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TMD's Creatively Named Blog



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Pre-Production

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Sep 22 2014 · 101 views

Is so much work, man. Got forms on forms on forms to fill out, crew members to assemble, roles to cast, and locations to find.

D'you have any idea how friggin' difficult it is to find an apartment to shoot in in New York (when you don't have one)? The apartment itself isn't so much the issue as is the "hey friend, I need to film a movie, can I take over your home for a weekend wherein I redecorate it, bring in 12-15 cast and crew people, and I shoot for 12 hours a day?" Surprisingly, it's a hard sell, even if I offer to cook and clean afterwards.

Harder still is getting much pre-production work done. My Director of Photography needs to know the layout so she can perfect the shot list, my Gaffer needs to know it so he can make a lighting plan (all of which I need to submit asap to be approved to shoot), and we need to know what the bathroom layout is so we can put together our plan for that (also very necessary to be approved). So there's that.

And I'm holding out on my next draft of the script (5th!) until I've got a location so I can adjust accordingly.

My producer did book us a space for auditions, so that's taken care of, but that means we have to comb through the 300-odd submissions I've gotten for my six roles. And we just know that'll be fun.


tl;dr, TMD is making a movie for class and has a lot of logistics to do. He's come a long way from Metru-Nui Adventures.



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In Defense of Destiny's Story

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Sep 20 2014 · 145 views

Essays, Not Rants! 131: In Defense of Destiny’s Story

I talk about video games a lot on this blog, because I love them and play a lot of them. I also write about storytelling because it’s kinda my thing. Now, there’s a lot to say about video game narrative, which, honestly, can apply to narrative in general. Games are special because narrative — or even story of any sort — isn’t necessary for a good game (See: Pacman, or better yet,Pong).

But, contrary to what game designers like Jonathan Blow think, games can tell excellent stories. Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us is an emotional story that rivals great film and has found its way into many of my papers for school. Bungie too has told great stories through the Halo games. No, they may not on the same level as The Last of Us, but the original trilogy did tell a solid story, ODSThad great characters, and Reach was genuinely sad at times. All of these games are very linear and have a very traditional narrative. Which is great.

Destiny, on the other hand, is very loosely linear. There are story missions for you to do, but there’s no urgency with which you have to do them, and thus you can spend plenty of time exploring the world at large and taking on side missions. Story information itself is dispersed through the occasional story-focused cutscene and through bits of dialogue with your companion, the AI Ghost. This all to say, there’s very little in the way of explicit storytelling.

The game’s gotten a lot of flak for this. Here’s this grand expansive world with hints of incredible backstory, but where’s the actual story? Where’s the character development? Where’re the big arcs and twists? The story, apparently, feels too nebulous to be worthwhile. Granted, the gameplay more than makes up for it, but the way its critics see it, a weak story is Destiny’s greatest flaw.

But Destiny’s story isn’t weak, it’s open. Modern Warfare 2 had a woefully weak story, with underdeveloped characters and a plot that made very little sense. Sure, it was spelled out for you, but there really wasn’t much there. See, a lot of Destiny is conveyed through spatial and environmental storytelling. The very world of Destiny: the ancient ruins on Venus, the decaying colony on the Moon, the colonyships in Old Russia’s Cosmodrome; they all harken to something older and greater than what we see now. Mentions of the fall, of the Hive taking over the Moon, all this hint at something big. This is what Destiny does: the incredible world building does much of the heavy narrative lifting. Those scraps of story which, combined with the Grimoire accessed online or through the companion app, paint a great world for the player to inhabit. In there you go on these missions and carry out the main story, with lots of empty spaces in between.

These empty spaces is where you come in. Destiny wants you to use your imagination. There’s so much empty space in the story it’s easy to fill it up with your own ideas as to what happened. It’s like playing with your toys again, where you’re given the character and a little bit of story and let lose to make up how it plays out. This is the strength of Destiny’s story: Your imagination. Yes, it’s drastically different from a lot of modern — or even adult — storytelling, but it’s this open-endedness that sets Destiny apart. Here the player is free to create their own story. The nature of fireteams, the backstory of your Guardian, even some of the relations between characters, it’s all up to you.

This is what I’m loving as I play through Destiny, the freedom to wander through the world. I’m still not yet done with the game (almost finished the last mission on Venus) due to not only real life commitments, but also plain getting distracted by every Patrol mission and Strike in Destiny. But unlike Assassin’s Creed 4 where spending hours sidetrack hurt the plot’s pacing and any emotional attachment; Destiny’s side-missions and even competitive multiplayer feel like an addition to the overall narrative arch. It’s as if Bungie’s opening up a big sandbox and inviting you to play.


