Archive for February, 2008

WaCkY bLaStErS

February 29, 2008

Wacky Blasters

So, last Friday I uploaded the sixth installment of the ever-popular Wacky Blasters series, this episode starring Max Pacheco, Spencer Hensel, and myself. I’ve been making the wacky blasters series ever since the week or two before the Christmas break of my sophomore year. It was my first attempt at a series, and so far its worked pretty well. Each of the episodes have a handful of elements in common (disposable characters, self-righteous geek dialogue, an inability on the part of the protagonists to solve their own problems… but we’ll get to that later), but each episode works perfectly fine on its own. They’re nothing special, but ideally, they’re fun.

The first three Wacky Blasters episodes were done together, like I explained before, in the time right before Christmas of 2006. I wanted to do a series of smaller projects that I could break the filming-of with less pressure than I’d had in the months before trying to finish Mixed Business, and I wanted them to have at least something in common. The first three are starring Eric Camire and Andrew King as the nameless geek protagonists who sit around wasting their lives arguing about trivial geek matters. In the first episode, I show up as a 19th century time traveler who tries his best to explain his predicament, only to be met with indifference and then annoyance. Eventually Spencer Hensel’s character, also nameless, shows up and asserts himself as superior to the geeks. He is shot from a low angle making him look important, he is in strong contrasting light to emphasize the place he takes up in his movements, he stands and is capable of action whereas the two geeks are sitting passively and seemingly unable (or simply unwilling) to solve their own time traveler problem. Eventually Spencer’s character just kills mine, and all three, geek and bully alike, have so little respect for human life that their first (and as shown on screen, only) inclination is to throw the body in the closet.

 

 

The second episode sets up just like the first with the two geeks arguing and then suddenly interrupted by yet another time traveler, this time played by Max Pacheco in what is still one of his best roles in collaboration with Rojhelio Studios. It should be noted that this character played by Max is the origin of the now infamous Jazz Man character of the “JAZZ” films. This time the geeks talk “geek talk” again, the time traveler comes in again, the bully character shows up and kills him, again, and they throw his body in the closet. The joke of the first film lying in the hope that the audience goes something along the lines of

“Why the hell did a time traveler just show up, and why did they kill him instead of talking to him… I mean Hell, who knows what wondrous adventures and possibilities he could open up for us?”

Whereas the joke of the second film being,

“Oh, I guess the novelty of the intruder being a time traveler has worn off and now the joke is that they show up all the time, more like cockroaches than individuals.”

The third Wacky Blasters is radically different. With the first being about a time traveler showing up, the second being about a suspension of disbelief in which time travelers apparently now show up all the time, the third completely fucks with everything the first two set up. We once again start up with Andrew and Eric conversing in geek talk, but once they come to a pause there is once again a knock at the door. We have been built up to assume that the knock is yet another time traveler, but this time we don’t see whose behind the door. Remember that the two geeks passively let things happen TO them, they are all talk and no action, they never get up and open the door, they merely speak permission to the people on the other side of the door. They also never kill any of the time travelers; they have someone else do it for them. However this time they decide to torture the poor mute girl, played by Emmanuel’s own Kyla Bossung, who they keep tied up under their bed, they first thing they actually do. They also pick up puppets with which to molest the poor girl, possibly to add to their level of alienation from the rest of humanity in that they are incapable of direct human contact and understanding of complex human emotion, but probably just because I had the puppets in my room. It should also be noted that because the girl is mute and unable to move, she may very well have been under the bed the whole time of the first two films. Because she couldn’t talk. Because she’s mute.

Anywho, they touch the shit out of that poor little girl, all to the tune of a very creepy song from Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (handpicked by our very own Mr. Max Pacheco) and somewhere in the middle, Spencer’s character comes out of nowhere and starts touching her too. He all ready has a puppet, he came prepared. As all three heteronormative patriarchal men begin reinforcing their dominance over women and overt sexism, they begin chanting “Cups on Bottom,” over and over again. This phrase came from… actually, far too many people have asked both myself, Max, Spencer, and several others where this came from, and giving away its secret would ruin the joke. So I’m afraid I’m not going to explain where this phrase came from, one of my best magician’s secrets, other than to say that its creation involved an animal. A mammal to be more specific.

