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 Yobi.tv 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.