Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Big Moves in 2018

From writing novels and scripts in Tampa, to filming my own movies in Tallahassee, to working on film sets in New York, 2018 has been a year of big moves for me. Now, a lot of what I'm about to discuss here has been vaguely alluded to in my recent series of Babymetal posts which nobody but the Babymetal community actually read (though they're totally worth reading, and they're a band that's totally worth getting into at that! Try starting here). But I promised in one of those posts that I'd eventually stop being so vague about everything, and so now's the time when I'm finally going to open up a bit and publicly discuss everything that's been going on in the past year a little more frankly.

I was still living in Tampa at the beginning of the year, and with my lease coming to an end, I honestly felt that my time in Tampa had expired. I wasn't really doing anything of note there, and I didn't feel I had anything really tying me down to the city any longer. Plus, I had written a number of new screenplays during my time there, and I was eager to get working on some of them. So I made plans to move back to Tallahassee and reacquaint myself with some of the local filmmakers there who I had worked with in the past, so that we could get back to work on filming some of these scripts.

I officially moved back to Tally at the end of March, and I had a five movie plan upon my move back. I had scripts for at least two new short films, and three feature length ones. And over the course of the summer, we slowly made our way through those two shorts. The first was Sianostra, which I've already discussed in-depth.

And then we eventually moved on to the first Ninja Kat movie, Kip. And I really haven't talked too much about the experience making this film, but it was definitely an interesting one. Directing a film while in front of the camera is already hard enough as it is. So then imagine doing that, but also while wearing a mask that's already hard to see out of, in the dark, and the moving mouthpieces aren't properly cooperating half the time, in a suit that's pretty darn hot, meaning we were drenching in sweat for hours on end, and which required help to both put on and take off, and we're on a limited time that we could use the location for, and yeah, it definitely came with its challenges.

But despite the headaches that came with making the film, I was overall very pleased by the final product. I just love the look of the movie, how a lot of shots look straight out of the original 1990 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie with the lighting and the costume design. And it's also by far my best sounding movie at that, seeing as how literally every sound you hear in the movie was captured in post-production, from the sound effects to the voiceover work. Definitely a lot of learning experiences doing that (matching your voices to the mouth movements is way harder than you'd think, and I've gained so much more respect for voice talent on animated shows who have to do this), and it resulted in by far my cleanest sounding film to date, which I'm certainly pleased by as well.

I also really liked how the music turned out too, and how it really not only compliments, but even elevates the images on screen. Getting the music right for this thing was a challenge all its own, and we actually went through two different composers before we landed on the perfect match. I gave my final composer, Mr. Outlawed Beats, a sample track to use for inspiration, and it was pretty cool how what he produced really became its own beast, while still maintaining elements of the original inspiration sprinkled in there. But it sounded to me like something you'd hear on the score for The Neon Demon or something like that, which wasn't necessarily what I was going for initially, but I totally dug it, and felt it totally fit the vibe of this film as well. So all in all, I was pleased by that as well, and all these elements really came together to put forth a package that I was fully satisfied with, and proud to put out there.

That said, I was however disappointed by the noticeable lack of response towards both of these films, if I'm being completely honest about it. We worked really hard on these films, and I'm always eager to share them and see what everyone thinks. And I follow a lot of people who are totally into film, and who do nothing but watch movies and talk about film all day every day. So to see those same people almost wholly say nothing and seemingly ignoring one of their own when they release a brand new movie themselves, well, it's pretty discouraging, to say the least, and honestly says everything.

It was enough to drive me away from the movie forum I used to frequent, and it's also partially to blame for why I've left social media behind, outside of strictly for promotional purposes. The other reason being the ever rampant politics and vitriol on social media has become quite frankly too much to bear anymore. It's overwhelming, and it was making me angry and miserable every time I signed on. And needless to say, by the time I had either muted or unfollowed over half of my feed due to this, well, I knew it was time for a change, and the dismal response towards my films just happened to be my last straw moment that had been brewing for some time.

