TMD's Creatively Named Blog
If you haven’t heard, DC recently announced their cinematic plans for the next six years. We’ve got a Justice League movie, a Wonder Woman movie, one with the Flash, one with Aquaman, a Green Lantern movie, and so on. It’s DC’s answer to Marvel’s Avengers. They’re looking to emulate Marvel’s formula, releasing two a year. Not only that, it looks like most of the Justice League roster from the cartoon is getting their own movie (except Martian Manhunter which is its own infuriating can of worms). Between Marvel and DC, we’re looking at four superhero movies a year — and that’s not even counting other studios with rights to Marvel characters, like Fox with X-Men and the Fantastic Four. That’s a lot of superhero movies, a lot of men in proverbial tights (and one woman, so far) running around doing superhero stuff.
Now, with so many superheroes flying around, it’s likely we’re looking to get a glut of that genre. Woohoo, there’s Age of Ultron, Ant Man, and Fantastic Four next year, but after that there’s gonna be Batman v Superman, a new Captain America, a new X-Men movie, and Suicide Squad. And then after that comes Wonder Woman, and Justice League (so far). Genres can become tired, look at how few Westerns there are as opposed to a few decades ago. With all these superhero films coming out, and with superhero movies usually following a specific pattern we could end up watching the same darn movie over and over again. If that happens, then people get tired, people stop watching these movies, and people stop making superhero movies.
Thing is, we’ve seen the superhero movie a hundred times. The hero gets powers, the hero figures out what to do with powers, the hero fights bad guys. Sequels have been playing with the follow up, but we’ve seen the super-powered-hero-fights-evil formula over and over again. Superhero movies as we know them has happened.
So how do we keep it interesting? So far the trick has been genre blending. The Dark Knight was a crime movie with Batman. It was different and it was big (though I’ve heard the argument that it wasn’t a Batman movie, but that’s another issue). More so now than ever, superhero movies have to stand out. The Avengers was a heroes-fighting-villains narrative, but did it better than anyone else and threw in some internal conflict and hints of a war movie for good measure. Unless a new movie surpasses it, doing the same thing will be repetitive.
Marvel Studios, and Joe Quesada, know this. Look at the most recent releases from Marvel. Iron Man 3 was as much Lethal Weapon-y as it was Iron Man, The Dark World was borderline pure fantasy, The Winter Soldier was a spy/espionage movie, and Guardians of the Galaxy was pure space opera. Looking ahead, Ant Man is planned to be a heist movie, which there are never enough of. Marvel’s keeping things varied. In fact, I think one of the reasons Winter Soldier and Guardians were so well received is that they were so unique. Both tapped genres relatively unheard of at the moment, and both executed them incredibly. If Marvel Studios can keep making movies that challenge the idea of a ‘superhero’ movie they’re in good shape.
So the onus is on DC to do the same thing. It’s hard to judge how they’ll do, especially given the kinda mostly alright Man of Steel, but if they can make Aquaman feel very different from The Flash and not just in subject material, then there’s hope. We don’t wanna keep watching the same movie with swapped out details.
But I cannot overstate how freaking excited I am about all of this. In the next two years I’m getting a second Avengers movie, a new Star Wars, a movie with Batman and Superman, and what’s reportedly a movie about Captain American and Iron Man. Heck, they just announced a movie featuring The Lego’s Movie glorious riff on Batman! All this is the twelve-year-old in me’s dream come true. I don’t like not liking things, it’s tiring and it’s not fun to hate everything you watch. I want these movies to happen, I want to like these movies. I just hope these movies are good.
Also, I'm making a movie! Help me get it funded!
One of my favorite things about the internet is the democratization of media. Anyone can do anything and put it out there for a wide audience. Where once upon a time either no one would see it, now you can put it on YouTube and spread it around. There’s not just an audience, there’s a mean to one.
Recently, it’s also meant the ability to do bigger projects. This is crowdfunding, where a project is funding by a, er, crowd. Because hey, if there are a thousand people who want to see something happen and they all give $5, that’s $5,000 with which to do something awesome.
So bands have taken to sites like Kickstater and PledgeMusic to raise money for the recording and distribution of new music; forgoing labels and all that entirely. It also gives fans a personal stake, they want the project to happen so they get involved. Then there’s the fact that it allows the band to not only have greater creative control but are also to make more daring creative choices.
