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New Video: Mark on the TV

October 11, 2009
Mark trapped inside the cold TV world.

Mark trapped inside the cold TV world.

Mark on the TV is a short little comedy about two friends Mark and Zach.  Zach attempts to tune into his favorite show, but instead discovers Mark to be trapped inside the TV. After initial confusion, Zach realizes that he had stolen DVDs from a gypsy lady the night before. The rest of the short is spent trying to figure out how to get Mark out of the TV.  Check out the movie below:

This movie was definitely a more ambitious Mark & Zach production as you can tell by the varied scene locations.  The very first thing we shot was Mark’s first scene from inside the TV. From there, we slowly ticked off each of the various channels that Mark was embodying.  One of the more difficult aspects of the film was trying to make sure the talking between Mark and Zach worked as a real conversation.  For Mark’s scenes, I was able to be there and read my lines so that we could go back and forth; however, all the scenes with myself talking to TV were shot alone.

Zach just "trying to help."

Zach just "trying to help."

I think an earlier film of mine Mylar: The Unhappy Happy Birthday Balloon helped prepare me to converse naturally without someone there.  I think the banter between Mark and myself ended up flowing fairly well.  The best sequence/location was the Pirate scene.  Mark and I traveled to the Rivanna State Park in Charlottesville, Va.  It is a beautiful park with a walking path along the river.  We found a really cool place tucked out of the way that served our Pirate demands rather well.  The opening sequence of Pirate P.I. was the sole creation of Mark.  Once he put on the pirate pants and shirt, he really got lost inside his character.  He told me to just film him as he jumped and ran around, and that is how our beautiful title sequence came together.

The genius actor that is Mark creates the character of Pirate P.I. from out the depths of his soul!

The genius actor that is Mark creates the character of Pirate P.I. from out the depths of his soul!

The hardest trick of the whole film was the picking up and shaking of the TV.  I went to Lowes and picked up a cheap square of sturdy plastic.  To film Mark’s part, I just held the plastic in front of the camera and had Mark smoosh his face into it.  For my scene outside of the TV, I taped neon green posterboard to the TV and secured both a camera and light underneath the TV.  Luckily, the TV did not fall out of my hands and destroy my camera.  In editing, I used motion to keygraph the movements of the footage of Mark to fit the movements of the TV.  I was worried that it would not work at all, but I ended up being quite satisfied with the end product.

Mark's faceplant into the TV screen.

Mark's faceplant into the TV screen.

The final trick at the end of the video was Mark’s whirlwind release from the TV.  The effect was actually quite simple and fun.  I had Mark slowly rotate up from a crouching position, and then in post, I sped it up by 300%.  I then layered it twice over and gave the various spinning Marks different start points and opacities.  The final touch was some funny noises and a wind effect.

The Whirlwind.

The Whirlwind.

This film took a while to complete, but it was a lot of fun.  Very glad to have completed another successful Mark & Zach production. Check my youtube account for more fun videos: CHUMAIO.

-Z

My Foray into Competitive Screenwriting

October 7, 2009

Recently, I’ve been putting a lot of energy into writing a lot more.  I joined a wonderful screenwriting group in Charlottesville known as CAOS (Charlottesville Area of Screenwriters) and have not only been writing my own scripts but have had the additional pleasure of reading other people’s scripts.  The latter being quite beneficial to my growth as a good script writer.  And through this group, I learned of an online screenwriting competition called The Creative Screenwriting Cyberspace Open that occurs as part of The Screenwriting Expo held out in California.

The first round of the event required people to write a 3-5 page scene over a weekend that fulfilled the requirements of a prompt.  The first prompt:

“Your PROTAGONIST is in a jam. He (or she) had been relying on deception in order to further his objective, but his ENEMY has figured out the ruse. Write the scene in which your protagonist’s LOVE INTEREST confronts him with this information acquired from the enemy – while staging it in a tricky or dangerous situation.”

What I ended up writing was a dialogue that occurred between a male ‘angel’  and a female ‘demon.’  The male ‘angel’ had been posing as a demon to destroy a real demon who had been ‘disrupting the balance of the worlds’ so to speak.  The woman finds out, gets peeved and we have our situation.  This is all very unoriginal and bland and yada yada, but what I did add something fun, which was actually the original inspiration for the piece.  Flying imps with jugs that fill with red liquid.  Here is an excerpt from the scene:

Angela’s eyes narrow.  On her right shoulder a mass the size of a fist forms pushing out through the skin.  Damian’s eyes move from Angela’s face to her shoulder.

DAMIAN:  But you have to believe me.  I was after Jeremiah only.

ANGELA:  How can I believe you?

The mass on Angela’s shoulder detaches and takes the form of an imp with wings.  Still the size of a fist, the imp grasps an empty glass jug tightly to its stomach and floats to the ceiling.  The jug begins to fill with a thick red fluid.

I had a decent ending to the script as well, having the angel lose his wings for his sins and the demon lose her horns due to her mercy, bringing the two ‘celestial’ beings down to a mortal level.  After sending the scene into the contest, I was then emailed a score out of a hundred with Judge’s notes.

