So despite being sick, I managed to go out and support the 10th annual Stockholm Zombie Walk. And I filmed some of it. I did make a colossal cock-up though and so fudged the crucial recording of sound. But a very kind and extremely talented artist agreed to allow me to use two of their tunes to improve what would otherwise have been a massive waste of time.
Click here to view the VLOG.
Many thanks to Videogram and Cineploit for allowing me this great musical honour:
Although I sounded dismissive of the Walk in the video, I was just tired and testy, and urgently needed a beer and some rest. But I will do my best to take part in it next year. It was good fun. And I'm really impressed with the quality of the makeups that some people attempted. I also liked the creativity behind the strange types of zombies that people did come up with - and pleased to see a DEATHGASM Zombie in amongst all of the SUICIDE SQUAD Zombies.
I think I'm having fun with this Vlogging lark. I do need to get better though. And soon I will share some of what I've learned. What I have definitely benefitted from is getting back to being productive, to choosing to film something, or choosing to do something with footage I shot for no reason other than to learn about my new camera, and to finish the task. Too many projects have gone unfinished. The immediacy of Vlogging dictates that you get the material out there to be digested, and so certain compromises need to be made. It's invigorating to fail and to learn from it and even have fun with your failures.
Anyway, enough about me, thanks to the organisers and the Zombies who took part in the Walk and all of those who supported. It was a great day out. And thanks again to Videogram!
Scrivener is here! It's finally here on IOS! Holy buttschnozzles of Awesome! 🙂
Now I've blogged about Scrivener here before, and I think that the first time I ever blogged about it was when I first created this blog back in 2009, if not before - in other previous social media incarnations - and this won't be the last time I mention it or praise this fabulous writing tool. I'm also not alone in my praise of it! I'm always gushing over it and I've even put my money where my mouth is and gifted other friends of mine with licenses to it, to pay for it for them, so that they can experience the amazing new world of writing that happens when they start using it. (Take note: software packages are great presents for writers at Birthdays and on other special occasions. Hint Hint!) But I won't waste time saying why it's so good here. But you can search this blog and you'll find many posts about this hollistic writing tool. 🙂
Although I was an instant convert to it, upon my first usage, I was very quick to realise that I could be far more productive if it was in a more portable form - as my 15" laptops were always too heavy to lug around each day (due to needing the hardware for video editing). I even took to creating a Hacbook to put the theory to the test - and bought a small netbook and installed the Mac OS and Scrivener on it. I managed to complete an entire feature screenplay on it, while taking part in ScriptFrenzy; I wrote while balancing the Hacbook on one knee while writing on the way to and from work, and in my lunch hours each day. The Hacbook was small enough to write with on cramped trains and on small economy class airplane seats, even when someone in front is reclining! The only thing that was missing was having it on an approved Apple portable device that I could afford. The problems with the Hacbooks you see was that they were not approved and every software update meant a complete reinstall, so eventually it simply became obsolete. But I was still writing on that Hacbook right up until 2 years ago when I bought my first iPad! Once I had the iPad I tried various workarounds and replacement apps, but I was merely killing time for when the real thing would arrive, although I still love writing on the move.
And the fine makers of Scrivener were quick to realise the potential of their tool on such portable devices. The problem was that it wasn't a quick journey to bring that idea to fruition. In fact there were many posts on the Literature and Latte forums devoted to the progress of the development of the IOS tool or lack of. There were numerous false starts. But I'm glad to say that they persevered and now it is availble to buy: Scrivener - live on the Apple store!
I've downloaded it and it works fine. Although it was impossible to find on the Apple store, without the direct link (above). I'm sadly not yet going to put it through its paces on a working project, but I couldn't resist a little play with it to make my day complete. However, if I was in the right creative headspace for it I'd be planning my next feature film in it... in fact, I may just start noodling ayway - it's that tempting!
Please note: if you own the Desktop versions, you should have the latest versions in order to benefit from the syncing functionality. I've had problems installing the Windows update and still not cracked in after 2 attempts. But the Mac update was fine. You'll also need Dropbox to take advantage of the syncing your projects across multiple devices.
