Xcelerate 2017: Week 3

This week was a bit different because it’s the first week that I’ve helped teach two different classes in a single day. It’s definitely a lot simpler to teach the same class twice. By the time the second class rolls around, I’ve really figured out the content, and I’m able to help in more ways.

Teaching only one class a day came into play with App Adventures, my afternoon class where I was to help students put together an app game. There were a variety of factors that made me less able to help as much as I would have liked. Less exposure to the material was one of the reasons, and the other reason was that I was unable to be hands on with the program to really know where everything was.

Being hands on with the program was really the only reason that I was able to understand the game programming class I assisted last week. It’s one thing to understand what the kids are supposed to do, but it’s another thing entirely to know where they are supposed to click to get there.

Many of the concepts in this class are extremely similar to the concepts from my previous game maker classes and computer programming classes. It’s just unfortunate that the format of this particular class doesn’t allow me to work with the program myself.

Other than that, this week took me back to my roots! Lights, Camera, Action started up this week, and I’m happy to report that we stuck with the newer class format that we started last year. In this newer format, the kids are able to have a bigger role in creating their own original story. It’s definitely a bit more stressful from a teacher’s standpoint because there is less control to make sure everything is done correctly, but I think the kid’s get a better understanding of making films from it.

My group for this particular class chose a bit of a creepy story. I promise I had absolutely nothing to do with it. They made it on their own. On Monday, they split into groups and put their story together. On Tuesday, we drew up a storyboard and started filming. Wednesday and Thursday were both spent finishing up the necessary camera work. Surprisingly, my group was able to get a look at editing on Friday. It was a very eventful week.

Once the films from this week are available on YouTube, I will most likely be sharing them here. There is one more Lights, Camera, Action camp this summer, and I will be a part of that next month.

Until then, I have several other camp experiences to have! I will continue to write about these experiences as I have them.

Xcelerate 2017: Week 2

Oh boy. This week was a doozy!

During this second week of the summer camps, I was working in classes where kids were learning how to design and program their own video games. My experience in this particular area was a bit limited, but I was happy to see that it very closely resembled basic concepts of coding with html and what little knowledge I have of computer programming.

After a rough start, I was able to get on board with the kids in the class. I did this by making my own little game at the same time as them. It helped me understand why specific actions were being taken and how to go about getting those actions to work properly. I never would have been able to keep up if I weren’t working with the program myself.

It was definitely a challenging week. I found myself oddly stressed about things I had no control over. This has never occurred with me during these summer camps before.

In the end though, I just hope the kids had fun and they’re proud of the games they created. I know I’m pretty proud of the one I did at least. I called it S’mores Galore. You go around as a poorly drawn marshmallow, collecting chocolate and avoiding campfires. It’s a hoot.

Xcelerate 2017: Week 1

As a general update, I have started my role as an assistant youth instructor for the summer camps at my local community college. This is my fifth year working with the camps. This year is also my biggest work load.

I started off the camps, only working with Lights! Camera! Action! because that was my area of expertise. Last year, I was given the opportunity to explore other camps, and this year I have been given that opportunity again.

During my first week, I helped out with Camp Ukulele. It’s really inspiring to see all of these children who have a desire to learn music, and even more so, the children who already know how to play some instruments. I wish I knew how to play an instrument! I picked up on some of the teachings about the ukulele, so maybe I’ll give that a try myself. 

I will be working pretty consistently through the months of June and July. Work on my next short film may be delayed more than I was anticipating, but I will try to keep things moving. Weekly Review Wednesdays will continue as scheduled. I will try to keep updates at least semi-regular!

3:03 Needs a Trailer

Last year, I started work on my latest (as of 2016) short film 3:03. Due to its original purpose, I didn’t really go about promoting it the same way I normally would. Hence, here we are in 2017, and 3:03 still doesn’t have a trailer.

I only recently created a poster for 3:03, and uploaded some stills. Since the film is only 3 minutes, I never even thought about making a trailer for it, until now.

303-poster

I would like to submit 3:03 to a local film festival. It would be the first film festival I submitted this particular film to (although I had planned on submitting it to my alma mater’s festival that apparently wasn’t held this year). In order to submit the film to this particular festival, it needs a trailer. This causes a bit of a dilemma.

How should I go about making a trailer for such a short film? I don’t want to give away the surprises that make this one stick out. Right now I’m leaning toward a very minimal, maybe abstract approach. Similar to the poster, I will probably lean on the success of my last short film that had a festival run. I’m pretty sure my name doesn’t hold enough weight on its own yet.

