Dec 30, 2008

Is Film School Worth It?

When I left film school in April 2008, I'd been there for 6 years, straight out of high school, had just a couple of classes remaining and decided that I could do without the degree. It wasn't an easy decision to leave, but the cost was outweighing the benefits by that point. Student life had provided me with the time and means of pursuing my film aspirations predominantly on my own terms. It felt like I was buying time to continue developing my work and skill, but only in the bubble of post secondary hypotheticals.

To be clear, my battle with film school was always the clash between my drive outside of the classroom and the redundant and occasionally time wasting lessons in it. I was more eager to shoot a short than write a paper, build on my experience to complete a project instead of following the lessons intended for those who'd never held a camera, and take a hit on a grade if it meant making a film that was better for my portfolio.

I'd educated myself on film history as a teenager using a book on Academy Award nominees as a jumping off point to watch the so-called 'classics'. I saved what little money I had as a kid and spent $125 on a used camcorder a the age of 12 to shoot my own short films. Without even realizing it, I was teaching myself about framing, composition, camera angles, and how to manipulate my footage. In retrospect, it's surprising how much I was trying to prepare myself.

I wasn't in film school because I thought it was easy, I was there because I was, and am, passionate about making movies. I wanted to be challenged, and I wanted to find a way into the film industry. There was no second guessing for me, I'd known what I wanted to do for as long as I was asked 'what do you want to be when you grow up?'. At 18 film school seemed like the only realistic option, and without growing up in Hollywood or having a family member to follow in the footsteps of, I did what felt right for me.

Still transitioning out my university haze I'm now working as a corporate editor and videographer. I've got numerous festival credits to my name, a diverse portfolio, and a strong foundation to build on. However, I don't think that the answers to achieving the goals that any of us would consider significant are easy to find. Despite my successes I'm still pushing myself to grow, to make new shorts, and to save the money needed to move and make the leap to narrative filmmaking. If you want to work, if you want to put yourself ahead of the curve, and if you want to know 'is film school worth it?' you really need to figure out what it is you want most.  

At best, you'll just have to make an educated guess.  The truth is that you won't know if it was or wasn't worth it until you experience a big enough success or failure on either end of the spectrum to make you justify your decision.  However, if you really just want to know if there's value in a film school education?  Yes, there is.

Dec 28, 2008

Chico Bandito: Episode 3

This next installment in the series is the final episode that I had made before deciding to revamp my approach to completing Chico Bandito earlier this month. Which is to say, that all the episodes that come after this one will all be first time debuts.

Episode 3 was originally uploaded on September 28, 2008 and helps to clarify how despite his ability to get down, Chico Bandito continues to end up hanging on the wall. In the first episode it's easily assumed that Chico is walking out of the laundry room which helps tie into the outdoor start in episode 2. What episode 3 helps to establish is that Chico is constantly dreaming of his outdoor escape, but is significantly limited in his means of escape. This results in his first actual scheme at getting out, as well as further revelations between Chico's dream and the real world.

One of my core guidelines in creating the series was that no episode was to be longer than 3 minutes. Episode 3 is only 2 minutes and 21 seconds long, so stick around! The next chapter of Chico Bandito starts now!

Dec 26, 2008

Chico Bandito: Episode 2

On July 13, 2008 the second episode of the Chico Bandito series was completed and uploaded. I think what stood out the most about this episode initially, is that I'd been promoting the series as 'a quest to a escape from the laundry room' and immediately we open with Chico outside. 

I won't give anything away because I'd like you to see it for yourself, but this is also the episode that introduces 'the bird' character into the mix.

From a critical point of view, the second episode was an attempt to up the ante both visually and story wise. It continues to sit in the back of my mind when I'm coming up with concepts for new episodes, for ways to try and keep the laundry room fresh and dynamic. Remember, with this series containing no actual dialogue I'm trying to tell a story with edits, movement, and sound effects. It's actually the fun of making the episodes, as each one poses a new creative challenge.

While their aren't many ingredients in the recipe for Chico Bandito episodes at the moment, part 2 is a fun short and helps to develop Chico's dilemma a little bit more. The story continues, enjoy Chico Bandito: Episode 2!

Dec 24, 2008

Merry Christmas and Such!

What're you doing on the computer?  I'm sure there's work to do somewhere.  Isn't this family time?  Alright, kick back for a minute.  Here, I posted one of my old Christmas flicks below for you to watch while you're enjoying some down time.  I think we could all use a little break. In whatever way suits you, enjoy the holiday to the fullest. From me, Luke, here's wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas!

Dec 22, 2008 Semi-Finalist!

