Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Year of Our Lord

Personal blog time.

I've tried turning this blog into an offshoot of Red Raptor, and I've liked it, but sometimes you just need to say something that isn't about 2 minute videos of dance and manatee humor.

2009 was a long year. I went through a lot and came out of a lot. It started with a very cranky Christmas, but I did get to read "Wild at Heart", which has changed some views I had about myself and Christian men. The second semester of BICS was my last and hardest year there. The work and study was harder to apply to life and I was having a hard time dealing with the balance of work and socializing. I can see now that I was really struggling with pride and the change of responsibility and desire. But, because of God, I got through it (passed Greek) and got my certificate. I spent some time in Nashville, TN working for Cottage Cove Ministries and making them a video, which was very cool.

The summer was hard, in different ways. My biggest struggle was work, because I am a lazy slug. Working at Big Y was something new, and I had to work more hours than I had in a long time. I struggled a lot with how I spent my free time; watching movies and reading instead of doing anything productive. I spent the summer living with the Mclaughlins and Corey talked to me about serving. It was hard hearing for me, because I wanted my time to be my time. But, I know, that my time isn't my own. Hard lesson indeed.

It should be mentioned that I got accepted to Houghton as well and there was no real reason why that should have happened. It was very impulsive and I had failed to talk to God about the matter. But, God had grace upon me and allowed it to happen. There was a lot of praying for financial aid, because in no way could I pay for school on my own, but once again, God took care of me and paid for my school year, as a loving father would.

Houghton has made this year something new entirely. For the first time, I was in classes for a major I decided on, and that does something to your way of thinking about school. I also had to adjust to a new setting alone and this time I felt more confident and prepared then ever. Not because I thought I was hot-stuff, but because over the past two years at BICS, and even this summer, I have been learning how to talk to people and how to find my identity not in myself, but in Christ. Houghton has been a blast. I'm back into swing dancing, I gave blood for the first time (I miss you blood!), I preformed in a play, and I finally read "Ender's Game". The classes have been great, though they've had their moments.

This isn't a brag list. I have nothing to brag about. Everything I just talked about has only been possible because of God and God alone. Anywhere I've been, anything I've done, anyone I've meet; it's all because of God. This year is a year Jesus Christ showed his unbelievable glory to me. It wasn't a year of the health and wealth gospel in my life; it was a year of God showing he can use any situation for His glory and if I'm looking for it, I can find the most joy. There was sorrow this year. Many things didn't work out the way I wanted them and I failed at doing a good amount of tasks I had set. I'm still not the Christian man I should be, and I've spent a good portion of the year unsure of what I want to do with my life. But God still uses that to remind me to rely on Him; all year.

God is faithful and will be faithful, even in 2010.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Blog to Book

This essay was written as a response paper for my Personal Media class at Houghton College. In it, we are to read an article (see the link below) and respond to it with what we have been learning about how we communicate in with new digital tools.

Good job?

With personal media tools cheaper and more accessible than ever, anyone has the ability to have their voices heard. With the rise of blogs, more and more people are able to show off their writing skills to the world (I’ll be posting this essay to my blog as well). With more people writing, are more being noticed? Are the ones being noticed worth being noticed?

Christian Lander has been noticed; his blog “Stuff White People Like” gained a book deal for $300,000. I looked around online for a bit to find the average book deal price, and it can range from $1,000 to $1,000,000, but most new writers don’t get past $100,000. Why does Lander get such a deal? Because his blog gets 1.5 million hits? Is that the new standard for book deals? Is it a good one?

Book publishers are hoping so. They want to see those million hits become sales and who could blame them. By signing Lander, they have a new author with a built in fanbase. The issue isn’t the publisher’s intentions, they need to make a profit and don’t want to take risky chances. The issue is whether or not bloggers make for the best writers. Taking Lander as an example, his blog is a topic-a-day format commenting on things that he believes most white people enjoy for comedic effect. While the blog could be called racist, I found it to be slightly funny, all though frivolous in content, like a joke calendar you laugh at, quote a few times, and move on from. As a blog, the concept works great, everyday there’s a new topic to laugh at and forget the next. As a book, you have a set number of commentaries that don’t change. As the article stated, the blog to book process hasn’t turned out to be very profitable on average. Books based on other blogs, such as, have sold disappointingly low, in the low thousands with few gaining large readership offline.