For more on spatial and environmental storytelling, read Henry Jenkins’ Game Design as Narrative Architecture. If you have a PS3 and want to play Destiny with someone cool, let me know.


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Seducing Scarlett Johansson

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Sep 13 2014 · 162 views

If you've been reading Essays, Not Rants! you'll have realized that I was a huge fan of the movie Chef, in no small part to the food. I love cooking (and eating), so a movie about it was a pleasure.

Having recently coming across the recipe for the Pasta That Seduced Scarlett Johansson, the girlfriend and I decided to make it for dinner.


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Dang. It was good.


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Background Details

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Sep 13 2014 · 68 views

Essays, Not Rants! 130: Background Details

There’s a building I can see outside my window that’s under construction. I’m not sure what it’s going to be or where exactly it is, but it looks to be somewhere in TriBeCa. The basic structure of it is there, there’s a crane going up the side, and it looks like the skeleton of a monolith as there aren’t any external walls up yet. There are tiny lights on each floor that glint in the daylight.

To my sci-fi-addled mind it looks like something you’d see in the background of Destiny, or maybe a new spaceship being built in Star Trek. It looks cool, almost otherworldly.

In other words, it’s something that could help tell a story. Visual storytelling (comics, movies, television, video games; anything that requires you to look at images) depends heavily on details to give life to the scene. Filling the background of the scene with details lends credibility and reality to the world.

This can be done in very subtle ways. In early seasons of How I Met Your Mother there were a pair of swords hanging on the wall of Ted and Marshall’s apartment. They were referenced on occasion, used once, but for the most part were sort of just there. That said, these two friends who met in college having swords on their wall added a sense of history to them, more so, than, say, a wreath would have (needless to say, Chekhov was probably very happy when they finally used them in a duel).

For all its epic-ness and grandeur, The Lord of The Rings films are filled with smaller, tiny details. Carved on helmets are runes which, should you have the bother to translate them from Tolkien’s appendices, say stuff actually relevant to the world. One of the buildings in the background of Minas Tirith is a ratcatcher, for example. Another one of these details is found in the Tower of Cirith Ungol, where Sam rescues Frodo from the orcs. There’s a lamp in the uppermost room which, if you look closely, was made from the helmets of Soldiers of Gondor. It’s a tiny detail, one that most people won’t notice, but it adds to the overall feel of the film. As I’ve said before, it’s these little details make a world seem real.

Which brings me back to Destiny and the spaceship-under-construction building out my window. Much of the game’s storytelling is done through environmental details. You’re not necessarily shown the story or the game’s background lore, but it’s there. When you enter Old Russia’s Cosmodrome you can see ruined buildings all about and, rising over the horizon, a huge spaceship with what look like futuristic space shuttles attached around the side. You’ve heard details about a Golden Age, expansion, and colonyships, but seeing that massive spaceship decaying in the distance adds a reality to it.

[color=#000000]For a game so sparse on explicit storytelling, it does wonders with the little things. Item descriptions mention how the Titans raised the Wall or the exploits of some Saint-14. We’re not told more details than that, but, again, it adds to the feeling of depth and bigness of the world. Even things like seeing the crest of the Vanguards on a wall add further reality to it. The world feels like it’s breathing. These details make it seem alive./color]


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Hey TMD, what'd you do this summer?

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Sep 10 2014 · 80 views

Made a video:




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Becoming Legend

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Sep 06 2014 · 129 views

Essays, Not Rants! 129: Becoming Legend

On Thursday a new trailer dropped for Bungie’s Destiny. In the vein of trailers for Bungie’s prior games (like Halo 3: ODST’s trailer, which remains one of my favorite pieces of marketing ever), it doesn’t really tell you much about what the game is like. It’s live action, for crying out loud, not a cutscene, or let alone actual gameplay. Which almost begs the question, how does the game even play?

Only, no, the trailer actually does an impressive job of summing up what Destiny’s gonna be. Rather than advertising actual gameplay, something that’s been covered plenty by news sites, the trailer looks at the tone of the game itself, while still teasing gameplay elements. How? Let’s get into it.