Wacky Blasters 4 is a radical departure from the series. Its on Max Pacheco’s channel Marcobat16, and it should be mentioned that it’s the first video Max ever directed and put online. Its written, directed, ad edited by Max, and its also starring Eric, Andrew, and Spencer. Max wrote overly pretentious dialogue about a discussion over the Nintendo Wii versus the Playstation 3, mixed with seemingly meaningless imagery, to create one of the funniest Wacky Blasters ever made. He also used the ever-popular catch phrases “Cups on Bottom,” and, “For Rome,” neither of which bear any contextual meaning. He used classical music, strange costumes, and cinematography that draws almost selfish attention to itself to completely parody the form of a Wacky Blasters episode in the form of an art film. It should be mentioned that Max knew exactly what he was doing with this short film; he wasn’t actually trying to make his first video either a tag-on to one of mine nor was he trying to make an actual over-ambitions pretentious art film. He is as much making fun of me as he is himself as he is the foolish nature of the foolish Wacky Blasters films. The fact that I even have to clarify these things is sad, but I’m afraid that the question of Max’s intent has been brought up before, and I must clarify once and for all.

Wacky Blasters 5 was done months after the last four episodes. It was uploaded on Neil Cicierega’s channel, and if you know anything about young Mr. Cicierega, you know why that explains why it has well over 50,000 views. It should also be mentioned that this video was uploaded on June 6th, D-Day, which I still find funny/ironic. Episode 5 complicates the nature of the Wacky Blasters series in both form and content. For one thing, there are two separate intruders to the two geeks’ peace, and they must resolve the conflict themselves. Their geek argument has been sped up the pace of simple one-on-one word dichotomies, and they are significantly more conscious of their surroundings. In episode #5 Patrick Ryan comes in as the character Aladdin and hands the two nameless geeks his magic lamp. After they rub it, quite sexually, Jack White (played by, big surprise, Ryan Murphy) who pesters them with in-jokes and references until they wish for Aladdin to come back. He does come back, then removes Jack, and they all dance to a song from the Disney film of Aladdin. This episode was a lot of fun to film, I’m glad I finally got both Pat and Neil into a Wacky Blasters, and I think it was pretty funny. The only regret that I have about that project being that almost all of the primary cinematography was done by J.L. Carrozza, who no one recognizes because he was never on screen. Jules did a great job, and without him behind the camera the project would have been twice as hard to film. Neil also edited the project, and I think, did a great job.

It’s easy to think of all the things that make the Wacky Blasters episodes different from each other, but I’d like to tape a paragraph and write a bit about what they have in common. First of all, Spencer Hensel is visible in every episode. Every episode starts off with two characters who are equal protagonists, and every one of them has the two in disagreement in some form. Every episode ends and most start with a title of multiple voices saying “Wacky Blasters,” and every one of the episodes have the two main characters helpless to their circumstances to a significantly measurable degree. The story/drama cannot begin without the introduction of a character not in the establishing scene; there has never been an episode without the “plot” being instigated by an outsider.

There are also elements of the films that are pertinent to most but not all of the episodes. Most of the episodes involve an overt argument between the two main protagonists (except for #6), most of the episodes have the two lead protagonists nameless (except for #6), most of the films include music not owned exclusively by Rojhelio Studios (except for #6), and most of the episodes include someone being killed (except for #6 and #4… I think? I’ll assume Jack died or at least might as well have for the sake of this argument). With all this being said, it is strongly implied that episode #6 is the start of something new; new ideas, stories, plots, and thank God, jokes. This attitude of new and worthwhile ideas (worthwhile is an opinion, not a fact) will be upheld in the future episodes of the Wacky Blasters series.

