Jul 31, 2010

Stampede Day

I'm away to the Medicine Hat Stampede today and so it seemed fitting to pull out this old claymation I made back in 2003. That western spirit is in the air! Once again, here's Montana Cowpie in one of my early stop motion shorts, Sitting Bull.

Jul 30, 2010

What Are You Creating For?

There's an underlying current in any creative venture that's best known as motivation. It's the reason why we're doing something. Treated simply or in the moment it may be of little consequence, but looking back at a history of choices (strictly in the creative sense) you have to be a bit curious as to what motivated you to do some of the things you did.

I've questioned time and time again whether maintaining this blog or uploading videos was worth it. Despite the fact that I enjoy it, there's always been a personal debate about the purpose. I don't want to just be entirely self-indulgent, ultimately I'm also trying to fill a need to be heard and to be expressive. While I've created a variety of projects that I'm happy to have just for myself, this experience would seem flat were it not for the feedback, reviews, reactions, etc. that artistry demands. Without obstacles and differing opinions how does one stand out or improve after all?

On closer examination I'm still at a loss in many ways. I create to be seen, to reaffirm my passions, to escape, to learn, to make a personal statement in a community of statements. While this can be seen as generic or expected, there is something fantastic about the body of work that a single person can create in a lifetime. Many of my individual videos have a small message or point, but it's really when viewed as a collective that you can see a substantial part of my personality, my impressions, and style - this story only grows with each passing year. In the end I'd hate to think that my personal experience could be too easily summed up.

What or why you create is as vague a question as why we decide to move around or why we communicate. We all do it, the real concern is how much we care about the impact we're making on each other - accidentally or on purpose.

What are you creating for? I don't know exactly, but I say do it for all the reasons you can possibly think of.

Jul 29, 2010

Wipeout Canada

With Wipeout coming to Canada I've seen my share of audition tapes for the up coming series. It's been getting a lot of attention on local radio, Facebook and YouTube in particular where everyone has been campaigning for attention throughout July. Among these folks have been two good friends of mine, Tyler and Darcie, who each uploaded a submission tape of their own.

Even more exciting, so far Darcie has received a callback for a chance to be on the show - we still have our fingers crossed that Tyler gets one too. But no matter what happens, I'm pretty impressed with both of their efforts to get noticed. It would be pretty cool watching (and ultimately laughing) as they got battered along the Wipeout Canada course - and hey, they'd have a chance at $50,000! This could be them on the big balls!

Fingers crossed for both of you! You can see their submission tapes below.

Jul 26, 2010

Summer Road Tripper

Taking to the open road has been a staple of my summers since childhood. Whether traveling across the Canadian prairies or heading south to the States, I think the days spent behind the wheel to see the country is something quintessentially North American (who else has this much wide open space?).

As we're now well into the summer I've been wrestling with several ideas to travel. Immediately I was reminded of the previous trips that I'd filmed and shared here on this blog and wasted a good chunk of time reviewing those. I have a feeling that these clips are going to have some influence when it comes time to make up our minds again this year.

What I love about a good road trip is that no matter how much you plan, you're bound to run into something you never expected. Not to mention, there's no better way to feel connected to where you are.

Jul 24, 2010

The Move

This month marked the beginning of a brand new chapter since I came back to Medicine Hat in 2008. As my first place (that hasn't just been a basement or dorm) I packed up and moved into a beautiful downtown loft in a building that I'd had my eye on since I moved back. In the same way I said goodbye to residence life I wanted to share a few pictures from the move to mark the experience.

Jul 22, 2010

Art School Confidential Critiques

In the movie, Art School Confidential an art major goes through the typical post-secondary creative experience as he tries to find himself . . . yadda, yadda . . . the movie was ok. The few things that actually made the film memorable (in my opinion) were the spot-on critique scenes. This round table or review process can also sum up every film production class I took in film school, which should come as no surprise as to why I'm sharing it.

The mix of perspectives and lifestyles really brings out an array of comments in any creative forum, but ultimately it comes down to the fact that no one wants to seem ordinary. We all model ourselves after our idols and talk about our work like we already have all the answers - thus is the ego trip and bubble that surrounds most art classrooms I imagine.

These two scenes from Art School Confidential are easy to appreciate if you've ever been in this situation yourself, but essentially all of us can attest to being confused by various displays that are presented as 'high art'. What starts out as post-secondary banter only becomes increasingly perplexing as money and actual status come into play. The point of the matter is that the process is usually quite eye-opening and funny.

Jul 19, 2010

Film School Advice

I feel like I've ranted, raved, trashed, and glamorized my own film school experience over the last several years, but that's not to say that I don't still have questions regarding the field. Now working two media jobs (largely as an editor) I feel very grateful for the experiences I've had and remember exactly what it was like trying to figure out how I was going to turn a passion into a paycheck.

