Mar 31, 2008

24 Today

It's my birthday today, and I have to admit that I'm starting to get to the age where the numbers aren't really as dramatic as they used to be. 16, 18, 21, whatever, being 24 isn't really a milestone - unless I make it one, hmmm. I guess when I'm 25 I'll be able to rent a car, woohoo! I don't really need an excuse to celebrate though. It's a new year to make some new movies, have some new adventures, and jump further into the unknown. Another year closer to my goals perhaps?

This picture of me was originally known as the grandpa or grumpy picture. As I've gotten older though, and it became more apparent that I wanted to make movies for a living, I like to think of it more as the baby director picture. I've got the cool little chair, the awesome hat, some sweet velcro shoes, and an expression that says, "we're gonna have to do another take". 

Happy Birthday to me!

Mar 28, 2008

It's the Final Countdown!

As the 4th month of the year rolls in, so does the 4th and final installment of Buick to the Future, a series of short comedies that I made with my friend Tyler. Originally I was going to wait until the 4th day of the 4th month, but it's gearing up to be a busy week, and in a lot of ways I've been on the edge of my seat to upload this last episode because it's been done for several weeks now.

The first 3 episodes were all filmed in the summer of 2007, and as you'll see at the end of Part 3, it was pretty much assumed that we'd end the series there. At the end of February I put together a short trailer to promote the series and it had me thinking maybe it would be fun to make a 4th episode. Mostly I just wanted to combine what I liked about the other films into this final installment. Take the idea, the characters, and the buick, and refine the concept into one last ridiculous effort.

Because the first episode was really the start of my original work specifically for this blog, there's something poetic about the fact that I'm now about to leave university and this city behind, and post another episode to that series. It's both exciting that there's one last episode to share, and at the same time it's sad that realistically there probably couldn't be another episode made even if we wanted to.

So with all that said, here is a chance to see what I'm talking about if you haven't visited my site before. Or, it's a chance to freshen up on the series before the last episode and the end of series. On April 1, 2008 Buick to the Future: The Conclusion (Part 4) will debut on this blog, so please check back to view it. I'll be able to see whether all this discussion and random promotion over the last few weeks has paid off at all.

If there was one episode of the series I'd want people to see, it'd be this one. Get ready folks! It's gonna be one mild ride! haha.

Buick to the Future: Series Trailer

Mar 24, 2008

The Geology Student


In Film 400 we were asked to do a character portrait. It could have been someone you knew or a fictionalized person, but the basic idea was to just focus on that individual and give a glimpse into some aspect of their life. I decided to make mine about my friend Jeanette who was a geology major, and whose specific terminology of rocks and minerals I often got a kick out of poking fun at. I took a bit of liberty in editing her answers just the way I wanted (not sure it's obvious, haha), but it was all practise anyway for the mockumentary project Elliot that served as my final film for that term. You won't find any hard hitting facts in The Geology Student as I tour the geology department with Jeanette, but needless to say, there were quite a few laughs. Enjoy!

Mar 23, 2008

University Architecture

Over the years I've taken quite a few pictures of the campus here at the University of Regina. It took a while to get all the pictures together, but I've compiled a few photo collages and put them on my YouTube channel. The first is brand new and is more specifically about the design and look of some of the key university buildings, whereas the second collage focuses more on the campus in general.

It's interesting looking at these pictures aesthetically while also having a personal history to give the images additional meaning. I leave it to you to see if you get anything out of them even if you've never been here. Enjoy.




Mar 21, 2008

Beyond a Film Student

I've been putting off writing this post for a few weeks, partly because I have other projects going on, but mainly because it's kind of an uncomfortable topic for me. Whether you've heard it through the grapevine, or heard me allude to it in several previous posts, it is in fact official that I will not be returning to university in the fall.

