These Are Our Confessions…

Click the image to hear my confessions. They're not pretty.

Click the image to hear my confessions. They’re not pretty.

We’ll my lovelies, here we are. The Confession is now live over at Seed&Spark. Here’s the low-down:

  • Our pitch video is probably the funniest I’ve been a part of, after two other campaigns. If you do anything, check it out to hear some (unsettling) confessions from cast, crew and friends
  • Please note that we’re only funding for two weeks. If you dig what we’re doing, please consider contributing today. Every dollar helps, and will go towards paying creators to makes something fun/funny for you, quickly and directly.
  • We’re a Staff Pick on Seed&Spark. I must confess, we’re honored to have been selected again (The Videoblogs was similarly chosen) and are exciting to be working with once more with the S&S team.

In case you missed it, we also have some cool incentives lined up for our gracious supporters. We’re sending out the first batch in the below two categories today:

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If you’re able to help at all, we’d appreciate any and all support. Even if you just like our silly video — please consider sharing on Twitter or Facebook.

Here are some samples you can copy and paste:

TWITTER

Listen to these embarrassing confessions — and then please join me in helping these sad people! http://bit.ly/1NIWzYU

FACEBOOK

Oof. I cringed listening to these confessions. Check it out and then please join me in helping these sad people! http://www.seedandspark.com/studio/confession

Thanks for being cool. I confess — it would really mean a lot to us to make another project for you while we put the finishing touched on The Videoblogs!

What do you say? Do you have 90 seconds to watch our pitch

IMG_1639 (1)The Confession
A short drama (with some humor)
Writer: Michael DiBiasio / Director: Jaclyn Gramigna / Starring: Rebecca De Ornelas

Jacob just spent the night at Ellen’s for the first time. The still-new couple wanders into Brooklyn the next morning, to hang out. Jacob acts strange. Ellen wonders why. A confession is coming. And it’s not what you expect.

The Confession: Applying Lessons Learned

EDIT: The Seed&Spark funding campaign for this film has been launched! Go here to watch our (not at all embarrassing) pitch video. Every dollar helps!

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Confession — we want to make something for you again. Read to the bottom for the full scoop!

As has been discussed here already, the process of completing The Videoblogs has been as exhausting as it has been amazing. (Lately, it’s been mostly amazing again, but more on that in the near future).

To recap — there have been two primary difficulties I’ve faced since we wrapped, and additionally as we and I have continued with the work of finishing the film.

The first was the fallout from working so hard, for so long, to not only get a feature film shot but a super low-budget feature film that takes on the heavy subject of mental health. On a personal artistic level, I followed up production by focusing primarily on crafting a no-holds-barred superhero spec script. In retrospect, I think the idea behind that was to have a ton of fun, and to explore a story without restrictions of scope or budget. (It was a true blast to write that one).

But I actually want to talk today about the other challenge, which requires a bit more unpacking.

Something happened to me over the course of the last few years. I’m not going to go into the details yet again, but suffice it to say that I crossed over to a place where I can (need to) share work here, frequently, such that you and I can keep up our relationship.

All that is a long way of confessing that, while completely understandable and necessary, it bothers me a bit that it’s been about a year since I shared a film with everyone. And, realistically, The Videoblogs won’t be out until next year.

So, what do we do?

Well, here’s something else I’ve learned over the years…

Lesson: Smash problems together

Problem: The Videoblogs, while amazingly fulfilling, has created the need for a change of pace, a little fun, in its wake.

Solution: Make something fun.

Problem: We haven’t commiserated over a large-scale creative thing since last year, when Multiverse was released at our party and then on this site.

Solution: Make something at a manageable scale, and share it immediately.

So. That catches you up as to why Rebecca and I have decided to make The Confession, a new comedic short film that we intend to fund, shoot, edit and release before the end of the year.

Lesson: Greater collaboration leads to better work

Find out more about Jaclyn: http://jaclyngramigna.com/

More about Jaclyn: http://jaclyngramigna.com.

Also, we’re introducing a few other lessons into the making of The Confession.

We’ve teamed up with the talented Jaclyn Gramigna, who will be directing/producing. I have to focus my directorial duties on The Videoblogs. Also, we’re aiming with this film to create a situation where collaborators are wearing one to two hats each, versus the “usual” three or more.

