Edgar Wright and Visual Comedy

I absolutely love Tony Zhou’s analysis of Edgar Wright’s use of visual comedy. This is a brilliant video! Defiantly has some sweet ideas to spice up your editing, cinematography, and everything else that might be missing that extra punch.

This makes me want to go and re-watch Shaun of the Dead, Hot FuzzThe World’s End and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Check out Tony Zhou’s Vimeo channel where he’s got a bunch of other great videos.

Pure Pwnage : Teh Movie

Back in the days before YouTube people shared their web-series, short films and independent features on their own websites, through bitTorrent (legally), Stage6, AtomFilms and iFilm.

I can’t exactly recall how I ran across Pure Pwnage but I remember my friends and I were hooked. I especially loved FPS Doug because at the time I played a lot of Counter-Strike and I grew up on the classics like Quake.

It was a series created by gamers for gamers and I loved all eighteen episodes of it and wished for more when it came to a sudden halt.

The internet has changed considerably since 2004 especially because of YouTube. Video became a standard on mobile devices. Quantity often compromises quality and that’s what independent filmmakers can take of advantage.

In the vast ocean of the internet lay many brilliant series and films that have sunk to the bottom of it but the story of Pure Pwnage should give them all hope to rise again.

Pure Pwnage started in 2004 as a web-series it amassed a cult following in the gaming community and was turned into a television series in 2010 boardcast on Showcase and Australia’s ABC2.

The web-series began with mockumentary style episodes about gamers and gamer culture created by two gamers Jarret Cale and Geoff Lapaire. The series gave birth to several internet memes like “BOOM! Headshot”.

They had success with over three million views and became a part of gaming culture. It’s humor and style connected with gamers around the world. Sadly the series came to an abrupt ending after the death of it’s cast member Troy Dixon in 2008.

In 2010 they got a contract for a television series. Many of their online fans did not connect with the commercial and mainstream feel. Since the show was broadcast only in Canada they could not reach their global web audience any longer.
The show had a strong viewership and was nominated for three Gemini Awards and won Best Direction. Despite it’s success after eight episodes it was canceled.

Announcing the show’s cancellation on Showtime Pure Pwnage co-creator Jarett Cale addressed the topic of the web-series by stating:

“After struggling to continue the web series myself, I’ve now placed it on indefinite hold. While this doesn’t mean it’s officially ‘dead’, that is unfortunately the most likely outcome. In hindsight I suppose I should have stopped work on the web series along with Geoff back in September 2008. In the end, my desire to finish the series only served to heighten your disappointment. I’m sorry for that. I wasn’t and will never be comfortable leaving the story where it is, although that’s something I might just have to accept.”

An eighteen episode web-series with no ending and a canceled eight episode television series would make anyone quit. On Cale and Lapaire decided to make Pure Pwnage: Teh Movie and announced their crowd funding campaign on IndieGoGo.

“We’ve made web episodes with a budget of ten dollars. We’ve made TV episodes with a budget of a million. We’ve had the incredible opportunity to engage in all elements and mediums of video creation… except one. We want to make a movie. But not just any movie, we want to make THE gamer movie, the one that finally does justice to online gaming and Internet culture on the big screen. We feel that Hollywood has continually (and often epically) failed to deliver on this front. So we want to pwn Hollywood like somebody’s mom playing Call of Duty and we need your help to do it.”

The campaign spread rapidly across internet forums and blogs in just 24 hours they reached their goal of $75,000 all together making over $211,300 dollars.

Cale and Lapaire created one of the first web-series for gamers by gamers and left an impression on their audience that was not forgotten. Allowing a community to grow around the series was a great way to build a strong audience which is integral to the success of any series or brand.

Let them know you’re listening to their ideas and complaints while incorporating your own vision and message and you’ve got the ground work for a great series, film or game.

I hope ROFLMAO productions has fun pwning noobs while making their awesome movie.

Story of the Kinematoscope

The Zoetrope was invented in 1833. At that time films were but a parlor trick.

Following it’s invention dozens of toys using the same model sprung up all around England. Like the Daedaleum, Thaumatrope, Stroboscope, Kaleidorama and the Phenakistocope. These are seen as some of the first attempts at animation.

