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Behind the Tentacle! : 09/22/16

howdy hi,

things have been heating up with my short TIME TO EAT recently – quite a few new festival announcements have been coming in. look forward to sharing that news with y’all soon.

in the meantime, I’m super stoked to be able to present “Behind The Tentacle” the extra long, special behind the scenes commentary version of the film. a while back, Kimberley and I were brainstorming additional pieces of content we could make for the film… and I wondered “hey, would it be funny to have a commentary track that was longer than the film?” it seemed like it might work, so John and I recorded the track.

but as life would have it, the “day” job was keeping me pretty busy… so the project didn’t advance much at all. in fact, it just sat on my hard drive. until I wrapped HarmonQuest – then I had time to dive back in an cut it.

hope you find this behind-the-scenes look at the process amusing and informative!

any parts of the process you’d like to know more about? let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

-Luke

lessons from a failed webseries : 05/12/16

hello friends,

today I’d like to chat with you about “The Pitch Room.” this is a web series that me and my good friend, Troy came up with just over a year ago. this blog is going to talk about the process of developing the idea, the challenges we faced, and what the end result was.

the idea
after Troy moved back from New York, he and I started getting together for morning coffees. we are both morning people, we both love coffee, and since we live in the same neighborhood it was easy to do. it gave us a chance to catch up, people watch, and brain storm ideas for potential new projects.

we wanted to make something that we could write together, Troy could act in, and I could direct. a web series seemed like a good idea. after a few weeks of bantering around ideas, we stumbled upon the question “who’s responsible for really bad commercials?” and what would their meetings be like? because they can’t be setting out to make “bad” and “offensive” ads… they must really think they are doing good work. this seemed like an idea that was rife for comedy. we could show a bunch of well meaning knuckleheads making bad decisions. all we’d need is a cast and a conference room.

Troy already had a commercial in mind, so using that we wrote a pilot episode. then we sent it over to my friend Ryan Mickels. he and I had met at comic con the year before and had talked about working together. this seemed like a good first project. Ryan liked the script and was on board to be our producer. but before we moved forward he had a note, “should we pick a more well know ad?”

this was a great point. our ad was funny, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone that knew it. we started thinking about more infamous commercials, but nothing moved to the forefront. then one day it hit me… the Superbowl was only a month away. and the Superbowl is like, the Superbowl of Ads. some people watch the game JUST to see the spots. it’s a time when agencies swing for the fences. sometimes they hit a homerun, sometimes the bat flies out of their hands and hits a small child in the head. we were hoping for the later. figuratively speaking, of course.

so we put the brakes on and waited. as soon as the game was over, I knew what commercial I wanted to lampoon. that next week in Mammoth I took our original pilot script and rewrote to match the new commercial.

the production
a reoccurring theme in this blog is the idea of better-faster-cheaper, and once again we ran into that wall. even though I wrote the script the week after the Super Bowl it would be almost 2 months before we could get the location, crew, and actors together.

we had almost no money for this project which makes things tough when it comes to little things like “location” and “crew” but luckily I had a bunch of friends who stepped up and helped out. my good friend Jeff hooked us up with the location, Angel came out and was our assistant director, Clovis lent us some of his art, Brian who I haven’t worked with since film school handled the production design/set dressing/props, and my buddy Jason handled the cinematography and lighting. (side bar: Jason and I used to skateboard together, and videoing him is some of the first “filmmaking” I ever did.”)

the crew was small, but everyone was skilled at their job and we sailed through production. it really helped that we had a rehearsal a couple days before and the cast was nailing it.

the set

ready to roll

Troy & Esther

Austin

Trian

the rollout
editing went fairly smoothly. I hired Guy, my assistant editor on LBTXIV to prep the project for me and then got into it. it was tough juggling THE PITCH ROOM, TIME TO EAT, and LBTXIV… those few weeks (or months?) were a bit of a blur. after a couple passes, Ryan, Troy and I had a cut we were happy with. I started working with McKenzie to score the piece.

