Have You Watched A Short Film Today?

June 25, 2012 at 10:25 am

Have You Watched A Short Film Today? | Independent Film Blog

Short filmmakers everywhere pour their heart and soul into their films.  They are up in the middle of the night tweaking the script.  They fill their weekends with meetings and location scouts.  They stress over vital casting decisions and equipment needs.  They lose sleeping worrying about the budget.  They wonder if it will all work out and then they work even harder regardless.

These creative and talented people spend hours choosing fonts for the poster.  They scrutinize every single cut.  These people are passionate, dedicated and proud of their labor of love.

Have you watched a short film today?

WATCH TONS OF SHORT FILMS RIGHT NOW ON THE POST

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m guilty of not watching as many short films as I should.  Yet as a filmmaker myself, I know how crucial it is to get your work out there for people to see.  It’s vital for feedback on your progress as an artist.  But more importantly, it’s the reason we make movies to begin with.  It’s a never ending need to tell a story and reach an audience.  It’s about finding your unique voice.  No matter which position you hold on a film set, it’s about your hard work paying off.

WHERE DO YOU WATCH SHORT FILMS?

It’s an amazing time to be an independent filmmaker.  Posting your work online has never been easier with sites like YouTube and especially Vimeo leading the way.  But there are thousands of websites out there that feature short films.

Have some spare time?  Explore these sites and watch a couple amazing shorts while you’re at it.  More importantly, dig deeper and discover the incredible people behind the films.

Film School Rejects

I Love Short Films

Shorts Bay

Shorts of the Week

Funny or Die

Shortfilms.com

The Smalls

Short Film Central

HeyUGuys

Atom Short Films

NSI Canada

Movieola

BravoFACT

There are plenty more out there (feel free to mention them) but these should keep you busy along with Youtube & Vimeo.

Have You Watched A Short Film Today? | Independent Film Blog

When I started interviewing people for this blog I called the feature Filmmakers/Fans for a reason.  I’ve written and directed films and I know how much effort and time goes into them.  But I’m also a fan.  At it’s core, this blog is about movies, screenwriting & independent film but it’s also about what inspires creative people.

XTRA | Using Twitter & Flipboard to discover even MORE short films.

Click here to check out tons of interviews with screenwriters, filmmakers, editors and more…

Do you have a short film you’d like to see featured on The Athletic Nerd?  I may not be able to interview everyone but there are many ways you can promote your work here.  Check out THE POST for more!

But seriously…

WATCH A SHORT…  NOW!

The Athletic Nerd Screenwriting Blog | Top 100 Screenwriting Websites

Screenwriting vs Anxiety: My Last Line Of Defense

June 20, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Screenwriting: My Last Line Of Defense | Screenwriting Blog

I’M AN ANXIOUS PERSON

Before I go further, I’d like to make one thing clear. I have seen the effects of anxiety attacks and depression first hand and it’s no joking matter. My anxiety is mild in comparison. But of course it still concerns me.  That feeling of concern is essentially the root of my problem.

I wake up most mornings feeling guilty and anxious for no reason at all. I’ve even had issues with my jaw because I’m so tense when I sleep some nights.  There are times when I become extremely frustrated because I really don’t have much to complain about. I’m actually a very happy person. I appreciate the things I have, the relationships I hold dear and I look forward to what the future has in store.  So why do I feel like I’ve done something wrong or that people are angry with me every day?  Why am I so anxious?

I wish I knew. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone back to make sure my door is locked or double checked the oven burners. (Even on days I don’t cook) I quadruple check daily so I don’t end up at work lost in my imagination wondering if someone broke in to my home and stolen my dog.  I like to think that these are useful character traits because I know deep down that I’ll never leave my door unlocked or an iron plugged in. (And that my dog is safe.)

XTRA | A Screenwriter In A Car Accident

A few years ago, I finally got sick and tired of feeling that way and I told my family.  I had hidden it away for years.  Nobody knew that every time I answered the phone, I was expecting horrible news.  Or that I sometimes wrote myself long emails just to ‘talk’ to someone.  I never hit send.