Before Edison’s Kinetoscope was developed in 1888, a leap forward for film was being made by Doctor Coleman Sellers II who invented the The Kinematoscope and patented it in 1861. It was the first machine to give illusion of real people moving.

“My invention consists in substituting rapidly and without confusion to the eye, not only of an individual, but when desired to a whole assemblage, the enlarged images of a great number of pictures taken simultaneously and successively at very short intervals. The observer will believe that he sees only one image, which gradually changes by reason of the successive changes of form and position of the object which occur from one picture to the next. Even supposing there be a slight interval of time during which the same object was not shown, the persistence of the luminous impression upon the eye will fill the gap. By means of my apparatus I am enabled especially to reproduce the passing of a procession, a review of military maneuvers, and, if so desired, the grimaces of a human face.” – From How Motion Pictures are Made by Homer Croy

If Doctor Sellers had a greater vision for the use of his Kinematoscope his contributions to the technology of motion pictures could have been astounding.

A common quote by Arthur Schopenhauer states;
“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

Schopenhauer talked about society. Sadly we artists, filmmakers, writers and inventors often do this to our own. Crippling the growth of our ideas before they even begin to fully blossom.

Fun writing challenges we take on, the doodles we make, the screenplay we jotted down and the project we’re tinkering with in the garage are worth more than we think. Our craziest ideas are sometimes our best and the things we create for fun, those will inevitably lead us to success.

Creative vision is like a fire we have to keep from burning out. Kindle it with swimming, hiking, meditation, music, painting and anything that de-stresses and fuels your right brain magic. Then get right back to work in your writer’s chair or editing bay.

 “Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world.” – Jane Addams


J.J. Abrams and The Mystery Box

A must watch for writer’s seeking inspiration is a TED Talk where J.J. Abrams shares the source of his ideas. He talks about being inspired by the feelings of hope, potential, infinite possibilities and mystery that an old box he owns since childhood with a giant question mark painted on it’s side represents.

What’s inside the mystery box?

“I realized that blank page is a mystery box. It needs to be filled with something fantastic.” – J.J. Abrams

“In whatever it is that I do, I find myself drawn to infinite possibility, that sense of potential.”
— J.J. Abrams

Hope this TED talk inspires you as much as it has inspired me.

Footprints in the Sands of Time…



When I was nine I memorized this poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow “The Psalm of Life”. It inspired me to create; to make stuff; make art. No matter what.

Old penguin classics with yellowing pages where the very first books I read. It took longer than most children to coax me into learning to read. Poor literature like the Dick and Jane books with their “Go, Spot, Go!”. I figured if that’s what books look like I would have more fun with mud.

Luckily I discovered Mr. Robert Louis Stevenson and his A Child’s Garden of Verse. Simple words weaved into prose that took my imagination to foreign lands. “..To where the roads on either hand Lead onward into fairy land, Where all the children dine at five, And all the playthings come alive.” That little book inspired me and I kept on reading.

Discovering the tales told by clever Scheherazade to out smart the Sultan in “One Thousand and One Nights”. The dangerous adventures of Detective Sherlock Holmes and Doctor John Watson in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle‘s series of detective novels and stories.

I remember each and every good story I’ve read and feel as if I experienced it myself. Why? What’s the formula, what’s the key to this kind of work? Imagine your mind as a universe. Galaxies, planets and stars all created by you. Created with a simple thought.
You are like a tiny God within this mysterious endless world that waits to be discovered. A world that waits to be brought into our own through your art. Now grab your laptop or a pencil and your notebook and start writing, drawing, recording. That’s how I rid myself of creative blocks and find the drive to finish my work.

Imagination is like the universe, limitless. We unknowingly limited it with our fears and doubts. “Will it work?” “Will it sell?” “Is it a terrible piece of art or literature?” This line of thinking stomps out your creativity and leaves you desperate and depressed. Forget all the rules, the do’s and don’ts and most importantly the have-to’s and create from your heart. Stories that last are stories told directly from the heart.

