Monday, October 21, 2019

Editing and History of "Gumdrop, a short horror"

First, some housekeeping and promotions...Last year I shot my first short-short eight-minute narrative film, The Rapping. It was a festival selection at the New York Midnight Film Festival, actually, showing in New York and won the Weekly Online Once A Week Film Festival for January 2, 2019. I shot this with a single actor, Nikolas Hayes. We had worked together previously on Kelly Hughes' horror films.

I have worked on several projects with Kelly and lately, we've been working on the ongoing annual GUFF, the Gorst Underground Film Festival. We began it and held it for two years at Blue Collar Art but are moving it to The Historic Charleston Theater in Bremerton. Both venues are perfect for it.

Our most recent event series is "Slash Night" at the Historic Roxy Theater here in Bremerton which I recently wrote about here. Gorst is a small community right next to Bremerton, Washington. Kelly started both events and both are now becoming standard annual and monthly events, respectively.


This past summer I shot my short horror film, "Gumdrop, a short horror" with multiple actors. I wrote the screenplay and directed and shot it myself. It is a prequel to my short horror story based on a true crime, "Gumdrop City" (2012) on Amazon as an ebook and included in the collection of my first short horror tales in "Anthology of Evil" (2012). I have a manuscript ready for a sequel as, "Anthology of Evil II", but haven't had the time to deal with it.

On Gumdrop, a short horror and Gumdrop City, the new piece is a prequel. The story is about Sampson, an odd character who in the short story is older and more decrepit but just as dastardly and deadly, but even more despicable a personality. In the current film, In using the short story as a roadmap, I drew a character who had been abused as a child and had grown up traveling to escape his birth country of Czechoslovakia and his horror of a childhood.

In those restrictions of his accent and so on, I gave him a background of having traveled to South Africa and to various locations that affected his accent. His father was Irish, his mother Czech. So he has an accent that is an odd juxtaposition of a Slovak accent with a South African slant to it and words of an Irish orientation. He knew his father but didn't know him long enough for it to affect his accent that much, but enough and in odd ways. This makes him confusing for those he interfaces with. His mental status and his orientation led him into criminal enterprises and to avoid traditional forms of employment and sustenance.

Actor Stan W with lead actor Tom Remick as "Sampson"
Sampson is one odd character and not to be trifled with. As the character, Manz (played by actor Stan Wankowsky) discovers int he film.

Okay now...editing.

First, apologies. I'm more concerned with working on this project than blogging. And I'm adding to this as I'm editing, and think of things to mention.

Like treats. I get up in the mornings around 6-7AM and have breakfast, sometimes just toast and peanut butter, or oatmeal, and two cups of coffee. Years ago I limited myself to two cups a day, maybe tea mid-morning if needed. I watch something on TV, usually news of some sort, or a late-night talk show. Then I get to work. If things go on too long, watching a show, and it's really interesting, I'll stop, and save it to watch at lunch as a kind of reward. Understand I'm retired from IT and work on film production and writing from a home office which at this point happens to be half my living room.

I've found tricking and treating myself works wonders for my motivation and stress levels. Have something to look forward to. And use any way you can think of to make yourself do what you woin't or don't want to do. Whatever works. Just find a way to be productive, and try not to (have to) kills yourself over it. IF there is any way possible to make it entertaining/ Do that. But save the wasteful time spending for after you have worked for a day's amount of work, or more.

I have no formal training in film production. Just theory and doing. Self-taught you might say. I've read a lot of books on film production but should have spent more time ready about editing. Well, I've spent some time learning about it, but this project is in part that education. My next project will look a lot better edited, I'm sure. I'll also be reviewing some videos on editing now. I'd meant to do that already before starting this but the flu had messed up my timing. And other things...

 Sony Movie Studio Suite 16 - Gumdrop
Shown, actors: Luke Remick (Jinks), Tom Remick (Sampson)
I am using Sony Movie Studio Suite 16. For that matter, I write screenplays using Final Draft 11. One of these days when I can afford it I may switch to Final Cut. My first edit of a film was at Western Washington University. I used a half-inch black and white reel to reel rig and had to edit in the camera. At some point, I was soldering wires to add music. And it was a nightmare. But I produced a phenomenology film for my department advisor, Dr. Rod Rees in part toward my degree in psychology. I also got a minor in creative writing and team script and screenwriting.

My next production came years later as a Viacom public access cable TV producer where I shot and directed and edited with a few friends a documentary for the twenty-fifth anniversary of the old Lost in Space TV show. I shot on VHS using my own camera as I'd had a bad experience in college where the battery in every camera rig was dead or almost dead in my case, which was the problem.

I didn't know it was "dead" as it worked some and so I shot a bunch of film to near-disastrous results. Still, some of those shots made it into the film. I used a Panasonic VHS editor deck at the studio and it did cablecast twice in the associated region.

For both The Rapping and now with Gumdrop, I'm using my own equipment and software entirely under the auspices of the production company started in 1993 for the LIS doc, LgN Productions (Last good Nerve Productions). I'm using a Canon DSLR 80D, a Roland R-26 digital recording, an HP video editor system from 2016 and the aforementioned software.

Shooting the film I am using the 80D and a Rode mic on top of the camera as a backup, with the Roland R-26 and a boom mic and tripod for main audio. I highly recommend a backup mic, it can be a lifesaver. But that means you have to marry the proper audio with the proper video and that can be a real job. Especially if you are not documenting your shots as you go. Which, I haven't, sadly. But which I hope to in the future.