Right off the bat, we’re informed that humans haven’t been on the Moon in hundreds of years. That line alone tells us so much about the setting of the game. It’s obviously future science fiction with spaceships and such, so why haven’t humans been on the moon in hundreds of years? There’s a sense of awe and mystery conveyed, further enhanced by the long abandoned lander module and American flag. That we next see an alien base (that the heroes assault) further adds to that feeling of a mysterious future. The game’s action takes place after there’s been a massive shift in the status quo. The trailer doesn’t clearly say what, just that it happened.

This setting is further hinted at when we see them arrive on Venus: gone is the oppressive sulfuric acid atmosphere, instead there are verdant forests, rivers, and the ruins of a long abandoned structure in the distance. It’s mythic in the vein of The Lord of The Rings where the Argonath statues guarding the Anduin harken to an eons old civilization. Destiny plays with the same imagery and atmosphere, only this time in science fiction. Gone is the gritty and angst-ridden tone much modern science fiction takes, instead is an idealistic planetary romance, a direction that far too few storytellers take, in any form of fiction.

But what of the actual players? Here too is where the trailer positively shines. There’s banter between the three players throughout it, but, in keeping with the tone, it’s all very light hearted and full of a sense of romantic adventure. They make quips at each other which, sure, is a little heavy on the cheese, but mirrors the sheer fun of playing Destiny. Gameplay in the beta (released for a few days over the summer) felt a lot like how the players/characters in this treat it: it’s a power fantasy in a way, but more than that it’s an adventure. The social aspect of Destiny is played up here too; as a self-described shared world shooter, teaming up with friends (or strangers) is part and parcel to the game. The trailer plays up that aspect, and rightfully so as it’s one of the things that really sets Destiny apart.

There are a few other hints of gameplay in the trailer; summoning the Sparrow speeder-bikes, each class’s unique abilities, and, of course, shooting aliens. Like the setting and social nature, these are all part of what the game will be.

Destiny comes out on Tuesday. Even before this trailer I was excited, now that I’ve seen this, I can’t wait. Of course, there is that mountain of homework to get through, so we’ll see how things progress.


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Required Readings

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Sep 01 2014 · 122 views

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Just ordered them off of Amazon and they're all for one class: Militaries and Militarization.

Yeah. This'll be fun.


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Of Boyhood

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Aug 30 2014 · 95 views

Essays, Not Rants! 128: OfBoyhood

I was finally able to see Boyhood this week. It came out over the summer when I was in South Carolina, which is not a good place to be if you want to see the latest indie film (I have yet to see Snowpiercer too).

But I did see Boyhood this week and in some respects it's a frustrating movie. There's little structure, if any, to the film. Which makes sense; a movie filmed over twelve years would be hard pressed to tell a single story. A strong narrative usually takes place over a relatively small amount of time, it keeps it brisk and gives urgency to the proceedings. It’d be far less interesting if Luke, Han, and Leia arrived at Yavin 4 while the Death Star was a week away. Boyhood disagrees with that philosophy.

]Like I said, it’s frustrating. Structure should be what makes a story work and, yes, Boyhood is still a story. And, yes, it does still work. But why, and how? There’s no grand journey that the ‘hero’ Mason embarks on; there’s no inciting incident, midpoint, or climax. See, Boyhood’s story is a slice of life, very much in the way that something like Seinfeld purports to be. Except more so. In the long run, though, Boyhood is incomparable and stands out as being unlike anything else in cinemas today. It’s a singular movie that demands to be met on its own terms.

So what are those terms? Boyhood feels in some ways like a period piece, the period in question being from May 2002 to late 2013. The film opens to the sound of Coldplay’s “Yellow” and various other songs show up throughout the film that serve primarily to date certain scenes but also managing to show a sort of evolution of what’s been on the radio for the last decade and a bit. In early scenes we see Dragonball Z on TV, later on we hear the kids discussing Revenge of the Sith, and still later on The Dark Knight is mentioned as being a favorite movie of the year. Pop culture landmarks like Halo 2, a song from High School Musical, and even Funny or Die’s “The Landlord” make appearances. It’s half winking at the audience, and yet also saying “remember when this happened?” To people my age, it’s reminding us of what it was like growing up.

But Boyhood does not run on nostalgia alone. It also focuses on the impermanence of life. Mason and his sister Samantha’s friends don’t stick around; the friends they’re hanging out with and even significant others change from time jump to time jump. The only ones who are always there are their mother Olivia and their father, Mason Sr. Natures of relationships change too; early on Olivia is distant towards her children’s father, but later on she becomes much more cordial. We never see the incidents that catalyzed the change, but are instead left with the feeling that time itself is what changes them.

