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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

a little update here and quick upload there

I need to slow down. I set myself targets that I struggle to keep. As I am now in my happy place, I feel that I am drowning in my own creative juices. As I have mused many a time I have been jotting down ideas, quips, sketches, funny words, funny thing’s people say or just things that stand out for as long as I can remember. One of the problems I had was that I never had the time to do anything with them. I thought that I had the time now. However, I have been sadly informed that this is at the cost of something much greater.
I did not realise just how much time I was putting into the work that I do. I write and perform comedy sketches as part of the… well you know all this, but what I have done is decide that I need to tell the whole world about it! It has gotten to the point whereby my wife knows more about me through people on my Facebook page than she does in sharing the same house with me!
That little update here and quick upload there soon add up. Minutes become hours become days become weekends become divorce material. However, not only that, there are days that I just cannot switch off. I lie in bed and come up with ideas, I wake up with ideas, I shower and brush my teeth with ideas, I have ideas whilst I am writing down ideas! Therefore, I reached a compromise. I would slow down for the sake of my marriage and for the sake of my health. What was the agreement? We would have a nice day out together as a family and I would not attend a filmmaking project with Writer’s Block NE.
Now of course I cannot switch off and realised that the BBC Britain in a Day was running on the same day. So what do I do? I put the two together and decide to make my most ambitious project on the day I am to switch off. Argh, it just cannot be done! So look out for 60/60 in 1. Coming soon, either that or divorce papers!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

waiting for direction

So what have I learned so far regarding my short filmmaking? Well, I am getting a bit more of a perfectionist (is there a level to perfection? When do we know we have reached perfection? Maybe that is something for another entry). I have now directed, starred, edited, filmed and put music and effects together. What I have realised is that my visionary perspective is not always shared with others. For example, I recently starred in a movie that I was also asked to edit. Now please do not see this as me having a go at the cast of this film I stared in. This entry is purely about what I have learned and as such, will take forward in my filmmaking career. I hope that you too, as a reader with a potential intent to make short films will learn something from this entry. The problem I had was many fold. I would be better saying the problems I had were…
            When you are not behind the camera, you are not in control of what the camera is seeing. More importantly, if your idea of how a film should look does not match that of the cameraperson then editing becomes quite tricky.
Step one, get organised. The director had an idea that was not wholly shared with the cast. I found myself waiting for direction that had to be prompted.
Step two, if your film is for a competition, this might not be the best time to have someone who has not much experience filming, filming it. During the editing process scenes were lost that had people in the background. Scenes were lost that had talking over them and I had to take the audio out of scenes in which you could hear the cameraperson chewing gum!
Step three, know your role. It was my understanding that I was to star in this film. When I got there I found out I was to provide the camera which luckily I had with me (never leave your camera at home, you do not know when opportunity will present itself). The downside was that it was not fully charged.
I was later was asked to edit the film. Knowing what I do know now is that if I am going to edit a film, do not star in it. You need to get what the director is looking for. You need to see what the cameraperson is seeing. You need to share your vision.
Well that is out of my system. I do apologise for making this entry a bit of a rant but I do hope you are able to apply my learning to your own circumstances. Remember, know your role. This can be applied to work, rest or play. It can be applied to life itself.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