I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you to those of you who took the time to view and vote for my entries on The Gizmo Tree was the first short I uploaded to the site 2 weeks ago, and it's now a semi-finalist in the filmmaking competition. This great news also comes at a somewhat symbolic time, as it was exactly a year and 2 days ago that the Gizmo Tree was originally completed and uploaded to the Sasktel competition website. The full story behind that competition can be read here, and with any luck this experience is far from over.

I'm the winner for week 17 of a 30 week contest, so it'll be some time before the finals. Still, it's exciting how things came together. Perhaps not surprisingly, The Gizmo Tree won on the last vote before Christmas. Without actually having much to do with the holidays, I tried to pitch it that way, and I think the winter/fantasy element is fitting. Thanks again for all your help folks! The Gizmo Tree can be viewed below.

Dec 20, 2008

Chico Bandito: Episode 1

Chico Bandito originally debuted on June 3, 2008 as an individual short film. The idea for the series actually came about weeks later when I was messaged by several members of my Fandrix Films group who enjoyed the short and said they'd like to see more. 

I'd actually considered the idea since finding Chico because he was an original hand-made character that you wouldn't find just anywhere, but it was those conversations that really convinced me to make the series.

Episode 1, as it's now known, is basically an open-ended premise detailing the laundry room and the wall that Chico has been hanging from for so long. The concept was pretty much established for me, as Chico Bandito has been hanging on that exact wall since I was a kid. My dad brought him back from a vacation in Mexico in the eighties, and the seller gave him the name Chico Bandito. Who would've guessed that so many years later I'd be making movies about Chico and his escape. I guess if he could really think or move on his own, he would've done this much sooner.

Without further delay, Chico Bandito: Episode 1 starts now!

Dec 18, 2008

Chico Bandito: Series Preview

The story of the little marionette that could, we hope. For the back story on the Chico Bandito series and the plans for developing and completing this project, read here.

And we begin . . .

Dec 16, 2008

Chico Bandito: A Fresh Start

Numerous false starts, several uploads, rocky promotion, and now all the posts and videos have been removed. Chico Bandito is a short film series that I started in June 2008 with a single episode. It's a dialogue-free dramedy that focuses on a marrionette named Chico Bandito and his quest for freedom in escaping from a laundry room. It's polished, it's simple, it's charming, and now it's gone - for the moment.

With three episodes complete and one in the works, the series has struggled to find views largely because of the delays between installments. Despite 3000 views, my decision to remove the episodes today was inspired by a few things. First of all, with a new widescreen format on youtube I can now upload the videos in their orignal aspect ratios - awesome! Secondly, the scattered release of the episodes has made it difficult to promote the series. I'm going to take some time to seriously look at how to re-release the old episodes, and promote the brand new ones to complete the series. And finally, I can see the potential of the project not only in its style and look, but in the impression the series can make as a complete unit. Because I believe strongly in the concept, and because there was excitment from those who saw Chico Bandito in the beginning, I feel I owe it to myself to take a full step back in order to charge forward.

Promotion continues to be one of the biggest struggles. Despite having a strong online presence in multiple online venues, despite taking a very assertive approach to my personal work, despite how hard I push sometimes; it's tough to break into the big numbers to get people to pay attention. A fresh approach with this project feels thrilling, because with a bank of videos waiting to be released I can focus more on promotion and creating momentum. There's a lot to do still, but I'm excited about taking some new steps.

For those of you who are interested, and for my sake I hope a couple of you are, the very first episode of Chico Bandito can still be viewed for the time being on I uploaded the short to their online film contest, and if you login you can give the short a thumbs up vote to help it gain popularity. At the very least, it's worth a free viewing! See it here. Thanks for reading, and thanks for you help.


Dec 8, 2008

Film Contest - Your Vote Counts!

Sorry for this long message, but please stick with me readers.

One year ago some of you may remember that I made two short films, The Gizmo Tree and Give it Time for an online competition. Just recently I was contacted about a new online venue for competiting short films and I thought it sounded like a great way to revive these projects and further promote myself.

The site is called and among a variety of categories, it has a lengthy competition for filmmaking in which various shorts compete each week to determine a weekly semi-finalist. After 30 weeks the semi-finalists from each week compete to win money that the site determines based on participation in voting and uploading. So far the total has grown to over $15,000 and the grand prize winner would receive half of that.

To be honest, the finale seems like a little ways off at the moment, but based on the fact that this site seems relatively new my chances of winning as a weekly semi-finalist at this stage seem quite good - but I need your help to actually make this happen.

Voting is a simple process that only takes a few minutes.

1. Create an account using your email address by signing up on the site . The process is simple and instant.

2. Once logged in you ONLY NEED TO VOTE ONE TIME for each of my movies in this weeks competition. Voting is simply a matter of clicking Thumbs UP or Thumbs DOWN underneath the video. Obviously thumbs UP is what I'm looking for :)

3. Vote for each of my films by clicking on the links below after you've logged in:

The Gizmo Tree

Give it Time


This is a global contest and although I have several new short films on the back burner, using these already previewed videos here seemed like a good way to test the water. If the potential of this site and contest are fully realized it could be an amazing new venue for sharing work and getting my name out there, and worth creating a specific new short film for.