I like Jaclyn’s work, and we’re excited to collaborate with her.

Lesson: (Educated) guerilla-style fits us best

When we realized that The Videoblogs would only happen if: 1) I served as director of photography for the film (saving time and money) and 2) We shot guerrilla style — I spent a ton of time testing out all the research and experience I had gained over the past several years. I also grilled Daniele Napolitano, the man responsible for the beauty of Multiverse, on how to max out my camera, over the course of a three-hour drive.

The idea behind this, despite certain limitations, was to achieve photographic results that measured up to the overwhelming majority of what you might see in a well-done indie film today. I’m happy to say that — with the help of Alex Hollock and others — that we seem to have achieved this goal. We intend to shoot The Confession the same way, with the same cameras, and with even more knowledge that we had going into The Videoblogs.

Lesson: The film is (equally) about both artist and audience

I have already sung the praises of crowdfunding. I’m singing them again, now, not only because we need your help to make The Confession, but also because — this is how I would like to ideally operate.

Woah. Thank you.

We’re very grateful to our audience for funding production of The Videoblogs, Multiverse, and other films.

By now, we feel confident that we can deliver a quality film. The products of the past ten years (Over Easy, Sex and Justice, Multiverse, The Videoblogs) hopefully provide evidence of that. What I would love to do with The Confession is to do it all again — we make an entertaining but quality film, via your support — but also, in doing so, to prove a very simple point.

Where there’s a good team and a receptive audience — there can also be a squarely even exchange. With few parties in the middle complicating timelines and ballooning costs.

We seek your support in making The Confession, so that everyone can get together for a day in September, get paid a (nominal) wage to shoot something fun, and then quickly deliver that fun thing to you, who by then will hopefully have made it happen.

On that note…

Lesson: The most efficient way to get things done well is to pay a fair cost for them

We’ll raising funds to make The Confession on Seed&Spark The campaign will run for two weeks. If we’re successful in raising the $2,000 we’re looking to raise, we will be able to focus more completely on quality — and on getting the film quickly to you, first — by paying the decent wages listed in the campaign Wish List, feed everyone for the day of shooting, hold our collaborators schedules for the few but necessary hours we’ll need to get it all done, and (if all goes well) submit to a handful of film festivals after we deliver to you.

Rebecca De Ornelas will play Ellen in The Confession. Our Seed and Spark campaign launches on Sunday!

Rebecca De Ornelas will play Ellen in The Confession. Our Seed and Spark campaign launches on Sunday, 8/30!

If you decide to contribute even a small amount, you’ll be securing a first look at The Confession, and making a statement in favor of paying artists (directly) to make their work and share it (directly) with you.

All things told, it’s a modest experiment, with a (relatively) modest financial goal attached.

If you can’t contribute at this time, that’s totally cool. But we’d love your support spreading the word on social media, if you’re on board with what we’re doing. Please be on the lookout for Tweets, Facebook posts, and that sort of stuff.

This could be another step in our ongoing, (healthy and uncomplicated?) relationship. And if it works, maybe we’ll try it again next year.

What do you say? Do you have 90 seconds to watch our pitch

IMG_1639 (1)The Confession
A short drama (with some humor)
Writer: Michael DiBiasio / Director: Jaclyn Gramigna / Starring: Rebecca De Ornelas

Jacob just spent the night at Ellen’s for the first time. The still-new couple wanders into Brooklyn the next morning, to hang out. Jacob acts strange. Ellen wonders why. A confession is coming. And it’s not what you expect.

Tell That Story: Filmmaker Minhal Baig

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I first “met” Writer/Director Minhal Baig on Twitter, when several people whose work I respect started recommending everyone follow her — a ringing endorsement in today’s tech-enabled climate. We connected shortly thereafter and I invited her to come on the podcast to discuss her new project, Hala.

Our discussion was multi-pronged and, in my opinion, full of a lot of great lessons. Minhal works hard, and has already absorbed several big lessons about life as a creative despite only being a few years out of college.

