Director’s Blog – Where to Go from Here

Episode 1 of the Steamworks & Shadows web series has been released on http://blip.tv/steamworksandshadows. I’ve experienced from scripting to editing, so where do I go now?

Obviously, I will be doing secondary editing and special effects for the rest of S&S season one episodes. To answer my own question of where I should go from here, I should talk a little about my inspiration.

I’ve always been interested in film making, and loved watching behind-the-scenes footage to figure out how it’s done. I did a few serious projects from high school through college. I met a very dear friend of mine, Ben Fifer, while in college and he made an appearance in one of my Star Wars fan films. He went with me to three Star Wars conventions, and we loved to collaborate. Ben Fifer was attending school for film making, so he had a passion and drive for it even more than me. After I was done with college, Ben went on to the army to train in media production for the military. I held down a day job, and was distracted from any inspiration for film.

Ben was only just out of basic training when he was sent to the hospital. In May 2011, he died.

It has been over 2 years since his death, and since then I have been on a quest to find what it is I am supposed to do with my life. I knew I did not want to end up in a 40 hr a week job that would be my life and that conventions would be an escape. I wanted to live my escape. When I finally had an opportunity to do creative film again in late 2012, I was hooked. Ben Fifer made me realize that although his life was cut short, I could achieve some part of his dream and let him live on through what I do.

Ben Fifer is the reason I never gave up on Steamworks and Shadows, no matter what difficulty I came across. I dedicated the first episode to him.

In keeping true to the inspiration for film that Ben Fifer has given me, I am opening myself up to new projects along side S&S. I love steampunk, and will continue to do it, but I have decided that I will pursue other projects as I feel inspired to do them. What’s first? Star Wars, Power Rangers, I don’t know, but it’s going to be awesome with Ben Fifer at my side, inspiring me to keep going.

S&S Podcast Episode 5 – Storytelling from Scene to Saga with Joe Myers

Director Ben Watkins celebrates International Talk like a Pirate Day in the introduction, before going on to Production News.

Watch the Hand of Glory minisode on youtube

Ben then introduces special guest Joe Myers, the Lead Creative Writer for Steamworks and Shadows, the web series. They discuss storytelling, starting from small scenes to huge sagas.

Ben and Joe then play “good cop, bad cop” to review two examples of adaptation of storytelling through different mediums.

Finally, Ben and Joe give a few tips on how to give your film an awesome story without spending your life savings.

Writer’s Blog 09/17/2013

WRITER’S BLOG

Hey, you’re back! Excellent. Good to know I didn’t scare off everybody with the rambliness of that last post. (Or the subliminal messages. Those are still in the testing phase.) Last week, we briefly flirted with the concept of character bibles, and as promised, that’s what we’re going to talk about today!

I know, you’re all very excited. Contain yourselves, please. Put your trousers back on. Yes, you. Over there, with the mustache. Come on, now. There are ladies present.

When we first started work on Steamworks & Shadows, one of the very first things we did was sit down and write a character bible for each and every member of the crew as well as some of the antagonists, such as Colt and Marie. At its core, a character bible is little more than an in-depth questionnaire. It’s meant for the writer to answer such important questions as:

  • What is important to my character?
  • What are my character’s goals in life?
  • What are my character’s flaws and weaknesses?
  • What are the important events in my character’s history?
  • Does my character prefer ham or turkey sandwiches?

Some of us had already written out a character summary in the past, which was essentially just a few pages of us writing out the story as we knew it, but what the character bible excels at is making sure that the most important stuff is brought to the forefront. We’re not the only ones who do this, either. Battlestar Galactica has one of the best-written and most well-structured character and series bibles out there, to the point where it’s typically considered to be the gold standard. Batman: The Animated Series did the same thing. Star Trek: The Next Generation. Notice a pattern, here? These aren’t just flash-in-the-pan shows. These are widely regarded as some of the best television programs in history. HISTORY.

So that’s what a character bible is. Now, the question is, why do it in the first place? Answer: It makes things a hell of a lot easier when it gets to be time for your writers to sit down and write.

A good character bible should not only inspire you to think about your character, but it should also inspire others to think about your character. I, in my opinion, do my best writing when I’m doing a character-driven story. Having the character bibles of the fine folks in Steamworks & Shadows allows me to find particular events, misgivings, and possibilities for stories that could take up anything from one episode to potentially an entire season arc.

I had the opportunity to speak with a couple of great people at Dodecacon this past weekend about story writing and character development both in panels and just in the time between panels and showing, and one of the questions I got was “We have all these great characters, but what do we do about a story?” Simple answer – the characters are the story. A well-written, well-thought out character has, quite literally, an entire lifetime’s worth of stories. Is your character a powerful businessman? If so, what did it take for him to get to the place he is today? Is your character an adventuress? Where has she gone and who has she worked with? Those questions present new options and new possible events in his or her backstory that could be explored in an episode or an arc.

In the case of the adventuress, maybe she found some priceless relic in Borneo and donated it to a museum only to, several years later, find out that she’s now made an enemy of an entire tribe due to the fact that she unknowingly stole one of their most important religious artifacts. In the case of the businessman, maybe he borrowed money to start his company and the lenders want repayment…with interest. Or maybe it’s not so diabolical as any of that! On one of her adventures, who’s to say the adventuress didn’t save the life of somebody, not knowing that this person was a powerful businessman back home, someone who’s been waiting years to return the favor?