Beginning the editing I pull out the screenplay and follow that roadmap. I start to insert the video media and begin to edit. Once I have a sequence of shots or a scene edited, I start to locate and insert the digital audio media. Then I begin matching it up. Part of my problem in not matching up the video and audio first and then ordering up and cutting is I could end up doing a lot of work for naught.

IF I had annotations taken during the shooting, this would go much smoother. But in having actors, especially amateur or nonactors in a production, considering timing as they are working people, not working actors paid to have their time on a schedule to act in my production, it makes life and shooting problematic.

I don't have the time to take the time myself to document and clapper my shots. I have to shoot quickly as on any production, without the safety net of documentation and in shot annotations (clapper and onboard notes).

Another issue was the processing of the audio clips. I really didn't know if I could edit this film, then go back and select only the audio I need, process it (I'm using Reaper for that) and then replace the clips I've used. That is, replace the base media in the editor and have it replace all those snippets all throughout the project. Finally, I took the time yesterday to first do a test and it worked out great.

Another issue I had was I built the opening titles sequence first. In this project the opening titles are the end credits to an extent, only reversed. So in building the opening, I figured as it was fresh in my mind, I might as well build the end. And so I did.

However, that put the end at the actual end of the screen, the project, the file. While editing the other day, and this can happen, I deleted a file and didn't realize I had deleted the end sequence. I realized what I did and could feel a nervous breakdown coming on. So I just sat there absorbing it, thinking if there were ways out of that. Putting off the breakdown until necessary. As it turned out, I found it and from then on every day I save a new version of my work that day and begin a newly named file for the next day. I also saved the end titles in a separate file. THAT won't be happening again. I had also created a couple more unneeded tracks and put it alone at the top out of the way. Which was where it was. Not lost. So my habits aren't too bad after all.

Aside: This happened once after college when I had a dul 5.25" floppy disk PC. One disk had the OS on it, the other was data. I had just written a short story. Sometimes I get in the zone and a story just dumped out onto paper. And it's usually pretty good. I did that once while working on a paper on synesthesia in college. I was exhausted, it was midnight and a short story, one page, single typed, come out. I dumped it onto paper (typed it out) and handed it in to my psych prof, my department advisor in class that next day. The following day we all got a handout. I loved his handouts. I was stunned to realize it was my short story (Perception, which grew along with my short story, later novella, Andrew, into my first full book, Death of heaven). Anyway, I was writing this short story on the dual floppy system and suddenly (and it had done this before), it locked up. Because the data disk got full. At that point, there is nothing to do but reboot. But I hesitated an hour before buying into that need. Finally, I rebooted and immediately rewrote the story. Now when I was almost done with the story I was thinking at the time that it was the most perfect short story I'd ever written. Obviously, I didn't rewrite it word for word but close, but it was not the same as I had written. That was lost.

My point? When you think all is lost, don't accept the breakdown. Breathe. Then think. And do what is productive. And move on.

So I have what I have.

This has been so much easier than editing physically with film or VHS as I had in the past. I was the film editor in my family when I was a kid. I had my grandfather's physical film editor (I still have it) and I did cut and tape film. VHS editing was easier. Digital editing is a dream. As in writing is in using a computer over longhand, or that's how I find it anyway. So much faster to cut and paste than as I did in college, literally cutting and pasting and then typing it all up (back then after being in a queue at the library to use a typewriter).

Yes, I did edit The Rapping last year. But that was a shorter film, a much less complicated film. A film I shot and edited just to prove I could do it. And since it got shown in New York and won one festival, even a micro-festival online, I did prove I could do it.

After a week of editing, the nightmare effort began to get easier as I got into the swing of things. Yesterda I was about six minutes into the diting (six-minute of edited video under my belt) and I hit potentially the toughest scene in the film.

It is the scene with hitwoman Wanda (actress Amy M) and Sampson (Tom Remick). The difficulty came in an interaction that required a lot of insert shots and bouncing back and forth from mid shots to close-ups and some ECUs (extreme close-ups) of a tool. That scene, that sequence of shots took me a couple of days. When I started again yesterday, I felt pretty hopeless, like I'll never work it out.

I thought I was done with that scene but today found I had a mirror sequence (gotta have a cool/bizarre mirror sequence in a film like this). I just finished it and I'm now done with that scene and moving on to the Rowan scene with Tacoma actor Jason Lockhart.

But I'm dumping my media I'd inserted into the project at the end where I clean it up and inject it into the timeline with the other assembled pieces of shots. It's important to remember to clean up. I overuse files/copies in my pre-editing end area of the file to avoid having to reapply a clip. Though I end up with a lot of extra pieces  (also in clipping, and expanding), and just need clean up between sequences, which isn't much of a problem.

I'm also thinking now it might be easier and faster to just video edit and then focus on the audio. As you get used to one thing, video or audio, you get in the swing of it. But when I'm jumping between, I seem to cause myself too much confusion. A few days of this will prove the point one way or another.

But, you take a deep breath and begin again, or continue on as it were. by midday, I was feeling much better. Do not accept the breakdown. Or, accept it, but don't have it. Be productive. Always moving forward.

Professionals produce. Be a professional.

As it is this project needs to be done by the second of November so it can premier at the Slash Night event here in Bremerton, at the Historic Roxy Theater. If I'm not ready, then I can show it in December, and then I'll have more flyers sharing its premiere. And so I may show it twice in a row. We shall see.

At the end of each day's edit, I am rendering a movie of what I have done. Essentially finished rushes. Sort of "finished". As this is all going to take a rough cut, and then a run-through for other issues and another rough cut, over and over as any editor knows.

