Saturday, December 30, 2017

The Year in Review, In Case You Missed It...

2017 slides to a full stop. I'm sitting in my (new) home office with some time to myself, and decided, instead of watching/reading/writing/playing/studying something, I'd take an hour or so and craft a end-of-the-year blog post.

You'd certainly (obviously) never know from merely reading this dead blog, but my year has been interesting and full of challenge and wonder, personally, emotionally, professionally and spiritually.

Highlights of the Year Include: The Easter production at church (an hour-long production with a cast of 40+ which I wrote, directed and played the lead in), producing my first short film "Stay Close" (wrote, filmed, edited), my brother John's wedding, my daughter Katie's wedding, finishing the pilot script for Standing Eight and moving homes. My mother-in-law passed away this year, but I feel odd calling that a highlight - yet it was certainly an important moment in the year, and deserves mention.

All in all, I seem to still be thoroughly absorbed in the realm of story-telling.  I've written screenplays of various lengths, a handful of plays, and a large swath of non-fictional thoughts on various subjects.

I've watched hours and hours of videos on YouTube on various aspects of the film-making craft, diving deep on facets ranging from story-craft, cameras/lenses, shot composition, music, emotion, lighting, sound capture/edit, style, editing, special effects, and acting.

I've read numerous books on the writing craft.

I've also watched a ton of great entertainment (as well as a lot of mediocre fare), which I studied as I enjoyed, taking notes, observing what works and what does not - and, most importantly, why.

One thing I've done far less of this year is reading novels and playing games.

But I did meticulously track everything I watched this year, so I have a complete record of my TV/Film experience for 2017. So my Best Of List will be precise this year...

Best Of List for 2017

Best Film: Lion

Heart-breaking, very moving. A study in maximizing impact with minimal dialog. Really takes advantage of what film (as a medium) has to offer.

Honorable Mentions: Jaws, Primer, Quiz Show, King Arthur

I watched 54 films this year: 14 on DVD/BluRay, 3 in the theater and 37 online (Netflix/Hulu/Amazon Prime etc.).

Random Observations: I found The Godfather, Wonder Woman and Logan to be over-rated. I found King Arthur and Spiderman: Homecoming to be underrated. I was sorely disappointed by Guardians of the Galaxy 2. My favorite documentary (of the 14 I watched) was called Alive Inside. I watched classics by Coppola, Kubric, Hitchcock, Scorsese and Spielberg - I think I enjoyed the early Spielberg work the best, from a craft standpoint. Favorite script of the year was for Kiss Kiss Bang Bang... Shane Black can sure write a great script.

Best TV/Series: Patriot (Amazon Prime)

Fantastic shots and editing, memorable well-developed characters, hilarious and dramatic, exciting and fascinating, many scenes and moments that come instantly back to mind. Extremely enjoyable.

Honorable Mentions: Travelers, Better Call Saul, Taboo, Fargo, Breaking Bad, The Wire

I watched a dozen complete series (22 seasons' worth total), and watched some fantastic stuff.

Random Observations: From a pure craft standpoint, Better Call Saul (Netflix) was hard to beat. The writing, acting, shot craft and the editing were incredibly good. It was hard not to choose it for my favorite of the year - but Patriot edged it out, for the same reasons and then some intangible factors that are hard to put my finger on. Travelers (Netflix) almost got top spot as well - fantastic premise, well-executed on every level. From a pure acting standpoint, it was a toss-up for me, between Billy Bob Thornton in Goliath (Amazon Prime) and Tom Hardy in Taboo (FX). Both are masters, inhabiting incredibly memorable characters. Currently Watching: Travelers Season 2 (Netflix)

Best Book: The Opus Discordia by JD Ross 

I was happy to continue the adventures of Fox Crow (introduced in "I Know Not" by same author). A wonderfully-crafted, violent, action-filled fantasy romp.

Honorable Mention: The Riddler's Gift by Greg Hamerton

I read very few novels this year (14), and they were predominantly divided between mediocre first reads and comfortable re-reads. The books I read for the first time had/have very little impact on me, so I found myself diving back into the warm arms of books I've read and enjoyed in the past. I did re-read A Game of Thrones, with every intention of reading the entire series through again, but stopped after Book 1. I enjoyed it, but the magic's gone... Glad I read Opus Discordia - a solid choice for best book. Currently Reading: The Way Into Chaos by Harry Connolly

Best SongRemain Nameless by Florence and the Machine

This song isn't a new song, but it's the song I enjoyed listening to the most this year. Something about that bass... gets into me...

Honorable Mentions: Take It All Back by Judah & the Lion, All I Want Is You by U2, Little One by Highly Suspect.

Best Game: Skyrim

Again, not a new game, but it's the game I enjoyed the most this year. (Just noticed that the artwork I chose says VR... I didn't play the VR version - I lack the gear)

Random Observations: I actually tried a lot of new games this year, but nothing really hooked me. Even Minecraft, which I usually play to unwind, isn't exactly fun. It's more therapy than anything. But yeah, Skyrim and Fallout 4 got a good amount of play time, as did Grim Dawn. However, I'm finding less motivation to play anymore. Maybe I'm finally growing up!

Plans for 2018

Well, more of the same for 2018, I presume. Finishing BTI with JP and crew. Expanding the script for Standing Eight with RD. Numerous plays and screenplays in various stages of completion. Will any of them be produced? Who knows? I have plans for a new comic strip for my place of business (the rug shop). I plan on doing more filming - short film ideas all over the place.