Personal drive seems fundamental to making it in any competitive field, but self-assuredness is something that you best find quickly if you expect to weather the rejection from pursuing a job in creativity. Looking up information I stumbled onto studentfilms.com Film School Advice forum and had fun just exploring all of the discussions. It brought me back to high school and the anxiety I faced as I tried to decide between different film schools - ultimately I settled for the cheapest one.

From screenwriting to directing, from grant applications to film school applications, there are so many facets to film and video that make it possible to really shape the path you take. In my own experience, I returned to a smaller city after film school and actually established/developed my position with both companies with the promise of bringing a new approach to their creative strategies. While I still strive to do narrative/independent production, the work I've been doing since university has been highly self-motivated and full of variety.

I really just wanted to share this Film School Advice forum to get your brain working. Whether you're an aspiring filmmaker, recently graduated, or just interested in film and video, there's a wealth of information to be borrowed (and to make your experience less stressful).

Perhaps the greatest bit of personal advice that I can give is for you to find the answers that work for you. There are thousands of ways to get to where you want to go - something I didn't quite realize until I got there. For more general banter check out my post on Advice for Aspiring Filmmakers.

Jul 17, 2010

We Humans Are Capable of Greatness

This short video cut together using a piece of narration from astronomer Carl Sagan, titled We Humans Are Capable of Greatness, is a profound piece of perspective. I love being reminded of how seemingly insignificant and overwhelmingly unique we humans really are. Trapped on our own little world, in our small societies and neighbourhoods, it's too easy to forget that there's a vastness to our own existence that we can barely comprehend without being philosophical. This is worth a click.

Jul 15, 2010

Directing 101 by Ernest Pintoff

This was the first book I ever read that focused entirely on filmmaking as a craft; as a series of tasks and skills that needed to be rehearsed and focused on. I think I must have been 14 or 15 when I received Directing 101 as a gift. Up until then (and in a more advanced way now) much of my filmmaking was about trial and error and having this book proved to be a great introduction to how ideas and creating could really be turned into a strategic process.

Directing 101 is written by Ernest Pintoff who taught at USC and UCLA and the real strength of the book is in its general and broad descriptions of all the things that a director needs to consider. 

From writing your screenplay to blocking a scene to speaking with your actors and the various roles of a film crew, as a teenager this was incredibly valuable as I hadn't even considered the value or distinction between the roles of a producer or cinematographer or director of photography.

When you're just starting out you're inclined to just point and shoot and hope that everything comes together in post. It was books like this that made me think more critically about what I was doing. There came a point for me where I knew that this was something I wanted to pursue as a career, and suddenly there was just so much to see and do. Despite how amateur my earliest projects were, I still look back and think about how ambitious I was trying to be.

As a precursor to going to film school, books like this were a huge motivation and it's why I wanted to write about it. Inside you won't find many things that you haven't heard or thought of before, but they will be explained in a more cohesive way that can really help those who are just getting into film and video. It's a good reference and step by step walk through of what it actually means to be a director. If you want to make more than just a point and shoot video, pick up one of the hundreds of books just like this to put that extra bit of effort into your creative process and to further challenge yourself with relevant lessons. 

I have my cousin Leslie to thank for this book. It's now one of many that I keep with my film texts as a reminder of my earliest attempts to make better and better movies. There's never a shortage of new things to learn.

Jul 14, 2010

Being Published

Yesterday I received an email from a publishing company in Singapore that had seen my blog and the posts I wrote following my trip to Singapore in April this year. They contacted me specifically about the short entry I wrote as an introduction to my Universal Studios Singapore video and asked if they could have permission to publish it in the second volume of their English Empowers Learner's textbook for Singapore schools (primary and secondary).

At first I was taken back and had to go check out the entry again. It's not even that long at only 350 words, but now I think it makes sense why they chose it. Obviously the fact that I'm talking about Singapore and the brand new theme park that just opened this year is the biggest feature, but also the way I'm talking about where we're going, what we're doing, and the fact that I used a lot of descriptive words and comparisons actually makes it fairly pertinent for someone learning the language - go figure!

In any case, I gave my permission for them to freely use the entry and will be credited for it. It's one of those little things that's worth it just for the story. I like the idea that kids in Singapore could be reading aloud about my afternoon spent at Universal Studios in one over 15,000 textbooks. I never would've imagined it.

Here is the original entry being published. My Universal Studios Singapore video is below.

Jul 12, 2010

Vanguard on Current

It's refreshing to find a news journalism program that isn't just fueled by flashy effects or hype. Instead, Vanguard on Current is a show that allows its correspondents to tell a story and get you interested in the bigger picture. In my opinion, they successfully balance informative commentary and entertainment without feeling the need to dumb-down the argument or take their subject matter too lightly.

