Turkey

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Thanks for Watching

It seems that filmmaking and self-promotion often go hand in hand, and I don’t like this.  Making films is not about popularity, but rather providing people with something they can enjoy.  The only problem is that in order to allow others to see your product, you often have to fight your way through a swamp of other content.  Everyone is making movies about everything these days.  It’s getting harder and harder to get your material seen.  Is this a bad thing though?  If I said it was bad, it would be hypocritical because I just said that my goal is for the audience to see pictures that they enjoy.  So what if these pictures aren’t mine?  At the end of the day, I love being a part of the experience of film, whether it’s making the movies or watching them.

One of the benefits of the saturated modern film atmosphere is the amount of incredible films being made.  There was a time when only certain people could create media.  With computer and camera prices dropping and the quality rising, it’s easier than ever to shoot and edit a film.  Now more than ever, filmmaking is accessible to a huge number of people, and this is great.  There’s something unexplainable about the power of a great film that transcends the filmmaker behind it.  The only time I would ever want one of my films to be seen over another is if it has that indefinable power to captivate the audience and allow them to experience something.  I would never make a film just because I enjoy it.  I would always make a film that I believe has the potential to offer something to others that they don’t already have.

Self-promotion can easily fall into the question of, “what can I get from these people?”  My question is, “what can I give these people?’, and that’s what’s important to me.  As soon as I have nothing more to offer my audience, I will stop making films.     A film is more than moving pictures of a screen.  You can’t separate the audience’s experience from the art of film.

The reason I am writing today is to tell everyone thanks for being an audience, and I hope to continue giving you what you want in a film.  The future is a very uncertain place for a filmmaker, but as long as I have an audience that cares, I’ll still be here making movies.  The short film “Western Wandering” is doing very well in the Wyoming Short Film Contest, which is due to each one of you.  There are some amazing films in the contest this year and it’s been a privilege to compete at the same level as them.  At the time of writing this, there is still one more week to vote.  Thank you so much for all of your comments, votes, and support.  If you haven’t seen any of the films, you’re in for a treat.  And as far as the motive behind the competition, it couldn’t be better.   The $25,000 must be put towards making another film in Wyoming.  It seems like a win-win for film gurus.   You get to see all of the amazing competition films and then the best of the best gets the opportunity to make another film for us to enjoy.  Click here to watch and vote for this years entries.

Western Wandering Short Film

The Art of Finishing Something

This week was the host to quite a few finish lines in my life.  I finished the short film “Western Wandering”, I finished a fashion show promo video, and I finished my master’s degree in communication and journalism.  On one hand it’s a huge relief, but on the other hand, finishing something doesn’t always mean that you’re less busy.  In my case it just means crossing things off the top of a list and moving other things from the bottom up higher on that same list.

Even though I’m just as busy, there’s still a value in finishing a project.  A professor once told me that the worst finished project is better than the best incomplete project.  Finishing films is one of the hardest things I struggle with every day.  It’s not because of the work involved, but rather knowing when to let go.  My advisor Conrad Smith told me the other day that “Energy! O Energy!” has enough footage to edit for eternity.  He’s right.  The struggle is knowing when to stop, and realizing that you finally have what you want.  The footage has been shot and the story is in place.  Now it’s just a matter of finding what I want to use and using it.

I just finished my MA degree and a common question I’m being asked is, “what’s next?”  I wish I knew.  Like I said before, just because you finish something doesn’t mean that you’re done.  Right now I have a number of other films on the burner, and EOE is hopefully going to be complete by the end of May.  But then what, more school, projects to pay the bills, a feature film?  My answer is, all of the above.  Living is learning, which means that I never plan on being finished with “school”.  Who says the projects that pay the bills can’t be fun?  As for another feature film, there will be plenty of those as well.  The past few films have been low budget and made with the resources that I have.  These films were made out of pure passion and very little else.  My goal for the next film is to take the idea of passion, and combine it with the resources of a well-funded film.  Hopefully this is a recipe for a film that can reach a large audience and make a difference.  “Come on kid, that’s just crazy.  Do you really think you’re going to change the world?”  If I had a penny for every time I heard this, I’d have enough money to change the world.  It doesn’t bother me though because my idea of changing the world is different from that of the people who say this.  If someone watches “Western Wandering” and feel the emotions and the experiences of the adventure, that’s all I can ask for.  We tend to focus on the huge concepts and ideas in the world, but what about the individual moments?  The huge concepts are made from each individual moment.  If someone experiences one of those moments though one of my films, what more could I want?  Remember, knowing where to stop is the hardest part of finishing.