the constipated mathematician

What do we do when we get time to write something but don’t know what to write? We write anything. Often there is something there but we are used to thoughts coming to the front of our mind. We have an idea, we find the time and we write it down. As we know ideas can come to you at anytime so I always have something to write or record on with my at all times. I can guarantee that the time I don’t I will have my best idea in the world ever. So why don’t these ideas come to me when I do have the time?
Think about the driver who hits all the red lights when s/he is in a hurry but will coast through every green light in the world when they are not. What happens is that those other days that you do actually hit red lights or miss the bus or get held up by little Jimmy ‘rattle on’ are days that you are not in a hurry so they become insignificant. You do not remember them because you do not need to remember them. Quite often, ideas need a bit of a coaxing out. Like the constipated mathematician who works it out with a pencil, we need to let our brain run free.
We sit with a blank document in front of us and around an hours worth of time. What do we do with it? This is where I would recommend a blog (yes believe it or not I do spend time on these entries!). I use my blog as a writing practice. I can voice things that would otherwise have people who sat next to me in the pub picking up their pint and walking off outside in the cold for the preferred beer garden.
For the wannabe writer we are always told two things. Read more and write more. So I have two choices in my free hour, I read or I write. However, what happens when I have nothing to read so decide to write something instead but cannot think of anything to write? I write anything. And I just did.

Monday, September 26, 2011

head full of shite

I just have far too much stuff in my head. I commonly refer to this as my “head full of shite”. One of the many, many drawbacks is that I cannot commit to complete…anything. I have written previously regarding my many fads however, I was recently able to experience a moment whereby knowing loads of smaller things was better than knowing one complete thing.
Lately I had a real live friend round my house for a catch up. We did the usual catchy up things like who have you seen? Who has died? Who is pregnant? Who has left? And so on. Following this, we did the catch up bit. This is the part that gets a bit more individual. So how have you been keeping? Are you still with Mr X? Do you still plan to dominate the world? And so on. The second cup of tea is offered at this point.
The conversation steers round to me and what have I been up to. This is usually the point whereby I have to summarise my fads. As it happens, there have been mainly three. The main two being performing comedy, making short films, keeping fit and learning to count. However, since the last time I met with my real live friend I went through the guitar based instruments fad. This culminated in the collecting of guitars (both acoustic and electric), a mandolin and a ukulele. First, a quick bit of real live friend history.
My real live friend was an underrated musical prodigy. I can say this, as I know for a fact that they will not read this. So how made up was I when, whilst I was strumming a few chords and playing the intros to a few tunes did they say “I wish I could do that, just sit there strumming and plucking away” (or words to that effect, like I said, they won’t be reading this so I have a bit of artists licence). Now the reason I liked this comment is that I have become “that guy who can sit there just plucking and strumming away”. This was something that motivated me to play the guitar and you know what? I have achieved something! I have some closure and it feels quite good. Now what I need to do is take the advice I received regarding my writing and finish writing something! Actually does this cou…

Monday, September 19, 2011

do much over the weekend?

I have become a slave to social media sites. There, I have said it. I fought becoming assimilated for a number of years, as I “just like didn’t want to conform man”. With a wee dabble here and there I soon realised that I could use this to my advantage.
Having joined the Writers Block NE performance group at the Arc in Stockton-on-Tees I very quickly got the short movie-making buzz. I met up with other hardened moviemakers, newbie’s like me, started to write scripts, and both stared in and directed a few short movies. That is fine but what is a movie that cannot be seen? There are movies made in the seventies with more viewings than I was getting (no not that type, I should have made clear my reference to the ‘home’ movie. Actually, that does not make it that much less of an innuendo feed. I will move on). So step forth the might of Facebook. Now I had a media to plug my movies. However, I hit upon a small snag. I soon found that whilst I might have a few friends, I would suggest that like me, their common interest is in letting others know what they have been up to rather than having a particular interest in what others have been up to. This format also requires the common interest of watching and making short movies or updating blogs. With a quick glance at my viewing figures on my channel monism2000, I find that I might have around 10 friends who share such an interest. Hmm, maybe it is time to find a new format!
Whilst I might not have the steady stream of followers I was expecting, I have another use for email. Emails have replaced the catch up pint I used to enjoy during the nineties. I would meet real live friends in real live venues and we would shoot the breeze. Instead, I now find myself staring a Monday morning with emails starting “do much over the weekend?”
Well I do hope you did do something over the weekend and I would like to take a moment to thank you for reading this and hopefully following my ramblings. Unbelievably, I have a number of friends who do not!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

you weren't there man!

