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Guerrilla Filmmaking With No Budget and No Time | A Few Tips

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.

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Puppets Cover “Where Do We Go From Here” | The Gashler Family

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.

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“Lifelight” (Theme From Super Smash Bros. Ultimate) | Covered by the Gashler Family

For anyone who may have been wondering why I’ve been sporting a mustache, here’s why:

The fake mustache from our last Nintendo fan film was awful to wear, so I vowed never again.

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 :-).

Fun Facts

  • 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.
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Katy Perry’s “Cozy Little Christmas” | Covered by the Gashlers (A Capella)

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.

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Timpanogos Storytelling Hauntings 2018 and the Scythe of Sinister Intentions

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.

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Come Little Children (From the Movie Hocus Pocus)

My wife is scary.

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 🙂

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Queen of the Flies

Queen of the Flies

You’ve heard of the Law of Karma. What if every death that was on your hands – every death – came back to haunt you?

Helen was writing in her diary about the hopes, joys, and fears of her complicated, eight-year-old life, when she noticed a brown something with eight legs crawling on the paper. She didn’t mean to scream, stand up, and knock over her chair; it just happened. Seconds later, her older brother ran into the room. “What’s wrong?” he asked.

Helen could only point. Her brother, rolling his eyes, went straight to the book and slammed it shut. Then, with a grin, he opened the book and admired the slimy remains of the spider. And with Helen’s pen, he wrote a fitting epitaph around it: “Rest in Pieces.”

Helen didn’t finish her journal entry that night, nor did she write anything the next night. Each time before she went to sleep, she would glance at the spine of her diary, which was stowed safely away on a shelf. The spider was dead. She knew her fears were irrational. And yet, perhaps that was because part of her knew that the world didn’t always behave in rational ways. For one, why did certain things have to move on eight legs? No legs at all was bad enough, six was disgusting, but eight?

A few months later, it was a rainy day at Quail Hollow Elementary school. This is a true story, by the way. I was there when … well, you’ll find out soon enough. You see, like all of us children, Helen loved to jump through puddles at recess. And the best part of rainy days – at least according to the boys – was the worms. They were everywhere. Helen, however, didn’t take so kindly to the squishy, little things. Following her older brother’s example, she smashed them beneath her shoe and ground their remains into the gravel. She considered it a favor to humanity to rid the world of as many creepies and crawlies as possible.

A girl approached her. She had unkempt hair, thick glasses, and a wardrobe that never seemed to match. Gloria. Gloria didn’t talk much, and she didn’t seem to have any friends. At recess, she would usually sit in a corner and stare at … well, we never did figure out what she was staring at. So Helen was more than a little surprised when Gloria actually initiated a conversation. “I wouldn’t do that if I were you,” Gloria whispered.

Helen looked up from the flattened worm on the asphalt. “Why not?”

“Haven’t you heard about the Queen of the Flies?”

“The who?”

“Years ago, there was a girl who went to this school who loved worms, bug, spiders, flies … anything that moved. She played with them at recess, and she would get in trouble for bringing them into the classroom. She even let mosquitos drink her blood. If ever anyone tried to hurt a bug, she would attack them. That’s why the children called her the Queen of the Flies. Then one day she picked up a black widow, it bit her, and she died. But her ghost still haunts the school. I know. I’ve seen her.”

“That’s a nice story,” said Helen, “but I don’t believe in ghosts.”

“Maybe you should. She doesn’t like it when you kill little things. Remember Anthony Graves, the sixth grader who died of pneumonia?”

“What about him?”

“He loved to step on spiders.”

“That’s very interesting.”

“And remember Diane Fletcher, the girl from our class who disappeared?”

“Her family moved to a different house.”

“That story’s a cover-up. She was also a bug killer, and I heard she was bitten-to-death by centipedes.”

“That’s nice, Gloria.”

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

After school, Helen stayed for orchestra practice. Then she had a private violin lesson. It was late October, and by the time she was walking home, it was already dark outside, and the street lamps were glowing. She had a long walk back to her house, but with all the puddles to jump in, she didn’t mind one bit. Thinking about Gloria’s silly story, she made a point to step on as many worms as possible. While passing a field, she noticed an ant hill. Without even thinking, she set down her violin case, kicked over the dirt mound, and watched with satisfaction as hundreds of tiny ants scurried in a panic. Pathetic things, she thought. To put them out of their misery, she picked up a large rock and flattened the entire mound. Now not a single ant moved.

There was a lot of fog in the neighborhood. Helen could no longer see the school behind her, and she could barely see two houses in front of her. So it took her off guard when she heard the sound of a singing girl:

Little, helpless, wounded souls,
Poor victims of aggression –
Waiting on the other side
Consumed by an obsession

The voice sounded like Gloria’s. “Gloria!” Helen called into the fog, but there was no response and no one in sight. Still, the voice could have been coming from any one of the houses around her. Helen continued walking.