Here lies another interesting choice taken by director Richard Linklater and crew: with very few exceptions Boyhood skips the highs of life in favor of the in-betweens. We don’t see important events like Mason’s first day of middle school or his prom, events that crop up in what seems like every movie about youth ever. Instead the film will look at moments before or after, instead our information of prom comes from a terse post-breakup talk between him and a girl he was dating; we see Mason coming home from graduation rather than him throwing his cap in the air. There’s restraint on the part of the filmmakers, and it’s this restraint that makes the film feel so much like life.

As the movie draws to its close we see a now-adult Mason saying goodbye to his mother as he prepares to go to college. Tearfully, she says “I thought there would be more.” It’s a summarizing look at life and the film; people come and people go and things end. At the film’s close, Mason and some new friends are trekking through a park and Mason is asked if people seize moments or if they’re seized by moments. His response — a statement so incredibly on-the-nose it almost breaks the fourth wall —is that they’re always in the moment. On-the-nose or not, it is what life is: a series of moments we’re stuck in — and Boyhood captures that splendidly.


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DID TMD JUST POST AN MOC!?

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , Aug 24 2014 · 226 views

Summer was good to me, man.


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(Click for topic)




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The Gutsy Ending

Posted by Ta-metru_defender , in Essays, Not Rants! Aug 23 2014 · 74 views

Essays, Not Rants! 127: The Gutsy Ending

I feel like Edge of Tomorrow has been out long enough that it’s safe to talk about the ending. And honestly, I feel like I could have discussed the ending much closer to when it came out because, well, it kinda just was. There wasn’t a big shocker at the ending, no moment that left you going “woah.”

Edge of Tomorrow ends with breaking the loop, as one would expect from a movie that’s essentially Groundhog Day with aliens and guns. But unlike Groundhog Day which ended with the next day, Edge of Tomorrow ends with a reset. To the day before, only this time the aliens are defeated and such. So yay, there’s a happy ending, everyone’s alive despite the heroic sacrifices made by Will Cage and Rita Vrataski. It’s a happy ending and there’s the hint that that undercurrent of romantic tension is free to blossom. Woohoo.

But it’s the easy ending. Everything’s tidy and neat and somehow destroying the alien Omega hive mind meant time/Cage’s consciousness being shot back to the morning before — the loop is reset. Which makes sense (kinda), but, again, it’s so typical. It was a great movie up till then; really pushing the concept for all it was worth. There was also some build up as to what they would have to do to destroy the Omega. Maybe by destroying the Omega Cage would become the new Omega and control the aliens. There were hints that in order to end the loop Cage would have to be willing to sacrifice himself and Rita. Ultimately he does, but it’s cushioned because he’s back to the start at the end.

I’m told the manga the film is based on, All You Need Is Kill, has a much ballsier ending. In it Rita never lost her reset ability, so both would ‘wake up’ after they died. At the end, however, they turn against each other since they’ve become antennae for the hive mind themselves and, thus, one of them has to die. That’s a cool ending and it’s one that plays all its cards. The film, well, played it safe.

I like gutsy endings when done right. District 9, for example, didn’t end with Wikus reuniting with his wife but rather, well, he become one of the prawns himself. It’s a weird ending, but one that’s appropriate given the gritty tone of the film. For it to end happier would be untrue to the narrative that had been presented. Furthermore, it’s one that sticks with you long after the movie came out

The Last of Us is another story that had to be gutsy. Given how the game progressed, it couldn’t have a bright happy ending — to do so, in the words of writer/game director Neil Druckmann “...didn't feel honest anymore. After everything they've done and everything they've been through, that was letting them off a little too easy - especially for Joel." The honest ending was the ballsy one. The one that left you a little uncomfortable and questioning all that had come before. It worked, and the game is all the better for it.

Now, there’s a time and place for the gutsy ending, just as there is for the safer one. The recent film What If ends much happier than I expected, though part of me did want it to step up and be the romcom that ended melancholically. But hey, it didn’t feel nearly as schizophrenic as Edge of Tomorrow did. I’m just fine with movies like The Guardians of the Galaxy or The LEGO Movie ending with an optimistic note. The gutsy ending is the one that defies conventions and provides a resolution that, though not necessarily unexpected, is one that’s unusual. Like having your two main characters turn on each other.






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josh

twenty-three


grew up on a ship


studies Storytelling

at New York University


frequently found writing in a coffee shop, behind a camera, or mixing alcohol and video games

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