I have also created a Facebook group, a private group just for the crew and actors on Gumdrop under the LGN banner. There I/we can share issues about the production.. Actors can speak up and hopefully, everyone can learn something, or at least, be made away of progress. I found as an actor you know so little about progression on a production and it can be frustrating.

In making this private group I was hoping to have the actors be more involved, aware of progress (and delays) and hopefully as I said, learn something.

Yesterday I found a few useful links about film production/editing I'd like to share and I shared in our private group.

IFH 113: Post Production Process – Understand It or Suffer the Consequences

Understanding the 5 Stages of Indie Film Production

The 6 Stages Of Editing As A Film Director

I'm into filmmaking, I retired from a very well paying job and a career in IT of 20 years, to make films. To write. To turn my past writings into screenplays and sell or shoot them myself. I couldn't get a film made if I were dying. Like so many others. So I finally just thought, "To hell with it, I'll make my own damn films!"

And so I am.

I made The Rapping up and shot it. I am now finally, for the first time shooting a film based on my own past writings. I first heard about the story behind Gumdrop City in 1983 in an abnormal psychology class. A story so affecting of the entire class, I felt I needed to share it with the world. So I made it entertaining and slipped it into a story about a damaged guy and a serial murderer across the street from him.

I worked for a while with a Hollywood producer on a feature film-length version screenplay of Gumdrop City (I just finished working on a screenplay rewrite of my true crime biopic The Teenage Bodyguard with producer Robert Mitas who has worked with Michael Douglas a lot). I thought that story would be the easiest thing to shoot on my own as my first film of a story I wrote years ago. But to shoot the original itself would be problematic in many ways. So I wrote a prequel and added in some interesting characters and elements. Still, it is a difficult story. But doable. And that's all I needed.

What are those interesting characters and elements? In time you will see.
Hopefully, in very little time.


Monday, October 14, 2019

Let Me Tell You A Story About Tacoma, WA in 1973

Let me take you back, into my past...to the year 1973. Tacoma, Washington. I was seventeen. Allow me to set the stage...
Myself in Manhattan in 1974
I had graduated at seventeen, got a job, moved out of my parent's house and finally, started my life. Like many teens, I'd been ready to be on my own for years. Though in reality, I wasn't really ready for it. In some ways, I was more ready for it than many adults ever become. In other ways, not so much. I was very adept at problem-solving, at heading toward trouble when necessary, regardless of my personal feelings.
Me on the left fighting in the 1967
Seattle Open International Karate Tournament put on by my Sensei.

I had started martial arts in grade school. I had studied flight ground school. I had studied search and rescue and first responder disaster first aid in an auxiliary of the USAF, the Civil Air Patro. I had been on a private rifle team and then spent three years on my high school rifle team. I had flown small planes.
Me on the left with my high school SCUBA club in 1971
Immediately after high school, I had started sky diving. I already had my SCUBA diving license in tenth grade and performed my first open water, saltwater dive in Puget Sound's waters the same day I took my driver's license written test. In fact, I was sitting in my wet swimming trunks immediately after my open water dive while I took my written exam at my high school, after hours.

I can remember being distracted while taking my driving test by my wet swim trunks under my jeans and if anyone could smell the salt waters of Puget Sound from me while we sat stressing over filling out our test. Still, I passed both tests that day, for SCUBA and for driving.

My 2nd-floor apartment at 17
One day while sitting at my apartment in an old house in Old Town part of Tacoma, a very nice area of manicured lawns and beautiful old houses, I got a phone call that would echo throughout my entire life to today. For purposes of story and filmmaking, we altered things to turn that phone call into a party instead. But it only made the story more interesting and wrapped up several issues quickly and neatly, increasing the tension and decreasing the cost of making the film overall.

That phone call led me to some years ago, to begin writing a new screenplay. I had just been thinking of what story from my past would make an interesting story, one that could be written and filmed and sold and shown in theaters. See, when I left my parent's house in 1973 it was my desire, after a childhood of adventures, to continue on that path to bigger and better adventures, better stories, stories I could one day, as an old man, write and people might want to buy and read, supplementing my retirement.

By this time in about 2013, I had published short horror stories for money. Years before in the 80s I had gotten published in various local computer magazines, those that looked like tiny newspapers or a Nickel want ads format. I'd gotten published in the greater Seattle area and my favorite piece "Cyberspace", about the new internet for people and not just the military and universities, and about workers and managers dealing with the use of the internet at work.

Many managers were freaking out about it...should they fire employees over it? I argued it was little different at the time as over personal use of telephones which once gave managers great concertation and to today, is an issue with employees. Especially considering today the use of cell and smartphones.

So, I reviewed in my mind on that day in 2013, what stories I had that would be best to attempt a biopic of my past life. I reviewed my published stories and my memories. I looked at old photos.  I considered stories from my years in the USAF when I had a secret clearance for working around nuclear weapons. Some interesting stories there and I'm released from talking about my work in the service after twenty-five years had passed. Which they have. I thought about years growing up in the 60s and 70s and even 80s. Lot's of interesting stuff then.

In the 90s and after 2000 I was in IT work, raising my kids and my life had toned down quite a bit. In fact, when my son was about eighteen months old in 1989 I remember driving down the street considering if in now having a child I shouldn't curb my activities and do my best to be there for him growing up. And so that day I truly became a father. Then in 1993 my daughter came about and even more reason to live sane and safe.