I’m blessed to have such an amazing family but, to tell you the truth, hiding it from them gave me some of the tools I needed to beat my anxiety.  I’m usually able to talk myself down and in doing so, I’ve become a man who rarely gets angry.  I’m known to get frustrated from time to time but I normally make jokes to mask it.  Mild anxiety attacks like mine could easily lead to outbursts but I’ve never allowed it to escalate to that level.  This skill is the only reason people never knew that I was really an anxious person.

Recently, I’ve dealt with a terrible crisis in my life.  A situation that lead to a lot of anger and statements I’ll never forgive.  I’ve never felt true anger before and I was ashamed of myself for letting it happen. At that point, I decided to talk to a pro.  I saw a counselor for a brief period of time to talk about my anxiety.  There was no way I was going to allow myself to become an angry person.  For years, I’d kept my stress levels down because the causes were always tiny and manageable.  Now I actually had something real causing massive amounts of stress in my life and I didn’t know how to handle it.  All I wanted to do was scream at the people responsible.

Thankfully, I didn’t.  Between of my future wife and close family, I had enough support to back off and allow myself to calm down.  Yet, there was something else I hadn’t yet realized…

I HAD SCREENWRITING

I was in college for two years.  I basically spent my entire first year drunk at bars and social functions.  I guess you could say I had a normal college life.  It was a blast.  Every night there was another party to attend that resulted in hundreds of hilarious memories I’ll cherish forever.  However, something changed in my second year.

I realized I was terrified of graduating. I had spent my entire life telling people I wanted to work in film and television and now I actually had to do it.  I was months away from the rest of my life.  That realization was a big wake up call for me and I took action.  I worked my ass off.  I took on every single project I could.  In addition to my regular school work, I was writing on a regular basis and we started producing short films on the side.  This was the birth of 17 West Productions.

Aside from that, I started taking extra assignments in school.  The college even sent me out of town a few times to work on various projects.  For our ‘big’ show, we produced a 30 minute look at the CFL in Canada but we didn’t stop there.  We called in a few favors, drove to Toronto and made a 5 minute behind the scenes documentary of an actual CFL broadcast.  It took two weeks to produce 5 minutes of our half hour show.  That’s the kind of dedication we had but I wasn’t done there.

I started to teach myself web design and Photoshop.  I devoured every new piece of software I could get my hands on.  I couldn’t stop.  What people didn’t realize at the time is that I was keeping myself awake so I could work more.  I rarely slept more than 4 or 5 hours.  I even got into caffeine pills for a short time.

I skipped parties to practice editing.  I stayed home from the bars to write screenplays.  I volunteered every chance I got to gain more experience.  A workaholic was born.

I HAD A CAREER

This effort led me to my current career in television.  I started my month long work placement the day after school ended with 100 hours standing between me and my diploma.  I finished those 100 hundred hours in 12 days.  I never left that studio.  I was training for two separate departments simultaneously.  I’d get to work around 8am and follow one person and at 4pm I’d switch jobs and follow another.  During down time, I sat in an edit suite and practiced.

Needless to say, I got hired and for the next 2 or 3 years I wrote as much as I could in between shifts.  I was addicted to screenwriting by that point and loved to work.

“Find a job you love, never work a day in your life.”

That became my motto.

What I didn’t realize until recently is I was also coping with anxiety.

My counselor was the first person to point it out.  I had told her in my first session that my anxiety started in college.  In my second session I mentioned how much I loved to work and all the projects I tend to put on my plate.  She made the connection.

Subconsciously, I became a workaholic to keep my mind occupied.  I didn’t realize that taking on all that work was really my way of turning off the anxiety.  It was one of those ‘huh’ moments.  Suddenly, it all made sense.  No wonder I worked so much!  I didn’t want to face the potential sadness that accompanied a bored wandering mind.

ANXIETY CHANGED MY LIFE

Looking back, it’s difficult to think about where my life would be if I wasn’t anxious.  I worked my ass off and it led to my dream career, an independent film company and a strong passion for screenwriting.  Over the years, there have been stretches of time when I didn’t write a word.  Close friends will tell you that I wasn’t very nice and I was easily frustrated by the smallest things.  I was on edge and cranky.

If I didn’t write.  I wasn’t happy.  At first I thought I felt guilty for not writing but that wasn’t the case.  I felt guilty because when I don’t write, the anxiety takes over and THEN the guilt sets in.

KNOW THYSELF. (It applies to more than just Neo.)