True, I likely won't even return to the University of Regina to finish my degree in the film progam. I suppose this is shocking depending on your own personal experience. Some relate, some disagree, and generally those who know me just look at me wide-eyed when I say it. Although perhaps it's strange to leave after the time I've put into this education, with every ounce of ambition, passion, and confidence that I have I know it's a step in the right direction for me. Sure, at its simplest it's just leaving school I guess, but it's also giving up that 'student' definition; that comfortable and forgiving term that for any artist in my position gives you a title that says it's okay that you haven't made it big yet.

It's not that I don't want to make movies anymore, it's exactly the opposite. I want to get started with my life and honestly believe that these last few random programs are not only a waste of money, but a waste of time and effort in the way of real experiences and tests. Sure the piece of paper is important, and I don't want to express any negativity towards those who pursue it because I understand it's benefits as well. 


My choice is obviously a personal one and in such a case, my sentiment is what really matters. For me, I feel I've been stagnant in this environment for the last couple of semesters and I feel like I'm drowning. The one thing keeping me afloat is my personal filmmaking (the blog/sasktel contest/etc) and in my own opinion, when you discover your inner passion, when you can see your goals, when you go out of your way to better yourself, when you become your own teacher, well then, learning through dictation loses it's effectiveness. 

I guess what I'm saying is that I've been lucky enough to experience and learn a great deal in regards to my own productions and I can't take the hypotheticals anymore. Experience a bit of success on your own and how can you go back to just talking about? I want and need more of the reality.


I started my university career straight out of high school in the fall of 2002, meaning that by the end of this semester I will have been in school for 6 years . . . yes, for a 4 year program. The reasons for this are long, but the last 2 years especially have been plagued by a lack of motivation, understanding, and reasoning as to why I was subjecting myself to classes that seemed redundent and worthless. In argument of this I always tell the story of how in a 4th year production class one of the major assignments was to write about one of your favourite directors. I was thinking:
 

"I'm sorry prof, but after the tens of thousands of dollars spent to get to 4th year programs in film, i'm beyond telling you about one of my favourite directors. I can do that in a couple sentences, tell me I have to make another movie! Challenge me! Trust me, I wouldn't be this far in the program if I didn't care about cinema, and if you're concerned that Johnny and Jane don't know their directors and styles by this point - let them make another movie and they'll realize just how far behind they really are. It's a sink or swim industry, and all the times I was humbled in class only made me stronger the next time around. Honestly, this is the end, this is the advanced class, write a paper on a director in a PRODUCTION class? Give me something I can sink my teeth into! Please inspire me to do more than read the same books in the library again! I can do that for free."
 

My mind has been made up to leave school by a series of stories like this that I'll probably end up writing a book about when I'm 40. This stuff is funny the first few times, then it just gets painful when you realize how much you're paying for it.

So where does this leave me? Well, i'll be in limbo for the summer at least while I work to pay off some of my debt. Then it's an open playing field. If I wanted to be an accountant or an engineer my strategy would seem pretty foolish, but based on my research it seems that a strong portfolio (which I do have) is just as, if not more, valuable in proving what you're capable of. There's still a load of uncertainty in this choice, but at the end of the day, school will always be there, I'm still young enough to pursue a lot of directions, and by doing this I feel like I'm finally moving forward. It just feels right.

I have to admit though, as strange as it is, if I hadn't gone to university in the first place I may have never gained the level of confidence to take such big risks (especially in the capacity where I'm able to act solely on what I want, without being bothered that others would/could do it differently). I've learned to trust myself and believe in myself, and whether I'm in school or not, I finally understand that I'm beyond what it is to be a film student. Regardless of what anyone else may think, I'm a filmmaker, degree or not.


Mar 15, 2008

Educated Detours: Short Film

Initially I got the idea when driving back to Regina after the holidays in January of 2006. The open prairie had me thinking that it might be kind of fun to make a movie out in the middle of nowhere, and that was enough to set things in motion.

Since going to film school i've always tried to shoot a personal project sometime in the summer just to take my mind off work, and after a few months of thinking about it, what emerged was Educated Detours.

