Jul 29, 2011

On the South Saskatchewan River

Some family outings are defined by the incredible stories that a destination provides, and others are defined by the fact that sometimes nothing really goes to plan.  Our family trip up the South Saskatchewan River on a jet boat last weekend (July 22) couldn't be more aptly summed up by the latter.

After a week of blistering temperatures, the day we set out on the river it was raining.  Not drizzling or overcast, but literally pouring.  Even with a roof over the jet boat, several hours into our adventure the rain took its toll and everyone was cold.  The views were beautiful, and I've never actually seen the river like I did on this trip before despite living in Southern Alberta almost my entire life.  It's kind of like driving in the prairie after awhile though and with the rain making everyone uncomfortable, you quickly convince yourself that you've seen enough.

How many times can you joke about the rain not stopping before that becomes just as annoying? The answer is probably 3.  Actual tally from the day: 432.

The goal was to head to a ranch and have a nice supper out there.  When we reached the shore to continue our journey by van, insult was added to injury when one after the other, several family members fell into the mud.  Although I genuinely felt bad, this was also the point when I just couldn't help but laugh at how well things were going.  Sitting in the van and looking at everyone, you could swear we had just signed up to reenact the opening scene of Saving Private Ryan . . . as the beach.  Ahh, family time!

Our ride in the van was nothing short of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride as we careened from one dirt road to the next.  As our guide continued to dispense questionable facts about our surroundings (that no one could possibly see) and give a thrilling commentary on the history of irrigation in the area, the rain subsided and we took to the prairie to explore.  Sometime after the talks about the mystical healing powers of Native medicine wheels and more white knuckle driving, I was happy to finally sit down and have a beer. By the time dinner was ready, nothing could have been a better reward for a day that went completely unlike any of us had expected it to.

I promised that my video would make the boat ride look more enjoyable than it actually was.  I can already see how the mishaps and bad weather from this trip are exactly the kinds of things that we'll joke about now. And that, my friends, is the beauty of editing.

Jul 28, 2011

How Do I Get Into Editing?

Yesterday I received this email:

I just found your blog and really admired your story and was wondering if you had any suggestions for someone who really wants to have a career in editing and film making. I love editing and would love to take on projects and create my own reel and get things going, it's just a difficult process to start, I don't know what to show to people to prove I have skills as an editor. I just did an internship with a friends parents acting class and did a short little movie, but have since moved away and am saving up for film school. Thanks for reading my email, have a great day.


First of all, I want to thank you Rob for your email.  I think your question isn't at all uncommon, which is why I asked you if it would be alright to respond to your question publicly.  I won't pretend I have all the answers, but I'm happy to share a few of the things that helped me get going when I was just starting out.

1.  Editing for yourself.

Whether you're shooting your own footage, editing home videos, or using found footage from your favorite movies, the best way to improve your work and make impressions with your editing is to create - and create A LOT.  Challenge yourself with varying styles.  Edit a music video, cut a promo reel, recut an original trailer for a movie you like.  Editing isn't simply about the task of combining clips on a timeline, it's about versatility and your awareness of how others will respond to the visuals and sounds you present before they've even seen them.  

Don't stress yourself out by thinking that everything you create has to be brilliant.  Treat your projects as exercises and use them to get a taste of different strategies.  These editing variations will also go a long way to highlight the way you handle different styles, which is exactly the broad approach that you want to take when you're just beginning.  You'll know you're on the right track if you're able to genuinely surprise yourself with what you come up with.

Others respond to dedication and persistence.  If you want people to know that you're serious about pursuing this as a career you have to be willing to keep at it even when you're not receiving gratification for your efforts.   It's what separates those who are professional editors, and those who just call themselves one.

2.  Sharing your work.

Show friends and family what you've done, upload your work online to be criticized, and find contests and student film festivals to give you new goals and specific feedback.  Everyone doesn't have to like what you do, and my best advice for being in any form of media is that it's best to develop a thick skin early on.  