In any case, I will need to create a trailer for 3:03 soon enough, so I’ll update again once that has been completed.

Borealis – Two Year Retrospect

Over this past weekend, a picture showed up in my memory feed on Facebook. The picture was from the Borealis Film Festival, back in April 2015. In the picture, I’m holding the two trophies for the honors that my short films received. Lights won “Best Dramatic Film” and ms and me won “Best in Festival”

At the time, that was exactly the boost that I needed. Both of those short films were a culmination of everything I had come to learn during my academic career, and as my time in academia was ending, I was scared that I wasn’t where I should be.

I knew that the Borealis Film Festival wasn’t a huge prestigious event. It certainly wasn’t comparable to Sundance or Cannes. It was being held at my university, and there weren’t many submissions. Nevertheless, it was my first time showing my work on a big screen in front of people at a public venue. It was a milestone event for me.

When my films received the honors that they did, I was floored. It was an amazing feeling. What started off as an amazing feeling, however, soon became more stressful.

Despite the fact that the festival wasn’t prestigious, I started having lingering feelings of anxiety. Would my future work live up to this? How would my future work be received when compared to this? Did my career just peak? What if it’s all downhill from here?

These feelings aren’t good at fostering a creative atmosphere for writing new projects. I found myself growing stagnant. I was still working, but I wasn’t working on creating anything new of my own. I was too worried about meeting this imaginary standard I had set for myself. Nothing seemed good enough.

I’m still dealing with this anxiety, no matter how much I try to nip it in the bud. My work pace has slowed. I’m far more critical of myself. The best thing I can do with this hyper-awareness is try to use it positively. I can continue to try to create work that I’m proud to stand behind. I can continue to better myself and continue to grow. That’s the plan anyway.

Freelance is Hard

For the last five years, I’ve been trying my hand at freelancing. It’s had some good times, but most of it has been kind of bad.

Maybe it just started out with a bad gig. Maybe I’m just not promoting myself well enough. Maybe I just lack the confidence. I can’t really be certain. It’s probably a mixture of a lot of things.

In any case, being a freelance media producer is really gosh darn hard.

It’s not steady. You have to do everything yourself, like managing and marketing and all that jazz. You have people who look at you and decide what they feel your work should be worth. This can leave you with absolutely no clients or clients who want to pay you with “student pricing.”

This isn’t even getting into the taxes. If you think dealing with taxes once a year is bad, try having to do it four or five times a year. With freelance, you have to pay quarterly taxes. This is the part that has confused and annoyed me tremendously. Federal forms stress me out. For me, it could be the¬†straw that broke the camel’s back.

I’ve tried over the last several years to make this work. I’ve done photo jobs, event coverage, corporate video. It just hasn’t panned out for me well. The stresses have outweighed the rewards. It certainly hasn’t provided me enough to live on.

Now, I’m not saying that working freelance is a horrible idea, and no one should do it. One of my good friends has done really well for himself working freelance. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s not impossible. I just haven’t had a great experience.

For that reason, I’ve been seriously thinking about switching to a more steady means of employment. I’ve applied for a few positions in the last few months, and I applied for a full time job in the last couple of weeks. I wouldn’t have as much free time to work on my narrative work, but in this economy, sometimes you have to make compromises.

I’m still grappling with all of this, and of course, just as I’m about to throw in the towel, jobs seem to be lining up. I guess this will go on the back burner again. Who knows what the future has in store?

2017, New Reel

One of the items that has been on my to-do list for nearly two years is making a new production reel.

The last one I made was in 2013, and over the years I have grown embarrassed of it. At the time, it was my first one. I had done a lot of work in the first year of my career, and I wanted to show all of that off. I put in every little thing I had done. It was sloppy. It didn’t hold up well. It’s been put on private at this point. We do not speak of it.

When it came to making a new production reel, I wanted to really focus it on what I do now. I wanted to focus it on what I want to do in the future as well. While I do camera work, for example, that’s not necessarily something I want to put in my overall reel. I would rather make a reel just for my camera work at that point.

What I wanted to do with my new reel was make it centered toward my work as a producer. I wanted to highlight the television shows I’ve produced and the short films I’ve self-produced. My skills lie more on the creative, storytelling side than the technical side, and over the years, I’ve come to accept that.

I still haven’t uncovered the perfect formula for a production reel, but for right now, this works.