Here we have aspiring writers being noticed, though not always with the greatest results. Though blogger enthusiast might hate to admit it, there may be a difference between amateur blogging and professional writing that isn’t so easy to close the gap to. One of the reasons Lander was published was because his blog was so unblog-like. Other blogs, such as Skull-A-Day, are photoblogs getting book deals. It would seem that in order to get a book deal with a blog, one must learn to not write like a blogger.

I have a blog and I would be lying if I said I never wanted it to be noticed. Many times I have thought about doing something with my blog that would attract attention and gain me more fame then I have now. I also like hearing about people finding new ways to get their writing noticed, because it gives me more hope for myself, but what about the quality of writing? Sure, publishers are bringing a fanbase to them, but are they going to attract new fans? By looking for easy sales, are they lowering their standards? I doubt very much that “Stuff White People Like” would have been given $300,000 had it been sent in to a publishing house the old fashion way. It might have been noticed and published, but for much less, I’m sure.

There is good to be found. The fact that people are being noticed by blogging show that new personal media works; perhaps not as well as some had hoped it would, but it shows promise. People can get their work and ideas out and gain success in ways they couldn’t before. Most people who write blogs just want to have their voice heard and don’t focus on their style, so much as find their style. This creates a sense of uniqueness to many blogs and helps show their differences. But, how many imitators will now be trying to replicate Lander? Blogs will start looking like all other forms of media; mostly passable with few exceptions of creativity. Could the blog to book process create an indie-blogging genre; of smart blogs going unnoticed while more accessible blogs make the real money? If this happens, I think blogging will end up missing the point.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Challenge

I started making videos for fun. When I first film "Fernando, Felipe, and Veronica" with my friend Mat, I never thought about ongoing series or production values. I was just thrilled to have a video camera at my hands. As "Monkey and Dog" and "Green Arrow" formed, I began to love making videos as a hobby.
People used to tell me I should go to school for it and I would tell them I didn't want to turn my hobby into a career because I didn't want to hate my new favorite past time. But, as time went on, I kept finding myself overjoyed at each new video. During the first year of BICS, I was very sure I would go on to Lancaster Bible College like everyone else. I made a few videos during the year, but not as much as before and not very good ones at that (I almost destroyed "Monkey and Dog" with the 6th episode). But then, during the summer, I had a revelation. I made a few videos during my break, but it wasn't until "Eric and Brendan's Zombie Blog" that it hit me how much I loved video work. The idea of having a series ongoing and new; it was awesome. I knew I wanted to do that for as long as I could.
But, man dingo, it can be annoying. I'm not doing this stuff professionally, nor I am I doing it full time for school. I'm managing my Youtube site as if I was professional, but it's not so easy posting as if I were. My biggest gripe is that I don't have a constant flow of videos to keep the site always active. I also get slightly discouraged when a new video I think might get me some views under-preforms (see "Eric and Brendan's Zombie Blog" and "Once Upon a Final Fantasy"). But, this is not so much a complaint as a challenge. I'm not content with leaving my videos at low views and I've been networking them to get them noticed more. It should also be noted that I've been making Red Raptor Productions more expanded, with the help of Twitter, Facebook, and this blog.
The challenge to make my videos better is a good one. I'm working on a series right now about brothers that I hope to have done by January and I've got a few ideas for music videos. I want RRP to have Christmas specials, more commentaries, and more for you to enjoy. Next semester, I'll be taking a Digital Video class, and that should give me more ideas and material to work with.
The challenge is for material and we're going to meet it head on.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Monkey Business