So… as for the future. I have plans for at least two more Wacky Blasters episodes, both of which should be filmed and uploaded live by the end of this semester (AKA, by early May). I know what #7 and #8 will be, and I know for a fact that my long time collaborator, J.L. Carrozza (youtube channel jlcarrozza) has plans for at least one wacky blasters of his own. If Neil, Pat, Jake, Jules, Spencer, Max, Kevin, or myself have any more ideas for the future, they’ll be sure to make it up on that big 4-3 inch screen. Yep… the one on youtube.

P.S.- Spencer and Neil never rubbed the lamp sexually, I just wanted to write that. It sounded cute.

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There Will Be Videos A Day… Every Day

February 22, 2008

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Marcobat16, aka, the one and only Max Pacheco, has been kicking ass and taking names for the month of February. Max’s mission is simple; to make a video a day, every day, no matter what, for the entire month. Sound challenging? No, it’s actually been pretty easy, and it’s his project, not mine.

That was a lie. It’s been an incredibly difficult project, the parts of the whole having all ready summed up to what can be described as nothing short of Mr. Pacheco’s most ambitious filmmaking effort ever. Today being the 21st means that Max has all ready written, shot, edited, posted, and shoveled through piles of shit for just as many projects, and he ain’t done yet. Nor does he plan on quitting, but the process has changed more than once since its inception.

First of all, Max planned on doing this whole thing in January so he’d have all of Christmas break to start making videos. He’d have over a week of no school to get a head start on the thing, and he’d still be able to produce videos that he wanted to film on campus after the 14th. However, due to financial and logistics problems, things didn’t work out. And so it was that February became the month of video-a-day, which is also convenient because it’s the shortest month of the year.

 

But don’t get me wrong, we did film over Christmas break. As a matter of fact, we spent two days at Neil Cicierega’s house filming The Dark Knight Trailer Recreation, inarguably the most successful video of the video-a-day experiment. The Dark Knight project was Max’s plan to recreate the second theatrical trailer for the new Christian Bale Heath Ledger Batman movie, shot by shot, which he achieved with exceptional humor. And despite a handful of very strange terribly confused people, the reception of the piece has been overwhelmingly awesome. In a good way.

Max’s movies have featured me in front of and behind the camera from time to time, but they’ve also featured Neil on more than one occasion, Neil’s sister Emmy Cicierega, the ever present Spencer Hensel, Mat Clerrico, Marissa Jesus, Skylar Towle, Patrick Ryan, and some of Neil’s cats.

Secondly, Max has decided, in a move some would consider quite radical, to disable comments on not just his videos-a-day, but on all of his work on youtube. You’ll still be able to send Max messages on his main page, you can even still post things in a public form if you feel that what you have to say is so important to both Max AND his fans that it would be a crime if only Mr. Pacheco ever read it. Some youtubers, and I’m not going to name any names or quote anyone, have considered this move an act of martyrdom, youtube suicide. The desire to publicly comment on videos is essential to the community of youtube and the system of subscribers and community will fall apart without it. Or will it?

Let’s not forget why Max is doing this; he feels now, after all of the experience he’s gone through in this very big filmmaking odyssey, that the average youtube comment is cheap and disposable, and that the nature of the commenting system lends itself to the creation of non-thought out comments. One could also argue that it caters to the oddball ignorant and hateful comments that Max, myself, and all youtubers who regularly post are bound to get every once and a while. Before you judge him for his harsh act, maybe you should stop and put yourself in his shoes. And, is his act really so harsh? Does the quality of his work detract due to the lack of a system of communication between the artist and his/her fan base that fosters immediate gratification and tends to shun thoughtful constructive criticism. Let’s not forget that the commenting system only allows for comments that are 500 words long.