I know it can be tiresome having to participate in these voting contests, but know that I really appreciate the time and effort you take to show your support for me. If these two short films, Gizmo Tree and Give it Time have proved anything, it's that a couple minutes of your time can have a huge impact on my work and allow me to achieve things that I couldn't possibly alone.

For those who weren't aware - Gizmo Tree won 2nd place in a provincial competition in January this year and Give it Time was nominated for Best Short Film at the Youngcuts international festival in Montreal this summer.

Please take a moment to check my videos out, I'd really appreciate it. If you have any other questions or comments - that's what facebook, email, and the comments section is for!

Thank you for your time and help folks!


Dec 7, 2008

Educated Detours (2006)

I hold a lot of nostalgia for the summers in between university when I'd come back home to work, make some money, and whenever possible make a movie. At the time, school felt big in a lot of ways. I tried to constantly remind myself that the time I had there was limited, and that I'd have to use it wisely to figure out what my next steps would be. Easier said than done.

By the summer of 2006 I was feeling the pressure of not knowing what I'd even be able to do, let alone where I'd go to work when I graduated. That, mixed with my desire to make a road movie with my good friend Paul, a summer spent doing manual labour, and a brand new HDV camera resulted in the plans to shoot Educated Detours by the end of August. A summer production with friends would prove to be the perfect escape.

The original inspiration came from a drive home during the holidays. The open prairie had me thinking that it would be fun to shoot something on the back roads out in the middle of nowhere. I hadn't made anything that really embraced my location in such a big way before, and I wanted to create something more ambitious for my portfolio.

Educated Detours Trailer

The project actually took a lot of planning to get underway. Making a 20 minute short was considerably longer than most of the other videos I'd made, and we'd only have 3 days to do it in. My friend Paul had to come down from Edmonton and my friend Andrea came from Calgary to help out as well. Shooting required a lot of driving to find the right locations, the summer heat proved tiresome, and all this was happening just days before I was moving back to Regina for another 8 months of school.

With the movie now a few years old it's crazy how similar some things turned out based on the predictions I made. I left school without graduating which was never the plan, but I took the same leap of faith in coming back home to figure things out before moving further away. In Educated Detours I equated a degree to a treasure map, but I think it's broader than that. With or without the degree I think I was bound to approach post-university life the same way. Regardless of the badges we carry we're constantly looking for quick payoffs, rewarding ventures, and ways to get us closer to our goals. There are always obstacles along the way.

University was a catalyst for growing up, but I don't think we ever stop searching for the opportunities to help us achieve the things we really want in life. Educated Detours is a pretty straightforward and simple movie that has gained more value as I've gained more perspective on what school really meant to me. Plus, that was a pretty good summer and it's nice to have this as a reminder. Things aren't all that heavy when you can have fun and when your real goal was just to find an excuse to create something.

When everything wrapped up it was nice to share the project with family and friends, and to this day Educated Detours remains one of my favourite summer shoots. Also, be sure to check out some of my snapshots taken that summer. Enjoy, Educated Detours!

Dec 4, 2008

Elliot Preview

In my 4th and final core production course I chose to make a comedic mockumentary - a fake documentary - about a struggling writer trying to make it into a prestigious writing guild. The project was called, Elliot. 

It was completed in April 2007 and resulted in some positive reviews and a generous mark in the class. The complete film, however, has never been uploaded because I've always felt a tighter edit was in order. Just one more thing on the back burner I guess, but after all the work that went into Elliot to begin with, I'd really like to make sure the finished film reflects it. I've always felt good about the preview for the film though and even used it in class to help support my project. For now I think it's a nice teaser. Only time will tell when I get around to uploading the complete project. 

Dec 2, 2008

My Selected Videography

In an ongoing effort to make it easier and more enjoyable to see my projects from past and present, I've recently updated and revised my selected videography. This update included adding new edits, noting those that had already been uploaded but not credited, and most importantly, linking all the available titles directly to their individual YouTube pages. This now makes it easy to not only view my selected projects in chronological order, but also view them directly in new windows without having to navigate through old blog posts.

As this blog ages and I go through the natural ups and downs of wanting to maintain it, I'm reminded that through all this work, this is really the closest I've ever come to being able to glance at my entire film history in one place. With every post I can see that I'm projecting a little bit more of myself, diversifying, and generally just polishing and developing this growing portfolio.

I've tried my best to push myself in different directions specifically for the sake of this blog. This year alone saw several narratives, art shorts, experiments, old works, and future previews all debut here. Blog views are up 22% from this time last year, and video views are 10x higher. It's still small potatoes, but I'm continually impressed at what so little has helped me accomplish, and what essentially a bare bones blog has flourished into so far.