Similarly, moviemakers are able to make films outside of the studio system and all the hangups therein. Blue Like Jazz was finished despite initially not having enough money; Veronica Mars came back as a feature film years after the show ended. By rights, this shouldn’t be possible. There’s a way things are done. But that’s what makes crowdfunding cool; it puts the power in creators, be they for games, events, or movies. They become passion projects rather than carefully calculated business maneuvers.
All this to say, I’m using Kickstarter to fund my new movie, Ghosts That We Knew. I love making movies and Ghosts is going to be my biggest one yet. I’ve got a great crew with me who are all eager to make this movie happen. I’m really proud of my script and the cast is shaping up to be something incredible. The story is one I’m passionate about and I really want to get this made.
Help fund Ghosts That We Knew
Yes, it’s a super-short post. But that’s cause I’m doing a lot of preproduction work and hanging out with some BZPers.
I even added gear functionality!
I wasn't near the actual sets, hence some of the not-rightness in comparison to the pictures that went up, but hey. They look right to me and I saved myself ~$35.
(Will probably buy them anyway)
In any case, I'm stoked for the sets; they have a lot of personality (they all have different silhouettes! It's wonderful!). The throwback story wise is a lot of fun and I'm hesitant to let some things go, but hey.
...to go to New York Comic-Con, particularly the LEGO panel.
I'm fairly excited, especially given that I didn't go last year (and wasn't this year until Good Stuff Happened), so, yay! Also there are a couple other interesting panels happening that day I wanna go to, so score.
Of course, I'm missing out on Narrative Investigations and Militaries and Militarization, two classes that are absolutely fascinating. But hey, as a friend of mine told me; make New York work for you.
So I am.
The Princess Bride is (probably) my favorite movie. It also happens to be based on a book, which I first read in my mid-teens. Now, the book caught me off-guard. It was far more cynical than the film and there was this whole mess about William Goldman’s personal life. I read it again a few years later and finally understood it. See, the novel The Princess Bride is a postmodern exploration of metanarrative wrapped in with a deconstruction of adventure narratives. Like Cervantes’ Don Quixote.
Let’s break this down. Much of The Princess Bride is William Goldman telling us about his life, his psychiatrist wife, disappointing son, and his quest to find the book his grandfather read him as a kid. Sadly, the book (by S. Morgenstern) is long and filled with boring bits. So Goldman skips them, interrupting the narrative every now and then to tell us what he’s skipping and why.Really, who wants to read three chapters about economics anyway?).
Of course, this is all fabricated. There is no S. Morgenstern, Goldman’s wife isn’t a psychiatrist, and he has two daughters. But within the book it makes for a beautifully postmodern story; Goldman is fully aware of how stories work and merrily draws attention to it in the metanarrative. At times it’s a story about stories. Meanwhile, he pokes fun at the conventions of the adventure and fantasy genre, deconstructing a lot of what we take for granted in them.
A few hundred years earlier, Cervantes did the same thing in Don Quixote. Like Goldman, he presents the central story as one that he’s researched extensively and is relaying here for us. But the ‘research’ often interrupts the story. A memorable moment early on sees Quixote in a duel with a Basque, they’re poised to deliver fatal blows and then the narrative stops and the narrator informs us that that’s where his copy of the story ends. We’re then treated to a few pages of how he got a hold of the next chunk of the story.
Cervantes is playing with the very idea of fiction and stories. He’s messing with the narrative, blurring the lines between fiction and reality. It’s a lot of fun and lends Don Quixote’s story an almost mythic quality, which is further enhanced by the style of the narration.
Throughout it all, Cervantes is endlessly making fun of the chivalrous novels that were popular at the time. How? He takes someone who gets caught up with the notion of being a knight errant and, taking the books as gospel, sets out in an attempt to have a grand adventure and sees what would really happen.. It doesn’t go well, one because books don’t mention these knights bringing changes of clothes, money, or provisions; and secondly, someone who goes around meting out his own brand of justice while violently defending any insult of his honor actually looks a lot like a vigilante bandit. Naturally, hilarity ensues and Don Quixote and his squire wind up being attacked in response (all to our amusement).
