Sunday, September 10, 2017

Stay Close: A Short Film By David Wagner

Here's a short film I shot in August with two of my daughters and a friend of the family, called Stay Close.

I made it as an experiment, trying to see if I could do a short film myself from concept to finish. All things considered, I'm very pleased with it, though the handful of people I've shown it to have had very little positive to say about it. So be it.

Filmed it on my iPhone 7, got all the footage in about 3 hours in one afternoon (from 5:15 pm to 7:45 pm), did the edit and color corrections in Premiere Pro. The music is too loud, I know... and the sound is inconsistent. The audio-gathering and crafting aspects of film making are hard for me still, but I'm learning.

And hey, if I don't try, I'll never learn, right? I had a lot of theory in my head going into this. Every shot, everything I put in it, I had a good reason for. I think a lot of it worked (in spite of the feedback I'm getting), and I have a plan moving forward, as far as what I'll do differently next time.

And there will be a next time. And many times after that.

First film, done.


Dave the Mildly Disillusioned

Monday, July 10, 2017

Still Breathing


Well, see, initially I was saying "surprise" to you, if you happened to stumble in here, fully expecting the December post to be sitting atop the dormant page here, and hey, a new post from Dave the Absentee (and Possibly Deceased, who knows?)!

But actually, it's probably more apt to say "surprise" in reference to myself, as in I'd be surprised if anyone ever bothered to check in here ever again...

You know, there's a strange sense of freedom and liberation in such a position... I could say or do anything here now, and no one would ever know! MUAHAHAH!!! I could strip down to my zebra-print speedo, wear a toilet seat around my neck and race around the blog without restraint, pulling tissues out of a box and flinging them everywhere! I could sing at the top of my lungs, and dance like no one's watching... because... you know why...

Or I could simply sit calmly and stoically in the directors chair here, and explain what I've been up to, lo, these 7 months... or explain why I let my blog die in the first place... or why my feet smell strangely of turned cheese...

But first...

Honestly, my blog had evolved so thoroughly into "more of the exact same thing every time" that I ultimately decided a swift and unannounced sword to the head was the only way to address the situation. I was either whining about life's little problems, or talking about whatever film/play/writing projects I was either currently working on, or hoping to somehow usher into fruition, or posting random odd photos/video's... and fart jokes... and occasional tedious theological meanderings... Frankly, I was getting sick of me, and, since I'm a narcissist, I projected that onto my meager audience, and assumed y'all were sick of me as well...

And so... yeah...

And I had every intention of letting things continue that way. But hey, tonight, I felt the long-believed-dead feeling to fire up a blank post and get my ramble on. Do I have anything stellar, or enlightening, or educational, or life-altering to relay? Nope, lol... I wanted... to.. uh... [Dave glances around, embarrassed]... to share what I've been doing this year, as far as film/plays/writing...

Maybe that's just what I'm supposed to do/be. Do I just accept that? Screw it, I'll leave that to the philosophers to figure out...

So this year, I've basically been putting myself through film school online, by watching YouTube videos on film production, and by hunting down and absorbing the best film and TV I can find. It's funny... while I was heavy into learning screenwriting, it got to where I would watch a film or show, and I could see the script ghosted over the screen as I watched, sort of scrolling past... I could see the dialog text scrolling by as it was being spoken... it was a weird sensation... Now that I've been learning about shot composition, scene structure, editing, composing, special effects, pacing, etc., I've gotten to where I can observe the craft of what I'm watching as I'm watching it... why did the director choose that shot? Why did they open that scene on a close-up instead of a long shot? Why use a wide lens there instead of a long one? Why did they hold on that shot for two extra seconds instead of cutting away? I can enjoy watching the film/show, but simultaneously study the craft...

So, yeah, I'm discovering the art of film making.

I've obtained more tools of the trade as well. Cameras, sound gear, lighting, editing software, special effects software... I'm becoming a one-man film studio...

I've always been a writer, since my childhood. I know my way around a page, in any number of genres/disciplines.

I've been an actor since high school. Combine the two, and I believe I can write well for an actor. I can write parts that actors will read and smile and get excited about playing, since I thoroughly understand the actors' mindset, and what appeals to them most. Being an actor helped my writing...