There's still so much to be done, but it's because of that that this seems so exciting. I'd like to think that I've balanced a professional attitude with the optimism of a first year film student by creating a base for myself that shows I'm serious about film as a career and also a real person who's experimenting and playing. Being contacted by festivals, attracting videography work, and 7 months of full-time corporate editing means I'm clicking into something. I haven't quite figured out the exact formula yet to break into narrative editing, but like I said, it's a work in progress.

Nov 29, 2008

Back from Vegas 2008

What a week! I'm tired and fighting off a cold, but it's probably because of how much fun I had and how much dirty money I had in my hands. In the end I think we did too much to mention, but this return trip to Vegas was brilliant. So much has changed. I was pretty casual with my video camera this time, but my new 2008 edit and the original 2005 edit of my Las Vegas highlights can be seen below. 

Nov 18, 2008

Sitting Bull (2003)

June 2003. I was home from university for the summer and thought it might be fun to make another attempt at a stop motion short. I dug out my supplies that had been boxed away since high school, and came up with another simple concept motivated entirely by my desire to use a western theme and the title Sitting Bull.

Obviously, the title is a literal play on a 'sitting' bull instead of on the Sioux leader.

What I've always enjoyed about animation is the ability to completely create your environment, characters, and scenes in a very specific and controlled way. It all sounds a bit compulsive, but when I was unable to execute my bigger ideas in live action, animation allowed a big departure on a small scale. Plus, it was always nice to present new characters that were completely original looking.

I've never thought of myself as much of an animator, largely because I become so eager to see the results that I don't take enough time to plot all my movements. Still, revisiting my old animations awakens a creative side of myself that I haven't considered in years. Just sprucing up these old videos has me thinking of new concepts and short animation ideas that I'd like to try.

In the meantime, enjoy this classic short from my earlier works.

Nov 15, 2008

Clumsy Claus (2001)

Back in December 2001 I made this short film to share with family and friends at Christmas. I was in grade 12, I had been editing on the computer with very limited skills for about a year, and because of a communication technology class most of my productions from 2001 had been stop motion.

For the last 5 years I assumed I had lost this project for good. I had no record of the footage or the location of the finished film, and I didn't get too hung up about it because I assumed the project was just a waste anyway. Then just recently on a nostalgia kick I found an old CD and on it was an .mpeg of Clumsy Claus.

It's funny because the CD was clearly from 2001, and despite all the work that went into the project at the time, this little 40mb file was all I had to show for that entire memory. I hadn't seen the project in years, and suddenly after seeing it again I realized it wasn't nearly as awful as I thought it was. In fact, I found myself so excited to see it again that I felt it was worthy of a bit of restoration.

The movie itself is essentially the same, I just tightened up what I could and improved the quality of the credits; both of which I had little control of on my basic editing software back then. We didn't even have a DVD drive yet to back things up.

The memory of making the project is a flashback to a different mindset. I made it before I went to university, before YouTube existed and when downloadable music and home editing was just starting to thrive. The idea of having a blog or uploading my videos to the Internet seemed incredibly complicated and expensive, and I made projects knowing full well that maybe only 10 to 20 people would see them.

In the case of Clumsy Claus, I was 17 and I wanted to make a Christmas movie. I'm just happy that after all these years, a bit of new technology, and the fact that I'm still interested in making movies, I'm able to share this project in a way that seemed so far off when it was originally created.

Nov 12, 2008

Mentor a Child

I was getting a kick checking out all the videos on failblog's channel last night, which features over a hundred videos of people failing in numerous ways. I came across these videos and laughed and laughed, but I was sent over the edge when I read the comment 'mentor a child' posted below the theme park kid video which I've shared here. I think there are a lot of lessons in these vids. Although they are time wasters. I spent nearly two hours watching people fail last night.

Mentor Fail

Speeding Ticket Fail

Extreme Makeover Fail

Cop Fail

Nov 1, 2008

Yes We Can

Whatever your politics, whatever your background, your race, your religion, your dreams; understand that you are capable of initiating the change you want to see. Regardless of where you live, you can't be heard if you don't speak up and you can't complain if you don't participate. VOTE.

Oct 29, 2008

Awesome Editing in 'The Pez Song'

I've always had a soft spot for stop motion, and with Halloween just around the corner some Pez candy seemed quite fitting also. This video was made by a fellow you-tuber who I've been subscribed to for some time. 'The Pez Song' was made months ago, but it's proven to be his most popular edit and one of my personal favourites. For the record, the music is original.

