Fans and Films

In one of his videos, YouTuber, indie filmmaker, and movie critic Ralph Sepe Junior says, “A lot of you guys have asked me for advice on how to make a movie. Here’s what you do: just make a movie.” What he’s referring to is exactly what Jenkins is talking about in his essay—i.e., the newfound power of noncommercial, amateur filmmakers to create movies, even with a very limited budget (among other supplies). Thanking the Internet, at this point in the semester, has gotten a bit old, but here I am once again thanking the Internet. New technology such as iPhones, and free movie-editing software, audio-editing software, and music provided by the web have provided the tools needed for a new wave of content creators to emerge. Anyone who was once restricted by a lack of money or equipment now only has to worry about buying the bare minimum: a phone and a laptop. The Internet allows us to consume media at a frantic pace, since information can be immediate found, shared, and created; for the fans, this is a spectacular innovation. Jenkins writes, “Fan digital film is to cinema what the punk DIY culture was to music. There, grassroots experimentation generated new sounds, new artists, new techniques, and new relations to consumers which have been pulled more and more into mainstream practice. Here, fan filmmakers are starting to make their way into the mainstream industry, and we are starting to see ideas—such as the use of game engines as animation tools—bubbling up from amateurs and making their way into commercial media” (204). Thanks to the newest technology, fans are able to compete with the big-shot studios that produce the franchises they’re so in love with.

However, the Internet seems to have spoiled fans. Now, trailers tend to give away entire movies, studios will release more than one trailer at a time as well as brief clips from upcoming films, and will sometimes hold exclusive screenings of the new movie or a Q&A with the actors at certain conventions. Fans can hold world-wide discussions in online forums, post videos or blogs stating their opinions about their beloved franchise’s newest installment, and create and share fan-fiction, parodies, or fan-art. Studios listen to their fans nowadays, but not with the purest intentions—if the audience is unhappy, then they may boycott a movie, and boycotting means less money. We’ve seen this with the recent Ghostbusters adaptation, in which fans of the original were so outraged that they not only refused to go see it themselves, but posted videos online telling others to avoid the film too—and that rage emerged just from the trailer. The movie, unfortunately, was doomed from the start. Likewise, many fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series (myself included) were appalled by its first on-screen adaptation and, therefore, swore to not see the allegedly-even-worse sequel. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Star Wars: The Force Awakens did so well that it almost immediately spawned another sequel (more like prequel, I guess), Rogue One—an addition to the franchise which delighted fans rushed to go see as soon as it came out.

Nowadays, fans have more power than they may realize. I hate being the hipster that always complains about companies being extremely greedy and only caring about money, but let’s face it—it’s pretty true. Studios will milk the success of a franchise without any remorse. Take the last Hunger Games book’s adaptation, Mockingjay, for example. The book—roughly the same length as the other two and about as plot-heavy—didn’t need to be made into two separate movies; however, because they could get more money out of splitting it up, the studio decided to cut it in half anyway. Another example is the Fifty Shades of Grey series, a trilogy so horrendously written that after reading the first installment, I immediately had to cleanse my brain with other literature. Although its main plot romanticizes an abusive relationship and misrepresents an entire fetish community, the film was marketed in such a way as to make it look like merely two hours of steamy action. Therefore, the first movie did so surprisingly well in theaters that—despite the awful plot—it earned a sequel, too. When it comes to the relationship between fans, franchises, and studios, it’s all about the money.