One (not necessarily Max) could even argue that the system makes it increasingly difficult if not impossible for quality discussion since the creation of the “ratings” system around the comments. I’ve thought more than once about how the ratings system has effected the nature in which people post comments now, because everybody on youtube knows that nobody wants to be the guy who’s comment gets voted way the hell down. It must have cost youtube a bunch of money to modify the programming of youtube so people could comment on very comment ever posted except their own. I feel that that time, money, and programming could have been put to better use increasing the maximum size of a video to over 100 MB and maximum length of 10 minutes. But now I’m just ranting, and I know #1 That eventually youtube will get better as technology gets better, and #2 I know better than to criticize youtube. I don’t want my channel to get taken down.

Here is where I’d put a frowny face thing if I knew how to do that.

Well, I think I may have said too much on a project that is most certainly not mine. There is more to Max’s videos-a-day than his recent act of disabling fan comments, but the nature of his act lends itself to significantly more questioning of both the form and content of youtube than I have brought up in the above paragraphs. The really important thing to notice is that Max, despite both questioning the nature of what it means to be an internet filmmaker as well as pushing himself to be better at being one, has actually done what he said he was going to do. Max has ranged from everything from movie trailer recreations, to stage plays, to short skits, to open forum video based discussions, to 3D flicks, to pseudo-documentaries, and to the downright odd. And as far as I’ve found, and believe me I’ve looked, nobody else has ever even attempted to make a video a day for any period of time even close to a month. Now no one can deny that Max is the first to really try; and a lot of people out there, more now than ever, are getting increasingly excited to see him become the first to succeed at it too.

P.S.

His subscribers have actually increased since he disabled comments. He has now broken over 600. Yeah!

Lego Tetris

February 15, 2008

Well this is a little late seeing as I put up my lego tetris video on January 12th, but I still feel that it’s worth talking about. As of now more than 14,000 people have watched it, and some of them even like it, so I suppose it’s worth my time to fill yall in on some of the details that went into lego tetris’ production. The animation, including the credits, took about 12 hours. I had this much spare time because on January 4th I got all four of my wisdom teeth out and I was bedridden for give-or-take a week. Also, I found out that I was allergic to oxycodine, which was a huge problem as I hadn’t eaten anything for over 24 hours prior to my operation. Which meant that when I took the pills, which made me throw up, I had nothing in my system and so all that came up was the black bile and stomach lining that your body doesn’t really know how to reject, all of which got into the four new fresh deep wounds at the back of my mouth. All of this detail is necessary for you, the viewers, to know.

            So there are a couple of things I’d like to clarify about the video. First of all, I purposefully created a game of tetris that is played very differently than how I naturally play. I did this because I knew that if I created a game, step by step, just like what I’m all ready comfortable with, I might go crazy and/or really really really bored. I also wanted to get an insight into how different people play tetris because I think that the only way to improve on anything you do once you’re too comfortable with how you do it is to start over again from scratch. Not having the stress of an actual game over my head, I didn’t feel compelled to do what I all ready comfortably do, and therefore gained a new insight into possibilities of how I can play the game. But don’t get me wrong, 12 hours of stop motion animation is most certainly stressful in its own way.

            I’ve found that everyone plays tetris in their own highly individual style, and you can tell a lot about a person based on their tetris performance. Despite the fact that there are only seven pieces and a particularly finite amount of time and space to negotiate them, everyone manages to make the game their own. I have heard many people argue that because tetris is so simplistic, everyone makes basically the same choices, but in a slightly different order than everyone else. Everyone has the same motivations (to get as far as possible) and therefore everyone commits the same actions. I personally think that it is the simplicity of tetris that lends itself to such individualism, and through restriction and discipline of both form and content real creativity is possible. Yeah.