because we’d already missed our “get done right after the Superbowl” window, we didn’t feel the need to rush the post. this was both good and bad. we had the time to make the project just what we wanted, but we also didn’t have the “deadline to meet, building on fire” sort of motivation to get things done quickly. for such a short piece it took longer to finish then I would have liked… but at the same time, we didn’t have a plan to put it out yet, so it didn’t really matter.

what does one do with a web series pilot?

that’s a darn good question and one that we definitely struggled with answering. from the onset of this project, people responded really positively to the idea. when I asked people “Have you ever seen a commercial so bad or offensive you wondered ‘who are the idiots that came up with this?’” they always said yes. we know these commercials. we know that head-shaking feeling wondering how they could been made. and people liked the idea of seeing this happen.

but despite the universality of that feeling, THE PITCH ROOM struggled to find a home. I’m honestly not sure why, but I have a few theories.

1) we were late on releasing it
-I think to be successful in a parody/satire environment, you need to release the content within a week. ideally with in a day or two. it’s got to catch that wave of social media posting in order to reach a broad audience

2) we were parodying copy written material
-distributors, producers, and even SAG was confused about our project being a parody. could we show the ads? mention the brands? talk about the spots? was this asking for legal trouble? it really wasn’t. parody is a well protected part of US Copyright law, but that doesn’t really matter. the very premise of the project caused people to pause… and that made it harder for them to pass up the chain for support.

3) it didn’t support a brand
-in the current webseries climate, “brand” videos make up a big portion of what gets funded. these might actually feature the brand OR they might just promote a lifestyle that the brand wants to identify with. here we were though, actively attacking consumerism and ad culture. we were biting the hand that might have potentially fed us.

4) it wasn’t that funny
-man. this is the toughest one for me, because as the writer and director it’s really on me. while I may love the hidden Superbowl joke (“a great opportunity we don’t want to pass on”) and the puns regarding the Game and League of Legends, funny enough. the project required the audience to know the commercial, and then analyze it in reverse. the humor was lampooning, but LOL’ing… and with problems 1, 2, and 3 already in place it was a hurdle too big to overcome.

————

after spending a few month sending the project out we realized that we weren’t going to have anyone pick it up. the next question was do we move forward on our own? after all, it was a relatively easy project to make. Ryan worked up a budget and then the three of us met to discus. over delicious grilled meats and beer (seriously Spitz is amazing) we decided that the project wasn’t worth pursuing further.

our goal was to develop a project that someone else would fund… and making another 4 episodes of THE PITCH ROOM didn’t seem like that would get us closer to that goal. it already had proven to be a concept that wasn’t right for the market. we decided that it would be better to use our time and resources to develop and produce new projects. to make a sports analogy, why keep bowling on the lane were the pins are gone, when you could move to the next lane over and have a fresh frame to try for a strike? heh. so maybe bowling isn’t the best sport for analogies… but I think you get the idea.

Luke & Troy

at the end of day, I’m still happy with the decision to make THE PITCH ROOM. I got to make a fun project with some of my favorite people. some of whom it was a first time (Ryan, Jason, and McKenzie) and others it was a return to a long history of collaboration (Angel, Brian, and Troy). I’m looking forward to the next time we’ll get to team up… and for the next one, we’ll make sure to have a bit more of a plan before we start.

and by plan I mean:

1) if it’s a current events/topical piece – the distribution needs to be set up
-that means everyone in post needs to be available and have deadlines to finish.

2) it needs to be original material
-parody is fine, but should be less subtle. e.g. someone at SAG should not get confused by it.

3) it doesn’t need to support a brand… but if a brand can pay for it, all the better.
-we need to develop projects that people want. less “throw it against the wall and see what sticks” more “this is what people want to make, so let’s work on something like that.”

4) this one I’m not going to change.
-because dang it, I am who I am. and if I’m not making things that I enjoy making – then what is the point?

NOW, for a special treat, here’s a special, extended, director’s cut scene with thirty five new jokes! actually I don’t know how many new jokes are in there… but give it watch now!

and you out there, what have you learned from projects that didn’t turn out how you hoped?