Sharing your work with those close to you is also a great way to let people know about your film making and editing goals.  As a teenager, the projects I shot with friends translated into some of my first paid gigs filming seminars and weddings.  Don't expect to make big bucks doing this.  You're likely being hired as much because of how cheap you are compared to everyone else, as you are because of how enthusiastic you are to get the opportunity.  But, do take advantage of these early opportunities to diversify and create a reel for yourself.  Feeding on experiences will help shape your path and give you more choices.

Networking with friends and family is as simple as it gets, and you never know when they might know someone who wants a simple web video or someone to capture some footage of their function.  When you're trying to get into something new, the old saying 'beggars can't be choosers' is never more relevant. 

3.  Creating an online business card.

For me, Editing Luke has become a bit of everything.  It's a video portfolio, recap of some of my experience, and a place to share inspiration.  Ultimately, it's a well maintained presentation of who I am (and how I want to be viewed). 

While I haven't used my site as a direct advertisement to attract freelance work, I've used it as backup to prove how dedicated I am to what I do.  On a personal level this site has helped me build connections, has attracted several film festival invites for my work, and has given me a forum to promote projects in competitions.  Getting this to happen has taken a lot of effort on my part, but some of the achievements that have resulted have ended up on my resume and are great talking points when convincing someone to hire you.

When I was looking for work fresh out of film school, the impact of this site also stood out when I asked people to have a look.  It proved I was a real person with some character, because lets be honest, when you're just starting out your potential is probably more exciting than your previous work history.

In short, to work full time as an editor you have to push to make it happen.  The two editing jobs I currently do didn't exist before I came along.  However, their creation also didn't just occur overnight.  The right connections, a series of varying experiences to draw examples from, and a diverse reel to show that I was adaptable to a variety of styles all played a big part.  

When you're starting out you have to latch onto anything even remotely related to what you want to do and excel at it.  You'll be surprised how many people will take chances on you when you can spark their interest with what you're really interested in doing.  For me it's been a long chain of small events and chance meetings that have helped me progress further into what I want to do.  My approach is still evolving (and the work isn't always enriching) but to be able to fully support myself through editing and photography is one dream realized. 

The good news is that there are so many unique ways to get you to where you want to go that you shouldn't feel limited.  The arts are complicated, but those who succeed in a day to day sense (working for themselves that is) are those who learn how to bridge their creative ambitions with practical applications.  The web has transformed the market, and plenty of companies are looking to utilize video.

For more, check out a few of my older posts Advice For Aspiring Filmmakers and Basic Film Portfolio Skills.  Best of luck! 

Jul 27, 2011

I'm Comic Sans, Asshole by Joe Hollier

There's no question, Comic Sans gets a bad rap.  Around the office the graphic designers shun it.  Snobs.  Given that this treatment isn't uncommon around creatives, this animation from Joe Hollier seems long overdue.

Jul 26, 2011

Britain's 722 (2001)

Like the other stop motion shorts I did a decade ago, Britain's 722 is more of an exercise in animation than anything else.  The video posted here isn't even the complete project as I couldn't find the edited version, just the raw footage I shot.  That aside though, I don't want to underplay the work that went into creating some of the scenes I used in projects like this.

The concept behind 722 was the story of a British man in the 1950's who tries to beat a land speed record against his American rival.  The final scene, not pictured here, was the race between the two of them.

Looking back at my early work like this I'm amazed that despite my limitations with equipment and primitive digital editing software, I really did push myself to attempt some ambitious concepts.  In the end it didn't seem to matter that things weren't perfect, as I learned a lot from the process and was able to explore ideas just for the sake of saying I'd done something with them.  When you're just starting out, not only trial and error, but trial and error with animation, goes a long way in showing you just what's required to create a scene.

A clip from Britain's 722 is posted below, and you can also check out my other 2001 stop motion projects, One Banana and Clumsy Claus to see more of my earliest work.