But anyways, that's not to say that these films were ignored by all parties, and I definitely appreciate those of you who did take the time to watch them and comment on them (believe me, I see you!). And I'd especially like to give a shout out to the wrestling forum that I still frequent, as the guys there are just really awesome, and it's one of the few places that I can consistently count on the people there to regularly watch and read all of my creative works and share their thoughts on them, so I'm definitely grateful for that.

So yeah, despite any shortcomings, I was still happy enough with the end result of both of these film projects in and of themselves. But neither of them were exactly anything that I would call a smooth shoot, and it became especially clear to me by the time we were filming Kip that my bigger projects that I had in mind weren't going to be nearly as filmmable as I had hoped for upon first moving back. And this realization sort of sent me into a bit of a depression.

See, Tallahassee has a bit of a reputation for harboring people who are incredible flakey and unreliable, and who really don't take things too seriously. And the more people you tend to bring onto a project, the more you have to worry about how many of those people are going to let you down. That's why so many filmmakers here become used to working on as small of crews as possible, and why directors here will oftentimes take up many roles, just because that's one less person to have to worry about flaking on you for each job you take on. And that works fine enough for smaller productions. But the second you try and get a little too ambitious, that's when things start to fall apart pretty quickly. And I've been on a number of big productions in this town that have fallen apart for this same reason time and time again.

Heck, a few years ago, I tried my hand at a larger production of my own, only to see it crumble apart at the seams, again for this same reason. It was enough back then to motivate me to leave town, and I guess that I just had to come back and be reminded of it all over again for that lesson to really sink in, as even just in the pre-production phase on my next movie, it was already happening again, as people who I thought I could count on were really letting me down in a big way, and driving my passion into a downward spiral along with 'em.

And seeing as how I wasn't working a regular job at the time either, I was also starting to run low on funds, and likely wouldn't be able to properly finance these bigger films on my own like I was able to with the short films, and my efforts to bring on investors didn't exactly pay off like I had hoped. So, given my financial situation, as well as my demotivated frame of mind due to these ever present circumstances I was facing, I just sorta quietly placed those other scripts in the shelf along with my past unfilmed scripts, as they became more and more of a fantasy to see come to life, at least so long as I was still residing in this city.

So I found myself with a whole lot of nothing to do, and nothing really keeping me here in town anymore. And I felt really lost and really frustrated, just wandering around and wasting away. My screenplays were unfilmmable given my currently available resources, and I desperately didn't want to go back to another regular job. But I didn't know what I could do to change my situation, either. But then my Uncle Mike came to visit town one weekend, and I briefly saw him. And while I was there, he had mentioned how proud he was that my brother Tim and my cousin Andrew were both working in the film industry and doing what they loved. And all this did was make my heart sink in my chest, as that was precisely what I wanted to do too, and yet here I was, in this town, just wasting my time.

I spent the next couple months just sorta battling with myself, trying to figure things out. I knew what I needed to do, but I didn't yet have the confidence to do it, as I had become a bit estranged with my family for quite some time now. But it wasn't until I had spoken about these issues with a girl I've sorta been seeing lately that I was finally pushed to do what needed to be done, after she had really urged me on and encouraged me to do so. And so I finally reached out to my brother in New York, not knowing what to expect. But thankfully, he agreed to help me out on this journey of mine.

So I packed my bags, and I booked my flight. And two weeks later, in the middle of November, I had officially moved up to New York. And this rather spontaneous move truly did just happen really fast like that after I had first reached out to my brother. I was initially staying at his house, living with him and his family, as they helped me get acquainted with the city and forming a plan to find some work in the industry. And I've since moved into my Aunt and Uncle's house until I get a little more settled in here, who have been nothing but great to me, and I've found work on a number of film gigs already.