Topics discussed in this episode include:

  • Entering the post-collegiate market as an artist
  • The hard work before and around the creative stuff
  • Sourcing out a more direct creative path (make your own work)
  • Storytelling as a personal need
  • The difference between trying to sell a script and trying to make a movie
  • The difference in scope between shorts and features
  • The importance of working on material that you love
  • Throwing out the good stuff to get to the great stuff
  • Supporting the movies you want to see
  • Personal vulnerability as a storytelling necessity

Minhal’s a smart and talented filmmaker. We also talked about how she began to hone in on some of the above lessons as one of the inaugural fellows in the Blacklist Screenwriter’s Lab.

This episode is also available on iTunes.

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Not Dead Yet: Ten Years of Filmmaking

CWC_Patreon_01Today marks the ten year anniversary of the beginning of a near-death experience I had when I was a student in college. For a long time, it was hard for me to talk about that period of my life. Since around the time when I wrote this essay, however, I’ve been able to do a better job of discussing both what happened, and how it has affected me.

In the intervening years since writing that post, I’ve gotten to the point wherein I can talk even more openly, in person, about what happened — without becoming re-traumatized. Years of therapy, the natural erosion of pain via time, and the process of carefully opening up about it, more often, in trusted company over the years, has led me to a place where I can (gratefully) say that.

But something else happened ten years ago, too. Immediately after.

At the time, it was perhaps not the healthiest (sole) reaction to the fears I felt after my hospitalization, but, regardless — today I have come to view it as one of the two best things to have ever happened to me.

I started making films.

As soon as I was (somewhat) recovered from the experience, I began stumbling down a winding and staggered artistic path that continues to this day. Today’s bonus episode of the podcast, among other topics, is meant to explore this journey a bit.

The reasons I decided to talk about the relationship between my work and this incident in my life are many.

  • I wanted to take a life-affirming view of the anniversary of my illness, to focus on the ten years of (hard-won) health and happiness experienced since that time, that I can now identify as essential to my growth as an artist and a person — rather than the first five to seven years of prior intense dread.
  • I have come to view what happened to me not with fear, but with gratitude. I feel a discussion of my evolution to this point of view could potentially be helpful to others who might be struggling as I was at that age (early twenties). It wasn’t just the one thing that happened, which kept me somewhat blocked as an artist, and definitely struggling harder than I needed to struggle, for many years. Arguably, all the experience did was force some stuff to the service sooner.
  • It seemed a good way to close the book on the lingering anxieties I still sometimes feel when I think about how it felt at that time to be so unsure of tomorrow — despite that fact that we NEVER know what tomorrow is going to bring

So, here’s that episode.

And I realize that my mention of how stumbling into my life as a filmmaker was one of the two best things that’s ever happened to me might naturally lead to questions seeking to identify the other.

Well, she is the guest host for this bonus episode of the podcast. I hope you like it and thank you for listening.

This episode is also available on iTunes.

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Let Go: Musician/Artist Cat Tassini

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I met Cat Tassini at the 2013 Bushwick Film Festival, where she was in attendance with Wildcat Apollo bandmate Taylor Eichenseer, a friend and fraternity brother of mine from college.

At that time, I missed the festival screening of Cat’s music video (for one of their songs), but went back and watched it later (and liked it) and we chatted via email afterwards and have kept in touch since. I’m a fan of Wildcat Apollo‘s music, and remain excited about what’s in store for them.

Cat does more than sing and play music — we discuss her multiple artistic tracks — but she also has a great attitude and work ethic. And she brought a thoughtful gift to her recording session, which was kind and pretty cool.

1962652_607165452719041_7917939502026241689_nWhen I learned that Cat was going to be in town (the band is based in Austin), I asked her to come on the podcast. My musical vocabulary and education is severely limited, but we managed to have a great talk anyway.

Topics covered include:

  • Her journey from silence to singing
  • The imperative to share creative resources
  • Her experiments with different art forms and media
  • The difference between working and making your own work
  • The benefits of following instinct
  • Balancing complexity with simplicity
  • How to learn from other successful professionals — podcasts are one way :-)

Two clips from the band’s first album are included in episode, but you can find more of their music here.

As a reminder, you may also listen to this episode on iTunes. Please subscribe if you like it!

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Do Not Crash Into The Closed Bridge

Today's pages written at the Detroit Institute of Arts.

