Visual Style Influences

I've been influenced by numerous artists in my day. The painting of the dutch masters come to mind. With their heightened vivid perfection of nature and the characters within them. Ken and Robert Williams who made the old Sierra Online computer adventure games have been another influence. The photography of Dan Abrams and Andrew Mohrer were others. On the filmmaking front, the work of James Cameron and David Fincher, two directors whos project's I've worked on and met personally have also been tentpoles. However, by far the most influential of them all, has been Makoto Shinkai.

He is a Japanese anime director and former graphic designer. His body of feature work includes, The Place Promised in Our Early Days / 雲のむこう、約束の場所 (2004), 5 Centimeters Per Second / 秒速5センチメートル, Children Who Chase Lost Voices / 星を追う子ども (2011), The Garden of Words / 言の葉の庭 (2013), and Your Name/ 君の名は (2016). Most of the narratives of his films are coming of age stories of teenage love, surrounded in a Terrence Malick-like whisper voice wrapper. Blending science fiction with the drama and angst of adolescence. Also importantly, he became a filmmaker by doing the wrought I most respect. He did it himself. I've done this and no one knows who I am except my friends, acquaintances, and my mom. Gareth Edwards also did this with the film 2010 Monsters and now he's directed a Star Wars movie. Shinkai's 2001 breakout project Voices of a Distant Star looked incredibly good for a one-man project. Voices was a breakout success for an amateur animator, and Shinkai has created three more films in the past decade, establishing himself as one of the anime industry's preeminent creators. 

His narrative choices are okay, but what really sets him apart is his distinct visual style. Shinkai belongs to a new generation of animators who have never worked in the traditional pen-and-paper format, and his film Voices of a Distant Star is a testament to how dramatically computers have changed the animation industry in the past decade. His Art Direction is second to none, creating a dreamy hyper-saturated pallet of beautiful texture and optics. Glows and blooms are common, but always motivated. All inside a stylized feature of watercolor clouds, vividly colored skies and dramatic lighting. I've made it a practice to put on his films with the sound off as background for my computer when in downtime. Much like a moving wallpaper. As I've developed my own visual asthetic, I've been finding I always prefer the saturation cranked up more and more as well. 

One of the most key influences of his work is to show that texture is absoulty paramount. By texture, I mean detail in all areas of the frame. Hence it's really awful to point a camera at someone with a flat white wall behind them or solid color psych backdrop. Clouds and sunsets are perfect opportunities to build up the texture. A habit I've been influenced by in my visual work and various life experiences such as taking both LSD and DMT under beautiful vanilla skies. So skies have become very important in my personal world as well as my artwork. Shinkai does skies masterfully using them as a canvas for beautiful heightened, almost dreamy, ethereal textures. This is a habit I've syncronisticlly found myself creating as well in my work of the past unconsciously and now consciously in my work of more recent times. See my Auroras, Shamans of the Global Village, and Transmutation posters for reference. I promise not all future posters will be of a sky!

This aesthetic leads to a mixture of real life non-fiction combined with a slight science fiction Mise-en-scène. There are elements in both the pilot episode of Shamans of the Global Village Episode 01 and Transmutation which I feel accomplish this well. Always in support of the narrative and not as a distraction from it. Shinkai had been quoted as saying, "I think that science fiction can, by creating extreme situations and settings, draw out the essence of human relationships," Shinkai wrote. "The ability of science fiction to create thought experiments...is one of the things I like about it." It's ultimately about telling a story with interesting characters that are compelling and hold the viewer's impact. That's paramount. When you have that foundation and put it in a container that's visually stunning, then you've struck gold in my book.

 

Magnum Opus

It is official. My wife and I have duplicated ourselves. A beautiful baby girl Makena Heckman has transited here on May 10th 2017, exactly on the full moon. 

Our one and only child, not only will she likely be the most photographed child on Spaceship Earth during her life, raising her will be my greatest art project. A magnum opus. 

Half of me worries about adding a new little human to the world during these times of transition and climate catastrophe, but the other half of me realizes were all non-corporal, higher dimensional, divine beings from source who just transit to this illusory place for a while to experience some polarity and grow. Either way, I'll still try and get content out under a schedule similar to one podcast or essay per month, one SGV episode per every other year, and one feature every decade. Stay tuned.

Liars & Theves!

Really fun two-day shoot with San Francisco based production company Liars & Thieves!

Collin Kriner edits the spot as it's being shot. Everything's gotta be cut. 

