Thursday, March 31, 2011


Hello, Writer's Blog. I feel like it's been a while. Maybe it hasn't. Maybe it's just because of how frequently I used to update this blog, my maybe-once-a-week updates seem sparse.

I'm taking a break from my verbal storyboards of episode 3 ("Personification") to share my dirty little storyboarding secrets:

  1. I don't always storyboard. Episodes 1 and 2 of The Ruffians weren't storyboarded. For episode 1, we picked four or five angles from which to shoot the conversation and just went from there. And for episode 2, I let the flow of the confrontation, the actions the actors picked, and the actual location dictate the camera angles and movements.
  2. I can't draw. The best I can muster are stick figures so vague and without form they only serve to confuse everyone involved, including myself. Thus . . .
  3. My storyboards are completely verbal. I take whatever script I'm working on, copy and paste it into a new document, and then start adding BOLD camera directions to the script (sometimes I use colour!).
Episode 3 is a far more visually demanding story than any of the previous episodes have been. There are very specific things that need to be revealed at very specific times in order for the story to unfold in the correct manner. There are certain gags and visual cues that have worked their way into the script. And, for the first time ever, there are going to be special effects. And those special effects have to be shot from certain angles for them to work.

In other words, episode 3 was a beast to write and it's going to be a beast to shoot.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

reflections on 2 as we head into 3

Episode 2 is done and up (if you haven't seen it yet, you can see it here) and I'm quite happy with the way it turned out. As I watched it, I realized that in many ways, episode 2 is the fleshed-out version of the Ruffians teaser we shot. I didn't plan that, yet I really couldn't be happier with that connection. When we shot the teaser, we only had the first script written, but I knew what the tone of the show was going to be and tried to reflect that in the teaser. Little did I know it was going to serve as such a literal blueprint.

There are two parts of "Small Mercies" that I am especially happy with. While I'm happy with the overall product, there are two parts that stand out as special to me -- and these two moments in no way diminish all the other wonderful parts of the episode.

The first is the conversation in the car my character has on the phone with his girlfriend, Marlena. That was a moment I came up with on Monday. We shot everything with Tenika on Saturday night, I started editing on Sunday, and we shot Corey's and my introduction on Tuesday night (along with my moment in the car). Originally, in the script, we cut from Kendra and Alexander heading to Kendra's bedroom to Charlie out in the car, looking at photos of Marlena. He goes to call her, but accidentally calls Sofia (Rachel's character) and hilarity ensues. As I cut together the conversations that take place inside the apartment, I realized that the tone wasn't right for a joke. I still liked cutting out to the car, but having a joke there seemed wrong. So I came up with this little moment instead, where Charlie calls Marlena and leaves her a message. It was in post that I cut the scene up and made it one unchronological moment, instead of an elongated scene that played out in chronological order. I was really, really pleased with the way it turned out.

The second moment was the ending. I cut that together first. From the look(s) on Corey's face, to the sigh of resignation from Lucas, to Rachel's swooping camera work, I really could not be happier with the ending to that episode. It makes me laugh every time I watch it. That might make me a little dark and twisted, but I chuckle.

I write all this as I wait for a part of episode 3 to render. True, I haven't shot anything for episode 3 yet (that comes April 18th and 19th, mark your calendar!), but that doesn't mean I don't have already have something! I'm going to be a little hush-hush with this sequence, because I'm really excited about it and can't believe it's coming together the way it is. When you finally get to see the episode, check out the opening sequence. That sucker is (spoiler alert) four years in the making. That's all I'm going to say about that.

Friday, March 18, 2011


In the spring of 2009, Theo Brown approached me about producing a short film. He was a film student and I was a graduate of the film program he was now working his way through. We had worked on a few other smaller projects before and had bonded through our love of comic books and Back to the Future. For class credit, he needed to serve as producer on a short film. He asked me if I had anything I would like to direct. I immediately thought of Martyrs.