Stories like The Princess Bride and Don Quixote are important. They take what we know and play with it; not just be deconstructing the tropes of the genre they’re using, but also by playing with the idea of stories themselves. It’s not just books that do this; the famous “Duck Amuck” cartoon not just demolishes the fourth wall (postmodernism) but uses the very metanarrative of animation as a plot. Actually, if you want a good representation of what I’m talking about, that’s a great place to start.
I love postmodernism and metanarratives in stories, mostly because I love stories in the first place and it’s wonderful when they play with it. It’s fantastic and often adds an additional layer to already great narratives.
Most of my preproduction paperwork is squared away, so that means I just have to wait for approval from NYU so I can shoot on the 18th/19th (holy frappe that's in two weeks). I also got to fill out my pick sheet - I'm renting a DOLLY. This is exciting.
Crew is also coming together. I've got a meeting with the art department (yes I have an art department!) tomorrow morning to hash out costumes and some set dressing stuff down. So that's gonna be exciting.
My crew's twelve deep now, and we've doubled up on some jobs: Director (me), Producer, Director of Photography, AD/Gaffer, Grip, AC/Production Designer, Art Direction/Script Supervisor, Art Direction/Make up, Sound Mixer, Boom Op, and two Production Assistants.
Funny thing is, back in the army I was a Corporal and, technically, be in charge of a squad of twelve, how's that.
But then I've got my cast too (and that's coming together) which means I'll have a solid 18 people involved in this production, with a total of 12 on set at a time.
And I've gotta feed them. The budget I'm given may not be enough for food along with vehicle rental, additional equipment procurement (C47's black out sheets, etc), and art and costume stuff. So I'm thinking of starting a Kickstarter to raise a couple hundred more to keep my crew fed and happy.
But woohoo, it's coming together! Yaaaay!
I’ve only played The Last of Us once. Well, only played it through all the way once. I started a New Game+ about a year ago, but still haven’t finished it. It’s odd, I know, considering how much I write about it (plus two final papers and counting). Oh, I play the multiplayer every now and then and I do look up cutscenes for reference, I just haven’t played it through again.
Don’t get me wrong, I want to; it’s just a big commitment. Not time-wise (though there is that), but emotionally. The Last of Us hit me to my core. It was a game that really affected me, one of those experiences that stick with you. Every time I went back to the story I knew what I was in for and, well, I guess I wasn’t sure if I was ready.
Not everything’s like this. I wanna give BioShock: Infinite and Spec Ops: The Line (both plenty dark and intense games) another playthrough if/when I have the time. Halo: Reach I’ve played the story a bunch of times, as with the Uncharted games and several others. So why not The Last of Us? I guess it’s similar to how I feel about Fruitvale Station. Again, loved the movie, not sure if I could watch it again for a good long time. It really stuck with me. Maybe I can’t easily go back to The Last of Us or Fruitvale because of the emotional commitment.
But what about something that’s not gut-wrenchingly sad? I’ve only watched Firefly all the way through three times. I’ve seen some episodes more, watching with friends and such, but only sat down to watch the whole series three times. Which I weird, because I love the show. Firefly, I think, is because it can be deeply personal. It’s the sort of thing that’s treasured and loved.
Which, again, doesn’t make a lot of sense. I’ll watch The Avengers or The Princess Bride on a whim, both movies I love. So why is Firefly this exception? I think this makes Firefly like The Last of Us here. I love both, and I enjoy both (I wouldn’t say watching Fruitvale was enjoyable, but it was still great). The thing is, I’m incredibly attached to both, and very much invested. I guess it’s not something I can take lightly.
So is this good? As you may have noticed, The Last of Us has had incredibly staying power woth me, and I keep up with any news concerning it. Firefly remains one of my favorite shows and I will quote it incessantly in conversation. So yes. They’re incredibly important and special stories to me. In that sense then, they succeed. I don’t have to watch them a lot, but they’re still there.
Apologies for the short and rambley post this week. Been swamped with a lot of pre-production stuff this week. And I’m still trying to find time to play Destiny.
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.
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.
grew up on a ship
at New York University
frequently found writing in a coffee shop, behind a camera, or mixing alcohol and video games