Those fears of “Being a starving artists” “No one cares about your work” or “No one appreciates my work.” useless thoughts that drain you out. I have no idea what this crap is doing running around my brain sometimes but I think those depressing thoughts just might be there as a warning sign. It usually happens when we need a break; like a long walk or cozy nap; or need to stop procrastinating and create something; anything; no matter what.

After many years of successful ideas and very bad ideas I’ve learned to treasure all of them. This thing that we do with making art or words or moving pictures is something special; something sacred. It might not make you famous or a millionare but it will inspire someone somewhere and that’s what keeps me going. I’d love to leave just a little footprint in the sands of time that might just shine a little hope into someone’s life.

A Psalm of Life
By Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tell me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle!
Be a hero in the strife!

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant!
Let the dead Past bury its dead!
Act,— act in the living Present!
Heart within, and God o’erhead!

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

The Short Awesome Manifesto: Go Forth and Make Movies!


The most beautiful films were painted with moving pictures. Worlds of silent, faded,  jittery black and white images told the most magical stories.

From silent to sound to HD video the medium of motion pictures has seen constant change. Shown in vaudeville side show tents to intrigued or confused audiences who at the time couldn’t imagine The Great Train Robbery or Nosferatu.

Together artists radiating with passion, crazy brave pioneers and mad scientists poured their passion into a limited experimental technology establishing motion pictures as a legitimate medium. Hollywood glamour and celebrity worship came as a result of the industrial era’s “sell everything” mentality.

This hundred year old marketing strategy no longer works in an age of global communication. The big flashing Hollywood lights are slowly burning out and have become obsolete in a world where one-click distribution of your film to a global audience is freely available.

Video is everywhere. High resolution HD in cellphones and DSLR cameras. DVDs can be self published with sites like Amazon’s CreateSpace. Filmmakers, authors, artists directly engage with their audience online. Promoting a culture that is not consumer driven but community driven. The way we do business is rapidly shifting towards a more honest right-brain approach. Shed your business suit and get comfy in your PJs. Go create the films, the art, the books you want to see.

Ideas to Get You Started
There are countless methods to making a film. The web is abundant with answers to all your filmmaking questions. A rough idea of what you could do is…

  1. Write your script. As a side note if you run into writer’s block pick-up a book like “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron. Great techniques to unblock. My favourite is keeping a notebook handy by your bed. Every morning write two pages. Letting go and scribbling words down without a care.
  2. Create a “Pitch Film” or “Lookbook” It could be an animated storyboard of your film with voice overs. Use photos, drawings animate in After Effects or Flash and for sound try a Zoom H2 with Audacity. Your goal in creating this is to have something solid that gives the look, feel and pacing of your film.
  3. Get a site going for your film. Run a social marketing campaign. Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. Let people around the web know about it. Start up a blog or vlog on YouTube. Start pulling in the audience you’re trying to speak to.
  4. Use KickStarter to collect your budget. You get to create the films you want to see and the audience gets to help make films they want. People who pitch in on the budget can get producer credits, DVD or Blu-Ray copy, merchandise, tickets to the premiere, ect.
  5. Make the damn movie!

The era we live in allows us to be passionate again. Like the grandfathers and grandmothers of the cinema we have nothing to lose and everything to gain.


Digital Filmmaker : Video on the Web, From Static to Interactive!

[This is a 2008 Archive post from TanjaLawhead.com]

Web Design was one of the first industries that emerged out of the Internet. It’s beginning is mainly attributed to marketing companies and graphics designers brining their industry to the web.

After thirteen years it’s become an established medium for branding, art and entertainment. Web Video is now following in it’s footsteps.

Video on the web has only recently become popular. Beginning around 1995 with streaming media players such as RealPlayer. In 1997 Shareyourworld.com was one of the first video sharing sites but failed mainly due to limited bandwidth.

With the birth of Adobe’s Flash Video codec in 2004 and the increase of bandwidth video sharing sites like YouTube emerged in 2005 popularizing web video.

There’s a shift from many TV and Film professionals to the web feeding the demand for web video advertising and entertainment.