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            Secondly, I had a bunch of weird shit that has nothing to do with tetris fall at the end as the music crescendos and everything spirals into confusion and horror. This is because, I feel, tetris is an analogy for life. No matter how well you play, no matter how good you are at the game, no matter how good or bad your initial “lot in life” is, and no matter what you make of oppressive or advantageous conditions, you will die. Also, no one dies gracefully; even well loved happy people who lead good lives shit and piss themselves when they’ve got to go. Every game of tetris ends gracelessly, and more importantly, every game of tetris ends. There are exceptions to this rule, but I feel that they rob the player of the authentic tetris experience. I admit that there are many different versions of tetris made by all kinds of people, but back where I come from, tetris goes on indefinitely and you play for as long as you can as well as you can. But no matter what, when those pieces move faster than you can handle, you will die. I’ve found that those who disagree with this reading of tetris also disagree with the idea that tetris’ simplicity lends itself to greater, not less, creativity. I also feel that these people have an overall immature understanding of the game and/or don’t really give a shit about tetris. Or maybe they just never really thought of it that deep.

            Also, if you look closely, the very last piece to appear in the “coming next” box is a normal regular “T” piece, because every time you get a bunch of crap you really don’t need that leads you to die, the next piece is the exact perfect thing that’s exactly one step too late. I’m not saying that this happens in every game, but if it’s ever happened to you, you probably still remember it. It’s tragic, I know.

            I got the individual 1-1 (one by one) legos from Max Pacheco. He gave me a whole set of just 1-1’s of different colours for Christmas with two see-through flat panel bases. The set kind of reminded me of a light bright, if anyone out there still remembers what those are. One guy who I’m sure remembers is the man I had do my music for me, Neil Cicierega. Neil arranged the music based on one of the three songs that came with original tetris for the old school eight bit famacon version that I played growing up. He found a midi file and added a couple of dozen layers to each level, each one a little faster and a little more complex. This went along well with the fact that I changed the colours for each of the seven pieces and I captured fewer and fewer frames per second so each level went faster. This also meant that it took me four times as long to animate level four as it did for level one, and that’s why level one takes a while and level four goes by wicked quickly. I couldn’t have finished the project without both Neil and Max, and so I gave them both lego credits, because everyone, no matter how big or small, likes to see their name up there in legos someday.

            I do have plans for more stop motion projects, including both another mostly lego thing and a paper 2-D thing I’m working on with Spencer Hensel. Seeing as my top four most viewed and my top five most discussed are entirely stop motion animations, I think I’m going to keep making them. Anywho, until next time, hope yall enjoy!

GoT YouR NosE

February 8, 2008

So about two weeks ago I filmed my newest project entitled “Got Your Nose.” I came up with the idea after I saw good’ol Spencer Hensel playing the leading role of Winnie The Pooh in a play here at Emmanuel of the same name. Or it might have been called The Merry Adventures of Winnie The Pooh, which is coincidentally the same as the alternate title to the project, which I made up while writing the credits. That decision had a purpose; the alternate title must be one that included the element of Winnie The Pooh without giving away any jokes; otherwise people searching desperately for pseudo-sexual Winnie the pooh films would never find mine except through the tags, and tags are never as good as titles for searches man.