Jul 25, 2011

Via iPod Touch

This weekend I crossed another bit of indulgence off of my wishlist and bought myself an iPod Touch.  To be completely honest, I was swayed by the apps.  Namely, Instagram and Angry Birds.  It's really just another excuse to waste time.

I love my iPod classic and listen to it around the apartment and have it hooked up to speakers everyday at work.  The iPod Touch, however, seems more appropriate for everything else on the go.  I can put the few new CDs that I'm listening to for the moment on it, or play games while I'm waiting, snap some pictures, etc.  And for as much as I use my current cell phone, just going for the iPhone seemed a bit pointless.

In any case, it's been fun so far.  This weekend I was shooting video with the Super 8 app (from the movie, Super 8) that mimics an old school Super 8 camera.  Then I played with Instagram around my apartment, trying out all the different filters - and creating a new blog header with some of the images.  This will probably do for my photography what my Flip Cam did for my video, which will mean another cool way to share things on the blog. Then there was Angry Birds - no comment required, as it seems everyone else is already addicted.

You're never too old for new toys, are you?

Jul 22, 2011

Meet Alex Chandler

It's not often that I get the chance to feature other film makers who are just starting out and are going through the motions about how to approach their own career in film.  I got to know Alex through my blog and YouTube channel, and since then I've enjoyed our numerous discussions about film.  He's made me consider a lot of my own choices with some of his questions about film school, and it's been a lot of fun to hear about what he might like to do and how he might want to get there. 

I look forward to seeing how Alex continues to grow as a film maker and am happy to have made another lasting connection via the web - always expanding that network!  So, without further delay, here's Alex to share a bit about himself. 

To start I'd like to thank Luke for letting me voice myself on his blog! 

My name is Alex Chandler, and I'm an aspiring film maker from Washington State. Currently I'm looking into film schools that will help achieve my goal in this career. But at the same time I'm making lots of short films and learning film techniques wherever I can find them.

Alex (left) with friend, Ethan.

One of the bigger projects I've been working on with my team, Filming Humor, is a series of short films. The first one, The Spies; Layer of the Devil was released Christmas day 2010. The other two our going through the process.

With the first video, we learned a lot about story telling, weaving a story together, and realized a lot of our difficulties on location. From this we were able to create "The Directors On Scene Checklist."

This checklist came in very handy during the filming of the sequel, The Spies; James and the Vampire. Because the two directors, myself included, were on location working together and knew the checklist fairly well, helping the footage turn out great. 

Another key bonus put off by using the checklist, was that we were able to run through the script in a much more timely manner. The only reason we were rushed at the end of the day, was due to the battery dying...unfortunately a spare battery is another couple weeks from being owned...just bought it on EBay.

The point here is that with each experience there is a lot of hands on learning that goes on. I mean it's a lot of trial and error, but with a lot of my friends in drama, and myself taking classes related to film in general, we are able to figure things out a lot faster.

One thing that has happened dramatically fast between the last few short films we've made, is improvement to the plot. My friend Mariah is a writer, she has been helping develop the story and plot lately. And because of her insight we have reordered scenes out of chronological order, and grown depth to characters.

Really a strong team helps you grow, which is one thing to look for in colleges. You really want a hands on experience, and once you get out of the college you will want to know a lot of different people, with different sets of expertise. Where as I personally am an editor, I might need to meet up with all sorts of other specialists.

Looking for a college to go to will be quite a difficult task for anyone, and there are tons of options. Luckily for me I have Luke to ask for advice from, and his numerous life experiences.

The first thing I've discovered that I need to do, is decide what I want. In general you will like one part of film making. I enjoy editing the most, but of course everything else is fun too. But the key to choosing what, where and, everything else is really a personal preference.