Three men dressed in mock army clothing enter some woodland with a video camera. All sounds perfectly normal. Well, it does to me now as I have been filming again. Sunday saw two friends and me entering said woods to film scenes for three short films as part of the Writer’s Block North East Nam in 90 Seconds challenge. However, whilst we were there we came across something quite unusual. I posted a short video clip that we were able to capture on YouTube, which I named the Billingham Big Foot.
Although not as popular as they used to be, sightings do not seem to be as in vogue as they once were. There was a time the Billingham Big Foot would have made the local news but I would suggest that the spread of viral videos means that nothing can be mysterious anymore. CGI can create ghostly sightings that would have had us running behind the sofa or pulling up the chainsaw/axe/knife/gun proof duvet over our heads. What really scares us anymore? Some might say house prices, university fees, riots or Mickey Rourke’s face
For others it is still the dark. For me it was this small stinging, burning sensation in my arm. Using my manly instincts, I ignored it. The more I ignored it the hotter it got until I was forced to inspect my limb. It was then I realised that my arm looked as though I had smuggled a Kinder Egg under my skin. Whilst filming I received two bites in the same area and it was looking infected. I was living my personal horror of Vietnam. There was no chopper to get me out instead I slept on it (not literally of course as a bed is much more comfortable).
The next morning I woke to find it was still the same. Oh dear, how much more can I ignore this I thought. I returned home during my lunch break to see my mother who was babysitting our daughter (honest, I do not still live at home, not that there is anything wrong with that). She suggested I take some anti-histamine, which I dutifully did. You see, I am nearly 40 years old and still listen to mother. My colleagues spoke of visiting doctors and getting injections. I was happy with my anti-histamines and sleeping on it.
I woke up this morning and sure enough, it had calmed down. This just goes to prove that nothing fixes man better than his mother and a kip.

Monday, August 8, 2011

i love reading/Reading

I do at times find it somewhat demoralising when viewing a large amount of books. Now do not get me wrong I love books and reading, (that is reading as in viewing a book and digesting the words and sentences not the place Reading spelt with a capital ‘R’ as I just have. In addition, just for the record I have nothing against Reading, as my only experience of it was the Reading Festival in 1991, which was my first festival and something I very much enjoyed). When I see such a large arrangement of books anywhere, be it in a library to a charity shop, I realised that what I am actually looking at is competition. How on earth can I stand out in such a highly competitive market? What do they have that I do not have? Well for starters, they are published. However, why should I not be published? I have decided to adopt a new approach. I will now view these large collections of books as an incentive. They are out there because the author has taken the time to write them. They are out there because the author has taken the time to approach publishers and get them published. Stories in my head cannot stay in the safe confines of my brain if I want other people to see them. I need an angle. Something that either has not done before or has been done but I can put my stamp on it. The main thing I need is to write, write and write.
Writing a blog is not quite being published but I am getting words out there from my brain and into those of the reader. In addition, for this I am truly grateful. I have recently tried something that based on my research has not been done before and that is to release a Kindle book which can be found here so please do buy a copy. Hang on, of course that has been done before. Now here is the clever bit. Within this book, I have taken the book format and turned it into art. Therefore, what I need to watch right now is another one of my time feasting downfalls. Do not go slipping into a new fad!