Anyway, enough of me prattling on. Check it out. I hope you'll thank me. 🙂
Here's some links for more info:
- A lovely post to orient you to the new look of the IOS version of Scrivener, for those who've only used the desktop versions previously: http://jeffmellody.com/blog/2016/7/19/scrivener-for-ios
- The official Scrivener IOS website, for detailed announcements about the features on their blog: (Literature and Latte) http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener_ios.php
- Scrivener App twitter username: @ScrivenerApp
So I've been busy. And it's been a fun kind of busy - which is good, because life really isn't fun right now. But I have been productive and tried to find excuses to stay busy and create something. So what if a little retail therapy is involved, right? So what if it is draining my bank balance? (Seriously, this sh*t can get really expensive!)
But - I have been busy, playing with iPhone videography, learning more about DSLR video and playing with my Go Pro. I've been doing it under the Vlogging banner - yes I now Vlog. It sounds like Blogging, but it feels more like flogging - as in a punishment; creating footage and waiting for someone to view it and like it or hate it. But it's great because you get to experiment and be creative, all without narrative restrictions. I've set a few restrictions of my own, merely to see what I can do with whatever footage I've collected. I'm terrible at it btw - at the Vlogging part. I just can't seem to get comfortable talking to and being on camera. Will I ever? But hey, it's something, right? And it helps me reach out my family and friends in distant climes and tell them what I'm up to. The other main restriction is not worrying about the perfect shot or the perfect anything - I am currently editing them all within iMovie, just to keep it simple and limit my choices. It's more about speed of the workflow right now, before I start worrying about colour grading and tighter edits. Until then I'm not worrying about dusting off Final Cut Pro or Premiere and After Effects again. And it's very much about the gear I'm shooting it with. Right now I am mainly evaluating what gear performs the best in the right situations and the ease of getting it into a finished video.
So for iPhone videography, I am using:
- Filmic Pro - app to control exposure and white balance while shooting
- Beastgrip Pro iPhone camera mount, both with DOF Adapter (for the cinematic look) and with the Wide-Angle lens
- Rode Video Micro microphone / Smart Lav + lavalier Mic - for better sound
- But I've also ordered the Moondog Labs Anamorphic Lens Adapter
- Joby Phone Mount
- Joby Grip tight gorillaPod stand
For DSLR video, I am using:
- the Canon EOS 70D - for amateur to semi-pro level filmmaking
- Rode Video Micro Pro / Smart Lav + lavalier Mic
- Canon 50mm f1.8 prime lens - for Bokeh
- Canon 10:18mm lens - for arm-length selfie mode filming
- Sigma 50 mm f1.4 prime lens - for proper filmmaking, it's too heavy for anything else
- Joby GorillaPod SLR-Zoom tripod
And lastly, for Go Pro / action cam footage (predominantly timelapses), I am using:
- The GoPro hero 4 Black edition - which does 4K video
- Joby GoPro adapters - to using any other tripod / mount
- GoPro camera bottle mount
The keen-eyed knowledgeable types will notice that there's no fancy tripod or fluid head, for smooth panning and tilting, or other pro audio gear, lights etc. These are all other issues to resolve for more dramatic shooting. Right now, it's about speed and it's about getting the shot - as life is happening. That other gear will come. Of that I'm sure.
With all this type of gear, don't underestimate the shots you can get with an ipad, or an iPhone / smart phone or just with a GoPro / action cam. You don't need half of that other gear. It's just so easy to film with a Go Pro or a phone and get it right into your editing system. Trust your eye and whatever device you have with you just use it! There's no point to any devices or gadgets if you don't use them. The other gear comes in as soon as you start thinking about achieving different / better aesthetic / quality levels - but you don't need to buy it all now. Play and experiment and choose wisely. And always have one of your devices with you. The iPhone obviously wins out for always being with me, but the GoPro is also very portable and fits into a pocket (although is chunkier).
