Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Closing Spaces

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I finally was able to close the books on Spaces this week. We had originally planned for the series to go 5 episodes, but, due to a backlog last semester and some severe looming budget cuts for our department, we had to settle for a 4 episode run. Regardless, I think that the story arc remains conclusive as nearly all of the loose ends from the first three episodes are tied up in the fourth installment. We did begin production on the fifth episode and I may include the opening scene as an extra on the series DVD that we release later this year.

In terms of the production schedule, this episode trumped all others in terms of multiple shoots as we had to find a way to coordinate 8 volunteer actors to occupy the same space at the same time. This kind of logistical nightmare doesn’t always work, but, in this instance, we were able to work around their schedule limitations and do multiple shoots that incorporated as many actors as we could at a time while avoiding any wide shots that would require digitally adding actors in.

As to the visual effects elements for this episode, I really didn’t find the need to add too much outside of the reveal shot of Charlotte’s paintings and a few hand-held shots that required some stabilization in post. Everything else was fairly well planned out so the need to add extras here and there were minimal. I had originally intended to include one more videophone shot where Charlotte calls Sheldon & Steve to check on the status of the doctors as they ran down the stairwell and have them running across the street in the background as Ward and Mason pull up. However, scheduling limitations dictated that I junk those shots in favor of a more easily filmed transition.

Anyway, as to the credits. The episode was produced by ETSU Online and Parking Services with special thanks to the Mary B. Martin School of the Arts and Karlota Contreras-Koterbay for being so gracious to provide us access to the Slocumb Galleries on multiple occasions. The episode, once again, stars Everett Tarlton and Danielle Tucker with returning guest stars Zach Starnes, Josh Holley, Bobby Funk, and Carolina Hurtado. Also appearing in this episode were Caroline Abercrombie, David Currie, and Rob Nelson as the doctors. I co-wrote the script for this episode with David Currie of the ETSU Office of eLearning who , along with Zion Madden of ETSU Online, served as assistant camera and audio technician. I served as Director, D.P., and Editor. All post-production was completed with Final Cut, Premiere Pro, Photoshop, Mocha, and After Effects.

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Back to Spaces

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Episode 3 of Spaces is now officially in the books. It took a little longer to wrap production on this episode due to the inevitable scattering of acting talent that so often happens at the end of the semester, but, ultimately, I’m really happy with how everything came together. Episode 3 introduces us to Dr. Ward Rothschild, Charlotte’s father, who is played masterfully by ETSU Theatre professor Bobby Funk. Intellectually overbearing and strangely aloof, Ward presents himself as the next hurdle for Mason to clear in his pursuit of Charlotte’s affections.

From a technical perspective, we once again relied on a combination of a Canon 60D, a pair of Sony HXR-NX5Us, and a GoPro Hero III and we also went with the boom mic a little more often with this episode when an operator was available. Once again, I chose to return to the Facetime/Skype style video chat app to drive anther chaotic moment between Mason and his buddies. Additionally, when we were filming inside the cafeteria, we were short on cameras so I utilized the GoPro to capture the action as Steve and Sheldon frantically scribble notes to Mason during his meeting with Ward. I was pleasantly surprised with the flexibility of the GoPro footage captured with the cinetune style enabled. There really was a lot more latitude available during color correction and Mocha was able to track the tablet screen rather easily with only minor tweaks here and there.

Episode 4 presents several potential production nightmares with several actors being present for at least one scene so I have my fingers crossed that we’ll be able to wrap up production on that episode later this month! Anyway, now for the credits…

The third episode was produced by ETSU Online and ETSU Parking Services and starring ETSU students Danielle Tucker and Everett Tarlton. Guest stars include Zach Starnes, Josh Holley, and Bobby Funk. I co-wrote the script for this episode with David Currie of the ETSU Office of eLearning who , along with Zion Madden of ETSU Online, served as assistant camera and audio technician. I served as Director, D.P., and Editor. All post-production was completed with Final Cut, Premiere Pro, Photoshop, Mocha, and After Effects. Enjoy!