I'd wanted to make a movie with my friend Paul for quite a while, so facilitating this required a bit of organization. I was back home in Medicine Hat, AB for the summer and Paul was in Edmonton. We worked out a plan to shoot in August, and things pretty much fell into place from there.

There's nothing that dramatic about Educated Detours, but it does come from a personal place. The basic idea behind it is that getting a degree in school is a lot like getting a treasure map. You can search for a giant reward or get lost in the experience, and in my case, realize that you're chasing a childhood dream (although that's not a bad thing as much as it's a reminder as to why we do some of the things we do).

It's all pretty straightforward and done purely for fun. If you get a kick out of it, well then that's a big enough reward for me. I've divided the 20min film into 3 parts, please stick around to check it out if you've got a moment or catch the 3 parts when you find the time.

Enough of my yacking, enjoy Educated Detours!


PART ONE


PART TWO


PART THREE


Educated Detours (2006)
Starring Paul Piea & Luke Fandrich
Assitance by Andrea Schmauder
Directed by Luke Fandrich

Mar 13, 2008

Tinseltown

It's a somewhat euphoric experience being in the capital of the entertainment industry. Here's an edit I made on Hollywood Boulevard in 2004.


Mar 11, 2008

Sasktel Video Contest Recap

I know it hasn't really been that long since the cell phone video contest ended, but I realized that I hadn't posted these videos together. I made each film (Give it Time and the Gizmo Tree) specifically for the Sasktel Cell-ebrities contest and they both ended up making the finals (Top 10).  The idea was to come up with a concept for a short involving a cell phone - that was it! 

My project The Gizmo Tree ended up winning 2nd place in the popular vote thanks to lots of personal promotion. I think both shorts turned out quite well, and both show a completely different style and approach. Even better, I have two new films to show for the experience!


Mar 4, 2008

Wait, Who Needs Film School?

I must have had this debate about 20 times before I even finished high school, but after finishing all but a few classes in film school I'm deciding I don't actually need it anymore. More so, I've gained what I needed from the program and I don't want to waste anymore money.

I've done my reading over the years (including D.B. Gilles book to the left) and it always seems to reaffirm what I already thought and knew. However, probably one of the most concise and straightforward responses was that of the DV Guru, whose 10 Reasons FOR Film School I featured in my previous post. Like i mentioned in that previous post, I feel that I've benefited from most of the reasons that are listed as to why you should attend film school. But, I also feel just as confident at this point that I have just as good a shot approaching an editing career without a film degree as I would approaching the industry with one.

As noted in both of DV Guru's posts, you either have it or you don't. Confidence and a willingness to learn can get you a long way.


Here are the 10 Reasons NOT to Attend Film School:

1. Your favorite filmmaker didn't go to film school. Some of the directors working today who didn't attend are Steven Soderbergh, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino, Richard Linklater, Spike Jonze... of course it depends on who your favorite filmmaker is, and plenty of famous directors are film school alumni, among them some of the most decorated. The trio of Lucas, Scorcese, and Coppola all went to film school--but that was a different era, before the invention of...

2. Digital Video. One of the primary reasons to go to film school back when Scorcese et al. attended was to gain access to the tools. 35mm or Super 16 equipment was too expensive to own and celluloid film was much more difficult to shoot on and edit. But nowadays many films showing in theaters (well, indie theaters, at least) are shot with the very same cameras that hundreds of our DVG readers have sitting at home on their desks. The DV revolution has a long way to go, but today the obstacles are more often related to distribution and raw talent, not equipment. Gaining access to a motion-picture camera is no longer a good reason to go to film school; besides...

3. Film school is expensive.It's easy to justify spending six figures on an education because you're investing in the future. Plus there is a loan structure in place for repaying your debt, and there's a vague promise of a job once you have a degree in hand. But tuition is incredibly expensive, and you'll be paying it off for years to come, unless your last name is Rockefeller. If you think you have a great idea for a film--and that's a big "if," requiring enormous amounts of faith in yourself--then you may be able to produce your project for a whole lot less money than the six figures you'd spend on a degree. And once your labor of love is done, you can distribute your project using...