As soon as you add in DOF adapters and lenses you add a f*ckload of weight to your bag / carry around weight and the potential for grasping with and failing to focus, as soon as you deviate from automatic settings. In fact the DSLR automatic mode is great for Vlogging, and brilliant at keeping you in focus, but scary when you step outside of it, until you learn what you're doing. Again the iPhone wins out as long as you just use fixed lenses / the lens it already came with. As soon as you add the Beastgrip Pro to the iPhone you need a microphone, as the mount gets in the way of the phone's microphone, also - for any decent sound quality just don't rely on the built-in mic, and you need to preset the focus to ensure that you are in focus when talking to the lens. Add one mic on. If you do one thing, add a mic. You seriously can't rely on built-in mics for sound.
The GoPro is awesome. And you can get rid of the annoying fish eye effect in the free GoPro Studio app. Its timelapses and other modes are great - as is the ability to conect via Wifi to your iPhone, so you can see what you're capturing in real time, like a monitor. Also it's small, so you can leave it in public spaces and get unobtrusive shots. Covert guerilla filming is definitely more achievable.
Anyway, I could talk about this for ages. I'm still playing though and still learning. And I have a few more bits of gear to use first before I share more findings.
This is all going to help when getting back into filming dramatic material. Vlogging is about playing - for me anyway. It's about taking risks in a low risk environment and having fun with it. It's about forcing me to create footage and to edit it, quickly. It's about retraining my eye. And it's about relaxing. Soon this will pay off when shooting the next short film. More about that later. But join me, have fun, try it - and let me know how it goes.
I'm currently hiding out by a lake, an hour away from Stockholm by bus, and thoroughly enjoying being a little closer to nature - even if sometimes nature gets a little too close to me for my liking. Already, since taking time off work, I've done some reading, watched some good films, played with my new cameras, taken up sketching again and I've written a new short film script. I've also learned how perilous Dropbox connectivity can be to share said script when trying to connect to the net by phone, when the signal is apt to fade. It's frustrating to be sure, but a good excuse to get off the net and use your noggin' for other things.
If things get stagnant, find a way to change them up. If your normal rituals don't work, to get around writer's block, change them up. I seriously think that switching media can help - going from not writing, to making films or sketching, can help stimulate your creativity in different ways, to get around the problem. A diversion if you will.
I think my run-ins with nature will help stimulate a new short film idea. Especially all this talk of diseases born by Ticks, which are a real problem over here. Nevermind the huge hornet-things, that are nearly two inches long and half an inch thick. Also the fact that my cat has gone on a killing spree, since being repatriated to the country. He's definitely enjoying his freedom and been sampling the wildlife. Anything that runs is fair game, although he's avoided the snakes for now and the Eagles have ignored him...
After this week I will be in Krakow, and I'm hoping to continue my research for a new short story I plan to write in the future. And if I don't burn myself out travelling and survive the special toilet facilities out here in the woods, I'm sure I'll slowly be getting back to form - even if I might end up coming back a little lighter, thanks to the local mosquito population.
So today, I was out and about with my good friend Darwin Reina - Spanish ex pat filmmaker also living in Sweden - and we were doing some shooting for a new VLog. It was the second day of shooting. It was just a bit of fun, our take on the fun that is 'National Dag', but hopefully between us we'll have created something worth watching. We've been experimenting with a way to update people with what we're doing, and experimenting in order to find a particular visual style / format for such video blogs. For now we're checking out Vlogs, especially those by the world's greatest - Casey Neistat (seriously, check him out especially) - and we're seeing what works about each video blog that we watch, what doesn't work and then trying to balance that with what we can achieve / pull-off convincingly.
