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April 29, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Journey to the Unknown

By Dayton from SLN More Blogs by This Author

Story Time!

I have willingly thrown myself somewhere I have never been. In the summer of 2011, I began working in an environment that was vastly superior to the one I left. Prior to my current job I worked as an "office assistant", or something, for my father's business. Before I was working there, I was a waiter at a small restaurant that gave me awful hours, meager pay, and a work environment that did not cater to learning at all.

In this newfound environment at first was a little overwhelming, but eventually i got the hang of it. It gave me a job that involved what I love doing (video and graphic work) and also facilitated growth in my understanding of every facet of media production. I learned things such as lighting techniques and camera positioning. I learned how to use hyper-cardioid microphones for on-site audio and how to create kinetic typographies. The coolest part of this journey of learning was that there was never a real "teacher", there was never a curriculum that I followed, and there was no restriction placed on what I could learn. The internet world surprised me when it gave me all this access to all this information, and gave it to me for free, so that was a shocker. The first few months of this unconventional learning technique unquestionably gave me more understanding than the semester of college that I took for digital media. As I continued to follow this path, I almost accidentally became involved with crowd sourcing productions. 

The last time that I actually won anything in a film festival at this point was the summer of 2010 with my coproducer, Ethan. Since that student film festival, I really hadn't entered any contests and my outlook on being a part of the media industry became very bleak. But in the summer of 2012, I applied for a production grant through a company called MOFILM for one of their creative briefs that they had released for Chevrolet. I really didn't think that much of it, tucking it away in my mind as a "could have been" much like all the video contests that I never entered. Weeks later after I had long forgotten about that contest, I received an email from MOFILM telling me that they wanted to modify my idea, and fund my proposed production.

I freaked out.

Holy crap. What just happened? I felt like that I just got thrown into the real world and needed to go shopping for big boy pants. I was so excited to make a film for MONEY! I had no idea what I was doing, but I assembled a team and did it anyway! The only catch to the whole "grant thing" was that I actually received payment 60 days AFTER the deadline of the film. This posed a problem because I didn't have very many nickels to rub together, much less $2,000 that was granted to us. But, after shamelessly borrowing money, armed with my Sony HDR-500 HandCam, a tripod, and a GoPro, I trudged forward into the crossfire. 

The world has a pretty cruel way of teaching lessons. This was one of them. After an agonizing few weeks, my coproducer and I cobbled together an edited draft that we saw fit for submission.

It was total weak-sauce.

After waiting like 2 weeks after the fact, we found out that we placed 5th! This was the absolute lowest place that any contestant could receive. But it didn't even matter, because I just turned a profit screwing around with my friends and a video camera. The evolution of my trade started to speed up. 


Shortly thereafter, I received $3,000 in my bank account, then another grant from Chevrolet was approved. This time though, we were a bit wiser. We used a budget sheet and planned things out a bit more. The Sony HandyCam was sold on craigslist and we purchased a Canon T4i DSLR along with a 50mm portrait lens. After another torturously fantastic week, we finished our film. Weeks later, we found out that the film placed 3rd.

Interestingly enough, because of the logistics that festival, the higher placement in addition to the grant gave us less money than the first film. Regardless, we received another wire of $2,200. Things were moving.

Almost immediately after we finished the film for Chevrolet, we started work on a film for Shell. We were again granted a budget and felt very confident coming off our 3rd place high. In this film we upgraded our lens, bought a jib, and started utilizing studio lighting more. We even rented a freaking van for this shoot. I learned how scheduling was our greatest ally and that time meant money. We started learning how continuity effects the outcome of the film and that making all the actors available at the same time is next to impossible.

The film for Shell was our highest quality production. If fell on its face. Even though the production quality was at our pinnacle then, the story made little sense and was our biggest downfall. After suffering that bone shattering loss, we submitted 6 grant applications, every single one was rejected. Admittedly, at least half of those grant applications were absolutely worthless, but eventually we got another go around with our seventh application. 


I am still trying to deduce whether I am in a vicious cycle of terrible production. Without hashing out the brutal details, I will assure you that the next Chevrolet commercial that we produced was less than adequate. Though I did learn how to properly release and rent a location, the rest of the video was a bust. Needless to say, we again didn't place.

In the wake of our failure(s), we pressed forward. As spring approached, we started work on a film for Purina Dog Chow. We had a great idea! We had a grant to fund us! The pre-production went smooth, my coproducer and I had the dates scheduled out, and we rented a camera and a pair of cine lenses for the first time. We finally procured a follow focus and cine rig that made us look like we were movie-making gods. As of the moment of writing this blog (April 15th, 2013), I am completely void of any information regarding our most recent film. I have a pretty bad feeling in my gut, because I'm not 100% sure why, I just wasn't a huge fan of our end product. Now is the part we hurry up and wait (yay...). 

The Journey Continues

As the battlefield unfolds in front of me, I continue to see different avenues to follow open up at seemingly random times. In the past year I have learned so much, be it location scouting or 3D modeling, I am truly grateful for my opportunities to learn and grow as a filmmaker. Though my full potential hasn't been realized, and I only seem to be discovering more places to improve, I feel as though things can only get better.

The next two films that we are about to create we will employ even more techniques that we have never used before. Suddenly we are hiring actual actors and purchasing makeup to make them look their best on camera. I find myself trying to differentiate foundation and concealer, feeling like I am walking into an entirely new realm. This is also going to be the first time we REALLY need to utilize on-site audio recording. We are also working with high dynamic range photos and stop-frame animation, techniques that we have never really employed before. This blog is my brain vomit I suppose, hopefully we can make awesome stuff happen! 

Til next time...Happy Filming :D!

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