And now that I'm learning all the steps involved in bringing a script to life on the screen, it has also helped my writing to evolve. I've since gone back and re-read short screenplays I've written in the past years, and now I can see how impractical some of it is... if I'd understood better the craft of film-making, it would have made a difference at the early writing stages, where I'm coming up with the story elements... now I can write with craft in mind...

So that's what I've been doing with my time away from the blog. Learning. Experimenting. Coming up with ideas for things I can film by myself (or with my daughter(s)), here at the house... short films and series ideas... I have scripts written. When I have something to post, I will post it here. I'm super excited.

I haven't only been isolated these months. I was involved heavily in the Easter play we did at church in April, which was incredible fun. I worked with Ryan E. on the 48 Hour Film Festival again in May. I'm working on a short film (as an A.D.) with another friend of mine, Shawn J. And I'm working on a spiritual short film with another friend of mine, Andrew K.

Plus, I'm still occasionally filming for BTI, and still meeting with Rob D. about the feature script we wrote together.

Other things in the works as well.

So, now that I've typed it all out, how do I feel? Was it worth it? A new blog post, ultimately full of the same old stuff?

I don't know. Maybe I won't post this at all. Let it languish in the "Drafts" section. Nah, I might as well publish it. But I won't announce it on FB, I'll just let it lie here.

But basically, I'm still alive. Still learning, planning, growing... still writing, drawing, acting, filming... still breathing, exercising, drinking coffee, treading water... one Dave at a time...

Will I post again any time soon? I don't know. Maybe. I've been feeling the itch to create more Wagnervana comics. And when I film and edit something worth sharing, I'd like to be able to post it somewhere. So yeah, I don't know. We'll see.

I guess that's that.


Friday, December 16, 2016

All's Whale that Ends Whale

December is half-way done... which means several things.

First, it means that today is my anniversary. 26 years of challenging road. I look back on the first two decades of my marriage from a distance now, like I've been climbing a mountain and have stopped to look back at the path I've taken to get here, stretching and winding all the way back down into the valley. From way up here, it doesn't look that bad. At the time, it nearly killed me... but from here, that path looks so small and peaceful and easy! Funny thing, perspective...

Next, it means that Christmas is almost here. Not having a Christmas play to wrestle through to frantic completion for Mt. Zion has meant my December has been mellow, for the first time since the mid-nineties. We're doing a fun little Christmas presentation with the kids of the church. I'm sure no matter how it turns out, the parents will love it. Bottom line, the Christmas-related stress levels are at record lows.

Finally, it means that 2016 is almost over. It has been a crazy year personally, with record highs and lows. Yet I continue to have a huge list of things to be thankful for.

My blogging frequency hit an all-time low - for that, I apologize. My reasons are varied: too busy; sinking my creative energy into other projects; too hurt to talk openly about my life; occupying myself with escapist time-killers to avoid thinking; and thinking I've said everything I have to say about life. I mean, if you scan the blog entries for the past year, they're all the same anymore. I recap projects I'm doing, and apologize for blogging so infrequently. If this year was a record album, that would be the theme tying my songs together.

Anyways, my custom is usually to run down my favorite entertainment-related items of the year. You know, games, books, films, etc.

2016 Entertainment Highlights

BOOKS: I read only a fraction of the books I usually read in a year. Usually, I get in around 30 to 35 titles per year. In 2016, it was only 16 - and a good number of those meager few were re-reads. I revisited the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, as well as The Heroes by Joe Abercrombie (my second-favorite book of all time, by my favorite author). I feel odd including re-reads in the Best of Running, so I will exclude them. That leaves precious few to consider.

Best Book of 2016: Beyond Redemption by Michael R. Fletcher
Honorable Mention: Academic Exercises by KJ Parker

A quick note about KJ Parker. This year, he has solidified himself in my List of Favorite Authors. As it stands at this moment, my top 5 goes: Joe Abercrombie, Steven Pressfield, KJ Parker, Mark Lawrence and Pat Rothfuss.

SONGS: Lots of great new music this year, as far as my exposure. A lot of it is harder-edged stuff, which I like because it's cathartic. With my newly-realized perspective on the purpose and nature of music, I realize now that music impacts that part of a person where the meaning of words don't matter anywhere near as much as the way the words sound as they are being said/sung. And the energy I feel when listening to music by Avatar, Disturbed, The Offspring, Volbeat and others simply connects and resonates with me in a place I need such things, without reference to what the lyrics are actually saying.