Oct 15, 2008

100,000 Video Views

On October 24, 2007 I wrote about reaching 10,000 total video views, so it seems somewhat poetic to now be hitting 100,000 so close to a year later. You have to understand how bittersweet it feels to know that I've had such great support and been able to promote my work to achieve 6 digits in views, while at the same time, come across a video on youtube with a baby burping or something that gets over a million views in a matter of months, haha.

Like I've said before, it's the fact that I've acheived these views by uploading my various projects, edits, experiments and shorts that makes this feel so much more rewarding. It wasn't just a matter of me sitting back and watching it happen, it's been a lot of work in promotion and it's not views for a channel, it's views for ME. The obvious struggle is that I could upload an episode of family guy tomorrow and probably hit 100,000 in a month, but thus is the challenge and what has happened so far feels pretty good.

At the end of the day 100,000 is a number I can look at that represents part of the pay off for putting in the time I do. Editing Luke has been about getting my name out there, sharing my work, motivating myself, experimenting, finding like-minded viewers, opening myself to more criticism, and all around growing and improving by constantly creating challenges and goals for myself as a filmmaker. I really just want to know that people are actually watching.

Thank you to all of you who have shared in the growth of my blog and work over the last year and half. It's an uphill battle folks, and I appreciate the push!

I'm Luke, I'm Fandrix

Oct 12, 2008

Give it Time (2007)

In a rapidly advancing technological age we have to ask the hard questions about what impact electronics, such as cell phones, have on our lives. A short film is the perfect medium to do this, and as a filmmaker, I created a short film that doesn't answer any of these questions! And thus is the beauty of a comedic short.

I created Give it Time in the fall of 2007 for the Sasktel Cell-ebrities Online (Cell phone related) competition. My idea had been a work in progress since the summer that year, but it wasn't until November that things actually got underway. My goal for the project was to create something that seemed stylistically different than the other videos I'd been watching on the site, and most importantly, something that folks would watch more than once.

The intial round of the contest where anyone could upload a video had started in the summer, and it took me until November to make my vid because I wasn't even sure I had a chance. Sasktel is the provincial phone company of Saskatchewan and the contest was only for residents of the province. I was living there at the time going to the University of Regina, but technically, I was still a permanent resident of Alberta. A semester of work, and doubt if I'd even be eligible to win any of the prize money had me second guessing whether it was worth the effort to make a film specifically for the contest. Despite this, I'd been thinking about what kind of movie I would make if I were to enter, largely because my friend Tyler had been quite interested in the contest and had uploaded his film Gilligan.

I talked myself into making a short by reasoning that even if I wasn't eligible to win, it would still be something if they said they wanted to accept my film but couldn't because of technicalities like my address. With so much time to think about and refine an idea, it seemed like a waste not to try. So late in November, living in the dorms I went down to the math lounge at 2 in the morning to shoot my film. I knew exactly what I wanted to do, only needed a few camera setups, and knew that the strength of my project would come from the clues I gave in my dialogue and how I cut the video in post production.

Give it Time - Cell-ebrities Version 2007

Fast forward to early January 2008, and Give it Time and the other short film I made for the contest just weeks later, The Gizmo Tree, had both been selected as Top 10 finalists in the contest. Feeling that the Gizmo Tree was a more mainstream approach, I chose to promote that film in the voting round leaving Give it Time on the sidelines.

When all that was said and done, I was left feeling that Give it Time hadn't really had a chance because the whole contest suddenly became about my other short. I still felt that I should do something with the project because so many, including the judges at Sasktel, told me how much they enjoyed the twist in my film, and how it got better with each viewing when you were in on the joke. It was around the same time that I began thinking about submitting something to the Youngcuts Festival in Montreal. I made a few minor changes to Give it Time, including new credits, sfx and a music track and sent it off.

Fast forward a few months again, Give it Time had been accepted at the 2008 Youngcuts International Film Fest and was a nominee for Best Short Short (film under 3 minutes). All and all I got everything I wanted from the project. It was a great experience being the only person in the Cell-ebrities contest to have two films in the finals, and getting to weigh the feedback between those who thought Gizmo Tree was better and those who thought Give it Time was. Youngcuts gave the project legs of its own, and for the sake of my portfolio, distinguished it with a notable credit outside of Cell-ebrities. Even my current employer mentioned to me that it was my editing in Give it Time that sparked her interest in offering me the job.

Give it Time - Youngcuts Version 2008

It always amazes me how connected things actually are in terms of the benefits and positive word of mouth that occurs when I'm on a promotion kick. A lot of it I never hear until well after the fact, but it just goes to show that even without winning on this particular project, I was still able to improve on my portfolio, get people talking about my work, and motivate myself. The evolution and result of making Give it Time has proven to be a signifcantly positive experience. My point behind all of this, is that the payoff came simply from talking myself into trying, even when it seemed like I might not have a chance at the reward. It's a lesson I hope I continue to follow.