And right off the bat, it's funny how different things operate on film sets up here compared to Tallahassee. For instance, 12 hour shoot days are the standard here, and they've oftentimes gone far longer than that. Meanwhile, in Tally, anything more than 4 or 5 hours is considered long, and you'll start hearing complaints or seeing people flaking out beyond that. And where I'd say probably less than 25% of the people you might work with on a film set in Tally might actually take it seriously and truly want to be there, the opposite is definitely the case here, as the vast majority that I've worked with takes this stuff incredibly seriously, which is just such a refreshing change of pace for me to experience.

Also, just about every set I've been on has been far larger than any I've worked on in Tallahassee, featuring trucks full of thousands of dollars worth of expensive lighting and camera equipment, and several hands on deck for each individual department. It's like I'm actually working on a real film set, like you always see in the behind the scenes footage on DVDs and such. And yet, everyone on these sets still considers these to be small productions. Man, if only these people knew what small really looked like!

I've mostly worked as a Production Assistant, though I've gotten at least one Assistant Director gig, and I've found myself slating on most of my jobs too, which is actually pretty neat. And while most of these gigs have been unpaid work so far, I've most recently actually worked my first paid gig at that, and several of the people I've worked with have told me they want to bring me on board to their future projects, which would also be paid work, so things are already starting to look up!

It hasn't all been completely great, however, and I'd like to take a moment to share my own personal #MeToo moment that I've already experienced here. I was a PA on set for a web series, and it was my first day there. Everything was cool, I worked hard and worked well with everyone, and had no reason to believe that anything was awry. However, the following day, the Producer told me that they were not going to ask me to return for the rest of production. The reason being? Apparently, someone on set accused me of staring at her, and said she was now uncomfortable by my being there. And this blanket accusation was enough to lose me my job.

Now mind you, I literally have no recollection of this situation, as I was never at any point in the day actually staring at anybody on set. As I told the Director that day, I was just marveling at everything that was going on, as that was by far the largest production I had ever worked on to date, so I was really just standing back and taking things in. And sure, perhaps I was at times watching some people as they were working, seeing what all they were doing. But it should've been clear by my demeanor and the professional manner in which I carried myself that I was never explicitly staring at anybody. And I tried to tell the Producer that this was clearly a misunderstanding. However, she said that the matter wasn't up for discussion, that I wasn't going to be granted a chance to defend myself, and that I was being released, and that was final.

And yeah, that was one of my first gigs here, too, so that was a pretty disheartening way to start things out. It was completely ridiculous, and I was just sorta stunned into a state of disbelief when it happened. And the way it all went down honestly does leave me suspicious of all the other #MeToo stories that have come out in recent times, and leaves me questioning just how many of those stories are as nothing as this one. It also tells me that Henry Cavill wasn't just right when he made his controversial statements on the subject earlier in the year, but quite frankly, he was perhaps underselling how bad things have gotten. You literally can't even allow your eyes to merely glance on the wrong person without it possibly costing you your job anymore.

That's just incredibly scary to think about, and incredibly unfair, and it's left me constantly paranoid of such a situation suddenly arising from out of nowhere on every project I've been on since. How am I supposed to know who else I might unknowingly encounter on a future set, who might hold some sort of unwarranted prejudice against me for whatever reason and try to cost me my job, even when I've literally done nothing wrong? But I digress, and that was just one particularly bad instance, but one that I felt was important to share, especially during these strange times when this sort of nonsense is reportedly happening all the time now.

But honestly, bad as that situation may have been, it was also almost a blessing in disguise, as it left me available to take work on a couple of other projects that I found to be far more rewarding experiences. And outside of that, yeah, I've been having a blast on these film sets, and I've worked with a ton of awesome people who I'd love to work with again on future projects. I've been learning a lot, and I've found that many have even considered me a valuable asset to their teams, as it turns out that my time in Tallahassee making no-budget films with minimal crew off my own dollar has paid off, and I've been able to bring all of that knowledge and experience with me onto these larger projects, helping these filmmakers out as they tackle arising problems on their own sets.

