Ordering Pizzas in Fan Film

A few months ago, Maya and I went to a convention at which someone was showing their latest fan film effort. I won’t say which con or which fandom, but it’s well-known. I remember many thoughts going through the filmmaker side of my brain while the other half sat back to be entertained:

“Wow, the production values are stunning. Good job on them getting the talent and funding.”

“How did they get that guy to show up? Are they that well-connected, or did he just think it would be fun to be in a random fan thing?”

“This story’s kinda weird, but that fits the universe in which this is set, so okay.”

But most importantly: “After going to all this trouble, why can’t the lead performer act worth beans?”

Now, I’m no award-winner when it comes to acting. I’ve done community theater, no-budget film, and sketch comedy on stage. Humble stuff, yet I’m proud of it. But one of the things I do know about acting is that in 2015, any computer can read lines. But if you are playing a real, live person, everything you say has emotions, opinions, history, and personality in it. Doesn’t matter if it’s a single line: this is how human beings behave!

Here’s a line: “Well, I’m going to order pizza.” Alone, that line means nothing. But think of all the different ways you might say that in real life! Perhaps you haven’t had pizza in a month, and now you can order your favorite. Perhaps you are bored by pizza, but you know it’s the only thing the rest of the room will agree on so you’ve given up. Perhaps you’re defiant, because the rest of the room is ordering Chinese, but screw them. Perhaps you are a Vulcan, and you must act like the ordering of pizza means nothing to you but inside, pizza reminds you of the mother for whom you could never properly express love. (Now we’re getting into the tricky stuff.)

Too many fan film actors just read lines as if that’s enough. Since the character speaking isn’t real, there is no need to consider who they feel about the line, what they are thinking inside, the context of the situation and the others nearby; it’s just typing on a script page. And it doesn’t matter if your Kickstarter collected a million dollars and you got Benedict Cumberbatch to appear, if you just read the lines, your film is going to suck.

And that, by the way, is why I’m not naming names. Even the cheapest fan film represents a massive outlay of time, resources, and effort on the parts of multiple people. I can’t just sit here and sneer at that hard work. I celebrate it, and I hope they learn and they get better, because that kind of dedication will always beat “Oh, I always wanted to make a fan film, but I somehow never got around to it.” That really sucks.

A Slightly Classier Agreement

I have a lot of fun making “DVD covers” in Photoshop for my little video efforts. It’s weird, because they don’t show up in hard-copy very much any more, but it does make the movie files look better when I’m browsing them in a media manager.

To that end, I made this today:

"Gentleman's Agreement" DVD cover


If this had been a real DVD cover, I’d have added a lot more info about the actors and crew, and copyright disclaimers and the like. But this will do for now. It looks a whole lot better in iTunes.

Oh, and for the few readers of this blog who don’t know, the two parts of this video are right here:http://youtu.be/3nnLbQ1JvXs and here:http://youtu.be/iS6iGACneEQ Be kind.

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Pictures in Motion

I'm happy to see that my urge to create is growing strong again. While my anxieties are still getting in the way – I start panicking a bit every time I sit in front of the keyboard – I've discovered that music is an excellent self-medication for the problem. Doesn't seem to matter too much what the music is, though the panic will try to trick me into getting playlists "just right" as a way of stalling.

Another technique that's working quite well is to get working on one of my little comedy video productions. The great thing about those is that I can start putting the wheels in motion before the anxiety can kick in, and when the day comes to do the shoot, I've got too much invested, too many people involved, to back down or procrastinate. If only I could afford to do those as often as I want! But they aren't paying for themselves yet, so I need to stick with a day job – and since my last contract ended last year, I need a new one before I can indulge myself that way.

Damn, but working on those shoots makes me feel alive. The more I make, the more I want to do. Not just the slapstick comedy, either; I'm developing a powerful urge to make the Doctor Who fan film I've always wanted, or even an original project. I've had a couple scripts lying around for twenty years, ones that I've just realized would be within my reach… though they'd require some rewriting. They reek a bit of teenage sci-fi fan at the moment.

Must get job. Must make money. 43 isn't too late to start chasing my dreams, but it does mean there's no more time to waste.

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A perfect combination of human and Sadinger genes

Start in 1993. Take some anime fans who’ve just found an awkward, stilted translation of the script for one of their favorite flicks. Add some expensive non-linear editing equipment that one of the fans was pretty good with. Throw in an evening’s recording session in an echoey downstairs rec room, and I give you: The “Project: EDEN” Fandub! (Well, clips of it, anyway. And, SPOILER, they do give away the ending.)

Some of the fun stuff: none of the voice actors seemed to be able to pronounce “URDAS” (the Eastern Bloc-styled colony) the same way twice. In some of our early takes, David Arthur’s redneck accent was so thick, we thought we might still have to subtitle him. I spent days trying to figure out that the script we’d obtained kept saying “three-level bug” when it meant “trilobite”. Professor Wattsman’s squeaky voice nearly wiped out my throat for the evening.

Honestly, the best voice actors that night had to be Jerry Conner, Beth Lipes, and Cindy Arthur (now Jenkins). Good thing we made them our leads. Jerry did an incredible job editing together what he had to work with, and I think we all gained new respect for those eighties anime dubbers who were just trying to end up with something intelligible on a limited budget.

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