At the time, though, the script wasn't called Martyrs and it wasn't set in Nazi Germany. I had written it a year or two earlier for Ben Mitzelfelt, who pitched me the idea of a short film that could be shot in a single camera take. I wrote him a love story and we went through several drafts of the script together before abandoning it and going with 20Q instead. So when Theo asked me if I had anything, I immediately thought of this script. I took one more pass at the script, sent it to him, and he loved it. We started work on it immediately.

Casting Brianne Johnson and Joshua Michalski (who, in real life, went on to get married a year later) was a no-brainer. I had been wanting to work with Bri again for a long time, after years of performing with her on stage. She was the first girl to audition for the part and was cast almost instantly. When Josh came in and read opposite her, there was no way I wasn't going to cast him. The two of them were so in love it was inspiring. Which meant that the two of them wouldn't have to fake being in love and we could all focus on the meatier subjects of the script.

Filming took place on two separate days at the Heritage House here in Chattanooga. Theo found an antiques dealer who was kind enough to let us borrow some antique furniture. We set the scene and the cameras started rolling. We filmed using a RED, and that thing was a beast of a camera.

It was, ultimately, the most gratifying film set I had ever been on. The crew was amazing. The cast brought my love letter to my wife alive. I loved it. It was perfect.

Then post-production began. For Theo's class we had to have at least a rough edit of the film done by a certain date so that he could get class credit for it. I made a rough assembly of the film and we turned it in. We planned on coming back to the project soon, and giving it the full attention it deserved . . . but the film student life conspired against us.

I was able to create the edit of the film that I wanted, but I was never able to finish the sound effects, nor was able to crop the film down to the proper aspect ratio. Theo wasn't happy with my choice to leave a three minute, single-take shot in the middle of the film. I felt like cutting it would degrade the actors' performance and I just wanted to show them off. We locked horns on the subject and were never able to come to an accord on it. He moved on to other projects and I, not having editing equipment of my own, was powerless to do anything about it.

For those of you interested in constructing a timeline, this was filmed after Berashet and before Remnants.

It is now March of 2011 and I finally have my own editing computer. Martyrs is finally seeing the light of day. The sound in the film's final moments isn't perfect, but I was able to fix the aspect ratio. Finally, you can see it. I hope you like it. The film means a lot to me and the cast and crew put a lot of hard work into it.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Ruffians: Episode 2

and when you're finished with that, the blooper reel:

the music of episode 2

While I wait for Vimeo to convert the movie file, I thought I'd take this time to call extra special attention to all the music that appears in episode 2 of The Ruffians.

The episode begins with Linkin Park's "When They Come For Me," from their A Thousand Suns album. Linkin Park provides great driving music. Nothing's better on the way home from work. I've listened to a lot of Linkin Park while conceptualizing and writing The Ruffians, and have plans for at least one more of their songs in a future episode.

The main reoccurring "theme" of the episode is Christopher Drake's "A Death in the Family," from his score to Batman: Under the Hood. Drake is someone I've only recently discovered, from his excellent work on the DC animated movies. I would especially recommend his Superman/Batman: Public Enemies score, as it was the first score of his I heard, purchased, and then listened to over and over again. His themes for for the titular heroes are top-notch and give hope to a post-Williams theme for Superman.

The music that accompanies Charlie as he wistfully looks at pictures of his girlfriend is Florence + The Machine's "Addicted to Love." I heard this song for the first time on So You Think You Can Dance and haven't stopped listening to it ever since. It is not to be confused with the Robert Palmer song of the same name.

Thomas Newman's "Dead Already" plays under the scene in the kitchen. It's a selection from his score to Jarhead. I listen to a lot of Thomas Newman when I write. He's one composer that deserves to be a household name, but somehow isn't. Everyone knows his music: Road to Perdition, Wall-E, Finding Nemo, and of course, American Beauty. If you haven't taken the time to sit down and listen to some of his work, rectify that now.