For me these opportunities are a great chance to hang out and be active and shoot something. It's also great to play with new gear - namely the Go Pro Hero Black 3 (mainly using for covert filming in public places and for timelapses) and the Canon 700D DSLR (for great all round filming uses). I've been so impressed by what both can achieve, I'm looking forward to seeing the finished / edited footage. In fact, I've been so impressed that I've ordered my own Canon 70D (no I'm not missing a zero - I've bought a newer and slightly more expensive camera). I'm looking forward to teaching myself more about all of the various settings - those settings that I never had to learn back when I used real semi-pro camcorders to do my filming.
Another bonus was that I also came up with an idea for a super short short horror script. It will be interesting to see if we can pull this off. I think people will enjoy feeling the hairs on the neck lifting up when watching it, if we can pull it off. What was interesting was that Darwin tasked me with coming up with something specifically for a set duration and rather than say "it can't be done" my brain was happy to rise to the challenge.
I also wrote a new comedy short film script this week. Well, technically it was me polishing up an old short film that I was inspired to write back in 2008, during a slow day at work. But transferred it from a notepad text file - yes I often start off just capturing ideas / scenes in simple text files - before I then transferred it into Final Draft and reformatted it. Once it was in the right format I was properly able to see the holes in it and fill and polish them. The reason I dusted this one off? It will be perfect to shoot. All we will need is an office and 4 actors. If we do it right, it will get a few laughs and hopefully a few shares. And it will give me time to get this other short horror short script finished, ready for the next production effort.
So things have been happening. It's baby steps. I'm still not 'right', but I'm taking it as it comes.
Time slips away from you and then, before you know it, half a year has passed and you’re no further forward creatively than you were before. And you’re no happier, in fact on many levels you’re much worse. The only difference between then and now is that it’s warmer and the sun has chased the permanent Swedish gloom away and replaced it with leaves and greenery; oh and I lost the most important person in my life. Yeah that.
Right after I had set my plans for this creative year and attempted to move forward with them, and a few months into executing some of them and on the cusp of publishing my first Kindle release, I received news that my father was diagnosed with a second cancer; a blight on him that was much more hateful and aggressive than the one they’d found the year before. And unlike the operable tumour of 2015 - one that took me a while to recover from emotionally enough to consider creating again - this one was totally untreatable. It was exactly around the time that we were expecting to hear that he had the all clear and was in remission, and we were all looking forward to better things. Although the doubt was always there, it was never supposed to be like this. It floored me. Everyone took the news badly.
Although I was able to fulfil the demands of my day job and I’ve been able to keep it mostly together, I’ve been unable to pursue any creative endeavours. All of my thoughts were for his care and for somehow trying to spend as much time with him as possible - which is no mean feat from a different country entirely. But we tried.
Sadly, one month ago almost to the day, my father passed away. I won’t and can’t really go into that in a public forum or truly communicate what I’m feeling or the surprising depth of my anger at that bastard cancer and the way that it happened, or share the details of the bureaucratic fuckery - the fallout to this - which is still to be overcome. But I think you can understand the impact of something like this in your life. And I think you can grasp the hole it leaves inside you when you lose someone so special. Let alone the strength it needs to get up and get through a day, and support others who are also grieving when you can.
It’s too soon to tackle anything seriously creative or consider committing myself to any large undertaking this year. Every time I catch myself looking forward I’m struck by an absence and other thoughts that take me out of my stride and knock me down. It’s fine, I’ve been through this before and not just once. I know this is natural. I will keep on keeping on. I am very much here and these feelings will run their course and will never go and I would not want them to. I will be able to work on something challenging eventually. Right now I’m simply concerned with baby steps: get up, wash, eat, exercise, work, eat, sleep, repeat. I’m making notes of new ideas. I’m letting things germinating. I’m distracting myself with pictures of shiny camera / film related toys, for a future project. But I’m living in a mental place that, right now, means no London Screenwriter’s Forum for me this year, putting things on hold until I’m ready to tackle them and waiting. As for nanowrimo etc and my novels, well they’ll just have to wait. I might as well push this year’s goals into next year…
I just wanted to explain my absence.
There will be other things of note. There will be better things - there bloody better be! We’ve all lost too many shining stars this year, too many greats - irrespective of my own losses - and there won’t be any more if we all stopped creating.