Then I remembered something from my past, when I was seventeen. I graduated from high school and moved out of my parents as soon as I could. I got an apartment in an old house and a job where my sister had her first post-high school job, three years prior to me. Then one day I was sitting at home and a friend called me and asked that I give a woman a ride who was staying with him and his roommate. To make a long story short, I gave her a ride and ... the rest of that story seeped back into my mind.

As I ran over that day, that week actually, I realized that may be the story. My most marketable story. A story I had never told anyone. And the more I thought about it the more I couldn't believe I hadn't thought about it sooner.

Because the story was about my staying with a woman for a week until she could leave town. Something about where she had worked, at the Polynesian style Tiki Restaurant in the Tacoma suburb community of Lakewood, Washington. there had been a murder three of the young bouncer there. It was at Tacoma's first topless venue. The bouncer was only twenty-five.

The woman, in about her late twenties, admitted to being where the murder had happened and said that those who committed it believed she saw it. A murder allegedly according to the newspaper and Sheriff's office was by an anonymous patron. But a murder she claimed had been committed by the restaurant owners themselves. Those "owners" were the local mafia. Not like today where you hear about a mafia of a loosely held gang. This was the real mafia.

So I agreed. I would stay with her for that week and keep her out of trouble, away from prying eyes and keep her alive until she could leave town forever for her old home town. It was an interesting week. So I agreed. With myself. That would be the story, the screenplay I would write. One day. Some day. Time passed. Occasionally I would research some on it but never got past that stage.

A few months later I was contacted by an author whom I had written an adaptation of her novel, an espionage romance, to screenplay format. it had been a few years. She said her book been optioned once for a film, but the year had passed and the option expired. Now she had interest from another producer. One in London who wanted to see it. So I contacted him via email.

I ended up sending him a copy of the screenplay. In our emails back and forth he asked me what else i had available. So I sent him a list of my finished screenplays and protected screenplays I was considering writing. I mentioned Gray and Lover The Heart Tales Incident, which had been a semi-finalist in the Circus Road Films screenplay contest. I mentioned a few others: Colorado Lobsters.

And, Popsicle Death, Sarah, and Poor Lord Ritchie the three short stories/screenplays I had included as a part of Gray and Lover and then due to coverage suggesting removing them and let the frame and main part of the screenplay to run free, I  then cut. And to very positive effect in coming close to winning a contest with it. But then I set Gray and Lover aside for this new property.

I included a list of screenplays I was thinking of writing. He latched right onto one and asked to see it first should I ever write it. The name really grabbed him: "The Teenage Bodyguard". I finished writing it in nineteen days and sent it back to him. I never heard back from him on either property. I looked him up later and found he had disappeared from the scene. So I moved on. Continued to research and send out to contests that gave feedback. I honed the screenplay and researched more.

I'll skip the ins and outs of my efforts on this screenplay. However, through my research, I stumbled onto exactly what I had gotten myself into back in 73. The story only continued to get more interesting.

I finally got a producer to work with me just a few months ago and because of that, we have redrafted the screenplay to a smaller and more marketable approach. It's been a learning experience with producer Robert Mitas. A nice guy, interesting and knowledgable guy I've enjoyed working with who is now attached to my project.

Robert has a few irons in the fire, another film in the works similar to mine as it's a true story from a young guy's past and I'm looking forward to seeing it.


I watched his latest film, an adaptation of Shirley Jackson's story, "We Have Always Lived In The Castle". Michael Douglas was an executive producer. I really liked it. Crispin Glover was excellent as always as a quirky character, an uncle.

For my project, our project, we are now looking for a director and have a shortlist we are working off of. I look forward to seeing this project produced because it's an interesting story, a story about a place and time that hasn't received any attention.

Who KNEW there were mafia efforts in Tacoma, Washington in the 1970s? I didn't and I lived through going up against them. I just thought it was a bunch of bad actors at the time. Had I known back then, at seventeen, who they were, would it have made any difference to me at the time? I really don't think so. Here was a frightened and abused woman, who was asking for help and who was I with all the skills at my disposal, to walk away from her. That just wasn't me.


There is much more to this story. You'll be able to watch some of it in "The Teenage Bodyguard" once we get it produced and on screen for people to see. It's a much bigger story than will be on screen and maybe we'll get around to telling more of it in ensuing years. But I believe, as does Robert, that what you'll see when this version, this part of the story gets told, is a very interesting and entertaining film and you won't regret watching it.


Monday, October 7, 2019

New "Slash Night" at Bremerton's Historic Roxy Theatre

As I write this, last night I was at Bremerton, Washington's first-ever "Slash Night" a Historic Roxy Theater. There is to be another in a month, on November 2nd, 2019. And it was better than I expected.

photo by "Mermaid" event performer Aura Stier
Some great films were shown with vendor tables in the lobby selling horror memorabilia and an opportunity to meet some of the filmmakers. Some of my friends were there and perhaps some new ones. I've been asked to premiere my new film I'm currently in post-production on, "Gumdrop, a short horror" (a prequel based on my 2012 true crime short horror story, "Gumdrop City"), which is coming along nicely. I hope to have it ready by either the November or December Slash Night event.

photo by "Mermaid" event performer Aura Stier
The event was put on by director/promotor/producer Kelly Wayne Hughes. There was a kind of Frankenstein Drag MC in Hellen Bedd, in a camp kind of moderation on the evening which included one short film, one animation and main event flick, 1970s, "The House That Dripped Blood" with an all-star cast from back in the day.