Oct 6, 2008

The Wave

Another one of my split screen experiments - the wave! I like the idea of playing with repetition of frames. I'm not sure how I'll use something like this in the future, but as one more playful exercise, this was particularly fun to make.

Oct 5, 2008

The Gizmo Tree (2007)

Back in late November of 2007 I had just completed my first entry for the Cell-ebrities contest, Give it Time. I'd thought about that film and concept since I first heard about the competition back in the summer, but with over a month left to do something else it didn't seem like such a bad idea to make another movie.

Up until then it was really just a thought. What I liked about Give it Time was that it was something I was able to do completely solo. It was a nice simple idea, with an original twist, and I knew it was unlike the other entries I'd seen on the site. I was more than happy to stand by my original film, and believed, given the other videos I'd seen, that I had the potential to be selected for the final round. Still, there's something energizing about putting your work out there. Being in the heat of things, so to speak, had me checking the Cell-ebrities site on a regular basis and telling everyone to check out my entry.

It was now mid-December, and late one evening I found myself searching through pages of music on a royalty free site. Out of nowhere really, I found myself listening to a track that just sparked an idea. Having the desire to make another project is one thing, but having a complete concept pop into your head doesn't usually happen so quickly. Maybe it's fitting, and definitely cheesy, that the instrumental track was called 'Eternal Hope'. I can see now, that had I not come across the piece of music that I did, the Gizmo Tree and a second submission probably would have never happened.

That exact night of finding the song I began to write and record some narration. I wasn't completely committed to the idea yet, but I figured if I put a few pieces together I'd know. A few minutes turned into a few hours and I found myself with a rough script, and a decent mock-up of my audio and narration. I was excited, and as only an evening of creative efficiency will allow, I had completed enough prep work to convince myself that the idea was still worth completing in the morning.

As was the case with both my Cell-ebrities films, the production came together quickly and was helped by a lot of in-the-moment ambition. It was a Sunday that my friend Tyler helped me out in shooting what would become the initial scenes of my film. The weather was perfect for it, fresh snow on the ground, frost on the trees, all around a perfect winter scene. That night I remember being so upset because all of the dialogue scenes (with me in front, facing the tree) were off balance, and the shots just didn't look as good as the stuff shot earlier.

Time was running out by this point. I was heading home for Christmas in less than a week, and I still needed to re-shoot, edit and then be sure I could upload to the site. A few months earlier in the contest, the site was down for nearly 3 weeks so I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't a bit superstitious or concerned that my luck would run out as I was rushing to finish.

I went out the next day alone to re-shoot my dialogue scenes. There is a huge park around the Legislative Building in Regina, SK so that served as the location for my enchanted forest. There were about 3 or 4 different trees that I used as the actual Gizmo Tree throughout the process, but the biggest issue at that point was that the lighting for my re-shoot day had completely changed. The day before it was grey and snowy, the next day the skies were clear and the sun was shining. Although I wasn't initially crazy about it, as soon as I started shooting I could see how good it looked. The lighting created strong contrast, it added welcome colour, it made the tree really stand out, and it gave me a great silhouette and sunset to cut away to.

You can also see a few of the props that were used that day, including the Jumbo Diamond and the Gizmo Toque. I can't look at either of these items without associating the project with them.

That night the editing came together like clockwork. Even though I was incredibly anxious to get my new film out there, I sat on it for a couple of days just to make sure that it was the project I wanted. It was then uploaded early on December 19 and within minutes I had some positive comments and ratings underneath my film.

The Gizmo Tree was above all, another personal exercise in what I was capable of. I often work solo, not because I don't want to collaborate, but because at this point in my life I'm testing myself to see how I can work things out. There's just so much to learn, and if I can compete in a competition where groups of people worked on a film, compared to just me working on a film then I think that says a lot about my personal skill. It could also just be Charlie Chaplin syndrome kicking in and feeling like it's just better if I can control everything about my movies . . . and a lot times that's probably true.

On January 9 the news came in the form of a voicemail message. "Luke, I have some good news. Not only did we love your film Give it Time, but we also loved the Gizmo Tree. It looks like both films have a great shot at being in the finals". Two days later, both films were indeed in the finals, and I was the only filmmaker in the competition to have 2 films in the Top 10. I never expected that they'd include both of my entries, I figured I had 2 diverse films and that I had a great shot at getting one of them selected. It was a pleasant surprise.

Fast forward to late January 2008 and after a week of voting, promos, a new facebook group, and more emails and updates than I can really remember, the news came. I'd won 2nd place, $3500, and an amazing new credit to my name. The several months of the process suddenly flooded forward and all the work and planning seemed like the completion of an intricate puzzle that I hadn't realized I'd made correctly until that moment. I just remember feeling so relieved that I finally had some money to pay the university, some money for myself, and from what it felt like at the time, finally some good news to share.