In the last few years, my constant need to work has calmed down.  Mainly because I live with my wonderful girlfriend wife now and she calms me down without trying.  I don’t think she’ll ever know how important she is to me even though I tell her everyday. (Also because she would kick my ass if I spent my time at home in front of a computer instead of spending time with her.)

Time has healed the anger I felt.  I still have rough anxiety infested mornings but most of the time I wake up with an overwhelming sense of calm.  I’ve made peace with the situation that 2011 ushered into my life.  The truth is, the people responsible have to wake up every single day full of anger and I feel sorry for them.  I’ve moved on.  It’s because of the support system I have and the relationships I will never take for granted.

But more than ever I know that I’ll write screenplays until the day I die regardless of any success that may or may not be in my future.  I know that feeling anxious is a part of who I am.  But it’s also played a part in shaping who I have become.

Regardless, no matter what happens, I’ll always have a blank page waiting for me.  I’ll always have screenwriting.

Your Short Film Can Reach Millions of People Too!

June 20, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Your Short Film Can Reach Millions of People Too! | Sharon Wright Interview | Change For A Dollar Short Film

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH SHARON WRIGHT
WRITER/DIRECTOR OF CHANGE FOR A DOLLAR

Short films need an audience.  It’s a pretty obvious statement to make but it means a lot if your project fails to attract attention at first.  Most independent filmmakers set their sights on the major festivals of the world.  You work hard, save room in your budget and send your film everywhere along with high hopes it will be accepted.  This can get expensive so others focus on smaller festivals to get their work in front of an audience.  Sometimes, this works out and your film shows up on a theater screen.  But it can be tough when the acceptance letters don’t arrive as planned.

Regardless, a filmmaker must also decide what to do with their film once the festival circuit is over.  Whether your film is accepted or not there are still countless opportunities out there for your hard work to be seen.  Today is a golden age for short films with sites like YouTube & Vimeo paving the way.  Combined with the skillful use of social media platforms, you can generate a massive audience.

Writer/Director Sharon Wright’s film Change For A Dollar is an incredible example of what can happen once you put your film online.  Since uploading the short a few months back, the film has generated more than 1.5 million views (and rising) and a mention from a world famous movie critic.  Not to mention thousands of comments and feedback.

I had the opportunity to find out more about what inspired the film and what it was like to find an audience that eludes so many.  Read on for proof that anything is possible if your believe in your film.

What inspired Change For A Dollar?

It’s funny really, I never really thought about writing or directing.  I was on the board of the Independent Filmmakers Coalition of Kansas City and would look for different opportunities once in a while for our filmmakers and ran across this one minute film competition sponsored by Pepsi.  One of the categories was “How far can you go with a dollar”.  I found it kind of intriguing.  I mean, what could you do with a penny?  A nickle? A quarter?  What little thing could you do with them that could have an impact on something else…

I started to kick it around and as I was on a very long drive one night across the state it hit me.  I started to put it all together and was driving as fast as I could so I could check into my hotel and write it all down.  I knew the title and most of the scenes but at the time, I didn’t realize just how significant all these actions were.

Writing a story meant to inspire others is a difficult task and you’ve succeeded.  What challenges did you face when crafting the screenplay?

Thank you!  I didn’t start off writing it thinking I was going to inspire others really.  I was just so focused on getting from point A to B, lol.  I knew I wanted the sign to have a question mark, to make people think a little but it wasn’t till the end when the boy returns the penny that it came full circle and then I knew it was something special.

What was life like on set?  What challenges did you encounter while filming Change For A Dollar?

Being my first time directing, I was REALLY nervous, I seriously don’t think I slept for about two days leading up to it.  We started at about 5:30am at the grocery store and thankfully we were well prepared and had a fantastic team of pros that had worked together before so we started out like a fairly well oiled machine.  Everyone worked really well together.  Late that night though our toughest shot was coming up and laying the incredibly long dolly tracks was a challenge.  It had been raining and so everything was just sinking in mud.  We have this very long complicated shot, it’s late, we were cold and tired and we are all in the mud, lol.  But we managed to get through it and every single person there was a trooper!

Can you talk about your strategy when the film first entered the festival circuit?