Shortly after moving here, I also applied for the chance to take part in the Director's Guild of America Assistant Director Training Program. I learned of this program by complete happenstance, as I was roaming about the city putting in resumes while trying to find work. And at one of the places I applied to, the manager just happened to be someone who had completed the program, and who was a member of the DGA herself. We had gotten to talking about what it is that I wanted to do in the industry, and I told her that I wanted to be a Director. So she not only recommended the program to me, but she even wrote me a letter of recommendation as well, which was just really cool, and incredibly kind of her to do.

And so I've since completed my application, which included letters of recommendations from my cousin Andrew and my old manager who I've worked with for years at various health food markets, Joe, who I can't thank enough for helping me out as well. And I'm happy to report that I've been accepted to move on to the next stage of the process, and testing will commence this February. So here's hoping that things continue to work out in this venture!

To speak outside of the film stuff for a moment, things are also definitely different up here in New York, as compared to what I've been used to for so long in Florida. I don't have my car up here with me, so I've had to learn how to get around using public transportation and navigating the subway system and such. And it's definitely a lot more expensive up here than I'm used to as well. So it's been a bit of a transition, as well as a learning process. But I'm figuring my way out, and my family up here has been of tremendous help along the way, so I'm definitely grateful to all of them for everything that they've done and continue to do for me. And I'm also very grateful to my mom for helping me out all along the way as well.

I've even seen snow for the first time since I was like one or two.
Do you want to build a snowman?

And also, since I'm no longer on social media, nor am I constantly overhearing my mother's political shows anymore, I've noticed just how tranquil everything feels when you're not being relentlessly bombarded by all of the non-stop outrage culture and propaganda all the time. You learn pretty quickly just how little a lot of that stuff really matters in the end, and just how much of it exists solely to stir up negative emotions, so it's nice to finally escape from all of that nonsense.

And one other big difference that I've noticed up here, working on these bigger film sets, is that a lot of my own film ideas that felt so far away from being possible to complete in Tally, suddenly don't feel nearly so impossible here in New York. Working on these bigger film sets, with these up-and-coming filmmakers all in their own right, I can suddenly now see some of these other scripts potentially coming to life before my eyes. So who knows, maybe here is where I'll be able to continue where I left off with those scripts I had written in Tampa, or even before then? Maybe. But we'll see!

So yeah, it's been a year of big moves and big changes for me. And while the year has had its ups and downs, I think for the most part, the wins definitely outweigh the losses. I wasn't feeling so sure about things during the third quarter of the year, but by the end of it, things are looking up, and I'm genuinely happy with my place here. I've been finding regular work, building up my resume, and I have high hopes for only bigger and better things to come in the new year.


  1. Congratulations to all the changes you've made and for escaping Florida - I feel like this state is a trap for everyone except tourists. My sister works in theater, and she has always ran into the same problems you've had with people flaking out. Your work have always been unique and entertaining, so I hope you're able to get more of your ideas made. And the #MeToo moment you experienced is certainly distressing, and unfortunately, I think a lot of what it started as isn't what it was supposed to turn into. It's an incredibly dangerous situation that any innocent person shouldn't find themselves in and also should be heard. I truly hope all of your future gigs work out, especially getting accepted into the director's programs!

    1. Thanks, Katy! Yeah, a trap, that word definitely sounds like the perfect descriptor for Florida. A nice place to retire too, I suppose, but not great for getting things going in the beginning, at least from what I've experienced. Sorry to hear your sister has been running into the same issues.

      Yeah, the #MeToo thing is certainly unfortunate. The movement started out in the right place, but sadly, I feel it's become abused and even weaponized, to where now it's quite possibly doing more harm than good, which is really just a shame. It didn't have to come to this, and certainly shouldn't have. But I'm not really sure what can be done about it other than speaking out, so here we are I suppose. :\

      I appreciate your kind comments regarding my work, though. Really hope I'm able to make things work out here and get a chance to get some of those other ideas of mine really rolling in the not too distant future. But we'll see! :)

  2. Cool read. Hope nothing but the best for you in 2019.

    1. Thank you, Bobby! And to you as well in the coming year! :)