Today’s pages written at Kresge Court (Detroit Institute of Arts).

I pulled up to a closed bridge this morning while working on the new script and thought I would share how I addressed the situation, because I would have liked to have known this was possible earlier in my career.

The below is nothing revelatory. It’s obvious. When you run into a closed bridge — whether there are signposts to lead you or not — you take a detour.

What happened is that I got the idea of where to send my characters next (as I often do) while running around living life. Except, this time, I neglected to write down the idea.

That rarely happens, but it did happen, this time. Always take the moment to write a note. I find that the act of getting it out onto paper or into an email increases the likelihood that I’ll remember it. But, often, especially as I get older and my head gets more crowded and less sharp — if I don’t write it down there’s a decent chance I will forget.

When something like this does happen, the best thing to do, I’ve found, is to (gently) work through it.

In the past, I would have gotten angry and/or depressed. I still did, today, to a degree. But I know it doesn’t pay to crash your car into the closed bridge. I felt the feelings and I accepted them and thought about where to go next.

Here’s what I specifically did to get to the other side of the bridge (the scene).

Within the document, I just started typing, as I normally would, except instead of forcing anything or not respecting the emotional block at hand — I addressed the situation directly.

Where was I sending them next? I knew but the information has slipped from my mind. I can’t remember. Was ____ not around? Did he have something to do? Or was I sending _____ to ____. I think I was sending her to _____. Next time I will take the note, but for now this is a good enough response. I forgive myself for forgetting, and for not taking the note. It’s okay. I will eventually be led to where I am intended to be led. So shall the story, under my direction.

It worked. I don’t even know if I am right about where I was planning to go. As evidenced by the above, I obviously don’t believe it matters. I just went there. The story moves on, and I with it.

Are they other ways to address a similar situation? Yes. But few are as gentle. And when you’re sitting there alone, with the difficult and lonely job of storytelling — I’d propose that many other forms of barreling through, in a situation like this — it can be waste of energy to fight or rely on brute force.

I hope all that helps.

Are You Suffering from Script Head?

There's only one way to treat Script Head.

There’s only one way to treat Script Head.

Sent this to my email list earlier this week but thought it would also make a good blog post.

It started several weeks ago — a creeping anxiety that left me cranky, oft-distracted, and generally a little difficult to be around. I think it was easier for others to be around me, because these days I have good tools for ensuring things don’t get that bad. But — especially whilst walking around with myself — I was bothering me.

Of course, I obsessed over this a little bit. I thought and thought about what could be wrong. Tried on a few different reasons and excuses. None worked.

Then, eventually, it occurred to me that perhaps something was rattling around in my head, outside of my awareness. There was one idea that I had been toying with a bit, that seemed to be calling for attention but hadn’t yet quite formed into anything graspable.

Also, I was already working on something (a new short story, coming soon) and was determined to finish it before starting something else. You can’t grasp something that isn’t there yet, right?

Contrarily, though, you can’t stop some stories from asserting themselves, either.

Invariably, despite my plans, the something else broke out anyway. It happened once I stopped obsessing. Once I stopped working. It wasn’t until I acknowledged the weakness of my position (anxious without a clear path to reprieve) that I realized that the thing to do was to let go and focus on the mundane.

I did dishes. I ran a bath — yes, in the summer. I stayed off my phone, and away from other inputs.

That’s when the idea I had been batting around turned into “a thing”. I felt characters come to life within the thing. I scratched out notes until I felt I had a sense of who they were going to be, and what was going to happen to them. Later, it would dawn on me that, before all that, I had just been suffering from my latest case of Script Head.

That seems to be how it goes for me, lately. The good stuff arranges itself, on its own, as I go about my life. It comes out when it’s ready, then it asserts itself with discomfort. That’s okay. It was mild discomfort this time. I’m a more prepared and willing vessel than I used to be.

So I’ve started a new script. It feels special. Like an arrival at a place where I didn’t know I was headed over the past few years. I’m excited to write the first draft.

Stories are never more beautiful and perfect than when they begin to assert themselves towards their first form. What makes it onto the screen or the paper — even with that first draft — it doesn’t measure up to the feeling of being there for the genesis.

Handling raw story material truly is a privilege.