Because it is a positive film, I knew our best bet going into it would be to find theme based fests, christian festivals, The Feel Good Film Festival, etc.  Course I didn’t just submit to those, I wanted other festivals to recognize us as well.

The film did very well at smaller festivals but wasn’t accepted into the larger festivals.  As most short filmmakers aspire to gain acceptance into the major festivals, what was it like to miss out on that experience?

It was a little disappointing, not gonna lie about that.  Festivals are so expensive to submit to and you always hope that someone will see it and fall in love with it.  But it didn’t happen.  I spoke with a director of a large fest, that I won’t name, and he remembered seeing my film and said that the reason it didn’t get in was that it dragged a bit and I should consider editing it.  Well, it’s 10 minutes (a good fit timewise already) but there was no way I was going to change the film.  Right, wrong or indifferent, it was the way I wanted it to be and honestly, there was no way to cut it without taking away the story.  It just didn’t resonate with many of the festival people for whatever reason.  We had some luck with some other great fests like Action On Film, Kansas City Film Festival, Gig Harbor, Barebones, and many others.

Today, the end of a festival circuit doesn’t mean the end of a project.  With so many avenues out there for indie filmmakers to promote their work, talk about your approach to promoting Change For A Dollar online?

Wow – it really was kind of an accident.  I thought that I had the film here and wasn’t doing anything else with it really so why not put it online.  I thought maybe I’d get 3 or 4 hundred views (more than most who saw it at festivals btw, lol)  It went crazy!  I really think I lucked out on the timing with the holidays and people just ran with it!

With one of our other projects FOR WORSE, a web-series I did with Gary C Warren, we wanted to test out going direct to the public.  We created the concept and shot it ourselves for the most part and threw it on YouTube.  We posted links to it to any site that liked funny or relationship content.  We got some good views and started to develop a good audience but wrapped the season up after 8 episodes with a cliff hanger and haven’t really had time to go any further with it.

I would say that you really need to consider who your audience is and do your research on what sites/blogs/etc. are available online to market it.  You don’t want to upload it everywhere, you want to link it to as many sites as possible so that you aren’t diluting your views.  With CFaD I have it embedded with 2 other major sites but all the views go through Youtube so I have a larger base and can see all the analytics.  Because it is copyrighted, I do not allow anybody else to upload it to their pages, if it can’t be linked, it doesn’t get posted.  Or if it does, I get it removed.

I maintain all control as much as possible and with the info I collect, I can speak directly to the people that are watching it, build a relationship with them and ultimately build my database to use for promoting my next film or for fundraising.  It is invaluable information I am collecting!

Change For A Dollar found a massive audience online with over 1.5 million views on YouTube and rising.  What was it like to watch the number of views skyrocket?

AMAZING!  That’s really the only word for it!  I would check the numbers all day long and just be so shocked!  I kept saying maybe we’d hit 20,000 by Christmas, then it was maybe we will reach 500,000 but I was certain we would never reach a million, lol.  Boy, was I ever wrong!  I never dreamed it!

The feedback on the film has been tremendous with thousands of comments online.  What is it like to know your film has inspired people around the world?

There is nothing more satisfying as an artist than to know that something you created has inspired or moved someone.  I get comments and emails every day about how they were inspired to empty their change jars and go by food for the homeless or to give to the Salvation Army for the first time.  There is a paper in Canada doing a story about how a hockey coach used the film to inspire his team to do charity work for the holidays….the list goes on and on.  Honestly, I don’t think I can ever do anything in this world that will mean more to me than what this film has accomplished.  To be able to say that I helped change someones life, in some small way, is the greatest accomplishment ever.  This film will be my legacy, lol….and I’m okay with that!

The film was recently mentioned by Roger Ebert.   What was it like knowing he saw and praised your work?

This is a Quote from the Ebert Club Newsletter of 12-14-11:

My friend Bill Nack, the great sportswriter, emailed me this video with only four words: “This one touched me.” It touched me, too.  Sharon Wright.  Remember that name.”

OMG!  It was one of the highlights of my life!  Someone sent me a message and it listed the quote and I thought it had to be a joke, or it was a different Ebert, lol.  I wasn’t going to believe it till I saw it with my own eyes.  But there is was!  I mean it doesn’t get much better than the movie man himself posting a link to your movie and saying things like that.  Any filmmaker in the world would give their right arm for that.  I was just shocked, and honored!

