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.