4. The Internet.The biggest difference between today and 30 years ago isn't the advent of DV cameras, it's the advent of mass, free distribution like YouTube, iFilm, and a hundred other online sites. You could have all the talent in the world and a DV master of your piece de resistance in hand, but without the ability to put it out there for some recognition, you'd be up the creek. In today's era of amateur filmmakers being snatched up off of YouTube, however, you can be assured that there's an audience out there, there's a way to put your film in front of them, and there's a cadre of scared executives ready to hire anyone who understands kids these days. Another relevant aspect of the internet is the informational aspect; you can find intelligent film reviews, interviews, and forums for discussing movies online, which didn't exist several years ago. All of these things help you find...

5. The Long Tail.Pre-interweb, it was much more difficult to find niche content that catered to your personal interests; but now, as Chris Anderson has written, even smaller films manage to find an audience, profitably. Even if you're making a niche film about heroin-addicted Latvians who skydive blindfolded while listening to Jethro Tull (actually, that sounds pretty interesting), you can find an audience for it. Ten thousand interested audience members spread across the country won't get your film seen in any one theater, because the geographic concentration of them is far too sparse to sell 100 tickets at any given location, on any given night. But ten thousand interested viewers on the internet means your film can get viewed ten thousand times and passed on many times over, through email, blogs, and myspace. Suddenly you're the authority on terminal-velocity Latvian addicts and have lined up funding for a sequel, without ever stepping foot in film school. And the Long Tail isn't just relevant as a producer, it's also relevant as a student, because...

6. Netflix + books = critical studies.Classic, avant-garde, and generally obscure films used to be hard to get your hands on. Film school, once upon a time, was a great way to see movies you couldn't see anywhere else. But 90% of the movies you'll see in film school today are available on DVD. Not only that, but instead of having to pay $4/pop to rent them on your own, you can just sign up for an all-you-can-eat DVD rental service like Netflix and watch, rate, review, and queue films to your heart's content. Combine this with a few trips to the local bookstore and some Amazon listmania to get yourself a set of film history and theory books, and you've got a halfway decent critical studies program in your bedroom. That is, assuming you're motivated enough to put in all the work on your own, without grades, peers, and deadlines--which is not easy. Still, you can always...

7. Learn by doing.Between the corporate video, television, and feature film industries, there are plenty of jobs out there. Rather than paying to learn, you can get paid to learn (Mark Cuban seems to have done okay with that). Regarding film specifically, there are advantages and disadvantages to this approach: the disadvantages are that you may not be surrounded by like-minded peers who can give you valuable feedback, you may get on a track that's not of your choosing (instead of being able to focus on one specialty at film school), and you may not have much time outside of your day job to pursue the projects you really want to. The advantages are that you're supporting yourself instead of going into debt, you're building up your resume, and you're gaining an understanding of how the real world works. And learning by doing is better because...

8. You can't teach art. Can you?At the heart of the "should I go to film school?" question is an even more basic question: can art be taught? No. Yes. A little bit? Who knows. Personally I've always felt that there's something fundamentally disingenuous about teaching how to create. Yes, as a professor you can explain how a piece of art was created, you can further a student's understanding of the art form as a whole, and you can refine a student's technical know-how. But there's no right or wrong way to create. Of course, on the flip side, having a great professor who gives you good feedback and pushes you in the right direction can make the whole film school experience worthwhile (I'll talk about this next week). But many professors teach formula as technique, and you want to make sure it's your own vision on screen, not your professor's. Regardless...

9. Don't study film, study life.My problem with Hollywood today is not a lack of craft, and my problem with film school is not a lack of theory; both of these areas of expertise are arguably more refined today than they've ever been. But what's mostly missing in Hollywood today is the writing--what's actually being said--and while they can teach you in school how to say what you've got to say, they can't tell you what to say. If film school costs $100k, I'd say you'd be better off traveling the world, reading a lot of books, doing volunteer work, and meeting a lot of people along the way. If you skip film school to travel the world and you're insecure about your understanding of the 180-degree rule, read the Wikipedia entry on it and be on your way. If, in the course of your travels, you discover that you're not interested in being a filmmaker after all, that's probably for the better too, because you would've realized that eventually, even if you got your degree in film. Because ultimately, when it comes to filmmaking...