Out front in the lobby, which opens at 9pm, an hour before the film starts were vendor tables where you could purchase horror paraphernalia and boxes of movie posters for sale. The filmmakers were also available to meet.

photo by "Mermaid" event performer Aura Stier
Filmmakers in attendance (and there were others who didn't have films being played that night) were cartoonist, director, and animator Pat Moriarity.

photo by "Mermaid" event performer Aura Stier
Pat Moriarity with artist Ray Hammar
Pat recently became a friend when he "world premiered" his new animation, "The Realm Beyond All Reason", which also played last night. As with the other filmmakers, there was a Q&A period after the film. 


Name dropping just a bit here, Kelly and I are headed over to Pat's Tuesday evening to see his collections and hang out to have beers and BBQ. I'm looking forward to it. Pat's a truly fun and knowledgable guy who once worked for Mad Magazine and his underground comic style of cartooning is obvious. As one filmmaker put it last night to him after his film played, Pat definitely has "a real hand" in his drawing and artistic abilities and sensibilities. I would fully agree.

photo by "Mermaid" event performer Aura Stier
Kelly with the theater (left) with Kelly Hughes
The other filmmakers who showed up with their short and amazingly dark and funny film were the guys from Laslo Films (attended by William Stancik and Gabriel Wagner).

From Laslo Films
They showed an amazing, dark and funny short, "Amphetamine Trucker Lament 2 - 1971"."You've never seen a man truck so hard. (Because Laslo Films loves you.)" I look forward to seeing other films from these guys.

November 2019 Slash Night Flyer
The December event may be on the second Saturday of the month as they have a pre-existing event on the first Saturday night. Thanks so much to the Roxy Theater for allowing this event to be put on. If things keep going in this direction, this is going to be a stable and very fun monthly event in Bremerton.

After all, how cool is it to have an event where you can peruse some cool horror stuff to buy, to see some cool old and new horror films and meet some of the filmmakers?

Monday, September 30, 2019

Writer's Block?

What is writer's block?

For me? I don't get it, but what I do get, if you want to label it that, I see as other things entirely...than "writer's block".

I see what some call writer's block as merely, boredom, stress, or overburdened processing time. Essentially. I see buying into a belief in writer's block as a kind of victim mentality.

Processing time - When I write, my mind has a store, a library of where I'm going. I easily create as I write whatever it doesn't have previously available to draw upon. During the process, when I stop writing, when I hit that point at which I'm not sure where to go, it simply means my overt, external recording of what is in my mind has caught up to my processing, my creating.


At that point, I just need some time to catch up. It's as if I have a buffer in my mind and I've dumped it. So now it's time to refill it. Time for it to build up another set of concepts, scenes, and characterizations. Where fully formed thoughts have been used up and perhaps even the fundamentals, the building blocks of those things and orientations related to them have been used up.

IF you see that as being stopped, stumped, locked up, then I guess you could say you have writer's block. But isn't that simply a natural occurrence of the creative process? If it goes on for an extended length of time, and we all have different speeds at which we work, then it is labeled writer's block. I would argue at that point however, you have skipped out of normal processing times and moved into another issue entirely.

With time, you, it...eventually buffer back up. When I can finally write again...for a while. IF I write slow enough, I never hit that block. Or if you like, emptying that buffer. For some, they can write seemingly forever without ever emptying that buffer. But that's just an impression.

For others, it empties quickly, daily. Some of this obviously relates to the quality of what is being written. The closer one gets to being "genius", the less time it takes, or the deeper the meaning, or the more condensed the content, or the more prosaic it appears.


Part of what I do in the creative part of writing is to write myself into a corner, to set up multiple issues to be resolved later. Then try to creatively extract myself from that corner, to eventually hit a satisfying ending. Both for myself and the reader.

When one hits real writer's block, as I see it, if it's neither boredom or stress, you then have either written yourself into such a corner that you cannot successfully extract yourself from it or, you have so used up your buffer in a way that it cannot be refilled.

When that happens, then you either have written something that is fundamentally flawed and needs to be tossed out and started over, or you have written so far above your ability to extract yourself from the complications or the mess you have created, that you cannot resolve it, cannot finish it.

I ran into that myself in a way, in my as yet unpublished novella, "The Unwritten."

I took a year off from it and worked on other things. Until one day it suddenly hit me how to resolve the story and end it. As it turned out that was not quite true. I actually was simply seeing a path forward.

I followed it and it did lead me in the end to a viable ending. That ending however then led me onward to an even better ending until finally, I did end it with a satisfying conclusion. But I didn't see that as having broken if you wish to call it, the writer's block.

How do you correct that inability to complete a project?

Sometimes honestly, it requires dumping a story and starting over again from scratch. Some stories can become so convoluted and unresolvable, unfixable, that they should just be dumped. Or, you can strip them down to their bare essentials and work to a more viable ending.

Some merely abandon their work and simply don't stick it out. Hopefully, if they do abandon it, they keep it so that later perhaps, they may suddenly have an epiphany of how to complete it and still have it available to do so. Nothing is more frustrating to realize an ending, or an escape from the trap, only to realize, you have deleted the effort, destroyed the writings.

Whenever you find that your buffer is empty and is not refilling, not untypically that has to do with boredom or stress. Or something in your life is overtaking, subsuming your creativity. Stealing your mind, your attention to the point that you cannot write.

In those cases simply walk away. Change channels. Move onto another very different pursuit. Stop thinking about it. Take a break, Go on vacation. Have a drink. Go hiking. See a movie. Whatever it takes. However long it takes.