That having been said...

Best Song of 2016: Night Never Ending by Avatar
Honorable Mentions: Live Forever by SIXX AM; My Name is Human by Highly Suspect; and The Calling by After the Fall.

MOVIES: I really should keep better track of the films I see throughout the year. I don't write them down anywhere. Books I track here in the blog margin, as well as on Good Reads, music I track on YouTube (when I find a song I like, I save the video to a playlist), TV I only watch online, so checking my history on NetFlix and Amazon Prime, I can easily review. But movies?

I saw only a couple of films in the theater that I can recall. Hateful Eight, Captain America Civil War, Kubo and the Two Strings, and half of Star Trek Beyond. That's it, I believe. I don't recall if I saw Spotlight in 2016 or 2015... There were many others I wanted to watch, but I never made it to the theater. So... I will open it up to include other films I saw on Blu-Ray or online for the first time. These other films included: Bridge of SpiesDeadpool, The Martian, The EquilizerThe Invitation, The Big Short, ARQ, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Predestination, and Ex Machina.

That's really not that many either. I watched tons of short films, a lot of stand-up comedy, and additional viewings of old favorites like In Bruges, Snatch, etc. as well as browsing the heck out of YouTube clips covering a wide variety of topics, plus watching TV series (or trying to find good ones... a lot of false starts)...

That having been said...

Best Film of 2016: Predestination
Honorable Mention: The Big Short

TV: I watched a number of great series' this year. Luke Cage Season 1, Goliath, Gotham Season 1, Daredevil Season 2, Broadchurch, and Justified Season 6. I started watching at least twice that many additional series, but gave up on them, often after only one episode. I'm trying to find good stuff to binge watch! I think that the best writing and acting at the moment are being done in TV. Way too much good stuff out there - it's just a question of finding it...

That having been said...

Best TV Series of 2016: Broadchurch
Honorable Mention: Daredevil Season 2

A word on Broadchurch. David Tennant and Olivia Coleman are so unbelievably good in this series, it boggles my mind. The entire cast is outstanding. There's something about British acting that sets it apart from Hollywood/American acting... this show is an acting clinic. The subject matter is hard to deal with, but the level of entertainment can't be beaten.

GAMES: As meager as the other categories were this year, this category is practically non-existent anymore. Serious, I did buy a smallish number of games this year, but I spent over 95% of my gaming time playing two games: Minecraft and Fallout 4. Both are games I've played and loved before 2016. I've dabbled with a few other 2016 titles, but nothing worth mentioning. And I don't think iPad apps and games count...

That having been said...

Best Game of 2016: Does not apply


So what else?

Still in an odd "No Man's Land" as far as entertainment-related news. Everything has either stalled out, or is perhaps simply in a holding pattern until after the holidays. Perhaps my first January blog post will hold some news.

On a more personal front, there will be two weddings in the next year, for people I love and are especially close to. My beloved Middle Daughter is officially engaged, as is my awesome Younger Brother. Two of the most important people in my life! That's super exciting. My brother and his fiance are planning an August wedding. Middle Daughter and her fiance haven't pinned down a date yet, but she mentioned fall in passing. That could change.

So, yeah, the year draws to a close, and yeah, it's been a rough one in many ways. But I'm still alive and kicking, so all I can do is hang tight and wait for 2017 to roll around. Hopefully I'll have lots of fun news to share soon.

Adios for now,

Dave the Yo-Yo

Monday, November 14, 2016

I Have A Couple of Friends That Call Me "Whiskers"...

Wow, where to begin?

I tell ya, this year. Talk about highs and lows. In many ways, never been higher, never been lower. But it's my own fault, really. I recalled today that for the bulk of 2015, a constant prayer of mine had been "Please, Lord, help me to grow up."

I'm an introspective, socially-isolated type of person. I've sifted my personality and over-analyzed the findings so thoroughly over the past two decades, it must be counter-productive in the extreme by now. It's in my wiring - I need to understand things. Everything needs to make sense or it drives me crazy. I can't rest on an issue until I know which mental shelf to put it on and why.

It's as exhausting as it sounds.

That having been said, here are the highlights and lowlights of the past two months.

First, the positives...

