Return to Sender: Update and Delay

It has been a while since my last update about my upcoming short film Return to Sender. I believe the last thing I talked about was completing the storyboard, and that was back in the spring.

I had to put the project on hold for a couple of reasons.

For one, I started working the summer camps in June. This was the busiest year I’ve had for those, working two camps a day all the way through the end of July. It didn’t leave me much chance (or energy for that matter) to take the next necessary steps.

The second reason picked up right after the summer camps ended. Back in May, I got engaged to my partner of 5 years. We’re getting married in October of this year. Needless to say, I didn’t have the time or money available to move forward on the film. I had wedding planning to do, and that stuff is stressful!

The progress on Return to Sender has remained at that same standstill. My next step was to move on to casting, but I will be postponing that for now.

Through the winter, I will most likely make another pass through the script to see if I want to make any final changes. Any changes will then be reflected in storyboard revisions.

At the moment, I’m hoping to pick up where I left off with casting at the start of 2018. I’m hoping to get into principle photography at the beginning of spring, and I’m hoping for a late spring or early summer release.

Let’s see how much of what I’m hoping for actually comes to pass!

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Xcelerate 2017: Week 7

Finally! After two straight months of kids’ camps, I’m officially done with Xcelerate summer camps in 2017. It’s been a long, long several weeks. I’ve had my hand in everything from ukulele to Minecraft to cupcakes and science. Some of these areas I was familiar in, and for some of these areas I was simply tossed in. In any case, it proved to be pretty challenging throughout.

This final week put me back in my most familiar camp, as well as a camp where I was familiar with the subject matter. I thought it was going to be a decently easy week, and in many ways I was correct. In other ways, I was very, very wrong.

I’ll start off by discussing the camp I was a part of that was new to me, but also familiar. The camp was called Digital Artists. It focused on Photoshop and Illustrator. I’m no master in Photoshop by any means, but I do use it occasionally, so there were things that I knew and things I didn’t. I have never used Illustrator before so that was way out of my league. On the surface, this particular camp was easy enough. There were other challenges to deal with though that were more personal for me.

Maybe I was just more sensitive to it because it was the last week of camps. I’d been dealing with kids, ages 7-14, for many weeks. It gets hard after a while. Sometimes the kids really just do not have a filter. Sometimes they say or do some pretty mean things. Sometimes it’s intentional. Sometimes it’s not.

The issue I was dealing with during this particular camp had to do with the kids’ respect for me as a teacher. I know I’m not the instructor. I’m just the Assistant Instructor. It was still pretty upsetting to have them simply ignore me whenever they had a question. They would raise their hand. I would walk over. I would ask what they needed help with. They would either completely ignore me or come out and say they didn’t want to ask me the question. In that regard, it was a rough week, especially being the final week. The end was in sight, and I was definitely feeling it.

Other than that, this week found me back in my most familiar camp. It was the second week of Lights, Camera, Action! We had some repeats from previous years. It’s always nice to see kids return because they enjoyed the time they had. Overall, it was a really mature group. That always makes things easier.

Following the new class outline, we separated the full class into two groups. They split themselves up based on what genre they wanted to do. One group wanted to do an action film. The other group wanted to do a scary film. Guess which group I got put with this time? Yep, another scary movie. They just gravitated to me with no prompting whatsoever. I must just give off that vibe.

Since this is my last week of the camps, the instructors I work with told me they’d do me a solid and not ask me to edit the film I helped make this time around. I had edited ‘Truth or Dare’ from last year and ‘Empty’ from the last camp. Not having to edit this one will give me a much needed break, and it will also free up my time to take care of my other mounting responsibilities.

If you’re interested in seeing the final films from the Lights, Camera, Action camps, be on the look out for an upcoming compilation post of those films in the next couple weeks.

Other than that, my time with the summer camps this year is done. We will now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Xcelerate 2017: Week 6

Week 6 of Xcelerate is complete! The end is in sight. I won’t lie. The fact that I’m getting so close to the finish line is making it harder to wake up in the morning. The list of things I have to do keeps getting longer and longer, and I won’t be able to fully dedicate myself to any of that until the classes are over.

With that being said, this week wasn’t too bad. I had two classes yet again. One of them was a familiar camp, and the other camp was new, but it covered familiar material.

The first class I was working with this week was a photography class. This was the one that was new, but familiar. Throughout the week, the students played a variety of games that challenged their creativity while taking photographs. There were scavenger hunts, a “photo bomb” activity, as well as daily challenges such as taking pictures that interpreted words like “hot,” “blue,” or “wet”.

It was a good time. I think the kids had fun taking the photos throughout the week. On Friday, they compiled all of their prints onto a poster board and had a bit of a show for parents and visitors.

The other class I was working was a familiar one. I was back in the science class (which took part in for two days last summer after a different class cancellation). It proves to be a popular one. There were 25 students in the class this week, all between the ages of 7-10. Take that how you will.

In this class throughout the week, we did a variety of little crafts and experiments. We made a few types of slime, made some chemical reactions, attempted making a watermelon explode, lots of fun stuff. It was also pretty messy. I ended up bringing some old clothes to change into for this class specifically.

There is only one more week of Xcelerate left for me this summer. Let’s hope it’s a good one!

Xcelerate 2017: Week 5

It’s been a bit since I last posted a reflection on a week of Xcelerate. I had a small vacation over the first week of July. No classes were scheduled because of the Independence Day holiday.

During that small break, I was hoping to catch up on rest and get some other work done. I definitely caught up on rest, so much so that it feels like I’m starting over on my morning routine. As for the other work that I wanted to get done, I didn’t accomplish as much as I would have liked. Alas, my vacation ended, and it was time to get back to summer camp business.

This week brought me back to the computer lab. That always has its pros and cons. There was definitely a lot less set up and clean up than I was having to do in the previous week with painting and cupcakes. That’s definitely a pro. It was also nice to be in the same place all day, not having to travel between buildings while trying to squeeze in my lunch.

The class was about designing worlds, structures, skins and the like for the game Minecraft. I’ve never played Minecraft before. I don’t really know anything about it, other than the fact that the kids love it. This fact made me a little uneasy. It’s never fun to not be able to answer questions as well as I’d like.

In order to combat some of this, I asked for a flash drive with the programs the kids would be using, and the instructor was nice enough to send me PDFs of the lesson plans. Looking these over before the classes kept me more prepared. It was easier to manage.

I’m still not sure how I feel about Minecraft after all of this. It doesn’t seem like my sort of thing. The lesson on command blocks was the easiest for me to grasp out of it all because it’s essentially writing computer code. This is a subject that I’ve definitely had experience in through several other camps at this point.

There are only two weeks left of Xcelerate 2017. I’m approaching the home stretch!

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!