GADZOOK FILMS Producing independent film in Seattle, Los Angeles and beyond.

15Aug/13Off

What D&D Character Are You?

I'm working on a new project that's all RPG goodness! I'll release some more info soon but for now enjoy this:

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Ranger (5th Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength-11
Dexterity-12
Constitution-12
Intelligence-16
Wisdom-17
Charisma-15

Alignment:
Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Class:
Rangers are skilled stalkers and hunters who make their home in the woods. Their martial skill is nearly the equal of the fighter, but they lack the latter's dedication to the craft of fighting. Instead, the ranger focuses his skills and training on a specific enemy a type of creature he bears a vengeful grudge against and hunts above all others. Rangers often accept the role of protector, aiding those who live in or travel through the woods. His skills allow him to move quietly and stick to the shadows, especially in natural settings, and he also has special knowledge of certain types of creatures. Finally, an experienced ranger has such a tie to nature that he can actually draw on natural power to cast divine spells, much as a druid does, and like a druid he is often accompanied by animal companions. A ranger's Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

10Sep/12Off

Brief Update

Hey! I'm working on several posts but since they're taking a bit longer than I had hoped here's a little something to keep you sated.

1) Our 48-Hour Film "Coaching Me Softly" was selected as a finalist in the "Best of" competition for the Los Angeles 48 Hour Film Project. At the screening and awards ceremony last night we walked away with four nominations and one win. We were nominated for Best Writing, Best Actor, Best Use of Character, and Best Special Effects. Our lead, Dian Bachar, won for Best Actor and I couldn't be happier. The guy deserves it. He's super fun to work with and watch.

2) The script for our Lovecraftian web-series "House of Yhargoth" was submitted to the HP Lovecraft Film Festival & CthulhuCon. We're still waiting for word on that.

3) It was my birthday this past weekend! I bought myself an iPad because I've been dying to use some filmmaking apps built specifically for the device. Cleaned out my coffers but it's worth it. I am working on a post about all the lovely apps and hope to post that soon. If you'd like to have me review your app, contact me at domz at gadzookfilms.com or via my Twitter @GadZook.

That's it for now! More soon, I hope!

25Aug/12Off

Why I do 48 Hour Film Projects

Over the weekend of August 3rd I completed my 6th 48-Hour Film Project as a Team Leader and 7th overall. As usual it was a blast. I wanted to test several myths about making a better short. Most of these are things I'd never done before. I posted the video below if you wanna skip all this talk and see what we ended up with. I'm pretty happy with it!

Huge Cast & Crew

I still asked specific people whom I had worked with before to join me on this production. But I asked a lot of them. Some were people I'd worked with before, but many were friends and colleagues I'd never shared a project with. Where it worked was in the cast.

I am very lucky to have a bounty of talented friends available to work in front of the camera. In past 48-Hour shoots we've used the same 3-4 actors in lead roles because I know their work very well and my writers know them too. This time I wanted to shift things around a bit and use an almost all-new cast. A lot of people were around to help, but a lot of people were also sitting around with nothing to do. As expected. We've honed the shooting schedule of these things to an art form and adding bodies may free up one or two tasks, but it ultimately doesn't make the film any better or worse.

MYTH: BUSTED

Multiple Locations

We always have a pre-production meeting to assess our assets. Specifically we canvass our everyone involved in the production and jot down any costumes, props, or locations each person can bring to the party. So we've always had a long list of locations. In the past, however, we've generally tried to keep our actual shooting locations minimal - maybe 2 nearby locations. This saves time as company moves can be time-consuming and someone inevitably forgets something back at the other location.

This time I wanted to throw as many outdoor locations into the mix as feasible. I wasn't gonna jeopardize the shoot by driving all day Saturday to various locations, but I did want to get a variety. We ended up shooting at about 4 distinct locations, and used one location for multiple settings. It worked out pretty well and ultimately added about an hour and a half to the overall shoot. The locations weren't like jaw-dropping, but they worked.