Sites like YouTube catered to the users desire to connect and share. The user community varies from vloggers to independent filmmakers. Other video sites cater to a specific community or host certain content such as Funny Or DieiKlipz and Expert Village.

For Advertising video communities can be difficult because of over saturation of content. YouTube being a good example. There are too many videos being uploaded too quickly for yours to stand out.

This video summarizes the most common techniques. Keep in mind these days everyone and their chimpanzee uses them.

Under three minute, hilarious content will always stick to web audiences. The trick is not just cheating the system by uploading tricky thumbnails or changing the title to “boobs”. Recently high quality content in both entertainment and advertising for the web has become a demand.

You can only watch this so many times. Professional talent and original ideas shouldn’t be excluded from the budget.

To make an effective web advertising campaign Viral Marketing is used like Batman: The Dark Knight and I Love Bees advertisements.
Combining their techniques with web video will insure you stand out and reach your audience.

For independent filmmakers to make a profit from their work many sites have partner programs were ad revenue is shared. To make more profit many use services like iTunes or Amazon.

Also through merchandising and hosting advertisements on the series/films official webpages. Brightcove is often used instead of YouTube or such sites because it allows for high quality video to be streamed.

A good example of this is Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog which was created by Joss Whedon starring Neil Patrick Harris. It streamed free online and earned it’s revenue from iTunes sales, merchandise, and DVD and Soundtrack.

Thanks to technology video has become an effective medium that can be incorporated into anything. From games to web sites.

AKQA’s work on the microsite for Unilever’s Peperami Noodles Army and the Philips Bodygroom site are examples of incorporating interactive video into a sites design.

YouTube’s annotationsVideo Clix are an examples of easily attaching interactive information to a video.

Web games can incorporate video just like the classic FMV games used to. A simple yet hilarious example being Aliens from Planet Dave.

Like Web Design, Web Video is a new industry emerging from the internet. It is still in it’s infancy but with the rate today’s technologies evolve it is quickly reaching it’s prime.

Digital Filmmaker : Video Everywhere!

[This is a 2005 Archive page from TanjaLawhead.com]

Tips n’ Tricks

Mobile phones are like Swiss army knives. Take the Nokia Nseries for example.
Newer mobile devices are among other things capable of playing mp3s and movies like the PSP.

So, what’s this got to do with filmmaking? Mobile devices are another way of distributing your film. Microsoft has a video downloading service for mobile devices and there are a few mobile film festivals already like the Nokia Shorts. Also there’s mobile broadcasting.

So, how does it all work? You make a mobile compatible version of your film. Then post your film on the web. People download the film to their PC, then upload it to their mobile device.

How do you make a mobile version of your film? Makayama’s software Mobile Media Maker will convert your DVDs and any other video content to various mobile formats. There’s a free program PSP Video 9 that converts to Sony’s PSP.

If you don’t want to spend the money on software you can try to do it yourself with the software you have. All you need to find out is what sound and video format the mobile device you want to distribute to, uses. At times the video frame rate has to be configured as well. So it’s a bit complex depending on what device you choose. Pocket Movies has a FAQ on getting your movie to an MPEG-1 file that can be played on Pocket PCs.

Is it really worth it? There’s no question weather there’s a market. Fox adapted their TV series for mobile devices. It’s a lot cheaper then trying to get your film played in theatres and it might just end up with the wider audience.

Filmmaker’s Journal

You could consider this part two of my last post were I basically stated that filmmakers should use the web for distribution of their films.Google Video a search engine/archive for video lets you upload your video and will also let you charge for viewing it. Currently it’s in the beta stage. Yahoo also has a video search engine.

From Vlogs to web banners, video is everywhere. It’s up to the filmmaker now to take advantage of the technology and realize were the market is.

I’m still waiting for many of the commercial services that offer the latest in Hollywood films to come to my side of the globe. I guess they don’t realize that the web is a global market making it possible for anyone anywhere any time to get whatever they want in information and entertainment. If they can’t grasp that vision then it just leaves more room for independent filmmakers to give the new kind of “moviegoer” their dose of entertainment.

My Bookmarks
Doom9 is a great source for making backups of your DVDs. Their information saved me a lot of headache when I first had to author a DVD.