Milestones and Hurdles

Given the limitations of the project, I think my group has done an excellent job in creating a video that caters to everyone’s wants, entertains, and conveys a message. It’s been a collaborative effort so far, one in which someone presents an idea and everyone else comments on and tweaks it. I think our video idea turned out well because we believe in the tool we’re essentially “selling.” Focus 2 is genuinely useful—something I wish I’d had when I was picking a major back in high school. If you believe in the product, you can sell it with confidence. The first milestone we’ve accomplished is coming up with a solid idea; in my opinion, that’s always the hardest part. Once you have an idea of what you want to do or say, the rest comes naturally. The second milestone is that we’ve started filming. Everyone’s been so busy lately, especially now that it’s finals season—it’s been a challenge to find a time where everyone can meet. Still, we’ve got something on film; that’s most of the project done already. The first hurdle we still have to cross over is the editing; luckily, we have someone who has significant editing experience, so that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. Second is the essay. 15-20 pages sounds extremely daunting, but once we’ve split up the work, it should be fine. The most important digital tool that we’ve been using in class is probably iMovie/Movie Maker. Because we’ve all learned how to edit videos and have at least a bit of experience now, any one of us could take on the role of editor for this project. Also, we’ve used the Creative Commons Search Engine to find the video’s background music. The feedback we received on the storyboard was, for the most part, positive; the only suggestion was that—instead of using a Screencast—we could film someone using Focus 2 on their laptop from over their shoulder. I think this would be more visually interesting than having a full screen of a Screencast, especially with that obnoxious watermark in the corner.

More Copyright

When I was searching for pieces of media to use, I was surprised by the terrible quality of the results. For example, I tried looking for a picture of kids playing Frisbee to match our ending scene, but could only find a few blurred pictures—most involving dogs playing instead of humans. In the end, I found this picture of a guy (who looks like he could be a Rutgers student) giving a thumbs up, as if to say “Career Services is A-OK in my book.”

Image result for group thumbs up

The other two pieces of media were much easier to find. The song I found is called “Margorp Deviver” by 60 HZ FQ. It’s a quirky, peppy little ditty that I think would fit nicely as background music for our project. Lastly, the video I found is titled “Rutgers Ban on Greek Parties Expires.” Ignoring the morbid context of the video, I think we can extract the footage of students walking around Rutgers and include it at the beginning of our video as a nice establishing shot. In last week’s reading, Lessig mentioned that “the laws need to change, but so do we. We need to find ways to chill control-obsessed individuals and corporations that believe the single objective of copyright law is to control use, rather than thinking about the objective of copyright law as to create incentives for creation. We need to practice respect for this new generation of creators” (165-166). In order to “chill” those who would immediately flag/take down videos containing copyrighted material, my group and I plan to use the Creative Commons Search Engine in order to find free pieces of media. By doing this, we’re adhering to the law and showing respect to creators who—by copyrighting their content—are trying to protect their products. Using the Creative Commons site, my group can avoid any potential legal issues when it comes to what media we choose to include in our project.

Storyboards and Copyright

I had a slightly different idea for the opening of our video, but upon further reflection I realized that my teammate’s idea was better (easier to film). At the moment, there’s nothing that needs to be added; perhaps that’ll change once we actually start filming. The process of storyboarding was relatively simple—draw a panel, describe what’s going on, and repeat. It’s tedious but necessary. As I’ve stated in the previous post, my ultimate goal for this project is to produce a well-made video that meets everyone’s standards. Ideally, it won’t be mind-numbingly boring either. Maybe we should make the dialogue so cheesy that it’s funny. As for copyright, Lessig states that the problem is “that the laws governing quoting in these new forms of expression are radically different from the norms that govern quoting from text. In this new form of expression that has swept through online communities that use digital technology, permission is expected first… If you want to publish a [copy], you need permission from the copyright owner” (160). Unfortunately, sometimes it’s impossible to receive this permission; usually, it’s music that creates the most problems. If you want to use a song with copyright, you’re only allowed to use a very small portion of it before you risk having your video flagged or taken down entirely. Luckily for content-creators, there’s music that’s free for all use. I’ve used it in my midterm project and, if need be, am prepared to use it again for the final. It’s as simple as Googling “free music.”

