Traction: Start Small, Finish Big
It’s amazing how things can just gain traction and speed when you least expect it. Like a car spinning its wheels on a frozen North Country road that suddenly grabs asphalt and charges forward without warning. This can be good – in the sense that now you’re moving forward, at a rate much faster than you were before. It can also be bad – the sudden jerk of the wheel as it grabs the road can be hard to control, and you may find yourself not only veering off course, but careening into a ditch. That’s worse than simply not going anywhere – now you’ve got actual damage to your vehicle.
Such is the position “entertainers” or “pipe-dreamers” like us sometimes find ourselves in. We work, we sweat, we bleed, we eternally hope, and then all the sudden, we grab the asphalt we’ve been scraping at for what seemed like endless weeks, months and years, and now we’ve got to sit up, grab the wheel, and keep from freaking out.
Sure, I’m being over-dramatic, but it’s more fun this way.
The wedding and the honeymoon are over. Em and I are back in the real world. And we’re married! It’s great! In many ways it really doesn’t feel that much different except for when she signs her name – with my last name. That’s where it gets surreal.
But with the wedding and its year-long planning now over, bills paid and the future to look to, we’re faced with the big dilemma that we actually didn’t have to face that much over the past year – what, exactly, do we focus on? Things start to get really interesting from there.
First, we still have normal 40-hour-a-week jobs to work. There’s really no way out of that for the time being. As eager as I am to get out of them, I don’t want to do something stupid. Sure, we are short 40 hours of our week that we could really use to put some amazing stuff together, but on the other hand it’s because of these jobs that we are able to have the dough to do anything at all in the first place. There’s a balance there, and as long as we keep it in perspective, it’s okay.
Second, there’s my music. You know, that Deadweight Destiny single I’m supposed to have out this Monday but appear to have pushed back for the time being. Working on my music has been rough. And not just because there’s a LOT of work to it but also because – with the inclusion in my schedule of other projects – I haven’t really been setting due dates for myself. I spoke with Emily about this actually – after this single (which I still intend to put out as soon as I can) I’m not putting release dates for future work on myself. It’ll come. But instead of trying to move other things around to do it, I’m going to fill up any leftover time I have with it. I do indeed still plan to release EPs, music videos and full albums, but it’s not going to be as quick as it was in the past. Don’t worry, I have a ton of material – the fact of the matter is that I’m simply not just a musician anymore. As it is, I’ll also be working in a full band context soon (more on that at a later date) so there’s a good chance that most of my musical whimsy will be flying in that direction.
Third, there’s Gracie Sez Hai of course! I started this up in July of 2009 (I actually recorded the first 5 episodes in April and May of that year) with the intention to be able to get a new episode out at least once every two weeks. That’s of course still the goal, but as you may or may not have noticed, sometimes I go a month or two with no new episodes. As a result, the series hasn’t progressed as quickly as I’d like and it hasn’t garnered the kind of attention for it that I’d want. (that’s not to say it doesn’t have its fans – it does, thankfully). I see its current popularity (or lack thereof) as a blessing, rather than a curse. Producing Gracie actually takes up a lot of time, (mainly because I have to keep up with the Twitter accounts, make sure the writing is at least clever and in many cases relevant to current events, record it, edit it, etc etc), so the good news is that as long as it’s not in high demand, I’ll have the ability to be flexible with how I do it and get it out. It’s something I’m going to take full advantage of, rather than be upset that it doesn’t have millions of fans. If it’s worth anything, that will come in time – right now I’m just going to enjoy it like a newborn baby. Rest assured, however, plans I have for that and then some!
Fourth, Dreadwind is still in the Pilot writing stage. I have real high hopes for this sci-fi epic. And I’m very happy about how the story is developing thus far. The only problem is that, while I had initially intended to have the Pilot finished by the end of the year, writer’s block and other projects have stalled its development. And, again, that’s actually okay. I’d rather have taken the time to really come out with a good, fun, well-written story than something fast-tracked and throwaway. I have no delusions of grandeur – I don’t think this will be Star Wars or Star Trek big – but I do think a franchise can be built off of it. Of what, I don’t know yet. While I have decided on the form the Pilot will take in terms of its presentation, I have not yet decided in what form the series will continue (ie: webisodes, features, books, comics, etc). In the end, I’m very blessed that previous attempts at projects like these did not pan out – they weren’t half as good as this already is, and to me that just goes to show that those speedbumps that can hurt along the way typically end up being good for you in retrospect.