I finished the first draft of Momentum, the feature script I've been working on for the past year or so, with the illustrious Rob Dey. We're going to meet this week to begin discussing rewrites. The draft is over 200 pages long. We're going to tweak it into two versions. One feature version that will be rather drastically pared down. And a series version, breaking this script into episodes, and keeping more of the content. We've actually renamed the project, but I can't divulge that info yet.

In fact, I can't really share anything else about it at this time. But it is a huge, great feeling to be done with the first draft. I've written short scripts, and tons of plays, but this is my first full-length script. Can't wait to see how this project evolves.

There is a second big positive, relating to writing, but I can't talk about that at all yet, lol. And two other possibly big developments, also under wraps.

Man, I thought I'd have more positives to share!

Before I ever-so-briefly hit the lowlights, here's some fun stuff for you...

Here's a classic from SNL with Will Ferrell doing his Harry Carey impression for the skit Space: The Infinite Frontier...


And here's a recent Conan segment with incomparable John Cleese and Eric Idle...

There, that should take the edge off.

The first lowlight was an intensely personal one, which seemingly cost me two friendships. I don't make friends easily. I have a reasonable amount of acquaintances, but very few people I would call friends - as in, when things are rough, I call and/or go see him, and talk things out, etc. I had two, and both were radically affected simultaneously. It was, as one might imagine, very disillusioning. I've never been one to claim to understand people very well. I thought I had a good enough handle on it to at least maintain a select few friendships. I learned the folly of that mis-assessment.


During the course of dealing with that (a very ugly time), I learned some very positive things about myself and about people.

In other words, God seems to be answering my prayer from last year, about growing up.

I will be writing all of the lessons I learned in this journey down at some point. I may even share some of it here, since it might be of interest to you.

The second lowlight was, of course, the election. I'm not going to get my political ramble on, fear not! I will limit myself to a few easily-skimmable sentences only!

I was not a Hillary fan, but I thought Donald Trump was a joke. Now he's our President. I lost my composure on Facebook and stomped on toes on Election night (and E-Day +1), and cut loose. Then I realized the futility of it all, and deleted my posts (and all the replies), with some embarrassment. My stance at this very moment is that of (I believe) everyone else that voted for him (which I did not). We have absolutely no idea what he's going to do. That means, there's a possibility (no matter how slim) that he'll be ok as President, and not a complete, unmitigated disaster. So for my own sanity's sake, I am clinging to that impossibly slim hope, bolstered by two things... first, the knowledge I gained about myself and people from my personal crisis (referenced earlier), and the 60 Minutes interview Trump gave, where it seemed he presented himself quite well.

I'm not a fan, but I'm not flabbergasted any longer. We shall see.

Wow, the lengths I could go to, in elaborating on both of those topics! I shall spare you. And by "you", I mean my mother, who is likely the only person who still reads this blog...

Hi mom! I love you!

The Christmas Play at Mt Zion is on the razor-edge of having the plug pulled. I wrote the script, cast it, and had the read-through. Then a cast member dropped out and another expressed concerns about finding time to rehearse, and now we're about 5 weeks from performance. Christmas is on a Sunday this year, so we need to put the play on the Sunday before (December 18)... I don't know if we can do it.

Here's a question I've been pondering lately. Is it possible to tell whether an author is male or female, by the writing itself? I think I can tell. It's a gut thing... what the author decides to say and how...

Dude, I keep writing more and then deleting it, because what I'm trying to say isn't coming out right. It keeps sounding like I'm taking a shot at female authors. I'm not. I guess I won't elaborate on this, then. Bottom Line: I think I can tell author gender by the storytelling choices.

Lol... man, that was like opening the door to a room, seeing something frightening, and then slowly backing out, and closing the door again... I should just delete the topic altogether... *shudder*

Oh,man, do I have a bunch of great ideas for time travel stories... just saying...

What else..?

Just filmed more for BTI this weekend. And THAT is all I can/should say about THAT. I will provide a more robust BTI update as soon as I feel bold enough to attempt to navigate that minefield again...

I think I'll end with this compelling (to me) video essay from the YouTube channel Lessons from the Screenplay...

Great insights for a writer, me thinks...

So, how to wrap up this post?

Highs and Lows, just like everyone else. Thanks for your patience and understanding mom! And to any non-mom readers wading through this morass, thank you as well. Here is something I'm learning, as I grow up...

Take care.

Dave the Tedious