Structure Score: 24
Dialogue Score: 23
Style Score: 24
Originality Score: 23
Judge’s Comments: A wild and trippy (nay, drippy) scene full of vivid imagery and creepiness. Solid tension from beginning to end. Writer might consider streamlining description to pick up the pace of the read. Condense the images to their essence, or at least break up the thicker paragraphs into more easily digestible chunks. Solid scene. Nice work.

The first round went really well, and one of the best things about it was actually getting the feedback.  It was nice to get such nice words from someone who knows what they are talking about.  My score of 94 was good enough to get me into the 2nd round which turned out to be quite a feat, as an article in the California Chronicle stated that over 2,000 entries were submitted.  Only 131 entries were selected for the second round, which means only the top 6.5% made it through!

For the second round, our time was more than halfed.  We had only 16 hours to write our 3-5 page scene, from 5pm on Oct. 1st till 9am the next day using this prompt:

Your PROTAGONIST’S allies have turned on him (or her.) His reputation is now in tatters, largely due to his own screw-up — which has been magnified and broadcast by the ANTAGONIST. Write the scene in which the protagonist tries to win the allies back. The scene should include a heartfelt mea culpa. You may use any setting, era or characters in addition to the ones indicated, as needed.

For this round, I spoofed off steroids in baseball and had a clown apologize to a Clown federation for using laughing gas on an audience to increase his laugh count.  I had fun with the idea, and finished a scene that I was quite proud of for having such a short timeframe.  I put a lot of work into it and even felt it was better than my first round script.

An excerpt:

Lobo reaches into his back pocket and pulls out a brush and a can of black shoe polish.

LOBO:  Which is why I now take full responsibility of my actions, and voluntarily remove myself from the institution of clowning.

Lobo trembles as he dips the brush into the polish, and then applies the black gunk to his red nose.

LOBO:  I, Lobo the Clown, strip myself of my title and askfor the forgiveness of the federation.

Lobo’s eyes are red and wet, as he completes blacking out his nose.  Gerald whispers in the ear of a PLUMP CLOWN dressed in a neon orange outfit.  The plump clown chuckles, jiggling his mass.

The Judging for my second round piece went as follows:

Structure Score: 23
Dialogue Score: 22
Style Score: 23
Originality Score: 23
Judge’s Comments: Well done. Watch out for expository dialogue.

This judge was much more brief than the previous one, but still gave me really good scores.  I am very excited to have gotten both scores in the 90s; however, I am doubtful that my score of 91 will be good enough to make it into the 3rd and final round.  The final round will be the top ten scene writers writing a scene in just an hour and a half.  Out of those, the top 3 will be performed live at the Screenwriting expo and judged by a live audience!  And the winner will receive $3,000!

Instrumental to my participation in this contest were my girlfriend Teresa and best buddy Mark.  They were both English Majors in College and helped sort out my poor grammar and word choice; they were also key motivators and confidence boosters!  Thanks a lot!

-Z

My International Zombie Debut

September 9, 2009
Attacking the a car, I'm the one in the back.

Attacking the car, I'm the one up top.

Ok, so it’s not really international.  It’s just the internet.  But I have every reason to believe that people are tuning in to it from all over the world.  It is the newly released trailer for a remake of Plan 9 From Outer Space, aptly titled Plan 9.  At about 1 minute and 59 seconds I make my zombie debut from a top a car.  Yes, those are my ears bleeding.

TRAILER

The trailer was made by John Johnson and his company Darkstone Entertainment.  Not seen in this trailer is that same car flipping down a hill with me running after it.  No doubt one of the biggest stunts I’ve ever done while being filmed.  In addition to lending my raw acting talent,  I also did some PA work, mainly during the opening graveyard scene.  We stayed out till around 5am, and then I drove myself and 4 others the hour and a half  back to Charlottesville.

Charging the car at zombie speed. (Far right)

Charging the car at zombie speed. (Far right)

It was a lot of fun and a great time working with the Darkstone crew.  And hopefully, I can be a part of the production for the feature length film.

The Living Deadpan Teaser Trailer

Additionally, my own zombie movie, The Living Deadpan, will be arriving soon.  Cheers.

Current Freelance Work

August 10, 2009

So up until now, all of my posts have been strictly my own personal creative projects.  But I figure it is time to share some of my hired work, as it is the only thing that legitimizes my so-called  “career decisions.”  (Biggest one being the decision to major in Film studies in College)

First off, I would like to start with my work at the non-profit organization, The Second Road.  This was an organization that created an online social network for people who are in recovery from drug addiction.  My job title could easily have been “the video guy” as I was given a big ol’ 1 Terabyte hard drive filled with several multi-camera recorded interviews of people discussing both  their life’s struggle with and recovery from drug addiction.  All together, I probably edited around 60 3-5 minuted videos, which you can view on the videos page .  (I edited all the ones with an image at the beginning)  Unfortunately, I no longer edit new interviews for them. Due to the current rough economic situation, that leaves non-profit organizations hard pressed for donations.  However, I still do maintain their youtube account, and I hope anyone reading this will support them by subscribing.  I have learned so much about addiction and how it affects people and their families.  My heart truly goes out to those individuals able to turn their lives around, and who continually fight to stay in recovery.  This job taught me a lot of things, and I am grateful for it.