10. You either have it or you don't.Barry Diller said recently that "talent always outs." That is, if you're talented, you'll eventually make it, regardless of whatever obstacles you encounter along the way. Film school can help you become a better filmmaker--it can refine what's already there--but if you don't have the raw creativity, ability, and motivation from the start, you're doomed even if you've got a degree in hand. Conversely, if you've got what it takes, you'll eventually make it, whether you go to film school or not. This is why there's no right or wrong answer to the film school question; it's reductive, but... you either have it or you don't.

DV Guru's Blog: http://www.dvguru.com/

Mar 2, 2008

10 Reasons To Go To Film School

With it seeming more and more clear that I won't be returning to school in the fall I've been doing a lot of reading on whether or not completing my degree was really worth it.

It's not really a matter of just dropping out, because in my defense I've completed all my core production classes. What I'm not completing are the extras, a language credit, a studies class, a couple other ones like that. I'm generally just tired of the school experience and the cost to continue is pretty much the nail in the coffin. I feel confident though, given my film fest and competition credits, my core production classes, and the continuing reassurance that my field (film production) is one place that you can succeed without a degree.


I didn't come to this conclusion lightly, but it seems to be the right choice for me. A couple of blog entries I came across about film school made me feel better about it all too. The first was the '10 reasons to go to film school' and the second was the '10 reasons NOT to go to film school'. I got these off of DV Guru's blog, see the link at the bottom. I'll share the second post later, but I have to say that I agree pretty strongly with both entries, and feel that I've benefited a lot from the reasons listed below even without finishing.

So, here are the 10 reasons to go to film school:

1. Peer connections.Your classmates may be the most valuable resource you'll ever have. Go through the program, make friends, find alliances, and when you get out, stay in touch with everyone. As long as you realize there's life after film school and don't burn your bridges while you're there, you'll be able to find collaborators for your own projects, or possibly get a job on another classmate's project. While you're there you may even meet a writing or producing partner--the Joel to your Ethan Coen. That's not a good comparison, since they're brothers, not classmates, but... you get the point. Also, peer connections aren't the only advantages that come with a film school degree; you'll also get...

2. Industry connections.Because film is a so-called "glamour" industry, everyone and their mother wants to work in it; this means the barriers to entry are more prohibitive than they are in, say, the hospitality industry. Breaking in is hard. But going to a program like USC or NYU gains you instant connections to an alumni network. This can be in the form of your professors keeping in touch with previous students who now work in the industry, it can be through your school's career services, or it can even be in the form of finding out at a job interview that your would-be boss also went to your alma mater (suddenly your job prospects are looking up). But for many of these interviews, to even get your foot in the door you need...

3. Technical know-how.While listing 10 reasons not to go to film school, I asked, "can art be taught?" While that inspired some debate, I don't think there's any doubting that craft is certainly teachable. One commenter noted in support of the "art can be taught" argument that, while in film school, he was being taught how to draw; I would argue that being taught to sketch "mediocrely" [sic] is, in fact, merely an instruction on craft. So while no one can teach you how to be the next Scorcese, they can teach you camera framing, continuity editing, or high and low-key lighting. If you think you want to specialize--that is, if you want to be an editor or cinematographer, for example--then film school can certainly give you the technical knowledge to be proficient in those areas. And while you're learning the technical aspects of film, you're also getting....

4. Intelligent feedback.Your professors and peers, being educated and theoretically intelligent when it comes to film, can give you sophisticated feedback on your own projects and ideas, and help mold you into a better filmmaker. Outside the haven of film school, it's not easy to get together a group of film-aware individuals, and have them critique your project. Considering that film school typically takes place during your formative years, the collective wisdom and advice you receive during your attendance could help inform your whole career. And much of this advice comes from...

