Larry and the Monsters Premiere – Magic-Time Films

I had the great fortune last night of being present for the premiere of Magic-Time Films’ “Larry and the Monsters” web series at the Historic Homestake Opera House in Lead, SD. While some might think a theatrical presentation of a web series is unconventional, writer/director/actor/producer/man-of-many-other-hats Ryan Brewer created a special edit of the first season of the series just for the premiere, while at the same time launching the first episode online.

I can’t say I was involved much in the development of the series, but I was able to pitch in and make the official website, www.larryandthemonsterstheseries.com for Ryan and crew as the series rolls out over the next month and a half and continues from there.

As far as the series itself, my quickie review would be that Ryan and co-producer/actor/writer Keith Melcher have created a monster of a comedy, imposing classic movie monsters on domestic and office life, that I simply couldn’t stop giggling at. [There’s a blurb for your DVD, Ryan ;)] The cinematography, by Shaun O’Connell and his company Labyrinth Films, is of special note as outstanding and the cast collectively turns in pitch-perfect comedic performances. I can’t wait for others to discover what they have developed and I’m hoping they are able to garner enough positive response and sponsors to create Season 2.

The thing that stuck out most to me at the premiere though was not part of the film itself at all, it was something stated by Ryan during the Q&A: that being able to revisit Larry & The Monsters was a deeply personal experience for him because it was one of the first things he and Keith worked on together as filmmakers. That resonates with me in relation to Jamie Klotz’s Diary. As seen in the previous origins articles, the development of the two Jamie Klotz’s Diary movies were similarly connected to some of the earliest works I made or attempted as a filmmaker.

It was a neat experience to see that from the other end of the spectrum: seeing someone else’s dreams come true. Congrats to everyone at Magic-Time Films on their work!

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Loving the Process – HiketheMovie

I got to see an early incarnation of Hikethemovie today, just as interest is starting to peak thanks to a couple WONDERFUL articles in the Hot Springs Star and Rapid City Journal by Curt Nettinga about Wendee Pettis’s journey to make Hikethemovie.

Wendee called me last week to see if we could arrange a run-through on the big screen at the Mueller Center, and I happily agreed; who wouldn’t?!

So bright and early this morning I loaded in equipment, got the theater prepped and Hikethemovie was screened for an audience of three, and I was immediately taken back to those frantic last couple of weeks before the screening of my own feature, The Incredible Search for Jamie Klotz’s Diary.

I love that feeling. What you see onscreen as the director is awful. You feel like you can’t rescue it, that you should just scrap it and start all over… your notepad has three pages of notes of last-minute edits to make… edits that only you and you alone would notice: up the volume on that take in Act 3, tweak the contrast on that shot early in Act 1. The audience won’t notice, but YOU WILL. It’s a rush and it was interesting to see it from an “outside” perspective.

I imagine very soon I will be doing the same thing once again for “The Veterans Town” and “The Extraordinary Secret of Jamie Klotz’s Diary II” and I honestly can’t wait. Watching someone else’s creative process invigorates me to push harder and do better.

Though I tend to usually be a little bit of a Kevin Smith, blabbering my mouth, spoiling things left and right, I’ll keep the details of what I saw of Hikethemovie to myself except to say that I liked it. I was in it, too, for part of a scene and I didn’t look like a complete tool, so that’s always nice! If you’re in the Hot Springs area on August 10, I recommend going by the Hot Springs Theatre around 3:00pm and watching Babydoefilm’s first movie!

"Hike the Movie" to Premiere August 10, 2014

Babydoe Films will be premiering the film “Hike the Movie” Sunday, August 10, 2014 at 3:00pm at the Historic Hot Springs Theatre in downtown Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Hike the Movie stars Ryan Koupal, Larry White Crow, Harland Allen, Mike Linderman and Wendee Pettis, who also penned and directed the film!

I had the honor of working on this production during a morning shoot at an office location for a part of the film and had a bit part. But even if I hadn’t, I would still be extremely excited to see this locally-produced film! Every Facebook post and update Wendee gave was another motivator for me to continue to push forward on my own shorts and features.

Check out their Facebook page for details! https://www.facebook.com/Hikethemovie

Picking Your Battles

Someone I know who’s been quite successful in the industry by taking the indie route said something a while back that stuck with me and I want to address it. He talks about what young filmmakers should and shouldn’t do. Some of his advice he gave was spot on, but at one point he says you should stop using your friends & family because they’re shit actors. I have to completely disagree. Because to me, any young filmmaker shouldn’t be blindly listening to anyone else, they should trust their gut feeling and know which battles to fight in what order.

Maybe on one project you have a shit cast but you’re finding out how to get the mic levels right or started utilizing lighting. Or you start learning about scheduling and planning. Or the flip side, you could scour the region for the best actors you can find for your short film because Joe Filmmaker said not to cast shit actors, but your shots suck and your audio mix is muddy and your entire shoot is completely unorganized and inconvenient, making those actors never want to work with you again.

C’mon, dude. Get real. Don’t dismiss their work because they’re learning. Recognize it for what it is. If they’re a real filmmaker, if they have that truly innate sense, they’ll already know Aunt Hilda is an awful actress, and they’re already beating themselves up for that windy, muffled audio. And not only will they constantly strive to do better the next time, but they’ll also learn another important lesson: work within your limitations.

Not everyone gets to go to film school (or wants to) and make those mistakes in a controlled environment where no one will ever see. But if they’re making projects happen, no matter how big or small, I can guarantee you they’re learning something new on every one that will eventually lead to something of note, not just for everyone else to enjoy, but themselves.