MYTH: PLAUSIBLE

Fancy Equipment

This was the one thing I really wanted to test out but I'm broke and all of my friends are broke and I didn't know anyone with access to anything revolutionary. We had a nice tripod and a basic light kit and, frankly, that's more than enough. We didn't need a dolly (we actually used a furniture dolly for one shot but it was too bumpy to be usable and we cut around that footage, sadly). We didn't need a slider, or a jib. Would those have made a better movie? No, I don't think so.

MYTH: POSTPONED

So you've made it through. Here's our original cut! I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Do you have a 48-Hour Film you'd like to share?

Filed under: General Shtuff 2 Comments
13Mar/12Off

Audience Involvement

In a recent Seattle Webseries Meetup (that's right! I started a webseries group in a city I don't live in anymore!) I was talking about audience engagement. This is really the best single marketing tool anyone can have. With an engaged audience nearly anything is possible. And with web production there's no excuse not to have all the tools you need to find and involve these power audiences!

What exactly is an engaged audience member? And how do you engage your audience?

Engaging your audience is, to put it simply, making friends with the people who support your work. After all, these folks are paying you - via DVD sales, website memberships, crowdfunding, ad clicks, whatever tool you use to monetize your project - to make good work. They want you to succeed because they want to see good stuff! The least you can do is reward them by not only producing great content but also giving them the knowledge that their voice matters to you.

Generally your audience doesn't come pre-engaged. If you're just starting out and have no cachet to call on, you'll need to spend some time building an audience. This is where social networking comes into play. It also means you'll need to create something to draw this audience in. As Robert Pratten said in his article on audience engagement, the first step is Discovery. Once they find your stuff you need to provide them with the avenues to give you feedback - Twitter, a Facebook group, a Google+ Page, a Tumblr account, etc. And then listen to them! Share with them, discuss with them. Tell them what you're trying to accomplish and ask what they'd like to see. One thing leads to another and it's these baby steps that lead to an active and engaged audience.

Crowdfunding has become a popular way of getting the word out in part because it's a new way to involve your audience. I would caution against crowdfunding an idea BEFORE you've sought the audience for it. You don't want to spend time finding the right people to fund your project while your campaign is running! Find the audience, engage them on some level with your idea, then start the campaign. I've seen many filmmakers go about this backwards and it usually amounts to campaigns where the discovery doesn't happen until the very end of the campaign and funding goals are not met.

There are tools to track engagement on sites like Twitter and Facebook. You can use Google Analytics or WordPress SiteStats to see just who is coming to your page and interacting with your content and you. I encourage people to be at least casually familiar with these systems so that you can better direct your marketing and engagement campaigns.

Indie filmmakers tend to stay closer to their indie filmmaker friends which creates a vortex of back-slapping but no real headway when butts need to fill seats. We're filmmakers. We're poor and we're hard to please. There are much better audiences out there - unless of course your show is all about indie filmmakers. Hmm... if so, please refer to my post on Why Most Webseries Suck and don't do that.

Webseries promotion often forgets about the audiences themselves. The truly successful shows out there have gone out of their way to network with fans, not just friends. You can begin the fan creation process before writing your first scene. As Captain Picard would say, "Engage!" *sorry*

Further reading:
Measuring Audience Engagement in Social Media by Nathan Linnell at Search Engine Watch.

Further viewing:
Matt Vancil (creator of JourneyQuest, The Gamers) speaking in February 2012 at the Film + Music + Interactive Happy Hour presented by the Seattle Office of Film and Music.

Filed under: General Shtuff 4 Comments
5Dec/11Off

Why Do (Most) Webseries Suck, part 4

Welcome to this final installment in what internet wags are calling "insufferable" and "fucktard-tastic!"