Through the alley, in the shadows,
Rising from the trash can,
When the moon is high, we’ll send you
Running like a madman.

It had to be Gloria. Had the strange girl been watching and waiting all this time only for the hope of spooking Helen? Well it wasn’t working. “Nice try!” Helen shouted into the fog. But again there was no response.

Tickles on the neck and
Buzzing in the ears
Little crawling monsters
Awakening the fears

Helen walked a little faster, glancing back from time to time. At one point she thought she saw a silhouette in the fog, the small outline of a girl. “I see you, Gloria!” she called, but no sooner did she speak the words than the silhouette seemed to vanish. Perhaps she imagined it.

She was almost to her house, when she felt a tingling on her ankle. She bent down to scratch it, but then the tingling was on her thigh. Speaking of which, do you ever get that feeling that something is crawling … [feel clothes, search for something, contort, and scream at maximum volume. Then reveal a piece of lint.] Sorry about that, it was just a piece of lint. Anyway, like me, Helen realized that she was imagining things, and there was absolutely nothing to be afraid of.

Soon she was back in the comfort of her home. After a nice, warm dinner, some much-needed TV, and goodnight kisses from her parents, Helen brushed her teeth, retired to her bedroom, and slipped on her flannel pajamas. She was about to turn off the lamp, when, thinking of her strange day, she glanced at her diary. She really should write something. It had been months since the episode of the squashed spider, and it was time to move on. So, slowly, carefully, she pulled the book down from the shelf. Then, slowly, carefully, she opened up the book, and …

A brown spider leaped out and scurried out of sight!

Again an involuntary scream escaped Helen’s throat, but this time it was well past dark, and no one came to check on her. Which was fine. No doubt, some other spider had slipped into the pages. It’s not like a squashed spider somehow rose from the dead after months of decay. That, of course, was impossible. Though Helen couldn’t help but think about the words of the song she heard in the fog, something about little monsters rising in the moonlight. She knew that when the moon was high, the tides would rise as the gravitational force of the moon pulled on the water particles. She’d heard fanciful tales of other things rising in the moonlight, such as zombies and vampires, but that, of course was fiction. The moon could only raise tiny things like water particles … and bugs.

No, not bugs. Needing to get her mind off these silly thoughts, she wrote down the day’s events, providing rational explanations for the singing voice and the spider in the book. That is, she tried to, but something kept distracting her. There was a buzzing in the room, and the overhead light was flickering as something swarmed around it. When the fly landed on her cheek, that was the last straw. Helen shoed the thing away, went to the kitchen, procured a fly swatter, and put the pest to its rightful end. She looked at the fly’s crumpled body on her desk. She really should clean it up, but then she really didn’t want to touch it.

Try as she did to finish her journal entry, she couldn’t complete another sentence. So she turned off her lamp, crawled into bed, and closed her eyes. But sleep didn’t come. The room was still bright with moonlight. Moonlight? She glanced at the window. They gray clouds had parted, revealing a bright, silvery moon.

Helen rolled over and faced the wall. Somewhere in this room, a brown spider was crawling around. Not that she cared. It was just a spider. Still, sleep was nowhere to be found. Perhaps an hour went by in silence. Then another. She was wide awake when a little something landed on her forehead.

In a mad fury, Helen threw off her covers, turned on the lamp, and saw the fly buzzing around the ceiling. She reached for the fly swatter … and paused. The crumpled body of the dead fly was no longer on the desk. Helen looked at the fly on the ceiling, then back at the empty desk. She noticed the brown spider on the wall … staring at her. Something was very wrong.

And there was that voice again, coming from outside:

[quietly] Through the alley, in the shadows,
Rising from the trash can,
When the moon is high, we’ll send you
Running like a madman.

Helen looked out the window. There was someone standing on her front yard, a girl she’d never seen before. “What do you want?” Helen demanded. The girl sang on.

Tickles on the neck and
Buzzing in the ears
Little crawling monsters
Awakening the fears

Helen felt something crawling up her leg. An ant. Had she carried it home with her from the field? She flicked it off. Then she felt something else tickling her ankle. She looked down and, to her horror, saw that the floor was crawling with black ants. She ran to her door, but the nob was covered with brown spiders.

Anywhere you go,
We’ll be there at your side.
No matter where you run,
There’s nowhere you can hide.

Helen ran to her bed. Somehow a slimy earthworm had gotten onto her pillow. With disgust, she picked it up and flung it across the room. Then, with a sense of dread, she threw off her blanket. Her bed was alive with hundreds of wriggling worms.

Sneaking through the window,
Eating all your food.
We hope you’ll take offense;
We’re trying to be rude.

There were ants and spiders all over her. On her legs, on her back, on her arms, on her face, and crawling into her mouth. This time, there was no room for a scream.

The longer it’s been dead,
The more of it we’ll take.
And we’ll be back for more.
Make no mistake.

So next time you feel inclined to harm something smaller than you, beware, what goes around comes around.