At first there was rush of realizing what $3500 meant with me being a broke student. All that wears off pretty quick though. What stuck with me soon after, and what I still feel was the most enlightening part of the experience, was the overwhelming show of support and positive feedback that I realized I'd been riding on. 
When your pushing your work as hard as you possibly can, there's nothing like someone willing to get behind you and push too. Sure, I got the word out in every way I could, but it was the actual votes that won the competition. It's a testament to the people who wanted to see me succeed and their efforts to help me get there.

At the end of it all I was told I was the largest single cash winner in the competition as the first and third place films each had multiple filmmakers attached. I received a giant novelty cheque which hung on the wall of my dorm as a reminder until leaving university in April. With a handful of wins and a handful of losses, it's experiences like this that remind me what an exciting career path I'm on. You never know where your next life lesson will come from; for a moment playing in an enchanted forest didn't seem quite so ridiculous.

*Update 2009* After entering this short in the Film Contest in December 2008, I became a weekly winner and semi-finalist to compete in the Yobi Finals in April 2009. Gizmo went on to get voted through 5 rounds, making the top 10 - just a few votes shy of the last round. While the finish was somewhat anti-climactic after coming so close to a win, I was very proud to have beaten out over 20 other independent filmmakers for my spot. Plus, the Gizmo Tree was viewed nearly 50,000 times during the contest. You can see my promo video for the contest here.

The Gizmo Tree (2007)
Written, Edited & Directed by Luke Fandrich

Oct 3, 2008

Keys to Existence: Awards Edition

My most decorated film, my first major film school project, and what I like to say is the movie that established my professional film portfolio. Keys to Existence is an experimental short I shot in 2004 as part of one of my film production classes. The full story behind the project can be read here. Notice the brand new poster and view the promo for the project, as well as the full film, below.

With some of my early film school projects now several years old, I'm able to look back at them with nostalgia and appreciate how much my promotion has evolved. With some of my newer projects like
A Chill and the Air and Give it Time also receiving new credits this year, I'm excited to think about how the possibilities for new venues and credibility increase when my work is critically received by multiple sources in completely different parts of the world. Keys to Existence makes me proud because I know how much I grew when I went through the process of making it, refining it, submitting it, and promoting it as a student. Like all artists must feel, even though some of the projects that have followed have been more time consuming and complex, there's a lot to be said about roots and the personal projects that let you see things in new ways for the first time.

Keys to Existence Promo

Keys to Existence

Oct 2, 2008

Amazing Editing in 'Junket Animation'

This video is an excellent example of the ingenuity possible with limited resources. I've always been a big believer that it's about the concept, not the equipment, that really dictates the success of a project. Here's more evidence to support it. A couple of university students made this stop motion film and cut it to a song by Sabrepulse. Simple and clear concept + top notch editing and animation = really fun to watch.

Sep 26, 2008

Split Thoughts

Borrowing on the technical inspiration of my short Split Wash, Split Thoughts has an obvious personal edge. Again, it's light on actual substance but I felt motivated to put together this little short after thinking about all the vlogs I've watched on YouTube and considered what the act of filming yourself meant.

It got me thinking, what if you don't know what to say or how to say it? Is it simply a self portrait? Is it just a way to command attention? It's a bit of all of this I think. As simple as it is I find there's something reflective and haunting about this short. What is a filmmaker/editor anyway if not indulgent and gratuitously searching for artistic gratification? We're all entitled to our moments I suppose.

Sep 23, 2008

Siblings Remix

An energetic remix cut from my original Siblings video. I always find it entertaining to see what else I can create with the same footage. The original Siblings can be seen here.

Sep 21, 2008

"You're So Money!"

It's the famous quote Vince Vaughn shouts to Jon Favreau in Swingers, as they drive into Las Vegas for a night of unabashed fun and adventure.  Who can blame them?  It's "Vegas baby, Vegas"! I'm hoping to create some hilarious and random memories of my own when heading back to the Vegas with my friend Andrea at the end of November.

I was last in Las Vegas in 2005 just weeks after turning 21. Now 24, I'm going back to a whole new Sin City with a bit more knowledge, and a lot more on my list to do. My friend Andrea and I are staying at the MGM Grand for starters, which is a nice upgrade from the first time around. We'll also be making the trip out to the Hoover Dam and taking in a Cirque du Soleil show.

We got a kick out of just exploring the strip and casinos back in 2005, which essentially made it a lot easier to narrow down exactly what we wanted to do this time. It was a rush then, and with a bit more money in my pocket and a general upgrade in everything we plan on doing I know it's going to be even more awesome now.

In my adult travels this is the first time that I'll be heading to the same vacation spot twice. It'll be cool to see how much things have changed, which in Vegas doesn't take long and I know that since being there the Stardust and New Frontier have both been imploded (you can see the signs in my video below). As per usual I'll have my camera with me again to capture the highlights. I can't wait!