Playing over the closing credits is Gangstagrass' "I'm Gonna Lay You Down." This duo may be the single most unique band/group/ensemble/duo I have ever heard. Their bluegrass rap is something to behold. When started watching Justified, I had to find out who was responsible for its opening credits song. It's these guys. Check 'em out. You won't regret it.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Joy of Rendering

Episode 2 culminates in a 30 second sequence that I cannot wait to edit. I'm so excited about how it's going to cut together and how it's going to look and sound, I'm actually going to start there. However, before I can begin editing together those 30 seconds, I have to wait 16 minutes for the video files to render. And that's 14% of the way into the render process. I think it started at something closer to 20 minutes.

I'm actually beginning to enjoy editing. I'm no pro like my pal Loren Small, but I've come to realize that it's in the edit bay that I get to have one last crack at the script. This episode, for example, had 5 drafts to the script. As I sit down to edit it, I'm beginning to suspect there will be a sixth draft to the script. I won't add any lines (though with some crafty ADR, I could), but I might drop a line. I'm actually eyeing a montage right now that get dropped (sorry, Tenika!). But we'll see.

The part of editing that drives me up the proverbial wall is the rendering. I wish rendering existed somewhere else in the process. Maybe at the end. The very end. After I completed the edit and liked the way it looked and sounded. Once I had finished everything, then I would render it and save it as a .MOV or what-have-you. Because here at the beginning it's such a drag. I'm excited to edit, I'm excited to sit down and start the next step in the filmmaking process . . . and I have to wait. Right now I'm only rendering the last five or six shots, so it's only a 20 minute wait. If I wanted to render the whole thing, I'd be looking at a 2 hour wait.


I guess I shouldn't complain. This render time is letting me blog and the rest-of-the-episode render will met get caught up on Glee. So at least there's that.


First part of this blog was posted at 9:25. It is now 10:53. I just finished editing the final sequence, as well as putting together a rough closing credits. It's pretty sweet. Watching it brings a smile to my face every time. I hope everyone responds to it the way I do (with a cruel chuckle). It is now 10:54 and the rendering for the rest of the episode begins. Status bar says it'll take 5 hours.

I say again: Oy.

episode 2, part 1

Part 1 of episode 2 of The Ruffians has been filmed. It was a fun night made a little more stressful when I accidentally formatted the camera card after an hour of filming. Yeeeeeah . . .

Friday, March 11, 2011


Episode 2 of The Ruffians is not going to be pleasant. It's going to be intriguing, but it's not going to be pleasant. It has a couple glimmers of comedy, but overall, it's kind of an icky thing -- which is exactly what I was going for when I wrote it. I wanted to confront the reality of a bad day at work for two hitmen. I wanted to challenge the audience's fondness for Alexander and Charlie. Just because they're the focus of the show doesn't mean you should be rooting for them -- or does it?

I came home from rehearsal on Wednesday night in a bit of a funk. Rehearsal went really well, so well, in fact, I actually found myself affected by what we were doing. I left feeling like Alexander and Charlie were awful, awful people.

And to get out of that funk I sat down and put a final (for now) polish on the first chapter of my young adult book. It doesn't have a title yet, but it comes from a short story that I've been on-again off-again with for the past year. It's about young Arlyn Walsh, a traveller and general adventurer of the Multiverse. I'm quite fond of this little guy already, and I'm only a chapter into his story. I hope this book allows me to write a series of books detailing his adventures, but I can only take it one chapter at a time. And his pluck, wit, and lightheartedness contrasted perfectly with the grey-to-dark matter that Ruffians was. Thanks to him, I slept well Wednesday night.

We film the meat of episode 2 tomorrow night and, quite frankly, I'll be glad to have it behind me. It's a fascinating story to watch, but . . . as I've said . . . not a pleasant one.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

oh yes

can't wait.
can't wait..
can't wait...