Welcome to the Crew Blog! Any of our behind-the-scenes crew, that works on the web series, rpg, and other S&S projects, can blog here to let you in on their personal journey through this project.
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Greetings, my name is Ben Watkins. I am the Director for the Steamworks & Shadows web series and Lead Designer on the S&S RPG. Seeing as this is my first blog detailing my journey as a Director, I thought I’d share with you how I got to where I am now.
I’ve had a cameria in my hands and a desire to film since I was a young boy. My parents owned a VHS camcorder, and I took any chance I could to record something on it. Of course, this led to my mother having a lot of embarrassing evidence to her son’s nerd-iness and love of Weird Al. I made music videos, performed “magic” and puppetry, and even tried filming a “horror” flick with lots of ketchup and a best friend.
I was just getting into high school in 1999 when the new Star Wars Episode 1 came out. I was a fan of the original movies, but then I saw the new Jedi robes and lightsabers, and I wanted to be the young Obi-Wan Kenobi. With the help of my mother, I made a Jedi tunic. I built my own lightsaber, belt, and other accessories. I convinced a few friends to join the effort, and it didn’t take much more before we realized we wanted to make a fan film.
I wrote, directed, acted in, edited, and authored a dvd of our valiant effort. I keep a copy for sentimental value, but I will honestly say I don’t show it to other people. I learned a hard lesson that doing everything yourself in a film makes it turn out crummy.
Over my college years I did a couple of the obligatory college short films for fun with a new set of friends. We even made second place in a contest once. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SEukgm9vOYo
After college though, I got a full time job, got married (to an equally creative person), and started to settle into a mundane existence.
In 2009, I was introduced to steampunk, and I loved it. In 2011, I found a group of people that all liked to dress up in Steampunk. By 2012, we were going to conventions together and recording our own skits and shenanigans. It wasn’t long after that we decided to make a big leap. We decided to make a webisode that actually told a story. Unfortunately, I relied on my old communication skills to try and get the vision of the webisode to come out and get my friends to act their parts convincingly. I was proud we accomplished the task, but realized that the problem wasn’t the people I was working with. It was me.
So, when the crew wanted to do a full blown series of webisodes (dubbed Steamworks & Shadows), I decided to educate myself in the way of directing. I found a book by Judith Weston called Directing Actors, and it changed my view of how to communicate with actors and how to approach filmmaking. The techniques described in her book made a noticeable difference when we started filming our series.
Next week, I will start giving bits of my journey as I’ve directed S&S, season one. Thanks for reading, and please feel free to ask any questions or leave any comments below. =D
-Ben Watkins, Director