The mechanic of the story by which my character suffers from a mental snap came about for no other reason than my girlfriend and I continually kept getting one another’s noses around the time I saw the play as children often do. One does this by placing the middle and index finger approximately 1.5 inches apart and reaching in a claw-like fashion for the other’s nose, it can hurt if done with skill.
I filmed everything in one day in the basement of Kate Noyes’ and Jake Quilty-Dunn’s apartment in Mission Hill. Jake played the character of the white rabbit who deus ex machina style shows up at the end and rescues the heroine, reinforcing the hetero-normative patriarchal need for all women to be rescued and need the help of men. Jake also plays all of the music in the video, including a cover of Tom Waits’ Innocent When You Dream on Neil Cicierega’s little chord organ, George Harrison’s My Sweet Lord on his own mandolin, and a very creepy original piece I have since titled Blood Rape on my own banjolin. Just to clarify, a banjolin is a legitimate instrument in its own right; it is a hybrid of a mandolin neck with a small drum base like a banjo, but it is not simply a hack and glue mishap of the two. And just to clarify once more, I know that Jake doesn’t actually live at Kate Noyes’ apartment, but he’s almost always there when I’m there, and they’re going out so they don’t really mind when I call it that, and saying Jake and Kate’s place just has a better ring to it than simply Kate’s. But that’s just my opinion.
The most important contributor to the project I have yet to mention so far is that of Jules, aka, J.L. Carrozza, writer, director, editor, and producer of his own low budget studio, Gen-Y Films. Jules shot and directed the entire project with only minimal help from me, for I was in a cumbersome bear suit and trying to focus as much energy as possible into getting into character. That is a lie, it wasn’t really hard to get into that character, but it was really fun to give the camera over to someone else who I trusted so I didn’t have to do everything myself. Filming went smoothly, Jake and Kate were a lot of fun all night, Jules had a lot of clever filming ideas that would have never come to me if I was filming by myself, and our lead heroine, Emily Grace, didn’t even mind being chaffed by the ropes we used to tie her up.
The project was originally going to be Kate as the heroine, Jake as the rabbit, and myself as the white rabbit, but once I got to the apartment, Jake took one look at the suit and refused to wear it. In the meantime Kate read through the script quickly and agree to do it, but so then it would be myself as Pooh and Kate still as the victim. Then we talked some more about the project and decided that if the reason I was having Kate play the female protagonist was because she was dating Jake so it would be more comfortable. Then we decided that even though Kate was willing to play the role, Emily Grace was too and so we decided to have her tied up so that I still had the comfort of a couple working together. Then I silently questioned why we had dragged three people and a bunch of heavy stuff from Emmanuel when I didn’t actually use any of the people who lived there. Then I figured that the basement of Kate and Jake’s place was creepier than anywhere I had access to at Emmanuel, and I justified my own flawed logic.

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Jules came over the next Wednesday and we started editing the raw footage after dinner. He brought his portable hard drive and laptop so that we could transfer the footage onto his computer and work from there, but after about an hour and a half of trying to re-compress and chop up many gigs worth of stuff, I decided that we should just chop it up on my computer. Jules agreed.
Jules and I had decided while filming that the project really belonged to both of us now with him shooting it, me writing it, and both of us editing together. We also weren’t sure whose youtube channel to upload the project onto, but there was a pretty unanimous vote between us (all both of us) that it would get more viewers on mine. However, there were artistic choices that Jules wanted to make on the final cut that I didn’t agree with, especially when it came to the use of copyright protected music. Jules wanted to score the entire project with music that he didn’t own; I did not. The songs he chose were appropriate to the story, including one my favorites from Neon Genesis Evangelion, but I have been trying to maintain a strict no-copyright rule on my work. Jules also wanted to do a lot of heavy color correction, which I had no problem with but we ran out of time that night before Jules had to get back to the train. We decided that we’d make a rough cut of the video and he’d upload one version and I’d upload my own, each to our channels and each with our own little quirks. If you look, Jules’ is converted into a completely different format for wide screen than mine, and his color corrected is radically different.


The end result was pretty good. I got a couple of honors in “comedy” for the first day and people really appreciated the differences between Jules’ and mine. As of now I’m pretty sure it’s one of the biggest hits on Jules’ channel. I’m also pleased to see that a lot of people prefer Jules’ cut to mine, which I think is reflective of the fact that we both had equal hands in so much of the work before we even got to editing that a lot of the decisions Jules made while filming reflected well of and ran smoothly with the decisions he made in the final touches. Our two styles merged well and seemingly seamlessly, and so far it’s been a success for everyone involved.
One a side not, I just recently recorded a few songs, including a lot of original material, with Jake the other day. Also, Spencer went home twice this week and recorded some very promising recordings that will make their way into one of the next 1-3 projects. That’s all for now, I’ll update when there’s a new video.
Ryan

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February 5, 2008

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