I missed my Tuesday deadline (by a lot now) because I've been sick... but really I've hit a bit of writer's block for this final chapter. I've been realizing that my points amounted to little more than a very general Filmmaking 101 revisitation. Is that really all that's wrong with webseries these days? Just bad filmmaking? Pretty much. But, like all things, there's a little bit more to it than that.

Webseries production is very much like the indie film fad of the '90s. The cost of equipment combined with the ease of mass distribution through the proliferation of indie-geared festivals made for an easy way to get your work seen by thousands of people. The difference with webseries is that now you have the opportunity to be seen by MILLIONS of people very easily and with little cost to you.

And it's easy to see why so many want to get into the web game. We see the proliferation of LOLCat videos or inept video blogs where a teenager racks up millions of views simply by talking about Justin Beiber for 20 minutes. As storytellers it's natural for us to think "if you think that's good, imagine what a video with a STORY can do!" And so we post our interpretations of the world, of the fantastic, of our imagination.... and we wait.

For a good many of these projects - I'd say probably 90% of them - the problems stem from one of the issues I spoke of in the previous 3 blogs (links 1, 2, & 3 here). To wit, poor storytelling resulting from a lack of accountability.

One of the things I think would benefit filmmakers in general, but webseries producers specifically, is a peer-to-peer system for reviewing and developing scripts. The International Academy of Web Television has some writing programs in place in both LA and NYC, and I hope more will be established around the world. But you don't need a sanctioned group to get your scripts read. Loan them to a trusted friend, someone who'll tell you when your shit stinks but can offer constructive advice to improve things.

As we've been developing our Lovecraftian webseries (more details soon, I promise!!) we made a point to hand the script off to talented writer friends who also weren't super familiar with Lovecraft's work. This gave us an insight into how the casual viewer may see our show. Would it be an uphill climb to understand the premise? Are references flying over heads? We received great feedback and began implementing changes without sacrificing our initial vision.

This isn't new info. This same advice has been handed to me through countless independent filmmakers. Find a partner, whether you work on separate projects or one project together, and share with them. Collaborate. While this isn't new information it's something webseries producers should, nay, NEED to be attuned to.

Producing for the web is vastly different from producing for film or TV. There are no gatekeepers to promotion or advertising or theater space. As good as that is for getting into the business it also means we need to be more vigilant about the quality we're putting out there. Not that the networks really care about their own shows (Whitney, anyone?) but we're not networks. This isn't about us vs. them, this is about doing the best we can with what we've got.

Any comments? Additions? Questions? Let me know in the comments!

 

27Feb/11Off

48 Go Green Update

And another 48 Hour Film is in the books! This year we worked with one of our smallest crews ever. It was an awesome experience and I'm pretty happy and excited with the result. Winners are announced tomorrow, but as always with these types of contests it's really more of a test of storytelling skill.

The lessons one can pick up when working on these things just resonate through all of our work. It's fascinating and a great way to work with people. You see them at their most stressed. It's a terrific indicator of character and resolve.

Anyway, without further ado, here's what we created. Linked to Vimeo, but it's also on our YouTube page.

Made for the 2011 48 Go Green. This film was made from top to bottom in 48 hours. This is the original, uncut version. Aside from some updated credits, this is what we turned in at the end of those 48 hours.

9Jul/10Off

Facelift

Hey! WordPress 3.0 comes out and boom, I update the look of the site. Whaddya think? Oh boy, I'm excited. We've got another shoot coming up in late July, then the 2010 48 Hour Film Project in LA with a star-studded crew. Then part 2 of the Troubadour series films in September. Busy. Subscribe to all our channels! I'll be creating handy links and buttons here to help you do that, but your continued patronage is important to us! Thanks!

Filed under: General Shtuff 1 Comment
20May/10Off

Update

I need to get back to working on this more. In a software update about a year ago I lost all my fancy CSS and classy looks. I got distracted and this poor blog sat unnoticed for eons. Well, I've re-upped my commitment! I'm going to try and fix it this weekend and get it back to its former glory.