Sometimes I'll just research what I'm working on because the problem very well may be that I'm simply lacking information or knowledge. So I'll research a word, look up its synonyms or antonyms. Or research the concept or situation, scene or scenario or series of such things. It's merely another way to refill that buffer.

For some it's to go seek entertainment, or sex with a lover. Or to experience something creative, art, music or film, a play, a sports event, or whatever works best for you. Exercise is very useful as it supercharges the brain with oxygen.

Then come back to it later and try again, always keeping in the back of your mind that you do plan to return to it, to finish it. Because I find when I do that, my mind keeps crunching away on the issue or issues until it's resolved. It's a kind of perseverance you need to build in yourself if you don't already have it. My mind is always working on problems where I don't see it continuing on. I've found in playing a musical instrument that over time, even when I don't practice, I do keep getting better. It's a very similar thing.


For the most part, if you refuse to buy into the concept of writer's block, you may never experience it.

I have seen far more amateur writers, hobbyists, wannabe writers, who claim writer's block over that of professionals. To be sure, when you are feeling less creative or self-assured in your writings, they may not be as qualitative, or beautiful as when you feel you are in the zone.

Regardless, keep writing.

I find a hybrid form is most useful. I write screenplays, and plays, poetry and prose, fiction and nonfiction and even time-wasting posts on platforms like Twitter or Facebook. These are all different formats and jog the mind when jumping from one to another.

One might argue that I have writer's block on say a short story and then work on a screenplay, I'm getting blocked on one and simply moved to another.

One could argue it's a matter of semantics.
Find creative workarounds, think out of the block
I just don't see it that way at all, though. It has to do with processing, exercising one's skill sets. IF I go out on an obstacle course and physically run it, at some point I will hit a wall and need to rest, or sleep, or eat and then I can continue. For some that may be minutes. For others, hours. If you're a Navy SEAL, an Olympic athlete, or someone like that, it may be days even before you find you need to recharge.

Regardless, we all process and exercise at different rates and speeds and endurance levels. One needs to learn those limits... as young as possible in one's life...and how one works most efficiently, effectively and functionally. One needs to build those endurance levels up. And know how one works best in the creative field or perhaps in any field, in the most creative and functional ways.


So do I buy into the concept of a writer's block? No. I hope you can see now why.

Whether or not you buy into it is up to you. I just don't like feeling like I'm being victimized, or being a victim, of something I may very well have full, or mostly full control over. It never hurts to have tricks to find your way to productivity, no matter what the issue. And you just have to ask yourself what you buy into and how much you will allow it to affect you in a negative way. And how to turn that negativity into productivity. So...

Writer's block?

Monday, September 23, 2019

Our State of the State: Faith, Hope and Charity

There are those even in our own government now, who wish us to be ignorant, misled and misinformed for their own benefit. We need to stop and create an environment that is toxic to those types and to those types of behavior,

I read a great book that expanded my mind when it came out. "A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous Fourteenth Century" in 1978, by the brilliant and persevering, Barbara W. Tuchman. A seminal book on how to write a history book and not just copy from previous history books. She also wrote before that, "The Guns of August" in 1962. Not the main consideration of that book was, in fighting one war, both sides believing absolutely that the knew what the other side was willing to do and capable of. But it was only after the fact, when it was all over, they all realized that they were basing their analysis on a previous world war.

We are in that place today. And most of us do not know it.

We have people attacking other people with new technologies while fully incapable of understanding how it all works, just knowing it will work. Not understanding the social dynamics, the meta and cyber dynamics, the historical dynamics. The other side (US basically), then needs then to try to understand it all, why they did it, what they did, how they did it and what the foundation was for it to be functional, as well as all of what it entailed, and why.

The problem there is just that. They didn't much need to understand it all in order to attack. But we, or whomever the attacked party is, who they may be, or will be... has to. They have to understand it all in order to properly counter it in the correct way. Other than through war, or ignorant other responses. And that is how our leaders are addressing all this. Through ignorance. Both in attack and in response.

We live in interesting times. Too interesting. Far, too interesting.

Hope

Russia attacked America through cyber activities in our 2016 election and before, and after. They are gearing up to alter our 2020 election. We need to more fully understand their actions and our assimilations and therefore our misdirected activities. Russia acted on something they thought would work, and it worked far better than they ever expected or projected. They do not understand fully well what happened either, but we have to. Far more then they do. Because to affect something is easier and requires less information and understanding than actually understanding that affect in practice in order to protect oneself. It is far easier to appear greater than, in destruction, than it does to appear great than in construction.

Faith

Repeating a lie will not fundamentally alter the truth, or change the reality that the lie was and remains, a lie. But it can and will alter people's beliefs, even when it goes against their beliefs. This can be countered by deepening one's ability at thinking, centering oneself in reality and facts, and being aware of one's world and environment, as well as utilizing compassion.

Charity

Regardless what our beliefs are, if we adhere to fundamentals in dealing with other human beings, and lifeforms, and our environment, all with due care and respect, even toward our enemies, much of our disrepair and responsibility in our mistakes when later realized, will be greatly softened by the fact that we were acting all along as decent beings, regardless our mistaken beliefs. Also, we may find along the way in acting on mistaken beliefs in such a way, that those beliefs are indeed mistaken. W|e will at least have the potential to find in the moment, that we are headed in an incorrect direction. We will increase our potential for becoming correct amidst our incorrect actions.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Gorst Underground Film Festival 2019

Last weekend, one week ago was the 2nd annual Gorst Underground Film Festival (what I like to call, GUFFest). It was held where it was last year at metal artist Ray Hammar's place, just down and across the street from the WigWam bar and BBQ joint.
Left to right, friend, Ray Hammar, Poppy, Electric Monkey

Wigwam
It was founded and is directed by friend and fellow filmmaker Kelly Wayne Hughes. Kelly's also been on a couple of podcasts about it this past week.
One podcast was from WILDSound, I've entered their contests a few times years ago with several of my screenplays, "Gray and Lover The Hearth Tales Incident" (semi-finalist horror/comedy in the Circus Road Films screenplay contest), and The Teenage Bodyguard (currently under development), and even their First Chapter contest, (The Conqueror Worm) from my book Death of heaven which they liked a lot.