One thing I'm currently doing - I found my CD collection of the Bible, so I've been listening to the Bible in my car as I drive about. The past 5-6 weeks, I started at Genesis 1:1 and having been listening straight through. Just finished Esther today, and will start on Job tomorrow. It's fascinating to just roll right through it like that. Gives a great "big picture", as opposed to little bites here and there, at random. Themes stand out. One thing I've noticed is just how much death there is in the Bible... so much death... and God seems awfully moody... how can human life be so precious and yet so expendable at the same time? How can God love and despise so thoroughly, at the same time? I've noticed that Israel's history is one big story of God's people clinging to Him and then running away from Him, and then returning, and then leaving... pendulum swing, back and forth, over and over and over. Serve Him, leave Him for other gods, love Him, hate Him... I don't know if it's more depressing or fascinating... I'm trying to use it as a chance to learn about God, and to learn about people...

Anyways, when I start listening from the beginning again, I'll go slower so I can take notes and make observations, chapter by chapter.

Well, we all have our hobbies, eh?

Will the blog revive and live again? Dunno... maybe...

Hope your New Year is a great one.

Dave the Goof

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Let Sleeping Blogs Lie?

Well, hello again... sooo much happening, and it's hard to get it all straight in my head. So one possible solution is to blog about it, eh?

Check out this sequence of recent events (all since June):

  1. Slab leak in my house, which took 2 solid months (June and July) to fix, while my house was in complete uproar.
  2. Mother-in-law died on my birthday (Aug 16), just days before my brother John was to get married... I was in his wedding, then we left to go back to Albuquerque for the funeral. Drove out in one shot (12 hour drive) and then drove back again in another one-shot a three days later.
  3. Got home and received word that the owner of our house (which we've been renting for 12 years) passed away, and the heirs were going to sell the house. We got a 60-day vacate notice. We have to move by November 14, which is...
  4. ...three days after my Middle Daughter's wedding. 

Weddings, funerals, and forced moving. Plus, all my writing/acting/directing projects I have to focus on... Two screenplays, and a large Christmas project... Honestly, I hope that is the final "big shoe" to drop this year... not sure I can take another Life Wallop...

Speaking of the Christmas project, I've written a pair of scripts. The production is part-film (called The Laborers) and part-live play (called The Deliverer). Same characters in both. Picture "Act 1 and Act 2" being a film, which will be shown on the Big Screen at church, and then "Act 3" will be acted out live onstage... It's quite ambitious, and I hope we can pull it off.

I love live theater - but I've also been learning film making (see the previous post for a short film I recently made as a test), so I thought, "why not combine both"?

So, yeah! My world is all a'swirl at the moment. The part about having to move is unnerving me. I don't know whether to find another place to rent, or try to buy something. Rents are OUTRAGEOUS at the moment in San Diego. But so are home prices. I don't want to sink $500K into a mediocre house in some skanky neighborhood... but to buy a nice home in a nice neighborhood will likely run me far more than I'm able to spend... *tremble* So I'm looking out for rentals, and I'll also apply for a loan to see what I can qualify for. Maybe we can sneak into a decent condo somewhere. With Middle Daughter getting married and moving out, it means we can get a smaller place, since it will be just me, the Mrs., and Youngest Daughter...

We'll see! *tremble again*

Here's something else that happened within the past 24 hours...

So, I mentioned I'm focused on not 1 but 2 screenplays, on seriously huge projects, as well as the aforementioned Christmas project... and yet... I had an idea for a full-length play just fall into my head last night, and it rapidly became fully-formed and alive in my head... so I felt compelled to just sit down and write the thing. I've had things like this happen before - if I don't strike while the iron is hot (so to speak) then I'll default to merely taking detailed notes and then burying it in my archives, with the hope that "someday" I'll actually write it...

So, yeah, stop the important projects that I should be working on every free minute, and instead write down a play that is burning a hole in my heart...

Good thing I have my A.D.D. to help me out in times like this!

I have songs I want to record. I have audio dramas I want to record/edit. I have Wagnervana comics I want to draw. I have two web series ideas that I want to film and edit (which I've already written scripts for). I have soooo much I want to do. I wish I could get paid for some of it, lol... that would help me pay for a higher rent, at least! Sheesh!

I wish there was some way I could demonstrate to "someone of means" that I had creative talents that could be utilized for mutual gain. You know? Like, "hey Dave, write this screenplay for me, and I'll pay you X amount of dollars!" God, how amazing would that be? To get paid for doing something I love, and that I'm good at... I don't know how to brand myself like that... I have to hope someone "discovers" me and decides to use me to benefit him/herself... sort of a win-win... But hey, I know that type of thing doesn't just fall out of the sky... I need to try to make that happen... I just don't know how...

What else?

Good grief, haven't you had enough?

Life is an uproar for me, but oddly, I'm ok with it, for the most part. Flashes of panic here and there, but for the most part, I'm holding course. Wish I had someone to walk with me through this. Wife is in her own world since her mother died. I certainly can't fault her for that. And yeah, I feel selfish for hoping that she'd somehow be by my side with all this (she doesn't seem to want me by her side in her path)... but hey, no one ever died of loneliness, right?


Dave the Wanderer

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.