Kinda-Great Expectations

I don’t exactly have expectations for my group’s “creative direction,” given the final project’s prompt. Perhaps I’m just being narrow-minded, or maybe my brain is officially fried due to months of academics-based abuse, but I’m not sure how we’re supposed to take a tool from Career Services and turn it into an “entertaining” video. Don’t get me wrong, I have total faith that my group and I will create a well-done video that caters to both the professor’s and Career Service’s demands, but don’t expect The Godfather 4 over here—hey, I’m just keeping it real. Hopefully, we can inject some humor into our skit (watching me attempt acting should be hilarious enough, if not utterly horrifying—either way, you’re entertained). Maybe, as we discuss how to use the “Focus 2” tool to choose the major that’s right for you, we can include some Michael Bay-esque explosions. That’d be totally rad. As far as I understood, the storyboard doesn’t include dialogue; therefore, the humor won’t be in it. We’ll also have to check our budget for those explosions. In all seriousness, I’m planning on having my storyboard be relatively bare-bones; given the amount of time we have to create this storyboard and to do the actual project, I think it’d be in my group’s best interest to keep the video short, simple, and informative. My storyboard will reflect this.

Hyde and Friends: Talking about Groups

At first, I considered doing an Italian food blog, being that I love food and am Italian. However, I quickly scrapped the idea once I realized that I’d have to make a video pertaining to the blog; I wasn’t prepared to eat on camera, nor did I feel confident enough to cook on camera (my knife skills are still clumsy at best). Therefore, I decided on the next best topic: art. My original blog was meant for all artists of every variety: sculpting, painting, etc. I’ve dabbled in almost every artistic branch (save for glass-blowing and knitting), so I thought it’d be interesting to create a blog where artists of every sort could come together on one page and communicate, passing along their trade secrets. That idea was also scrapped, because when it came time to describe my target audience in the essay portion, I realized I had basically written “it caters to everybody.” Seeing my grade drop before my eyes, I immediately changed the blog to something more specific: drawing/sketching. After all, that’s what I’m best at (compared to the other branches). As I mentioned in the essay, I wanted my blog to be just as artistic as its content; hence, the green and orange. I found paintbrushes to be the most aesthetically-pleasing for my header picture (although, in hindsight, I probably should’ve used a row of markers or colored pencils, given that it’s a drawing blog). But hey, paintbrushes are artistic, so they still fit.

When I hear “group project,” I have to suppress the urge to loudly groan. I’m already not much of a “people person,” and when I’m forced to work with others in an academic setting, that gets even worse. I’m usually the nerd in the group who gets stuck doing all of the work, with none of the coldness needed to chew someone up in a peer review—that’s entirely my fault, I know, but it is what it is. Even if they deserve it, I can’t bring myself to put someone on the chopping block. Hyde and friends write, “Sharing of content alone does not directly lead to collaboration” (53). I’m not sure I agree. They continue to explain that “The content is the social object, and the author is directly attributed with it. The work is a singularity, even if it is shared with the world via these platforms, and even if it has a free-culture license on it. This body of work stands alone, and alone, this work is not collaborative” (53). In my experience, the singular work of one person, added to a shared space (such as a document on Google Drive) becomes collaborative; multiple singular parts coming together become a group product. It takes the “stand alone” work of many people in a group to create one final project. The definition of “collaborative work” should not be limited to something that is—from the ground up—worked on by several people at once.

Top 5 Midterm Blogs

After seeing everyone’s blogs (and spending quite some time on my own), I can see that everyone put a lot of effort into their blogs and videos. It was difficult for me to pick just 5 that I enjoyed. Without further ado, here are my top 5 picks:

5: The Hidden Wild  by Jordan Gentile

I can’t say I’m a believer when it comes to card readings. The first image that pops into my head when I hear “tarot cards” is that of an old crone in a Bohemian-styled tent, waving her wrinkled hands over a crystal ball and charging an obscene amount of money just to spout some generic fortune that could relate to literally anybody. That being said, I have to admire Jordan’s enthusiasm; her blog posts are lengthy, detailed, and honestly quite interesting—yes, even for a non-believer. It’s a refreshingly-different blog topic, a tarot-loving person’s dream. My suggestions would be to include more color in the theme, add a header picture that relates more to the topic, and up the volume on the tutorial’s music. It’s certainly worth checking out.