Kelly was also on the Eek Speak podcast this past week. Both were lots of fun and Kelly did really well as he usually does.

This year we had filmmakers, artists, authors, the general public and of course a variety of very well done films and animations. We even had a very famous and local animator/cartoonist, Pat Moriarity. the nicest, coolest and most enjoyable people have been coming and I hope they continue to come as we grew each year.

I'd like to mention one thing, and we've not run into any real issues yet, but I'm sure it's coming and these are just things both festivals and filmmakers should be aware of. From London's Raindance Film Festival: "16 Things Film Festivals Hate About Filmmakers".

Last year's first annual festival was a lot of fun. It was, however, a bit nippy, so for this year we backed it up a bit and held it the first full weekend in September and that worked out great! Overall, this year's festival went even better. Everyone had a great time. You can see some of this on our new YouTube Channel.

Last year we had some very interesting people show up from as far as New York City with Ethan Minsker (creator of the Antagonist Art Movement) and his great little documentary, "Man in Camo". Ethan is one of those forces of nature it's always nice to run into.

You can pick Ethan out in a crowd in his camo business suit. I was a little bit leary of him at first but once I got to hang out with him, learn his history and orientation, you just gotta love the guy. And his documentaries and his books.
GUFFest 2019 program
This year we had some pretty interesting filmmakers show up, mostly out of towners from New York and California but some very interesting, entertaining and even disturbing entries of films and animations. Drag MC Poppy ran the show, with music by Electric Monkey while running the projector was Seattle's Count Spankula (AKA, Spankula the Count, DJ Spanky), along with "Electric Monkey" (AKA, Chainsaw), both once of the band, Dead Vampires.
MC Poppy and Electric Monkey
on a popular Ray Hammar art vehicle
You can see some of my still shots on my Instagram account, just click on the left arrow to go forward in time to see more. The local newspaper, Kitsap Sun, had a reporter write an article in their paper the week before and she showed up for the event.

I'm in the center of the center photo in their digital piece along with author William H. Nelson, and moderator, Stan Wankowski who is also an actor in both my current production, "Gumdrop, a short horror" as well as several Kelly Hughes films and his latest music video, "We're Nothing" by the Italian band, Postvorta.
Kitsap Sun article on the festival
Stavros Stavropoulus and Bryan Paris (up from LA and Joshua Tree, respectively), filmmakers of "The Buttcheek Boys" animation which got a lot of laughs during the viewing, said it succinctly, in that when they arrived: "As we walked in and saw all the stuff outside we were like, 'yes, we belong.'"
The Buttcheek Boys, animation
It was a long day. I got there before it started and left at the end lugging all my camera equipment to the WigWam where we had festival parking. I had shot interviews with the filmmakers and some of the panels going on, all on our YouTube channel.


In fact, I'm still editing and putting up new footage this weekend. Once I'm done, I'll begin editing on my own film project that I'm wrapping up principal photography on. We've been shooting all summer working around people's schedules and finally, we are almost done.

Just a few more scenes with just the main character. I had hoped to submit to this film festival but I'll have to wait until next year. Last year I helped judge the films and this year I judged the screenplays and was the official videographer for the event.

This year we again had... a mermaid.

"Mermaid" Aura Stiers
We did our best to get the filmmakers who showed up from as far as California and New York, on-camera (again, see our YouTube channel). These include, the aforementioned animators of "The Buttcheek Boys", Amber McNeill the writer and producer of "Death & Tacos", animator/cartoonist and co-director Pat Moriarity who had the world premiere of "The Realm Beyond Reason" at our festival(!), Betsy Winslow an actress in "What Happened to Sarah Silver, and Scott J. Ramsey director of the music video "Knave" which is music from the movie, "X".

Night's end, Kelly Hughes, Filmmaker Scott J. Ramsey with friend, and MC Poppy on right
Also, local Seattle filmmaker, Ty Minton-Small for The Big Swing with its lead and local actor Greg Gilmore, who incidentally was in a notorious Kelly Hughes film years ago, La Cage Aux Zombies.

I also filmed the interview that the local Kitsap Sun newspaper shot with festival founder/director, Kelly Hughes and then I turned my camera on journalist Jessica Darland, and then Kelly asked her a few questions, too!

Yesterday we had a small gathering of those who put on this year's GUFFest 2019 at the WigWam in Gorst, just to hang out, have a few beers and go over what happened at the event. And consider how we can make next year's festival just as better than it was from last year's event.

JZ, Pat Moriarity, Buddy and Kelly Wayne Hughes at Wigwam 9/15/2019
We had some interesting banter and may have settled on a new venue in part, for next years' GUFFest 2020. Pat had some interesting and exciting news about today (we both have something to look forward to, actually) but I can't tell you. Maybe later once we know for sure what's going on. Pat's had an interesting career. Check out his website, you'll see things like cartoonist R. Crumb, MAD Magzine, and other interesting things.