They’re their own worst critic.

Meaningless Numbers and Superfluous Subtitles: A Gaming Trend That Needs To End

I don’t typically write editorials like this, but after today’s confirmation of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, I felt compelled to express a feeling that’s been burning inside me for years. I think that game companies should stop numbering the games in their franchises.

In theory, it should make sense. Make a new game in a fresh franchise, make the sequel #2, make the sequel to that #3. But then around that time, things tend to get hairy. Developers start to release “spin-off” games with relevant subtitles like “Brotherhood” or “San Andreas” or “Code: Veronica” or “Infinite” or “Encore: Rocks the 80’s.” Not that these are bad games. Some of these games are more well-received than the game preceding it. I remember many lost nights in high school playing “Grand Theft Auto Encore: Rocks the 80’s.” Err… right.

But the point is that when these generally well-received sequels get their own well-received follow-ups that are subtitled, does it continue to make sense to number later games in the franchise? Because then you start to see games like “Grand Theft Auto 4″ which in all actuality should be Grand Theft Auto 10,” following the massive list of titles that followed “Grand Theft Auto 3” including Vice City, Vice City Stories, Liberty City Stories, San Andreas, and GTA (GBA).

Or “Sonic The Hedgehog 4,” which follows an even larger list of titles that’s too sprawling to list here. Some of which were even 2D platforming games that should have easily counted as direct sequels, even if the 3D games were not, so that argument is null.

My argument isn’t that those games shouldn’t exist. It’s that the numbers of the numbered sequels suddenly become meaningless in the face of 3, 4, or 5 other full-fledged titles that were developed and released between numbered games. Some franchises have gotten this right. The Legend of Zelda comes to mind.

See, after releasing The Legend of Zelda and Zelda II: Adventures of Link, they went for a subtitled SNES title, “A Link to the Past.” And then every Zelda game since has been released with a subtitle instead of a number, because the developers understand that once they introduced a subtitle, there is no place for a Legend of Zelda III. (NOTE: Link to the Past is occasionally informally referenced to as “Zelda III,” but never officially, and no future Zelda games were numbered.)

It’s confusing to the customer, too. The unknowing mom at a retail store would probably not know that in order to get the story of Ezio Auditore, one needs to buy Assassin’s Creed II, Brotherhood & Revelation. You would have to forgive her for wondering why Assassin’s Creed III isn’t a direct sequel to II. It would be easier to explain to others, non-gamers or casual gamers looking to get into the franchise if the series continued to have subtitles instead of numbers after II.

Which brings me back to Black Flag. I read that the developers said that Assassin’s Creed III would be a good “jumping on” point for new players to the franchise. Having played the game all the way through, I would have to disagree. You’re steeped in so much lore that, while you pick it up along the way, the impact of the game’s final moments is not the same for you in the way it would be for someone who has played through Desmond’s story from Assassin’s Creed through all the sequel and spinoff titles.

There’s no reason why ACIII couldn’t have been titled: “Assassin’s Creed: Revolution” or why GTA IV couldn’t have simply been “Grand Theft Auto: Liberty City.” It tells as much as it needs to about the story without being bewildering. And there’s no reason that AC IV: Black Flag needed both a number and a subtitle. Just the subtitle would have done.

What does everyone else think?

Sailed To Break – MAINSTREET Album Release

Tuesday was the release date for Sailed To Break‘s debut album “MAINSTREET.”

I have been extremely fortunate to have been working with Jarrett, Karl, Dustin and Ty to make this album a reality.

Recorded in July 2012, we set an initial release frame of Fall 2012 for the album. When autumn came and went, we decided to try for mid-December, as I stated before. As December 2012 approached, it became clear we weren’t QUITE going to make that deadline either. So we took a look at the calendar and set ourselves a January 15 deadline with no exceptions.

Recording & engineering wizard Marty Meyer finished the master tracks by the last week of December and I got the first batch of 100 CDs ordered from CDBaby.com. I was very pleased with the transaction and will probably be using their CD/DVD Duplication Services in the future for later projects, including “The Veterans Town.”

As if helping these guys make their dream come true wasn’t enough, at the last minute I was able to piece together a 30-minute behind-the-scenes mini-documentary about the album. So last minute was this that for people who preordered the album & paid extra to get the program, the DVD didn’t even have a proper cover or a label! AUGH!

I would say that the highlight of the album would have to be “Crash,” the 5-minute epic finale, which started out in the studio as, what seemed to me, a very basic rock ballad, but with the addition of an organ, turned into a gospel-rock anthem on par with songs like “Bridge Over Troubled Water” or “Let It Be.” I’m not even exaggerating. It’s an interesting perspective: young adult men’s view on what they see as wrong with the world: threats of nuclear attacks, prostitution, abortion, alcoholism, rape, urban violence, deforestation, poaching, and religion – the lyrics are broad enough that you could take that last one as either a call for us to find hope in it, or a criticism of people who abuse it… very weighty stuff that you wouldn’t expect from an album that starts with a song about summertime partying and whirlwind romance.

The second track on the album, “Time,” is a fast-paced ballad that’s the thematic equivalent of Hanson’s “MMMBop,” and equally as catchy.

Of course I also have to mention “The Call,” the band’s tribute to active duty military, police, fire, and emergency responders. This is the song that I helped directly produce and will be featured in “The Veterans Town” later this year. The song hits its peak near the end when a string section (my idea) eases its way in behind the bridge. Beautiful stuff.

That’s all for now. I will be keeping you all updated as additional projects come to light!