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!