I was writing an article on the term "professional" and the myth of the no-budget movie. I realized I was sounding quite a bit hypocritical in those articles. So stay tuned to see if I'm able to dance my way around the terms and paint myself in to a pretty picture. I somehow highly doubt that.

Working on a couple of new projects and trying to get a consistent, reliable crew ironed out. Hopefully I can get completed (or near completed) projects back from various sources and get those up and out there soon. Anyway, bottom line, still truckin'!

Filed under: General Shtuff 2 Comments
23Jun/09Off

iPhone 3G S and movies

This is a post from my nearly brand new iPhone 3G S, Apple's newest entry into the cell phone market. This baby shoots video as well, and spies have reported that the current hardware is capable of shooting in HD although that function is not yet enabled. Still these are exciting times and I am working on a number of ventures to take advantage of this new hardware. More info as it becomes available. And of course more film news and stories coming soon!

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25Jan/09Off

Film Fighting Workshops!

Friend of GadZook Films, Kevin Inouye (aka the Fight Designer), has some upcoming workshops up in Seattle. I highly recommend these classes. Kevin knows his stuff and is a great person to talk to about filming needs. Even the smallest projects would benefit from Kevin's expertise. Don't guess when you can know, especially if you're using weapons on set. And Kevin knows. Check 'em out!

Film Fighting Workshops

from Fight Designer, LLC.

March 28th, 1-5pm.
Intro to Film Fighting
This class is perfect for the martial artist or stage combatant wanting to learn how to adapt their skills for fighting on camera. Topics covered include camera awareness, playing the angles, basic on-set protocol, and how to use the medium to make your fights look good. Everyone will get time in front of the camera, with time to analyze the results as a group.
$45 pre-registration, $50 at the door.

April 4th, 1-5pm
Tricks of the Trade
This class delves into how we can use video or film to really push the limits of what we can show in-camera. Creative use of angles, editing, props, and some very minor stunt gear can help us make superhuman stuntmen/women out of just about anyone. Our hits can be harder, our falls can be higher, our moves flashier, or our violence more convincing. The emphasis here is on techniques that could be available to the typical low budget Seattle area production. While the stunt performers will get to have the most fun, this class could also be of great interest to anyone wanting to direct, shoot, or coordinate action scenes, and we may get participants from several areas of production. Those willing to get messy may get to play with blood effects.
$45 pre-registration, $50 at the door.

April 18th, 1-5pm
Modern Firearms for the Stage and Screen
Gun handling skills are essential for modern action scenes on the stage or the screen. We'll cover both safety and style, with a focus on modern police/military tactical firearms use. Learn how to stage a gunfight that's safe and reads as a FIGHT! Besides basic handling, we'll look at the specialized tools of our trade, carrying, drawing, reloading, and reholstering, weapons disarms/retention, and small unit tactics. We'll also explore reactions to gunshots and blood effects. Everyone who wishes to will get to fire blanks, as well as handle a variety of weaponry.
$50 pre-registration, $55 at the door.

COMBINED REGISTRATION:
Sign up for all three workshops for $125!

Registration:
Email Kevin Inouye at action@fightdesigner.com to put your name on the registration list. Be sure to include which workshop(s) you will be attending. Payment can be made in advance or on the day of your first workshop, via cash or credit card.

Instructor:
Kevin Inouye has been doing fights for both stage and screen for the last decade. His training includes recognition through the Society of American Fight Directors, but has also been heavily informed by his studies of both Asian and European martial arts, a psychology and research background, and by additional stage combat and stunt training from the International Order of the Sword & Pen, Hellbenders fire stunts, and Hazard Factory stunts. He is sole proprietor of Fight Designer, LLC, providing fights, gun wrangling, instruction, and prop weaponry to the Seattle area and beyond.

Venue:
Lee's Martial Arts is located in West Seattle, at 3270 California Ave SW.

Filed under: General Shtuff 1 Comment