. They'd tune out. Many times we were convincing enough that our skits were allowed to air, but sometimes we were not.

The idea for this skit rose out of us spending so much time working on the announcements. They were very much on my mind when I started writing the short little script, and I knew I wanted to make them funny. It didn't take long for the idea to come to me that everything would go very, very wrong.

I knew from the get-go that it would be Mike and I as co-anchors, because, well, up to that point most of the videos involved the two of us but more than that, it was because I think Mike and I play off of each other really well and there's a good dynamic there.

We filmed it one day after school, and our video teacher had someplace to be so she had to leave the school quickly. We weren't allowed to film in the studio by ourselves, though, so she stood in the studio while we hurriedly set everything up and filmed as fast as we could (our friend Cameron Germain ran the Teleprompter and did the cutting back and forth between camera shots). The next day it was edited quickly and was ready to be tacked onto the announcements for the end of the day.

I think the people in charge were hesitant because it was a longer skit, so of course they didn't want to put it first and have the bell ring for school to end before all the announcements were read through. For some reason, though, they were even hesitant to put it after the announcements. This is something I'll never understand, because if the teachers don't want to watch the skits after the announcements they can just shut the video off when it gets to that point. What's the big deal? Eventually the video was uploaded separately to the video page, and not given much notice by the teachers at the end of the day. We pushed our friends to have their last hour teachers play the video, but I think many at the school never saw this video. Maybe that changed when I uploaded it to YouTube, maybe not. But I'm really proud of what we did comedy-wise in this video, and I'd love to share it with you now.

Check back in tomorrow (and every Tuesday) for recommendations on music that has been inspiring me lately.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Creative Journal - The Artist's Necessity

Okay, so you have a really great idea. Something has inspired you, given you a brilliant new thought, and you need to record it so you can come back to it later. To me, one of the most important things when it comes to creativity is making sure you are able to remember the ideas that come to you. You may have had the greatest idea, but it's not gonna do you any good if you forget it. I've used a number of things for this. I've made notes on my cell phone, on my laptop, on scraps of paper lying around, and in my school notebooks. But the biggest favor I did myself was buying a notebook specifically for my ideas.

My Moleskine creative journal.

I splurged a little and went for a Moleskine notebook, purely for the hipster factor (check out their website here.) But I am really happy with my purchase. I'm not really a daily journal kind of guy (you know, other than blogging...) but this is something different. When I get an idea for a movie, tv show, piece of music, or really any creative thought that crosses through my mind, I write it down in this notebook. Another thing I've taken to doing is writing down my dreams in here. Hey, you never know when something you dreamed about is gonna pay off creatively down the road.

It might be only a tiny bit of detail, or it could be a whole plot outline, but it helps having someplace to write it down. In the notebook it can be recalled, expanded upon, or, if need be, crossed out later on. Although I would warn never to cross any idea out, because you might change your mind about it later.

Hey, don't take this idea, by the way. I have proof that it belongs to me.

Unfortunately, as much as I try, sometimes I still struggle with carrying this notebook everywhere I go. I try, but I don't think it's ingrained in my mind yet to grab it when I leave my room. As a result, there have been a few moments when I really could have used it, and I have had to substitute the notebook with my phone. And let's face it, it's just not the same.

So do yourself a favor, and get yourself a notebook! It doesn't have to be Moleskine, it could be a composition notebook, a notepad, or a spiral notebook, but you won't regret it. What you will regret is letting the next great idea you have pass into obscurity.

I'll be posting another one of my videos tomorrow along with some behind the scenes scoop, so check back in then!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bo Burnham - Comedic Genius

Last night I watched Bo Burnham's "Words Words Words" comedy special on Netflix. The guy is seriously brilliant. For anyone who's not familiar with Bo, he began on YouTube posting videos for his family and friends (I've included a video in this post, but seriously go look at the rest of them. All of them.) He taught himself to play piano and began composing funny little songs; due to the... controversial content of the videos, they garnered a lot of views and this led to a deal with Comedy Central and a number of good things for Bo, including the special I watched.