Fifth, Common Sense for Dummys. This is where the car grabs traction and starts moving forward! When we first started this project at the end of 2009 (after two live shows and a lot of beer) we initially were intending to do a full “season” of thirteen 10-minute episodes of sketch comedy that we’d be putting on YouTube and any other medium we could take advantage of. But, even though we knew we had the material for it, we realized we didn’t have the expertise to pull off 130 minutes of film by ourselves, so we whittled it down to a 30-minute (or, three 10-minute YouTube) episodes of the show, which we’d turn into a “Pilot”, release on DVD, and get on local TV. What we found, however, was that doing even that with just the three of us was nearly impossible. We were stubborn – particularly me.
One of the reasons we had invented our own production company in the first place is because of the experience we had a few years ago (the three of us together, actually) working on a project of mine for another entertainment company. In the end, we found we had little control, it took far too long to finish it (as we didn’t have the time nor the resources needed), weren’t getting enough help to do so, and as a result not only lost the project but the rights and the work that we’d done on it, as well as the rights to some of my own music. I’m not belittling the “entertainment company” in this scenario. That’s business. We learned the hard way. But because of the way we learned it, we decided there was nothing they were doing for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves, and heck – we could do it better!
Fast-forward to earlier this year, and we (especially me, as you can imagine) were steadfast in our determination to do it all ourselves – filming, editing, directing… all of it. We quickly found that while we are actually rather capable of handling any one of these duties (with enough time and research) to get us by, it was nearly impossible to do them while also trying to write, act, keep websites updated, etc. We could probably pass for a decent filming crew with a little more practice, but we simply couldn’t be both the talent and crew.
Enter Richard Call. Richard had done some photography for an artist I was playing bass for back in 2008 and some of 2009, and was not only good at it, but he was (and is) a pretty cool chap. Earlier this year, we filmed a music video for our friends’ band, The Tokyo Pop Stars, with me handling directing duties. I showed it to Richard for his input, and although I think he liked the video – for the most part – he told me what he thought of the technical aspects. We’ll just say he wasn’t shy to put me in my place, and I wasn’t shy to tell him that I actually appreciated it! (as an aside, weird thing about me – I don’t like “yes people”; I like people who tell me like it is, even if it hurts sometimes). We talked for a bit in the following weeks and found that maybe we needed a director, and he just happened to be interested in doing video.
So after spending the first few months of 2009 trying to do some of this ourselves and not getting more than one skit and some “news bumpers” finished, we brought Richard on board. His assistance has been a blessing, and we’ve already learned so much more with him in the mix. Still, we were only four of us. That meant that even though Richard was handling directing duties, we were still our own producers, sound guys, and location managers (for starters). Those limitations, on top of wedding planning and other obligations, held us to getting only a few more skits done in the late summer and fall months. Changing skits around for logistical purposes didn’t seem to help much either.
Nonetheless, during those late summer and fall months, we had been going to a monthly gathering of film-makers (some experienced, some not-so-much… mainly us on that last one!) called the Nashville Filmmakers Network, and showcasing our skits for them. Through our connections there we got to take part in the 48 Hour Nashville Film Festival (which Emily and I actually contributed writing to and starred in) with Think Birdie Productions, and learned all kinds of new techniques and concepts.
Our skits were met with great approval as well! At first the three of us were simply excited about the idea that people who hadn’t yet seen our work were finding it funny, but we soon came to find that there was a growing interest within a few members of the group to help us out. So we invited Diana and Kenny to our place this past week to meet with myself, Emily, Tim and Richard. My initial intention was just to pluck their brains away from the largess of the Network, and gain a more intimate knowledge of how locations are scouted and procured, how to organize a shoot and in general how to properly and most-efficiently keep a shoot together from start to finish.
We left that meeting with an interested Producer (Kenny), a Location Scout-and-Consultant (Diana) and a new sense of direction on how we’re going to be doing this. So now the pieces are in play and things are moving forward. In the end, we’ve not only made great new contacts who are interested in our work, but we’ve made amazing new friends who believe in what we’re doing – and we in them!
Full speed ahead. This is the point where we find out how well we can steer the vehicle. Stay tuned for more!