Monday, August 1, 2011

the new fads

I have had an ongoing problem with fads. I say it is a problem. For me it is not a problem but for those around me it appears to be. I will often have people approach me wanting to show me a new trick or ask me to perform one for them. I have to explain that I am no longer into magic. How is the online poker coming on? Again, I explain that I no longer partake in the time killer that is online poker. I frequently feel I have a hidden talent and that the next fad will be it, the thing that I have been put on the earth to do that will change the lives of those around me. To be the worlds greatest (insert fad here). Therefore, it is not uncommon for me to put one hundred percent of my time, albeit for a brief moment, into a new fad. Upon reflection, I can see where I am going wrong. I never commit enough time to any fad to prove I will be the greatest. Maybe if I spent more than a few moments a night for a few weeks and then phase it out in favour of the mandolin I would improve my skills. I truly am the Jack of a lot of things master of none.
There is one area that I admittedly know I could improve on and that is the time I spend with my family. It is all too easy to take them for granted or push them aside in favour of even more ‘me’ time. ‘Me’ time for my fads is important but so is ‘we’ time. I introduced my daughter to the old yes/no game. A simple idea that she absolutely loved and spent ages fighting the need to say yes or no. It is simple things like this that made me realise I have one fad that defies all others. The lifetime fad of family man. Now, where did I put those maracas?

Monday, July 25, 2011

the dreaded fear of rejection

Well that is the end of The Impossibly Big Sketch Show and what a fantastic time it was. I have made some great friends and finally found the trigger to pull these creative thoughts I have had firing round my head all these years out into the open. Over the last five days including today, I have performed three times in front of a paying audience, am about to have a film premiered at the Arc in Stockton-on-Tees alongside a film I am in!
A number of years ago I would hide behind anything rather than put my work out there. I had the dreaded fear of rejection. If my work is not out there then how can it be rejected? Elton John recently said (hang on, stick with me) no he didn’t say that bracketed bit, although he might have done, anyway moving on, he said that only when you complete a piece of work is it truly yours because one it has been released you no longer own it (or words to that effect!). This sums up my quandary. I like what I have written so want to share it with others, but what if they do not like it. How will that make me feel? Who cares? Me, I care. However, without the feedback I cannot develop and instead hide behind work that can be vastly improved. Therefore, one day I decided to go for it and sent of a story that was published. With these new release and self-confidence that I can make it as I writer, I submitted more short stories. Sure enough, they bombed. I got to the second round on one and ranked nowhere on the others. So what did I do? Retired back into my shell where I felt I belong.
Upon reflection, I can see that I did have legitimate reasons for not being able to give my work the time and attention it needs. With this in mind, I now plan and keep deadlines realistic. I consider the dedication and strike when the motivation is high. Even the greats had to start somewhere. This is my somewhere.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

alls well that is allowed to end well.

I had one of those restless nights that sees me waking up just not close enough to my alarm to warrant getting out of bed. I then find myself dozing and waking with a start to see I still have seven minutes to go and manage to nod off again. Then of course, the alarm sounds scaring the living daylights into me. I then get up feeling as if I have not slept at all.
This is the bit where the TV screen goes all wavy to indicate a past event. The past event is anytime I had been off school for a period and am trying to fight the sleep that will wake me into the next day. I used to get incredibly depressed around this time and on occasions would be brought to tears. I would make vain attempts to get that one more extra day off school convinced that I would feel better the next morning. However, I would be as transparent as a supermodels stomach and have to go to school. The thing is, I would return later that day and be back to my usual self. Spent the full day laughing with my friends, being easily distracted and switching off whenever anyone spoke to me consistently for about five minutes.
This back to school depression carried on into my working career. I can remember fighting sleep on the nights before I had to go back to work and would watch the World of Paramount until the early hours. Sure enough, just like school, I would drift back into the same normality I lived prior to the factory fortnight shutdown and come home as if I had never been off work at all.
So, what I have learned to do now is reflect not on how the next day will begin, but how it will end. Last nights panic was about, off all things, parking and having the right change to do so. As it happens, I got a lift. Alls well that is allowed to end well.