-Luke

outrage or action? : 01/27/15

hey friends,

today’s post is a call to action. not only am I going to be challenging each and everyone of you to make a change – but I’m going to be embarking on that change as well. instead of merely being “outraged” by an injustice or offense – I want us all to try and challenge that energy into positive action.

I’m going to start with an example from my life. about six months ago, I asked to get an intern at my current gig. I wanted an intern for a few reasons 1.) to grow my fiefdom 2.) we had a bunch of work to do 3.) I had a great experience as an intern, and want to provide that for someone else.

okay, actually the real reason was #3. sure we had a fair amount of work – but an intern isn’t supposed to be an extra employee, an intern is supposed to be a student who is learning from the experience of being in a “real” workplace.

why did I want to “give back”? well when I was studying cinema at SFSU I had an internship for a small documentary film production company called Ravin’ Films. I’d never had a job in the industry and I was as green as they came… but I had a willingness to learn, an ability to follow simple instructions, and the responsibility to show up on time twice a week. over the next few years I got my first experience using Final Cut Pro (the editing software that I made my living using for 8+ years) as well as mentorship, guidance, and friendship from an experience editor and filmmaker – one Bob Sarles.

but the experience didn’t end when I graduated. once I was in Los Angeles, Bob made some calls on my behalf. multiple industry professionals met with me and I got some of my first assistant editing jobs based pretty much solely on the fact that I had been his intern. afterall, I had NO other real credits.

flash-forward to now, where I’m editing a studio movie in a long running franchise. our office has extra desks. we have snacks. everyone is cool and nerdy and loves what they do. it would be hard to find a BETTER place for an aspiring editor to land.

so what’s the problem?

the problem is – I can’t get an intern. there are a number of factors in play. first there are the multiple lawsuits that were the result of employers (and interns) taking advantage of loose oversight. internships are supposed to be for college students who are learning, not for anyone trying to “break in” to the industry. and they aren’t supposed to be “production assistant” replacements. that is, you can’t hire an intern to do the work you should hire a PA to-do. the other problem is budget. even at minimum wage for 10/hrs a week, the production “can’t” spare the money.

my first reaction was to take this to twitter and proclaim how the universe was against me! I wanted to join the waves of people expressing their outrage and I wanted people to feel outrage with me.

“how dare these people stand in the way of what I was trying to do!? are we so ruled by the fear of lawsuits that an editor can no longer mentor and help those who aspire to do the same?”

and I did tweet about my frustration… and then I tried to setup an official internship program at the company. well, that didn’t work either. so I was faced with an option – did I engage in “outrage” or “action”?

I’ve decide on action. I can’t have an intern. okay. but that doesn’t mean I can’t mentor young editors.

so here’s what I’m going to do, if you are an aspiring editor – I will watch your work and give you feedback. I will answer your questions about the industry. I will give you whatever guidance I can.

if you want me to watch you work, here’s what I ask:
• email me a weblink with the subject “watch my edit” (nerfherder[at]lukeasa[dot]com)
• just one project, no more than 15 minutes long
• make sure there is a “timecode window burn” (if you don’t know what this is, or how to do it – I suggest looking on creativecow.com or YouTube)

if you’ve got industry questions:
• email them to me with the subject “film industry question” (nerfherder[at]lukeasa[dot]com)

I’ll do my best to answer in a timely fashion… but if you haven’t heard from me in 3 weeks, please feel free to nudge me.

—–

now for the REST of you who aren’t aspiring editors, here’s my challenge to you:

the next time you are thinking about expressing your outrage, retweeting a link, or complaining – think about how you can take positive action.

for example. it’s Oscar season now, and there have been a flood of people expressing outrage over this being the “whitest and malest oscars ever.” and while that is a very real issue, perhaps instead of complaining about how they didn’t nominate enough people of X-variety – send out a link to a short film made by a person of X-variety. or write that filmmaker an encouraging email, or share the link to the filmmaker’s kickstarter. the list goes on…

instead of adding fuel to the fire of outrage, devote your energy to the things you love and support.

I believe we can all do better and that we can affect positive change through our actions.

will you join me?

-Luke