The special includes a combination of musical comedy and normal stand-up, and pokes fun at modern commercial comedy, almost taunting other comedians, daring them to make intelligent comedy and to trust that the audience can understand the jokes. Often, there are so many jokes in a song that it takes multiple listens to fully appreciate his genius. Unfortunately, some people aren't willing to put that much effort into listening, and turn to dumbed-down comedy that they can absorb without trying. But for someone looking for a person who truly pushes the envelope comedically needs to watch this special.

To me, it's so impressive to look at what he's accomplished so far in his life, and it's crazy to think that he's only a year older than me. I really look up to the guy, and would love to be able to collaborate with him on a future project, somewhere down the line.

Well don't just take my word for it, check him out!

Friday, October 7, 2011

"Coming Home" - A Short FIlm About The Importance of Music

I decided that I'm going to post one of my own videos every Friday, so this is the first one. It's called "Coming Home," and it's the first video project I made at U of M. The instructions were to make a short film about a place on campus that reminds you of home. Being in a group, it took a while to come up with an idea that we all could agree on. After a lot of just thinking, fueled by thoughts from others in the group, I had the idea of filming the music building. Everyone (or I guess nearly everyone) can identify with the power music has to transcend both time and space. Listening to music can make you nostalgic by looking back on your past, it can make you look to the future with wonder, and it can help you reflect on the present. Music can transport you to other locations as well, and I really latched onto this idea that the music building is so special because it is a place that people go for music when they need to transported away for a while.

The song was a little piece on the piano that I had been toying with since before the project, and the perfect opportunity arose in which I could use it. I used some amateur recording software to record the piano and violin, and then when it came time to record we played the instruments with the music. In editing, I took out the audio track from the camera and only used the song recording.

I've found that an easy way to edit a video like this (in Final Cut, that is) is to stack all the video tracks on top of each other and then view only one at a time, making sure it's in sync with the music. Once the tracks are all in sync, you can choose which clip you like best and then cut out any other clip that's playing at the same time. I guess if you filmed with multiclip in mind, that would be the easiest, but I haven't had much experience with multiclip, so this is the way I edited this video.

Anyways, without further ado, here's the video. And please, shoot me a comment below. Do you have a better way to edit a video like this? Thoughts on the video itself, or on music as inspiration? Let's start a conversation.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Citizen Kane of Blog Posts? Not a Chance

All right, first post and I'm excited. Of course I spent the whole evening getting this blog to look the way I wanted it to and now I'm tired and I'm not sure what to even write about. I have plans for what I'm going to post in the future, but is it possible for your first post to be anything but a throw-away? Is it possible for me to post relevant content in the first blog post?

I wrote a paper today for my film history class on Citizen Kane, and it's probably not as good as it could be.  You know, I get a lot of people who watch Kane and disagree that it's the best movie ever made. To be honest, when I watched it the first time I thought it was pretty dull and hard to get through. Maybe I didn't give it a fair chance, I don't know. But since then I've seen it probably three more times, and I have to say I do really enjoy the movie now. There are a number of elements, plot-wise, technique-wise, that I didn't pick up on the first time through, and I guess it's like reading a book again in that I catch something I didn't notice the previous time. And I think that's kind of cool.

But anyways, one of the books I checked out from the library has the shooting script in it, and I'm pretty excited to read through it, to revisit the movie again from a different perspective.

I also picked up the script for Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and I'm excited to give that a read, too.

I'm gonna keep this post short and not get too in-depth here right off the bat, especially since I have to do my Spanish homework before I go to sleep tonight. So I'm gonna curtail this post here for now, and pick up on my ruminations at another date.

Until then,


(Also, I know that was a very "e-mail" way to end this post, but hey cut me some slack, I'm new at this.)