What’s in a story?

I have been hitting the editing pretty hard these last few weeks, maybe a little harder than I should.  Between the stack of hard drives to my left and the server to my right, I would say that if megabytes were Big Macs, I could feed the entire country for a year.  The amount of footage is irrelevant though.  The story that is emerging is what’s important.

On these long days that consistently drift into even longer nights of editing, I’ve found myself pondering the idea of a story.  What is it about a story that makes us so attracted to it?  There are so many exciting things happening every second of our lives, but every now and then, we choose to tune it all out and tune into a story.  Whether it’s a book, a film, or someone telling it to us, a story has the power to show an aspect of life that often goes unnoticed.  A story conveys truth.
At the root of every story is truth; the truth of human experience, the truth of emotion, the truth of life.  This is what brings us back, time and time again.  Life can be overwhelming, and as a result, one can become numb to the everyday experience.  Stories are where we run to replenish our soul of human experience.   This is what makes the “story” one of the greatest tools ever utilized by humans.  Even something as powerful as fire or electricity can’t reach the level that a story can.  Fire, electricity, and steel are all tools of a physical world.  A story is a tool of the mind.  As powerful as these energy producing machines that I have been studying are, they can’t do what a story does.

So as I sit here in front of the video footage of the last six months of my life, I am wondering what my story will be.   A director has a unique responsibility.  It’s the responsibility of creating a story for the world to experience, creating something for people to believe in.  It’s the responsibility of creating truth.

It’s not work

If you’ve ever wondered what the mind behind Burning Torch Productions thinks, this is for you.

With Energy! O Energy! in production and more projects on the burner, I’ve been working more hours per day than I care to keep track of.  When you’re self-employed, keeping track of your hours is depressing.  When it’s all said and done, the film is only about 90 minutes long, but the hours leading up to its completion will easily exceed 3000 hours.   Is it worth it?  Absolutely.  Do you think I’m crazy?  I don’t blame you.  Let’s look at the math.

1 feature length movie running time= 90-110 minutes.

Hours committed to making the movie estimate= 3000 hours.

3000 hours = 125 days = 1/3 of a year.

*This is for a film that’s only 2/3 complete.

Now you’re probably saying, “That’s impossible!”  But it’s not, and here’s why.

When I’m working on a film, I become completely consumed and passionate in the production.  Every thought in my head is somehow connected back to what I’m working on. In order to explore a topic, it must be looked at from every possible angle.  The number of ways to explore a topic is infinite.  Does this mean you shouldn’t try?  Of course not. It just means that you’ll never run out of studying.

So in other words, making a film is a full timejob, literally.  If I’m not spending my waking hours filming, editing, or producing, I’m thinking about the film in every part of my life and then dreaming about it at night (dreams weren’t included in the estimate above).Film is the creation of reality, which makes the human experience the ultimate guide to filmmaking.  Film is the magic of watching realty unfold in front of our eyes.  Even fictional films convey realty.  At the heart of a film is emotion and the emotion is real, even if the story that evokes it is made up.  Every second of every day is an opportunity to expand.  It can be as little as seeing something in the grocery store and writing it down on the back of my receipt.  It could be a conversation with a loved one.  The possibilitiesare infinite.  Nothing goes unnoticed.Actual deskwork may last from 8 to 6 or 7 or 8 or 9, but the deskwork is only a tiny part of the work that goes into making a film.  I don’t make 8am to 6pm films.  It’s not because I don’t want to, it’s because I can’t.  I can’t take on a film and just forget about it at quitting time.   I don’t leave work at work.  I can’t leave work at work because to me, it’s not work; it’s my life.Some people might call it being obsessive. Others might argue that it’s not a healthy lifestyle.   Call me insane.  Tell me it’s impossible and that it won’t last.  Say that it’s not worth it.  Try to change me.  It won’t work, because like I said before, it’s not work, it’s my life.

Mark