Below are the 4 edits I put together from the 2005 trip.

Sep 13, 2008

Editing Luke Alone

I think there's a certain solemness that goes along with being an editor. It's the ability to sit in front of a computer screen for twelve hours straight, creating something, refining it, and still wishing you didn't have to stop to sleep. It's being an organizer, the guy who gets to pull all the loose fragments together and essentially gets to create the message of the work. I've always felt that as long as the coverage in the shooting was well done, it was in the editing that the story got told. It's a personal experience executed with the foresight of knowing how your target audience will respond.

Still, it's lonely out on this independent limb.

One of the few things I actually miss about film school was the collaborative element that came with developing and refining various personal productions. It was the best of both worlds. You still got to pursue the project you wanted, but subjected it to a slaughter of criticism from people you respected and loathed. As uncomfortable or gracious as it could be, it lit a fire. Just knowing that you were being challenged, that you were in competition, that you actually stood next to a crowd when they were watching your work created this sensational rush and excitement. It was a high that lasted only a few minutes, took weeks to get, but was completely worth it.

On all accounts 2008 has been a very successful year for me. But, while my work screens in Montreal or the UK, while people read my blog or watch my 70+ YouTube movies, I'm disconnected from the experience and have received only a sliver of feedback in contrast to the work it took to actually achieve these things. It's reaffirming my frustrations as I don't know how much harder I can push just to get some of that meaningful 'outside insight' back.

Part of this frustration is also associated with having no one like me in my social circle. As self absorbed as I know that sounds, I mean having friends who produce their own work as prolifically. I think I'm hungry for that challenge again, and even more so, would love to collaborate on quality projects without feeling that I have to initiate and steer the entire production. After all the work I've put in to developing a resonable online persona for promotion, I don't want to collaborate just for the sake of having another voice, and I don't want to feel like I'm merely a source for equipment and publicity. I want to be sparked by someone who has just as much confidence and belief in what they're creating as I do. (My friends are great by the way, but) I want to stir the pot a bit.

I know the answers I want to hear, and reminders of one's own passion and perserverance seem to require review from time to time. I'm still growing and trying to find a path, while at the same time I think my pursuit might be easier if I were to focus on making and promoting a single series of work instead of this grab bag of variety. One way or another I'd like to introduce new faces to the mix. It's tough to balance, but it is what it is. Like I said at the start of this post, I can sit at this monitor for a long period of time; Long enough to re-edit, review, renew, but more likely, to continue searching for what I'm looking for and challenge myself again.

It may feel a bit lonely at the moment, but I think if I make my intentions clearer while continuing to diversify my work and approach, there's a good chance that new faces will emerge. Time to take a few more risks.

Sep 9, 2008

Boom De Ah Dah!

Part of the fun of this blog is the ability to share the things I love. Have you seen this latest preview for the Discovery Channel starring some of the network's celebrities? This is the American version, the Canadian one has the guy from Daily Planet and the guy from Canada's Worst Driver in it, but it's basically the same. It gives me the chills, and I agree - The World IS Just Awesome.

Sep 1, 2008

Computer Frustrations

I think we've all been there more times than we care to recall, but computer trouble has plagued the last couple of days for me. At the end of April I took it upon myself to buy a new PC to provide more space for projects, replace a dvd drive that didn't work, and to generally just improve my computer experience. Fast forward 4 months and after a weekend of a corruptive virus, a messed up hard drive, and a relatively new monitor literally just shutting off and not turning on again . . . that system is toast.

I was away at a wedding this weekend, also acting as videographer, and the thought of having to deal with my computer when getting back into town was a thorn in my side. Getting back and realizing that none of the anti-virus software had worked, mixed with the monitor just dying led me to scratch the whole system and act on my frustrations impulsively.

So here I sit at another new computer in just months, although I have to say it is beautiful and thanks to Back-to-School sales it was a steal. A few more bucks and someday I'll invest in a Mac strictly as an edit studio, and a PC for the rest.
In all I was only without my computer for about 3 days, but it's a wake up call as to how dependent I am on it. It's not just a personal computer, but it's also a neccesity for my day job to edit and review productions I'm working on. I instantly fall out of the loop when email, msn and facebook aren't an option, and not having my blog or youtube account sends me into creative withdrawl. It's the problem with having a machine that performs so many functions, as soon as it doesn't work you're lost. Had I not been a kid playing with toys at the time, I might be more curious as to how people got by without the internet.

Oh well, everything is getting back to normal now. The new computer has 80GB more space than the previous one, I upgraded to a newer version of my editing software, and rebuilding my iTunes library is actually kind of fun. Yes, I am searching for the glass half full side of this experience.