This was your first film.  What lessons did you take away from your experience with Change For A Dollar?

I learned that I don’t need to be a control freak, I can let others do things, I also learned that you never have enough money and that it is a brilliant test to friendships, lol.  But really I learned that even if a film doesn’t get attention on the festival circuit – there is still an audience, and sometimes, it is a LOT bigger than you realize!

What advice would you give aspiring filmmakers out there?

Four simple things:  Don’t quit, be smart enough to know that you don’t know everything, surround yourself with people who know more than you, and never sacrifice your vision!

What’s next for Change For A Dollar?

We are submitting it for a region Emmy this spring and have a few distributors and charities looking at it, but I really don’t know, nothing would surprise me with it any more!

What’s next for you?

I’m in pre-production for my next film and I’m feeling the pressure now as I know everyone is watching and waiting to see what follows CFaD.  It’s a scary place to be, I gotta admit!  I’m doing another feel good film.  This one is about a dog looking for a home and a little girl looking for a best friend and their journey to each other.  It’s a really beautiful story and I can’t wait to shoot it.  We will be filming in Kansas City and some in LA.  Of course they always say “Don’t work with kids or animals” – yup, I’m doing both!

Special thanks to Sharon Wright for the interview. 

Be sure to check out her website and stop by her YouTube channel too.

Top 10 Game Of Thrones Moments: Season Two

June 10, 2012 at 3:20 pm

Top 10 Game Of Thrones Moments: Season Two | Game of Thrones Season 2 Review

Now that the second season of Game of Thrones has ended, it’s time to look back at some of the best moments the show had to offer.

Below you’ll find recaps of all 10 episodes plus the moment that rose above them all.  You’ll also find the Game of Thrones: Season 2 awards!

Bring on season three!

MOMENT #10

Episode 3:WHAT IS DEAD MAY NEVER DIE

Moment: Yoren

Click here to read more.

MOMENT #9

EPISODE 1: THE NORTH REMEMBERS

Moment: Tyrion arrives at King’s Landing…  And pisses off everyone.

Click here to read more.

MOMENT #8

EPISODE 2: THE NIGHT LANDS

Moment: “I’m not questioning your honor…  I’m denying it’s existence.”

Click here to read more.

MOMENT #7

Episode 7: A MAN WITHOUT HONOR

Moment: Xaro’s Rise

Click here to read more.

MOMENT #6

Episode 5: THE GHOST OF HARRENHAL

Moment: Smoke Monster Attacks

Click here to read more.

MOMENT #5

Episode 8: THE PRINCE OF WINTERFELL

Moment: “Unname Me”

Click here to read more.

Game Of Thrones Moment: The Prince of Winterfell | Season 2 Episode 8 Review

MOMENT #4

Episode 6: THE OLD GODS AND THE NEW

Moment: Tyrion Smacks The King

Click here to read more.

Game of Thrones Moment: The North Remembers | Season 2 Episode 1 Review

MOMENT #3

Episode 4: GARDEN OF BONES

Moment: Birth of the Smoke Monster Baby

Click here to read more.

Game of Thrones Moment: Garden Of Bones | Season 2 Episode 4 Review

MOMENT #2

Episode 10: VALAR MORGHULIS

Moment: Zombies In The North

Click here to read more.

Game Of Thrones Moment: Valar Morghulis

MOMENT #1

Episode 9: BLACKWATER

Moment: The Half Man Leads

Click here to read more.

Game Of Thrones Moment: Blackwater | Season 2 Episode 9 Review

GAME OF THRONES SEASON 2 AWARDS

Worst Character: Cersei (She bugs me)

Worst Storyline: Jon Snow In The North (Until Ep. 10)

Worst Episode: The Prince of Winterfell

Best Character: Tyrion Lannister

Coolest Character: Jaqen H’Ghar

Best Quote: “Those are brave men knocking at our door…  Let’s go kill them!” Tyrion

Best Action Moment: The Wild Fire Explosion

Best Twist: Tywin arrives in King’s Landing

Best Unexpected Moment: Smoke Monster Baby

Funniest Moment: Tyrion Smacks Joffrey

Best Storyline: Arya & Tywin

Best Episode: Blackwater

Thanks for checking out the best moments of Game of Thrones Moments Season 2.  I’ll be blasting through the novels until the next season arrives and I can’t wait to devour more of George R. R. Martin’s world.