Our first epic!
One thing I used to pride myself (and not as much anymore with my desire for scripted material) was my ability to pull an idea out of nowhere. My brother was over one day, as was Glenn and our friend Mack, and I wanted to make a video. Being myself, I wanted to do something that I couldn't really do well, which was a film-noir mystery. This video has the benefit of coming after "Phantom of the Office", so I had a few things to work off. I knew I could use Dog as a detective, having introduced that idea in the former video and that the comedy would come from Dog as a character. But, wanting my friends in it, I made Glenn a detective as well.
This would be the first time I ever filmed anybody else outside of one video. For the most part, I hadn't used other people in any other videos. It was also going to be the first time I used Dog in a video with others. I felt rather silly at first, holding the camera, while puppeteering Dog and doing his voice. Luckily, Glenn just went with it. He never looked at me, or the camera (he's able to act as if it weren't there) and he acted with Dog like a pro.
The thing with this video is that it was all improve. We had a basic outline for the order of scenes; interrogation, fight, bar, ect. But, we didn't have any dialog. So, as the scenes were filmed, Glenn had to keep up improving with a stuffed Dog. He did great! The fact that he and Dog have any charisma is all due to him. It was so much fun to film this and see Glenn talk to Dog as if he were a real actor, and to see Glenn react to Dog's improve. Glenn's actions were also improves at times. When Dog said "pound it", Glenn did. The scene near the end, with Dog and Glenn hiding from the gunfire, Glenn outdid himself reacting to Dog's passion, and explained that magic created the gun. Brilliant.
I didn't really want the mystery to be a big deal, since I couldn't do a real one any justice, so I made the interrogation scenes rather obvious. My brother would play the villain, Mr. Naughty, and that was it. Give him a cinnamon stick as a cigar and a fez as a hat and Jordan was the antagonist. Jordan has some trouble with lines. During the scene in which he tells our heroes he's going to get rid of them and all the evidence, the poor kid could only say "elephants". We took more than enough takes of him getting rid of pachyderms. Jordan was still young then, and had trouble not looking at the camera, but he has gotten much better.
For the fight scene, I knew we would need more than one person attacking Glenn and Dog, but we only had us four (and Monkey was dead). So, I made the decision that Mack would play quintuplets. I did my best to try and get that idea across, but I'm not sure it worked. It made staging the fight scene tricky, and that part worked, but I think it might look like Mack is just really fast. Either way, the fight was the first time I was Dog and not holing the camera, and it's strange to see myself doing Dog's voice on screen.
I should also mention that the scene with Dog explaining he had to get his magic stick took many takes, only so we could get one with out Glenn cracking up. This happened again when Dog and Glenn were at the bar. Let's forget for a second that Mack plays a one-armed bartender and wipes down a stereo with only his hand. Lets forget that Glenn is wearing a sombrero, signifying he's drinking. Let's forget that we never explain Mr. Naughty as Glenn, Dog, and Monkey's mystery killer. When Dog said he lost his uncle to a 2X4 launcher, Glenn lost it. We had about 3 minutes of laughter filmed, because when he lost it, we all lost it. It was a lot of fun, I can tell you.
Yes, Dog and Glenn get the dialog wrong when figuring out that Mr. Naughty is the killer, but they do figure it out and this takes us to our climax. With no guns to use, we took some marshmallow shooters and called it a day. I never figured Dog would die, but when we came to the end, it just made sense to me. When I was young and played Jurassic Park with my action figures, I always killed the survivors. Why? I don't know. But, I did. So, somehow, that has carried on and now Dog dies at the end of the movie. At first, if I recall, we were going to play "Baker Street" for his death, but "Space Lion" from Cowboy Bebop won me over. It had a much more sorrowful sound to it, and the connotation from it's episode of the show worked for me too. The slow-motion pull back was a bit too long, but I loved the song during the credits.
Yes, this video has its faults. It should be shorter, have better dialog, and less interrogation scenes, but it had some really fun stuff. The dialog made me happy at times, with Dog telling Mr. Naughty that, "I know you'd kill your mom for a nickle and a lollipop." For a video thought up and filmed in a few hours, and with no budget or script, we made up for it with acting and passion. Let no one ever say we don't have the passion.