From my point of view there are multiple options. You can freelance video edit and film, similar to what Luke does with Stream Media. You could also work for a company, and have a steady income; as in the case of Luke, he has Weddingstar. And then the one option I find the most tasteful, is that of a cinematic nature, more of a Hollywood sort of thing.

Personally I couldn't say what I'm planning to do yet, but it will take a lot of time and thought to fully decide.

Thanks for Reading,

Jul 21, 2011

Quatchi in Hong Kong

On route to Singapore, Stephanie and I arrived at the Hong Kong International Airport after a lengthy and disorienting flight from Vancouver.  In between a few hours of sleep and trying to figure out what time it was back home, we couldn't tell if we wanted breakfast or supper, but ultimately settled for some local cuisine.  Yes, Burger King. 

Luckily, Quatchi was there to act as an entertaining distraction and help us pass some time in the airport before continuing our journey. 

Quatchi is a Sasquatch and was a mascot from the Vancouver Winter Olympics.  As you might have guessed, he joined our trip in the Vancouver airport while we were killing time before our flight to Hong Kong.  

It was one of the perks of travelling in April 2010.  The Olympics had just ended in February, but all of the Olympic decorations were still up and all of the merchandise was now on sale.  I actually talked myself out of buying one of the giant Quatchis at the last minute when I realized I'd be carrying it for hours.  I settled for the little one that I could clip to my backpack.

From Calgary to Vancouver to Hong Kong, it was finally time for our final flight on to Singapore.  The excitement started to build as we discussed what it was going to be like, what we were going to do, and how different everything already was.  Then Quatchi snuck in a quick picture before we boarded our plane.

These days Quatchi is hanging out just above my computer, watching me edit random things.  He still doesn't say much.

Jul 20, 2011

My Bridge on the River Kwai Project

In high school I was fascinated with stop motion.  Probably even more than the animation though, I loved being able to create my characters and scenes.  For one unfinished project this resulted in two popsicle stick bridges inspired by the 1957 Best Picture, The Bridge on the River Kwai.  

I had always intended to destroy one of the models in a climactic explosion with a miniature train going across it, but that never happened.  In the summer of 2002 just before leaving for film school, I began cleaning out my old bedroom and getting rid of all my old stuff.  I decided it was finally time to destroy one of the models and get it on tape.  Here's that footage from August 2002.

Jul 19, 2011

Hitch by Pascal Monaco

What's the recipe for Alfred Hitchcock's classics?  All you need is this animated cookbook!  A group of students (including Pascal Monaco as one of the animators) created this short as a graduation project at the University of Applied Arts and Sciences in Hannover.  It's a clever concept, and if you're anything like me, it will have you thinking about what ingredients make up some of your other favorite directors work.

Jul 18, 2011

It's All a Work in Progress

After reviewing my earlier site previews and some of my latest home video footage from the Canada Day long weekend, I took an evening to create this.  Part recap, mission statement, and blog preview, I wanted to reflect on how Editing Luke has continued to evolve as a personal project.  I've never felt more committed to the belief, especially in regards to my videography, that it really is all a work in progress. 

Jul 15, 2011

What Makes a Good Blog?

While finding the perfect blog is a fools game, there are certainly ways of defining what makes some blogs better than others.  Years of writing about my own creative ambitions have given me some perspective, but I'll be the first to admit that I'm still learning how I can improve.  In an online community saturated with cookie cutter content, here are a few simple things I've noticed that make for the best blogs.

1.  Passion and Purpose

The best blogs are created and maintained based on a true love and admiration for their topic or focus.  When visiting blogs like this you get a sense that the writer or writers are truly invested in what they're saying.  You get a sense of their character, their quirks, and how they speak.  They share goals, stories, and use their personal experiences to create a connection and bring their own spin to otherwise familiar content.  In doing this, the best blogs create an underlying thread that link their entire presentation together.  This is true of photo and video blogs too, or even those based strictly on sharing others content. 