As I moved away from The Second Road, I have been able to secure a few consistent freelance videography/editing jobs.  Through my connection to the local film company Pillage and Plunder Pictures, I got tossed a flower arranging show gig.  I met with a man named Tony, who turned out to be a retired producer of commercials, and who even went to NYU film school with Martin Scorcese.  His wife Anne happens to be an incredibly talented flower arranger, so I have been working closely with them to shoot and edit about 30 2-5 minute videos.  They are currently putting together a website, so I will post more when everything gets launched.

Anne Vanderwarker shows off a beautiful underwater flower arrangement.

Anne Vanderwarker shows off a beautiful underwater flower arrangement.

Through the flower show job, I was also able to get hired to produce Energy Efficiency videos for the Piedmont Environmental Council or PEC.  They were in the process of launching an initiative directed at homeowners and showing them “do it yourself” ways to improve efficiency around the home.  I shot and edited 12 different videos for them to be playable on their new website that they will be launching soon.  Below is a sample video:

48 Hour Film Project Richmond 2009

July 22, 2009

I participated in my 9th timed filmmaking competition (3rd 48 hour) this past weekend. I, with the help of my girlfriend Teresa, did the editing for “Life After Breath.” Teresa did all of the cool graphics, which I though turned out really well. The experience was a bit of an exhausting one as I m only partially comfortable with Motion. More to the point, I knew enough to get myself really confused and frustrated. And although rushed in the end, I think we were able to accomplish what we had set out to do. And yes, a lot of kudos goes to Teresa for picking up the slack.

The requirements were a tomato for prop, character Michelle Dooley a “Green expert,” the line “you can ask her yourself,” and our genre was Superhero.

Zach

POYKPAC, REGGIE WATTS AND…ME?

July 17, 2009

I’ve been pretty bad about posting, but this is me trying to get back in it.

Some time ago, I came across an amazing youtube page known as POYKPAC.  Please, go there, learn about the awesomeness yourself, and then take a nap from hilarity exhaustion.  Anyway, I dropped a few comments on the page, and one of the members of the group visited my own youtube channel.  He saw that I liked to edit, and then contacted me about possibly doing some editing work for the group.  I said yes, and then after a few additional emails, a package containing three mini dv tapes showed up in my mailbox.  I then had the pleasure of editing together a wonderful video of a performance by an insanely entertaining performer known as Reggie Watts.  Again, go there, get so madly entertained that you have to get surgery to get your jaw closed, and then take a nap because you are doped up from the surgery.

Now check out the video I edited:  Reggie Watts Live @ POYKPAC HQ

Plenty more to post about, but not until next week.  I am doing the 48 Hour film project in Richmond, Va this weekend! More to come on that laters.  Cheers,

Zach

Interrupting Universes

May 29, 2009

inter

I have been a bit slow on my blogging, but fortunately not slow on my movie making.  In fact, if I am not posting blogs that means I’ve been too busy, which is always a good thing.  I am currently the sole videographer and editor for two fairly big multi-episode projects.  Does that make any sense?  I tried to sum it all together to make it sound cool, without giving too much away as I feel that I should dedicate a separate post to my freelance work.  This post is about my latest creative endeavor entitled, “Interr-Uni-Upting-Verse.”

The basic premise is about two parallel universes aligning a bit too close and causing an interruption into each other’s realities. I wrote, shot, directed, and edited the video myself.  My good friend Mark did a wonderful job in acting, as he has done so much in the past.  In fact, Mark and I had earlier worked on some collaborations that involved time travel and parallel universe in the form of Bluesers 1 and Bluesers 2.  Thus, the idea for the movie was more of an off shoot of our previous work.  And the majority of the shots that make up the fabric of the multiple universes are also  from those two movies.

The millions of Mark and Zach universes...

The millions of Mark and Zach universes...

My main goal for the project was to execute jokes through the use of jump cuts. I had not had good reason to use jump cuts for quite some time, and since I really love them so much, I decided to make them the main focus of this project.

The unfortunate devil face that leads to the end of Mark and zach's friendship.

The unfortunate devil face that leads to the end of Mark and zach's friendship.

The setting is rather bare, but I think it works as it places the focus on the behaviors of the characters.  That being said, it was also just the easy thing to do, and it makes me want to do a project that is heavily set dressed.

The characters that Mark and I play are a tad exaggerated.  The one thing I wanted to stress was that the two different sets be different, and I believe we accomplished that.  Largely due to the fact that we filmed the different universes about a week apart from each other.

(Top) Best friends Mark & Zach (Bottom) Best enemies Mark & Zach

(Top) Best friends Mark & Zach (Bottom) Best enemies Mark & Zach

I am also hoping to continue to do more and more movies where I am not acting in them, as I would prefer to remain behind the camera.  So, if you are in Virginia and would like to act in short films, please feel free to contact me.  Hope you enjoyed my short movie, and thanks for watching.

Zach

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