5. Mentors to push you.Shooting a no-budget DV flick with all your friends in it, and then showing it to that same group of friends and getting their "that's me on screen, this is awesome!" feedback, may not be the best way to develop your inner auteur. If you go to film school, you may or may not meet a great professor that inspires you in your studies, but if you do, that experience alone can be worth the price of admission. A good professor can push you to work harder and be more daring than you would be on your own; even if you don't find any particularly great teachers, however, the professors can collectively teach you...

6. History and theory.Even if you want to make experimental, avant-garde films, you're still standing on the shoulders of giants. Not knowing theory and history is the equivalent of saying ignorance is bliss. Many young aspiring filmmakers cultivate a belief that "truly" creative films are created in a vacuum--and it's easy to buy into this, given Hollywood's current penchant for remakes, adaptations, and other "homages"--but skipping an immersion in history and theory is one sure way of shooting yourself in the foot, not only in terms of your own knowledge of what's been done before, but in terms of...

7. Credibility.Diplomas are a necessity in many professions; film is not one of them (I'm still waiting for someone's "directed by" credit to be capped off with a "Ph.D"). Nevertheless, industry vets looking to separate the wheat from the chaff will often take you more seriously if you graduated from film school; at the very minimum, it shows you're serious about it (because, as already stated, everyone and their mother wants to be in movies). Of course, what truly matters in film is not where you went to school, but what's on your reel and what credits you have to your name; that is, what you've actually done. And in order to accomplish things, you need...

8. Time for your projects.If you opt out of film school and do the 9-5 thing, pursuing your own projects on the side can be prohibitively difficult (to a certain extent, this depends on what your day job arrangements are). Working a day job and saving up your money to work on your own blood-sweat-and-tears project has a certain romantic appeal to it, but you'll need funds, equipment, free time, and last but not least, collaborators. Film isn't like writing, where you can sit down and do it yourself; for the most part, you need someone in front of the camera, too. And even if you're shooting a documentary all by yourself, you're most likely going to need large chunks of time set aside to shoot, which you might not be able to swing with an employer who expects you to show up to work every day. Film school gives you the collaborators, framework, and the time and space to work on your film pursuits (unless, of course, you go to a film program where only one in ten gets to actually produce his or her project, and everyone else becomes crew...). Also, if you stay in film school, you're more likely to...

9. Stay the course.If you throw yourself into the working world, you'll tend to go where the opportunities are, and often times they aren't always film-related. I'm not saying that you'll come out of school with your sights set on being a writer/director and somehow end up becoming an air traffic controller, but I am saying that it's likely you'll take some detours along the way. Having elected not to go to film school (at the graduate level) myself, I'm speaking from experience--while I'm currently doing graphic design at MTV, I'm not doing film or video per se on a daily basis. If you go to film school, by contrast, you're setting aside three years to focus on film alone, and it's one way of ensuring that you won't get sidetracked. No matter how focused you are, however...

10. You either have it or you don't.Yeah, it's the same as my #10 reason not to go to film school, but that's exactly the point; it applies to both lines of reasoning. If you're truly motivated to express yourself through the medium of film, ultimately... you're going to find a way to express yourself through the medium of film, degree or not.

DV Guru's Blog : http://www.dvguru.com/

Mar 1, 2008

Buick to the Future: First Trailer

It's kind of crazy what Buick to the Future became in regards to this blog and YouTube for me. It was really my jumping off point, my first major effort at getting my online portfolio started. The fun it was to do in the summer of 2007 though is what I remember, and it was the rush of first sharing it that has motivated me to keep creating new edits and growing this blog.

It was just set in motion today that Buick to the Future will continue, and will be finalized before the end of April 2008 with the final installment: Buick to the Future: The Conclusion (part 4 just didn't sound grand enough).

Anyway, to celebrate the old and motivate the new I completed a brand new trailer for the original series of 3 Buick films. Enjoy! And I hope to see you back here next month for the final chapter!

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