2. Dedication

Regular updates with a focus on originality are the hallmarks of a great blog.  They make following easy and they reward readers by providing an experience that's personable, unique, entertaining, fun, and/or helpful.  When visiting blogs like this it's always clear that an effort has been made and that the author put thought into their process. In short, it's obvious they care.

3. Structure and Style

Proper punctuation, paragraphs, grammar, and a purposeful layout are always evident on the best blogs.  Nothing is harder to read than a rant of blunders presented haphazardly.  This is incredibly easy to do, but sub par blogs are always the first to ignore this rule. 

4. Evolution

Great blogs and bloggers are those who are always striving to be better.  They see what everyone else does, and try to do a bit more.  In turn, they inspire their readers to share their own ideas, to create their own blogs, and to do better.  The best blogs make it clear that they're trying to be memorable and different by continually challenging themselves.  In short, great blogs are those that are ambitious and steadily built upon.

These things are general and relatively straightforward, but it shouldn't be surprising that if you want people to visit your blog and share your content that you have to work at it.  You are, after all, competing for strangers time and attention.  For more ideas, check out my earlier post on how to keep your blog original.

Jul 14, 2011

Inspired Singles: Play

Issue 23: Play by Flunk

This track by Flunk is particularly airy and light, like an audio parachute that leaves you floating aimlessly through your own moments of euphoria and reflection.  This is the kind of track that you'd find playing on my iPod on an evening around the campfire or lazing around my apartment with friends while we discuss past highs and future ambitions.  If there's anything you could say about Play by Flunk, it's that it creates an atmosphere that the philosophers in your group will be quick to latch on to.

Scooter Sexy Time

And here I thought I already knew every reason that I didn't want a scooter.  Even if this were in English I'm not sure I'd understand what's going on.

Jul 12, 2011

Shadows in Red Square

It hasn't even been a week yet, but it was actually the announcement of South Korea being awarded the 2018 Winter Olympics that started the wheels turning again.  To be honest, it's tough to know where to begin this story, but I feel like there's some momentum building towards finally realizing a dream that began over a decade ago.  

As  you might have guessed by the image of the Kremlin, my dream has been to travel to Russia (more than anywhere else on Earth) with the latest catalyst being the Olympics in Sochi in 2014.

Even just typing that gets me buzzing.  More so than I'd even like to admit actually.  It's still a ways away, there's still a lot to consider, and seeing Russia the way I want to will cost a small fortune.  Yet, as I brought up the idea with my friend Tyler, after having discussed the potential for travelling somewhere together for several years now, he shared the same optimism and appreciation for the ambition behind taking such a life changing journey.  Not a vacation or holiday, but a fully engrossing adventure.

In a poetic coincidence I discovered today that the Google homepage featured an image of St. Basil's cathedral in Moscow.  The timing was almost too perfect, like a sign that this idea had rested long enough.  The homepage change was for the 450th anniversary of St. Basil's.

This idea, by the way, goes all the way back to 1999.  I was in high school and was just learning about the Cold War and the Soviet Union.  The history fascinated me.  I loved studying the culture and pageantry of the USSR and how that collided with the realities that the politburo tried to white wash.  For whatever reason I became hooked, and between old spy movies and Russian books on tape, a plan was hatched to go to Russia when I graduated in 2002.

Sadly, the idea was met with an increasing amount of obstacles the closer the deadline came.  Ultimately the cost of travel was sidelined when film school became a real expense.  The goal quickly became relegated to a dream as I entered the broke student phase of my twenties.  I'll turn 30 in 2014 and I can think of no better way to celebrate that milestone than by fulfilling one of my final ambitions as a teenager that I've yet to realize.

There's so much that needs to happen to make this a reality, and I won't be surprised if this idea completely evolves and reinvents itself several times before it becomes something tangible.  What would life be without a good pursuit though? I can't begin to tell you how exciting it is to think about something I've dreamt about for so long and finally say, I'm going to make that happen now.