See what I’m getting at here? One of the most important things any production can do is to get the cast and writers together and write out character bibles. Soon, the problem won’t be “What stories do we have to tell?” Instead, it’ll be “What stories are we going to have to cut or put on the shelf for a while so that we’re not playing the same character when we’re three-hundred years old and sustained only by having preserved our brain in a jar full of nutrient-rich fluids?”

Anyhoo. Questions and comments are welcome, as per usual. Who knows, that question may be the subject of next week’s blog! THE FUTURE IS A WONDERFUL PLACE.

Also, Stark doesn’t eat poultry. He finds birds to be filthy animals.

xoxo.
j

Online Release of Episode 1 Announced!

Online Release of Episode 1 Announced! On Sept 7, 2013, we held an exclusive live premiere of episode 1 of the Steamworks & Shadows web series at Dodecacon II. We have been accepted onto blip.tv, and plan to release Episode 1 at 3pm, Friday Sept 20!

Plus, I will be on Google Hangout On Air from 3:15pm till whenever, taking questions and talking about the experiences we’ve had in releasing our pilot episode.

Go to facebook’s event page for more info! https://www.facebook.com/events/425209500916451/

S&S Podcast – Episode 4 – Time Travel with Seth Hoover

Ben Watkins, Director of Steamworks and Shadows, invites Seth Hoover onto the show.

First, some production news straight from the Director.

Next, Seth Hoover, the man behind Carlisle Alexander Evans and one of the Special FX Supervisors for the S&S web series, tells Ben his theory of time travel within the S&S universe.

Seth and Ben reflect on some popular media that include time travel, and other time travel topics, such as changing the future.

Seth and Ben wrap it up with some advice for zero budget filmmakers looking to include time travel in their next project.

Writer’s Blog 09/09/2013

Hellooo, my freaky darlings. After some discussion with Ben (and after having come to the conclusion that he shouldn’t be the one having all the fun) we decided that a writer’s blog would go over pretty well along with his perspective on the directorial aspect of putting together a steampunk world. I’m always one to talk someone’s ear off, so I wholeheartedly agreed.

So, with that in mind, an introduction. My name’s Joe, and I’m the lead creative writer for Steamworks & Shadows. Back in the Before Time, I’d gotten my start writing from looking at books, movies, and videogames I’d never been allowed to play or just hadn’t been able to play at the time, and going from what the little snippet on the back of the VHS (geez, I’m old) or game case would say, I’d try and write the story myself. This turned into me writing comic books to show my friends at school, short stories for my parents to show to their friends at work, and the occasional dumb thing for my brother and I to read and laugh at until we got brain damage. It was a good time. It wasn’t until I first participated in NaNoWriMo – and actually finished – when I was seventeen that I started really considering writing as something I did than something that was fun every now and again. I would come to have work published in The Escapist, the podcast for the University of Missouri’s Maneater Student Newspaper, and the crime noir online magazine Shotgun Honey, which I would eventually become an editor for.

Before Airship Vindus had become a genuine “thing”, all of the members of the group had separately come up with their own various characters of dubious origin, motive, and ability with the intent of doing precisely little to nothing with them. Sure, a few of us had written a couple of sentences or paragraphs, maybe even a short story or two, but back then, these things were just a hobby. A fun thing to do when it was raining out. Yes, we all loved steampunk, and yes, we all had a lot of “Wouldn’t if be cool if” moments, but there was no real plan to do much with the characters, at least as far as I know. So, when Ben first told me about the plan to take the Airship Vindus out from the realm of stories around the campfire (or in our case, gaming table) and make a web series and world from our separate yarns, he discussed the idea of me helping to write the story. My first instinct was, “Holy crap, yes.” My second instinct was, “Wait, what? How?”

Understand, my background in writing is not science fiction. It’s not alternate history. Heck, it’s not even military grade ass-kickery. Most of my work up to that point had been crime fiction, horror, and comics. Often times, a combination of all three, if I could manage it. I’d never written science fiction before, much less steampunk. When it came to science fiction, most of that came from me watching old Star Trek reruns with my mom and old The Twilight Zone reruns with my dad. (We were big into reruns. This was before Netflix, kids.) The closest I’d ever gotten to steampunk was the old pulp fictions like the Shadow, Doc Savage, and such, and that was a good forty, fifty years after the Victorian era. To be honest, most of what I’d been exposed to of steampunk at the time was people with goggles, tophats, and confusing names such as Professor Wilmot Reginald Zipperdripper the Third or somesuch nonsense like that. Ray guns had been thrown in there by that point as well. I had no idea what the crap I was getting myself into.

I think a lot of us were stumbling around in the steam-laden dark at that time, but Ben and Kevin seemed to have faith in my abilities and in the capacity for people to really connect and be invested in the characters we created. So, with that in mind, we sat down and started writing our character bibles.

What’s a character bible, you ask? C’mon, gotta leave you waiting for next week, right? Right. See you then.

xoxo.
j