Monday, July 18, 2011

here is to more rainy weekends

One thing that can be said of the British weather is that it is somewhat consistent. Consistently raining. However, I used this to my advantage this weekend and decided to make a short film. Writers Block North East frequently set 90-second movie challenges and having entered the zombie genre, I decided to also enter the alien genre. I had an idea for a movie but decided that due to family commitments and rehearsal time that I would not make the deadline. That was until and rainy Sunday presented itself.
To keep my hand in writing I attempt to use any spare time to practice. I have been and continue to, collate ideas of any thing that presents itself. I make notes on anything to hand with the aim to write this up later. This means that I will never be out of ideas. In fact, I have more ideas than time to write them up! I therefore write up ideas I feel I can more easily develop. And so Closer Encounters was born.
Despite penning a script that required some outdoor shooting, I used the flexibility of the rewrite to set it in doors.
Now, the internet and cheaper technology mean that anyone with the most basic of hard and software can make movies. However, this does not always mean they will be good. The best way to find out if I can make movies or not is to make movies and put them out there for the world to see. So that is what I did.
I had to hand an old digital camera with a display that no longer displays, a copy of Windows Movie Maker and my imagination. Not forgetting the last minute assistance of my lovely wife.
The location, my kitchen, the actors, myself and one of my daughter’s teddy bears, all quiet on the set and action. I still find it embarrassing filming myself but this was something I soon over came. Approaching my wife with a teddy bear in one hand and a digital camera in the other did look strange but without doing so; this film would not have been made.
Overall a productive weekend. The film will be available for general viewing following the competition night so please do look out for it and comment where possible. And here is to more rainy weekends.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Let us all be 45 degrees

Last nights rehearsal evening has taught me this, if you are going to arrange a three-night show…don’t. I could only pity the organiser left alone to arrange a hodge podge of members turning up at different times, prioritising drinks and then randomly disappearing. I soon realised that this said more about me than my peers.
I am a very organised person and one of the many downsides to this is that I expect those around me to be equally organised. It is like fingernails down a blackboard to me when I see people sauntering around when those around them are losing their heads. I found a colleague to be a particular trigger of this anxious feeling in me and so we had an agreement. We likened ourselves to angles. I am bolt upright, perpendicular to my friend who is very much at ninety degrees. So the compromise was this, I would be less erect (yes, quite) and he less laid back. So forty-five degrees it is then. The added bonus of this is that we can make the forty-five degree angle with our hand to each other. This ensures I become less controlling whilst he becomes more active. Now for me this works. However, does this work because it is a workable idea or because I have managed to instil some level of organisation in another human being? In attempting to manage my control I have inadvertently became more controlling. So let us all be 45 degrees and slowly I can control the world, one degree at a time.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

the build up to the impossibly big sketch show

The days are drawing closer and closer. Soon I will be on the stage of the Arc in Stockton-on-Tees taking part in my first ever stage performance since school. The major difference is that at least in these sketches I am not dead, dying or carrying scenery. Something that followed me throughout my junior school acting career.
I played the character Carrots who died on the street of neglect. His legacy is that he was one of the children that inspired Dr Barnardos to set up their great work. Following this, I was already dead. For I played Tutankhamen. An easy part that required me to lie with a cardboard mask on my face. Not quite to the same value as the original.
And finally, my most inspiration role. Although it was not the actual role that inspired me but the fact that the play was developed based on something I brought to the class. I said to the teacher Miss Smith (her real name even though it does sound like a pseudonym) that over the weekend, with my babysitter, I had listened to Geoff Lynne's The War of the Worlds. I remember her being instantly inspired (in my recollections anyway) and suggested we recreate the start of the play. My main reminiscences of this were throwing my jumper towards a girl I fancied in some veiled attempt at contact and of course, dying. I died the death of the heat ray. A bright bedside light that lit when the top of the Martian’s vessel came off (eventually, as I recall the Martian taking at least two attempts to push if off).
I still take great pleasure in thinking back to that day when Miss Smith decided to direct a play based on something I told her. I must admit, I still get that sense of accomplishment when my ideas are approved to this day.
Whilst I cannot remember the nerves of my school plays, I can vividly recall the excitement of being on stage. Something I hope will be recreated one week and a few hours from this very moment. Cue that belly nervousness!