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Spaces – Episode 2

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We’re deep into the production schedule for the Spaces series with filming for episode 3 nearly complete. The series has taken a sort of life of it’s own at this point as the scripts have grown exponentially as we’ve sought to develop the existing characters to a greater degree. In episode 2, I added a few more visual effects elements by incorporating a simulated Facetime or Skype style app to Mason’s phone so we could utilize a couple different locations and characters at the same time to add to the elevated sense of tension that Charlotte feels as her secret is revealed. I co-wrote the script for episode 2 with David Currie but, with certain sections, we encouraged the actors do a little improv here and there and they did a fantastic job of breathing more life into their expanded roles.

To make the video chat sequence more interesting, we utilized the GoPro Hero III to a far greater degree in the production pipeline with very positive results. In all, during the cafeteria side of the exchange, we were running the GoPro, 2 Sony HXR-NX5u Cameras, and my Canon 60D simultaneously so we could incorporate several cutaways from the chat session to develop a little personal history from Mason’s friends, Steve and Sheldon.  Surprisingly enough, we still managed to get all our shots over the course of two afternoons and incorporate a new character, Valentina, into our little burgeoning drama. Luckily, we were able to run with a 3 person crew consisting of myself, David Currie and Zion Madden for most of the second day where we filmed the exterior, car shots, and the museum. We also again opted for the lavalier mics for the bulk of both shoots with sometimes mixed results (rustling clothing and a little feedback here and there), however, they really came in handy for the cafeteria shoot as a boom mic would have definitely caught ambient audio from the festival going on just outside the glass doors. Going forward with filming for episode 4, I do intend to rely a lot more heavily on the boom mic since we will be filming in more controlled environments where one camera can be locked down.

I edited the the footage with Final Cut and Premiere, cleaned and graded the footage with After Effects, utilized Mocha and After Effects to handle the visual effects shots, and processed the audio with Audition. You can check out the results below and check back for part 3!

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So the first entry is always the one that you rack your brain over.  You know, the blank screen with the flashing cursor that just teases you to challenge its sheer nothingness.  It’s not unlike the first time you sit down to hash out a plot or a story.  You keep telling yourself that the best way to get started is to get something – anything – on that page, no matter the irrelevance.  So you start typing . . . and then a few moments later you find yourself jabbing impulsively at the Backspace key to purge your conscience of the irrelevant and poorly worded verbal garbage that initially seemed so clever and relevant.

More staring at the blinking cursor followed by countless attempts to get that opening passage just right.

But, that’s just it – it’s not right.  None of it is.  No carefully crafted series of words, no cleverly concocted witty phrases, and no grand sweeping statements of intrinsic insight are flowing from either your mind or your fingers.  So you walk away from the screen.  Maybe you find something else to occupy your time.  Maybe you even forget about that screen and that malevolent, mocking cursor.  Better still, the frenetic tide of the endless, twisting mass of aborted narrative fades from memory.  Satisfied with your present endeavor, you might again allow your mind to wander off to the ever-growing abundance of Things That Need To Be Done.

And, then, slowly you find yourself drawn back to that screen.

And it waits silently.

The menacing glare of the cursor flickers steadily in the face of your newfound confidence.  You take a deep breath and mount your verbal offensive on the void that lies before you.  The soft sound of the keyboard lulls you into a steady stream of perfectly anti-aliased typefaces as the text block begins to grow larger.  Powerful imagery and profound thoughts power your narrative onwards, enveloping more and more of the negative space.  Your pace quickens as you enter line after line of inspired prose until the perfect conclusion drifts through your fingers and you sit back to admire That Which You Have Created.

After straining yourself from patting yourself on the back you confidently scroll back to the beginning and begin to read and . . . find yourself jabbing dejectedly at the Backspace key again.  The cursed cursor devours your magnum opus character by character until there is nothing left but the cold, unforgiving light of the blank screen.

Then you resolve yourself to tell the truth.

This is a blog about the storytelling process and my failures, struggles, and triumphs to give a voice to my ideas.  I hope that you enjoy it.


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