4: Beauty by Gerri by Geraldine Martin

I’m not a “girly-girl” by any means. That’s not me trying to be edgy, it’s simply the truth. The most girly thing about me is my love of dresses—but it ends there. Geraldine’s blog is on my Top 5 because even I, as someone who doesn’t wear make-up, would follow it. It’s simple, clean, and looks like an official website for a legitimate make-up brand. The colors—black, white, and pastel pink—complement each other nicely, the font is professional and legible, and the site is easy to navigate. The only suggestion I’d make is to increase the size of the font.

3: The College Road Trip by Deanna van Woerkom

As I begin the second decade of my life, I have a strong urge to see the world. Perhaps this stems from the knowledge that my youth is slipping away gradually, and that once I enter the workforce and start a family, I’ll probably be stuck in a suburban town somewhere, driving a Honda and getting excited by 30% off coupons for Old Navy… *ahem* Anyway. Because I have plans to travel, I can appreciate a blog that caters to someone like me, “the broke college student.”  I like Deanna’s color scheme (sea foam green and gray), easy-to-read font, and simple layout. Her detailed post and well-done video show an admirable amount of effort and care. Her confident attitude in the video shows how knowledgeable she is about the topic; I’m definitely going to follow her tips the next time I plan a trip and I suggest you do, too.

2: College Dorm Baking by Lauren Colonna

Unfortunately for my waistline, I have a tremendous sweet tooth. However, the quality of the dining hall desserts is “meh” at best and “is this edible?” at worst. Therefore, when I saw Lauren’s blog, I immediately thought, “oh, this is totally going on my Top 5.” The theme she chose—using several shades of pastel pink—is adorable. Somehow, the blog itself looks like a dessert. I find everything about her blog aesthetically pleasing, from the color choices, to her header, to the font. Her tutorial was easy to follow (again, unfortunately for my waistline)—I liked the song even though I know it’s going to be stuck in my head for hours. The only thing I would fix is the video’s alignment; the black bars are disruptive and the footage feels a bit too zoomed out. For you dorm-dwelling sugar fiends, I highly recommend this blog.

1: forREEL by Mallory Nathan

As a lover of film, I was immediately drawn to forREEL (and who doesn’t love some good ol’ wordplay?). I too dislike pretentious movie reviews and go out of my way to find reviews that keep it “reel.” In fact, this blog reminds me of two movie critics I frequently watch on YouTube—ralphthemoviemaker and YourMovieSucksDOTorg. The blog’s color scheme is minimalistic: black, white, and a touch of gold in the tags and header. All the color it needs is in the header picture, in my humble opinion. The gold font is reminiscent of Hollywood (the gold of an Oscar), while in this context I’d liken the black and white to the end credits of a movie or a vintage film. My favorite aspect of the blog is the sassy tone of the posts (or at least the first one); I always appreciate some humor in commentary. I wouldn’t change a thing about this blog, which is why it’s number 1 on my Top 5. Mallory, I sincerely hope you continue to update your blog.

Portfolios and Video Games

For anyone who has been consistently reading my blog posts, you know that at this point, I’d say, “I’ve totally mastered this new thing!” Well, dear reader, I’m won’t lie to you—video editing was harder than I thought it would be. Good thing I did it a day in advance, ‘cause that took up waaay more time than expected. Hey, look at me, not procrastinating. Aren’t you proud?

I once went on a date with a film student who told me that even the shortest clips—commercials, trailers, etc.—can take days or weeks to edit; well, after working on 2 minutes of footage for almost 3 hours, I totally believe that. Cutting out bits where mistakes were made, adjusting the audio, positioning the captions—it was quite the tedious process. In the end, I’m relatively satisfied with my work, and now I’m apprehensively sending my digital child down the river, hoping the basket doesn’t sink in a plethora of hate comments. For those of you wondering, I used Kekai Kotaki and Nicole Green’s portfolios and Chopin’s Nocturne Op. 9, No. 2 for my video.