The Big Questions Of Prometheus

June 9, 2012 at 1:41 pm

The Big Questions Of Prometheus | Prometheus 2012 Review

WE’VE ALL WONDERED BEFORE…
THAT’S WHY IT’S FUN TO WATCH ON THE BIG SCREEN.

Prometheus was one of my most anticipated movies of the summer.  Situated right after The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers and just before The Amazing Spider-Man.  We always wanted to know the story behind the Space Jockey but I don’t think anyone was expecting the filmmakers to ask even BIGGER questions in the process.  Prometheus was AWESOME.

Ridley Scott’s newest film is all about our creation.  Who made us?  I can’t get enough movies about aliens and the possibilities that exist beyond our solar system.  Those movies always left me asking myself the big questions and, to me, that’s a successful movie.

Prometheus begins with a gorgeous sequence presumably on Earth in which we meet an ‘Engineer’.  It’s an amazing sequence that’s equal parts mysterious and fascinating.  From there we are taken on a journey to find these ‘Engineers’ and EVERY SINGLE SCENE adds to that fascination.  The very idea behind the Engineers right down to their design was spectacular.  It was so interesting to learn about them.  I couldn’t get enough.

The Big Questions Of Prometheus | Prometheus 2012 Review

I honestly had a moment where I thought the characters didn’t stop enough to reflect on what they were experiencing.  It was almost a little too presumptuous to land on a foreign planet and expect them to have dinner ready.  But then again… ‘They were so wrong’.

I was on board, so to speak, with the entire story.  Every new location they explored answered questions and posed new ones.  Each one more interesting than the next.  Going in, I was expecting a lot of the big questions to remain unanswered with Damon Lindelof’s name attached.  But it was a perfect pace of action vs philosophy.  Plus, you have to leave certain answers out there for the audience to discuss when you are dealing with such ambitious themes and ideas.

The Big Questions Of Prometheus | Prometheus 2012 Review

I think some people might be a little frustrated by the lack of answers to the ‘big’ questions but I appreciated the open ended finale.  There are still so many things we don’t understand about ourselves.  Having said that, we definitely understand a whole lot more about the Space Jockey and the origins of the horrific Xenomorphs.  (Which is awesome by the way)

However, I did have a couple minor complaints.  There were a few moments that were really vague.  For example, Charlize Theron’s character was hard to figure out.  What did she expect to accomplish on the mission?  She seemed to be pretty capable with a flame thrower.  Overall, she came across as remorseless and cold but why?  Certain aspects of her character are answered but the ‘twist’ in the end flipped my theories upside down.  Perhaps another viewing is in order but it’s never good to feel like you missed something.

The Big Questions Of Prometheus | Prometheus 2012 Review

There were also a few scenes that didn’t seem to fit in the overall story.  It felt like Idris Elba didn’t have much to do so they tossed in some flirtation with Charlize’s character.

“Are you a robot?”

At one point, a character returns as a zombie of sorts and causes chaos for the crew without much explanation.  He just arrives, causes a few explosions and then it’s never mentioned again.

But these are minor complaints to say the least.  The big attraction here are the horrific moments caused by the crew’s understandable curiosity.  There are also plenty of disgusting (and awesome) moments that reminded me how much I love this genre and why Ridley is a legend.

It’s a gorgeous movie full of stunning images.  There’s a phenomenal wide shot early on where a ship appears as a mere spec of light traveling across the vastness of space.  The scope and sheer size of this movie is impressive to say the least and so much fun to watch.

Who knows if we will ever be able to answer the big questions…  Upon further reflection, I’ve decided I like the movie better for leaving certain answers out.  It’s about ASKING the questions in the first place.

One of my favorite scenes involved characters discussing whether or not there is a God at all now that they’ve found their makers.

“They made us.”

“Who made them?”

Another fantastic moment involved a robot questioning why he was created and what motivates us to create.  It’s absolutely fascinating stuff and when you factor in the sense of adventure and danger, you have a perfect summer movie that I can’t wait to see again.

For more reviews click here.

The Big Questions Of Prometheus | Prometheus 2012 Review