Their guerrilla documentary style approach also makes it feel more personal. I love how the correspondents actually get involved with their subjects, whether traveling to unique locations or spending a day in their life, you feel like those involved have actually invested a lot in getting to understand why people are saying and/or doing the things they are.

Current TV has become an online staple for me in the last year with shows like Infomania, Rotten Tomatoes, and now Vanguard. In its 4th season already there is plenty of material and full seasons of episodes to watch online. For those interested in everything from the recession to pirates to robots and even a bus trip across America - Vanguard is worth checking out. I've posted a few of my favorite episodes below, for more click here.

Lost Vegas: Vanguard

The Great American Detour: Vanguard

Jul 10, 2010

Salton Sea: North Shore Yacht Club

Late in the summer of 2009 my friend Dave and I went on a road trip to Southern California. One of the highlights of the trip was traveling out to the Salton Sea to check out the rundown buildings and remnants left from the tourist boom that fizzled out in the late '70s and '80s because of the ecological state of the sea itself.

The North Short Yacht Club was once a million dollar resort facility that saw celebrities and tourists using the marina. Throughout the 1960's this place saw a lot of traffic, but as the salt levels in the water continued to rise the desirability of the location weakened. After several floods in the decades that followed, the marina was eventually unusable and the yacht club was finally closed.

Dave and I visited in August 2009 when renovations were just beginning - everything was still in a rough state and the yacht club was still very much abandoned. Today, however, the yacht club looks much like it did back in the 1960's (see the picture of the renovated facility below). Supposedly there's now a museum and community centre inside.

Recently renovated North Shore Yacht Club.

I wanted to post this because it has quickly dated the footage that I shot just last year. Check out my Salton Sea videos to see what the rundown building looked like for over a decade - sitting empty on the shore of the Salton Sea in California. For more on our experience and the entire road trip (labeled Indio Outio), you can read my full post about visiting North Shore here.

Jul 7, 2010

Yobi Film Again?

After finishing in 2nd place of the Yobi Filmmaking Competition this year with my short, The Geology Student I have had it in the back of my mind that I wanted to create a brand new short to try again. To my surprise however, I noticed in my junk email folder yesterday that Yobi had sent me a message stating that on Sunday night I was actually voted as a Top 3 weekly winner with The Gizmo Tree.

This comes as a big surprise not only because I had made the semi-finals with The Gizmo Tree in season 1 of Yobi Film, but because this time around I hadn't even made any mention or done any campaigning for votes. This season (#3) of the film competition has seen a change in the rules to try to get even more films into the mix - and potentially even more films into the finals and going for the top prize.

I haven't decided what my approach is going to be yet. With the new rules I can still lose this round and then submit something new again in the next one. As much as I'm proud of my past work I think I'll feel more charged if I come up with something completely new - a more polished narrative short of some kind.

I sometimes feel like I'm not creating new videos anymore and then I remember that I am - it's just for other people now. I don't want that to be an excuse to not still keep the personal projects going though. So I'm inadvertently a weekly winner again, but I'd still like to get something new in the running. You can see the original promo I made for the Gizmo Tree below, when I made the Yobi Film Semi-Finals back in early 2009.

Jul 5, 2010


For the last week everything has been on hold because of my move. I'm just glad I was organized. I've managed to completely pack, move, and unpack over the long weekend to the point that I'm comfortably easing into my new routine for the start of another work week. There's a lot to be said about moving within the city you're already living too - it was far easier than trying to fit everything into a single vehicle and driving for several hours like I did so many times throughout university.

Things feel significantly different already despite everything else remaining the same. My new loft feels more personal than any place I've lived so far - although the only competition was my parents' basement and the dorms - there's something about finally being in a position to pick the place I want to live, purchase the furniture I want have, and commit to something that seemed out of reach just a year or two ago. I can't deny that things have gone exceedingly well this year in so many big ways that I'm still fighting to try and soak everything in at once.

It's amazing how you can see your life transform so quickly sometimes - all the hard work, luck, and timing just sync up and it's like it was meant to happen this way all along. That student mentality of 'I want to be' is quickly being replaced with 'I am'.

Jul 1, 2010

Canada Day Fireworks!

Happy Canada Day to all my fellow Canucks! I hope you're all enjoying the holiday and get a chance to go out and see the fireworks tonight. I'm currently in the process of moving so I'll likely either be exhausted or still hauling furniture by this evening, but you can have a quick look at some of my firework edits from past Canada Day celebrations if you'd like a small preview. The first is from Medicine Hat, Alberta in 2004 and the second is from Regina, Saskatchewan in 2007.