Now let’s talk about video games; of course it’s possible for them to have meaning. Phff, do I really have to explain the religious symbolism in Super Mario? Seriously though, video games are very effective ways of conveying messages, because they’re fun to play, attention-grabbing, and—when made using certain dialogue, music, and visuals—can deliver a powerful emotional punch. One game I think of in particular is That Dragon, Cancer, a video game made by parents Ryan and Amy Green, whose son, Joel, was dying of cancer. In it, the player experiences the torment of doing everything possible to save someone, only to lose him/her in the end, playing through Joel’s four short years of life. The helplessness felt by the player conveys how parents in this situation feel—the struggle to keep playing, to see the situation through, even though you know that the odds of getting a happy ending are slim to none. For the Greens, making this game was a way of coping with their grief and immortalizing their beloved child. For us, it’s a visceral, surreal, and in-depth look at the hearts of two sorrow-filled parents.


Would-Be Podcast

The hardest part of the audio editing assignment had to be—without a doubt—listening to my own voice. After hearing my recording, I had to resist the urge to apologize to everyone I’ve ever spoken to. Aside from that, simply coming up with something to say was a challenge. I mean, how was I supposed to portray my wit and charm in only a few seconds? Clearly, the time limit stifled my opportunity to showcase my humor, and deprived you all of my angelic radio voice—oh, the Audacity! Using the program itself wasn’t that complicated (even though I’m a PC user and, therefore, was stuck with the “much harder” Audacity); granted, making a fake 1-2 minute introduction to a podcast is much easier than having to record a full-length 10-15 minute one—which I’ve had to do. So, overall, the assignment wasn’t that difficult. I guess I can add “audio editing master” on my ever-expanding list of things I’m great at, right under “image editing god.”

I watched the first video I found on Channel Awesome: Bubblegum Crash—Anime Abandon. The video is a review of an anime, Bubblegum Crash, the sequel to Bubblegum Crisis; the host gives some background information on the making of it and then proceeds to go into more detail about the show itself. There only appears to be one camera angle on the host—he’s just sitting in a chair, talking. Then, there are clips from the show he’s reviewing that appear, with him talking over them (probably to compensate for his lack of movement and to show the audience what scene he’s referring to in that moment). Other than inserting these clips, I don’t see other examples of editing (besides the video’s introduction and probable editing to fix any mistakes). He borrowed the anime clips from the show, while his commentary is completely original. As for recording the audio, I’m going to assume he has a microphone set up somewhere off-camera—the sound quality wouldn’t be as good if he used his computer’s microphone.


Audacity and You

I feel like my header needs some explanation, since you’re probably wondering, “How the heck does a picture of Pomeranian heads edited onto margaritas represent who you are as a student and person?” Well, anybody who knows me knows that I always put way too much effort into things that don’t require nearly as much of it; this header was no exception. Not only did it take me forever, but I only ended up using about a third of the actual photo. This pretty much sums up my academic life. Sigh.

This header also represents my sense of humor; after I finally finished and took a good look at the picture in its entirety, I spent a full two minutes giggling to myself like an idiot. It’s lively, quirky, and you shouldn’t look at it too closely or else you’ll spot all of its flaws—me, literally me.

Since I’ve pretty much mastered graphic design, let’s move on to audio editing. My freshman year, I had to edit a clip of Richard Nixon stating, “I’m not a crook” so that he said, “I’m a crook.” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Yeah, no. This turned out to be one of the most tedious tasks I’ve ever had to do. The word “not” took up mere seconds, so I had to listen very carefully and try to cut it out precisely. Precision is key when it comes to audio editing, because your clip won’t sound right otherwise. Turns out, I have the precision of a toddler trying to color within the lines. When I cut too little, he said “I’mn—acrook;” when I cut too much, he said, “I’m—crook.” Overall, I’d say that the system was pretty difficult to get the hang of. While I will probably never edit sound clips as a hobby, I’m sure someone with more experience could/would. How fun would it be to manipulate recordings of your friends so that they say funny things? And just think of the blackmailing opportunities. “Oh, you didn’t call your boss fat? That’s funny, ‘cause I have this recording of you saying that…” Or if you’re looking for something less morally-bankrupt, you could also use Audacity/Garage Band to create and edit podcasts, record voice-overs for videos, or mash up songs. But, ya know, whatever floats your boat.

Your new desktop wallpaper. You’re welcome.