My vision for this one was not to show my Star Wars fandom through cosplay or geeky obsession but to illustrate how its glorious themes and ideas affect my everyday life. Deep down, I believe we all long to be Jedi knights. (It’s currently at 12,000 views on Youtube … which used to seem like a lot. But with our “Mario Parkour” video at 3M, it’s all relative now … which is good.)
On Monday, I was walking around the block with my wife. We were talking about our projects and goals. It occurred to me that I needed to make a book trailer for my novel, GIDEON VERSUS THE GODS OF COOL (which is set to be released on April 26th by Beacon Publishing Group in New York). I would be moderating a panel about making book trailers at a writing conference on Friday (Life, the Universe and Everything Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium in Provo), and I needed something good to show. Teresa told me it was utterly impractical to undertake a video production like this under such a time constraint. This was my reply:
So after the walk, I continued alone through the neighborhood to enlist actors from neighborhood kids. As soon as I shared the vision, everyone I talked to was unequivocally in. On Tuesday, while waiting for my daughters to finish their gymnastics classes, my four-year-old son and I scoped out the locations at UVU (where, thirteen years prior, I used to “run and gun” similar productions). On Wednesday evening, we shot the footage. On Thursday, after spending the bulk of the day at the conference, I used the evening to edit. On Friday morning, I went to my sister in-law’s house to shoot the final scene (with her as the goddess of fashion). When it was time for my panel, the video was launched and ready to go. The total budget was sixteen dollars (fifteen for two Papa Johns pizzas for the neighborhood kids and one dollar for my gangster cap I wore as the god of coolness).
During the panel, we watched a series of popular book trailers. After each, I asked the audience to show, by raised hands, who would pick up the book being advertised. Many of the trailers had meager responses. For my video, the majority of hands were raised. So the moral of the story is: while I don’t actually recommend procrastination, we can do much more in a small amount of time than we think we can. Now here’s the video:
And now a few tips to the indie filmmaker: (1) all of the effects were from creative-commons-licensed videos I downloaded from Youtube. While I do know how to create my own partical effects in Adobe After Effects, when one has a deadline, there’s no sense in reinventing the wheel.
(2) I downloaded the music from the Free Music Archive (http://freemusicarchive.org). While I usually like to compose my own music, again, when one has a deadline …
(3) The green screen scenes were shot in my laundry room. The small space has actually proved to be a blessing, because it allows me to light the screen by bouncing light off of the walls, which creates a soft, evenly-lit diffusion with minimal shadows.
(4) I didn’t get permission to shoot in any of the locations. The great thing about shooting at universities is that there’s always productions and events going on, so no one will ask questions. Even if they do, you’ll open so many more doors in life when you ask for forgiveness instead of permission :-). Actually I did get permission to shoot in the board room, and if anyone asked, I was going to tell them this. What they wouldn’t need to know was that I got this permission thirteen years ago.
For no reason whatsoever, I prank call Jar Jar Binks in this Star Wars / Legend of Zelda / Stevie Wonder mashup. Some of you may wonder why this song exists. My only answer is, “If only you knew the things that get stuck in my head.”
Bet you’ve never seen such mad ventriloquism skills!
Another installment from our album VALHALLA | A NORDIC ROCK OPERA (https://stephengashler.com/product/valhalla-nordic-rock-opera/).
It’s always a struggle to teach a child not to act like an imbecile when they get a puppet on their hand. But when it came time to edit, some of my favorite clips were when they were acting like imbeciles.
The goal was to release this video before Christmas, which I worked tirelessly toward, but on top of all the audio and video editing, when Christmas Eve rolled around, and it was two in the morning, I could only assemble so many bicycles and gymnastics equipment before collapsing in exhaustion. Though I released the video in time for Boxing Day, which, I guess, is more fitting :-).
Percy and mommy hate the ending scene. Everyone else seems to love it.
Teresa’s spectacular Zelda costume was made by her sister Heather Peavler for a Comic Con event.
If you listen closely near the end, you can hear the Nintendo 64 Super Smash Bros. being played in the background.
All of the music was recorded in my bedroom (as is all of our music).
All of the video game scenes were shot in our laundry room.
We didn’t do any of our own stunts, but if you want to see us doing real stunts, check out our other Nintendo fan film, Jump Up Superstar.
We covered a brand new song by Katy Perry (not our usual cup of tea). Following the advice of a famous Youtuber in our neighborhood, the goal was to create something that people are actually searching for. Brilliant, right? So we did a little research and found something so new, it doesn’t appear that anyone has covered it. There’s not even an official music video yet. At the same time, we’re not exactly trendy people, and we wanted to do something unique, so we tried our hand at a capella. Perhaps we were inspired by the BYU Vocal Point concert we attended a few weeks ago.