So, if you didn't make it last year, and you didn't make it this year, do consider making it NEXT year. Because, who knows what might happen. And that is a big part of what is going on. Be a part of something that is growing and already is a thing in many attendee's minds.

Not to mention...those fish.

What the hell does that mean? Well, you weren't there, were you, and so... you don't know.

So, don't miss out next year!

Monday, September 9, 2019

Best You Can Be

My entire life since I was a child has been dedicated to intellectualism, which I came to realize at some point, had become a dirty word for some reason with some people.

Perhaps because too many people associated with it were complete asses about it. Think Donald Trump, only truly smart and a jerk about it and condescending. Yeah, I could see people hating the educated then. Also associating them with abusive power and money. But in my view, the "educated" aren't intellectuals by nature. Some are some aren't. It's like beliving an ivy league education means you're smart, or a good person. I've met some very stupid "well educated", even ivy league types.

Yet all it is truly is the about same as those who work out at the gym to stay physically in shape, who body build, who find beauty in the human form. And yes, many of them are shallow asses too.

I was working out not just my body, but my brain, my mind. That doesn't mean I knew everything, or that I was the fastest at thinking or whatever. It meant that for me, I tried to make my mind and brain as functional as I could make it in the face of reality and facing reality, and working out issues to their most correct end. We're not seeing a lot of that today because the other side is to do anything to "win" or achieve your goal. Which is corrupt.

I worked hard to have an open my mind, to make it more than it was. To always strive to learn new things, to stretch my comprehension of reality, and the universe. To be pliable in situations that were hard to fathom and out of my experience. Where I might lock up in a situation normally, and through previous effort, wouldn't.

And yet, I've still been in situations where I certainly did lock up. Because I'm human. 

This was never about others or a comparison to others. It never had anything to do with looking down upon others or raising myself above anyone. Or in my being better than anyone or in comparing myself to others.

My Sensei in Karate as a kid told us to compare ourselves against ourselves, not one another. Because we are all different and we may never be as good as some other. And we don't need to be judging ourselves against each other. But against our own best efforts. And not to be judging others. Where one excels in one thing, they may fail in another where you excel. How is that or should that be a judgment call against them, or you, then? 

What I discovered over time, however, was that others took that concept of intellectualism and applied to it what our Sensei told us not to do...to compare others to us. Or that others thought we, or I, was doing exactly that...looking down on them. When all it meant to me really, was that I was trying to be the best I could be, for my benefit and that of any others who could make use of me.

Having grown up from birth with ADHD and having trouble thinking as other did, all I could do was try to fit in, or try to excel to the point that I could appear normal and in that effort, I found I could excel in some, even many things. All the while feeling substandard even in the face of others seeing me as having excelled over others in a group.

That is part of ADHD for many because of always being, or having to be restrained, or shut down, held back. Not going far enough when expected, or going too far and having issues in deciding when what should be. I'm unsure if that is more frustrating for the child or the parents. Having raised such a child now myself, I can see it from both sides and I think it's harder on the child.

But many parents, as in my ex-wife. saw it as being an undue burden on the parent, or at least on her. The damage to a fully grown, mature adult, cannot be as difficult as a maturing mind striving and struggling to become...whatever it is they are supposed to become when frequently they need to "become" who THEY will be and not what is expected of them to be. A form to fill, when perhaps they cannot fill it.

Facts, knowledge, information, all verified, vetted, and peer-reviewed, scientifically proven, all collected as a professional activity, a hobby, and a passion with no intent on using that as a weapon, other than against ignorance and all that is wrong, is to me, intellectualism. Also as in sharpening a knife, sharpening one's mind. That is all it is. And I cannot fathom others who take that as an affront tot heir lack of those efforts in themselves, or in their lack of education, or logical abilities and capabilities. Another's inabilities should not be my responsibility or my fault.

I really and truly don't have a damned clue what has been going on in the world today or how those who are so very anti to all that I found admirable and laudable, came to be in power.

The only thing that seems to explain it falls under the realm of greed and criminal activity. Breaking rules to advance themselves. Skipping steps, push-button mentalities, not doing things right when you see wrong ways to achieve your goals with no consideration for either the future or any others. Or the damage it does to yourself, others, or society at large. Those behaviors set us up for failures in the future as processes and systems have been put in motion incorrectly. By all of us being as informed and correct, and adept at logical and creative solutions, sets us and others, and future generations up to succeed.

It's not all about me, now, at any or all costs. Life is bigger than us. Yet we seem to be creating s society where that has no bearing on reality or ourselves. As long as we win, succeed, or achieve wealth no matter the costs to our environment, our country, fellow citizens or other ways of thinking...within reasonable and humane considerations.

And we have now allowed a GOP and this President in Donald Trump to be in power wishing only to support ignorance and disinformation in order to attain and maintain their power. And at any and all costs...mostly to us. To America. To humanity. And to our Humanity.

They have taken the ball from the old Soviet's KGB and are now running with it.

But to what goal? To what end?

And so much of all this came from that initial hatred or intellectualism. As the Chinese did during their Great Leap Forward where they set their country back by fifty years in slaughtering and imprisoning their intellectuals, their doctors, their professors, their engineers and anyone educated or adept enough to see reality as it is, and not as Mao presented it.

It is apparently an infection humankind may always be susceptible to and one we have got to protect ourselves again, now and always.

And all you have to do is, be the best you can be. Not the most powerful, not the wealthiest, but the best person you can be. Support others doing that. Stop being negative. Try to be positive but in the most positive and production ways for yourself... and for all others.

That is not socialism or communism.

It's just humanity.