Check back here when you can. And say hi. When I can I will share what other activities I’ve been up to. They’re things that relate to writing and filmmaking and self-improvement. And I think that they’ll be of use to you - even if they might seem a little indirect.
And I just might surprise you… eventually.
To anyone I know who’s reading this - thanks for all of your support. It means a lot to know I’m not alone.
Last year, I did one of these posts, explaining what creative activities I was planning on focusing on in 2015 (original article HERE). So how did I do with those resolutions and goals and what will 2016 bring?
The short version:
- Not so well. 5 out of 8 aint bad.
- Will tackle the other 3 this year.
- Still fighting the good fight.
I've finally stepped up to the keyboard and started throwing words at the page. Apologies, if in doing so I've gone quiet of late, but I've edited over 1700 words of this long short story / short novella (I'm never really sure where some of my work fits when speaking of length - as traditional metrics don't really seem to work for me when defining the type of story it is). I've added in 400 words from a new scene that I think more effectively sets up the finale and explains something important about the secondary protagonist.
I'd like to say that it's taken a real effort, but actually, it's anything but. What it actually took was a couple of days to recover from my work demands, from a gruelling 3 day, 3 city workshop tour which had me working long into each night, to sleep, to meditate, to get all of the fun stuff out of the way, the chores that were distracting me - any active procrastinators will know how appealing such things suddenly become - and watch the shows I'd been dying to watch, and to just give it a try. Here's the recipe that sometimes works for me:
- Turn off the TV
- put on Holosync - the Dive and Immersion - audio meditation tools.
- Start writing in my journal and let the fingers warm up and find all the keys.
- And then find the meaning again.
The TV is a distraction. Sometimes its one that helps. But today it was not. And so are the other chores and tasks that you know need to be done. You can only put off your life so long before it gets in the way. But ultimately if you start working, you will start working.
As a friend often used to say to me at work: J.F.D.I it. (Just.F*cking. Do.It)
It works for me. Even if I don't always get to it in the most direct of routes.
I hope all of your creative endeavours are going well.
I've realised that I really don't like editing fiction. I don't mind it so much in screenwriting - because whittling and honing those sentences is much more straightforward and once the structural issues are resolved, it's almost fun. But for fiction, there seems to be inumerable and more significant impacts from every edit that I make. But more importantly the choice of words is under a much greater scrutiny.
I think the edits that I performed on PIG SWEAT BLUES have ruined me for my current fiction editing - despite the power that was refined and the gem that was uncovered. It's the first time I've actually dreaded doing any writing and found any excuse to do anything but. It's almost as if I am dreading delivering this next edit to my beta readers / proof readers and in turn subjecting my baby to another [critical] kicking. But I simply need to man-up and to stop making excuses and get the hell on with it!
Yes I've been tired. The trip I took to rest and recuperate and concentrate on my writing proved to be anything but. I was severely sleep-deprived on my return. But now I've managed to recuperate some and I can no longer use it as an excuse. I have to overcome this reticence to connect with my creative intention. Otherwise I need to give up. Because I can't simply write for fun and leave it all unfinished and unread.
As a reaction to this editing. I've been looking into the Pomodoro technique. I stubled across it from a random route, during a course on learning techniques. And I decided to apply it on my day job, during a period of low energy. I found it a very simple and straightforward way to carve up a day's work and then to ensure that I completed the priority tasks. And it did help to inject some direct energy into that day. There's even loads of handy free and paid apps to help you do it - if you can't find a simple food timer to use, or don't want to use your smart phone clock.
Now the real task ahead is to carve this beast of an edit up into Pomodoro's and then trek through it, 25 minute slot by 25 minute slot.... I'm 1,400 words in. 8,000 lef to go.
This is grind. This is not glamour. This is a war on purple prose and it will be won by every yard of territory gained. And I am well aware that it will need repeat grind to elevate it. But if I ever want to go back to my Nanonovels, I need to do this.