After I made the video of Teresa and I in our studio, something seemed lacking. I thought of shooting some B roll, but as I listened to the lyrics, I realized I already had all the footage I needed in our previous music videos. It was a perfect opportunity to resurrect Evil Robot Santa, me falling in the snow, Teresa standing in fire, and a love scene between clowns.
It’s too early to say, but since I released the video last night, it’s performed about 4 times better than our usual videos. Neat. Also, in order to stay in line with our cheesy values, we committed a faux pas and changed the lyrics for one phrase. Can you guess where?
At the end of the video, I thank the Katy Perry corporation. I felt inclined to do this after learning more about how the pop music industry works. Without disrespecting any chart-topping artist (as I do love this song and think Katy Perry is talented), the truth is that it takes large corporations and massive amounts of money to make them what they are. Seldom are they self-made, and seldom do they write their own songs. Knowing this makes me feel better about being an underdog. Instead of being dwarfed by superstars with all the talent, independent artists are really up against a bourgeois of music tycoons. Just a few decades ago, it wasn’t this way, but it seems that the proliferation of music through iPods and the Internet was so threatening that it caused a struggling music industry to turn in the opposite direction, scrapping the democracy of the free market and becoming the sole arbiters of what is hot and what is not. In the process, creativity has been stifled, and what’s popular has only gotten harder, louder, more predictable, and less … musical.
Thus it may appear that I’m selling out by covering popular music. In my defense, I’ve created so many videos with original songs that have gotten virtually no traction, that I see no harm in riding a wave in order to gain some momentum. In other words, if the proletariat is to make any advances against the bourgeois, first they must learn to play their game. If projects like this are successful, my other projects will naturally gain more exposure. At the same time, I’ll continue to create original works whether or not they see the light of day. For the most part, what I create is for me and my family.
For example, with our last video, Jump Up Superstar, I knew that we were a year behind the wave, and, not surprisingly, though we poured and our hearts and souls into the video, it’s gotten few hits. But that’s okay. We primarily created this video to record our family’s parkour, gymnastics, and singing skills that we’ve been working on this year, and we’re proud of it.
I create because I have music and stories bubbling inside of me, and I have to get them out. I create in order help my family up their skills and record priceless memories. And I create because it’s fun.
Oh yeah … I won first place at the Timpanogos Storytelling Hauntings contest on Monday, the spookiest event of the year. The prize was this beautiful work of art, “The Scythe of Sinister Intentions,” which has been great to lug around town. Not only is it a good conversation starter, it gave me an instant Halloween costume without even realizing it. I put on a poncho, because I was cold, and soon people were identifying me as the Grim Reaper.
This was the best and fiercest scary storytelling contest I’ve been a part of. Everyone did a bone-chilling job, and I did not envy the predicament of the judges. It was an honor to rub shoulders with so many talented artists, and Mikaela Hansen did a wonderful job in organizing the event.
My story, “Queen of the Flies”, was based on the following premise: what if everything you’ve ever killed were to come back? According to one audience member, as I described a girl’s horrific encounters with bugs, people all over were subconsciously scratching their bodies (the best compliment I could have hoped for). If you’re afraid of spiders or creepy crawlies, then you definitely don’t want to hear my story:
Believe it or not, the story has a strong element of truth. When I was about eight or nine, I was writing in my journal one night when a spider crawled onto it. My older brother happened to be in the room, and he promptly slammed the book shut. Then he wrote around the slimy remains: “Rest in Pieces.” For years (four or five, if I remember correctly), I didn’t want to touch the book. When, as a teenager, I finally confronted my fear, I opened the book, and a spider actually leaped out. I swear it happened. I know what I saw.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you may recall that “Queen of the Flies” is a recurring theme of mine. Years ago, I, Teresa, and my brother Eric made this silly movie for my sister Deanna’ birthday (Deanna had a fear of flies, which fear the protagonist confronts):
Teresa also performed a modern twist on the spooky Mexican folk tale, La llrona, the deranged ghost-woman who will drag your children to watery graves. As I’ve said in previous posts, my wife is scary. And beautiful.
A week and a half ago, Teresa proposed the concept for this project, and I was sold immediately. But there was a problem: how could we possibly add to Jame’s Horner’s brilliant melody or make a better cover than other artists have made, such as Kate Covington? I wanted something unique, dark, even a little scary, and I’m proud of what came together. Kudos to whoever can identify what the witch is chanting.
The children add a lot, Teresa is bewitching, and Heather Peavler did a great job on her makeup. I love including the whole family in projects like this. Though I’ll add one word to the wise: if you value your sanity: don’t work with children 🙂