On a side note, I'll use this to lead into a blurb on workflow storage... As modern moving image media makers, we capture a lot of data. Digital information which requires constant storage. So much to the point that my out of the industry wife constantly says "You're buying ANOTHER hard drive?!?!" in a nagging wife voice. Those external orange Thunderbolt LaCie hard drives are infinitely fast and I've taken up the habit of having a single orange drive per project. Storage space has become so cheap it's not worth the risk of losing irreplaceable files because you didn't have them double backed up. That in addition to the unnecessary life complication of having multiple projects on a single. Best to keep them separate.

External hard drives used to be so slow that it wasn't really an option to be able to work directly off of. Those times have changed however and one can easily edit straight from a faster Thunderbolt drive. Another solid reason to use them is in case your computer crashes and burns, your separate external drive won't be part of that scenario.

I've been slowly but surely trying to transform as much of the content of my life from analog data to digital storage data. All with the final goal of being able to move into a tiny house of course. The ultimate zen lifestyle of less physical STUFF. American's have storage lockers of stuff they don't need and that is unsustainable.

Future Primitive (2017)

Really enjoyable chat on The Future Primitive Podcast with Joanna Harcourt-Smith and Rak Razam in regards to Shamans of the Global Village

Joanna has a great motto “if you don’t like the media, be the media”. She has a history as a bit of a luminary in the 60's counter culture having had a past relationship with Timothy Leary, an American psychologist, and writer known for advocating the exploration of the therapeutic potential of psychedelic drugs under controlled conditions. 

One of the best rewards for creating a piece of media is its ability to reach others who work you've previously known and build relationships with those folks. Also by those who have responded positively to your personal creations and engage in conversation. When you meet someone of the previous generation who's also fought the same fight and created a culture to push back against the status quo of the day, that's massive. Joanna has been doing for many decades and its great to share in conversation as a meeting of minds.

100 Smiles Per Hour - Only The Source (2017)

This fun and somewhat PSA style piece was the 3rd video of an initial series of 6 launch short form pieces by myself and team at the production venture Only The Source.

The spot aims to inspire a positive and uplifting look on how one can turn that frown upside down via changing mood and mindset. Many of the personal projects or self-made pieces Source makes will likely have themes of this nature. Quirky yet quite practical exercises which support unity and self-understanding through good behavioral practices.

 

Source Lauch Videos (2017)

April marked the launch date of the first two released video's for our next production company Only The Source

Their original short-form filmmaking content aims to awaken, inspire and empower humanity to a more peaceful, delightful and loving life through original content and branded entertainment.

Check em out:

This has also been my first dive into using Vimeo Review which I must say are a great time saver for a group collaborating together.

Only The Source (2017)

I'm a co-founder of a new Bay Area based production company called "Only The Source" with Stu Zimmerman, Leah Diamond, and Cameron Mark Lewis.

The venture's purpose is to awaken, inspire and empower humanity to a more peaceful, delightful and loving life through our programming. Entertaining, thought-provoking, heart-warming and occasionally outrageous, our content offers our global audience new insights, direct experiences and reliable practices to create positive change in their lives.

Check out www.onlythesource.com for more info.

Some Escapest Horror Worth Your Time

As human beings we are inherently scared of certain things. Horror is a genre which plays off those fears through the art form of filmmaking. Since horror films most often times only require a small cast and found locations, they are generally cheap to make and the majority of films in the genre are rubbish as a result. Yes, many horror films are trashy garbage, yet I'm still a fan of a well-done piece of terrifying cinema and have a guilty pleasure of watching horror movies when my wife is away and I'm home alone. Thereby I am pleased to come across a good sleeper piece of horrific cinema!

The genre suffers from many problems. Mainly a lack of originality. With most horror movies following the trends. Such as the slasher flicks of the 80's, hot douchebags on college campuses of the 90's, torture porn or psychological thrillers of the early 2000's, and found footage of the 20 teen's. So nothing pleases me more than a non-paint by numbers horror movie that is both original and memorable while being out of the wave of what's popular at the time.

There are several important elements to get right with a horror movie. Outside of the usual script and character, a quality horror film really needs to be helmed by a quality filmmaker. The American remake of the Japanese film The Ring is a great example of this. Resulting in a project that's not cheap scares with a when is something going to happen factor. An original horror movie is also is not allowed to have a spirit or entity after the child. Please never show that again all of Hollywood. Success in horror must play on our already pre-existing fears. Example, a giant spider-like face hugging alien latching onto you jizzing down your throat and having its offspring burst out your chest cavity. That's because we're naturally afraid of arachnoids, parasites, and childbirth.

When skimming through horror trailers, if it doesn't have high production values I immediately turn it off and won't even give it a moment of my time. Here's a short list of high production value yet not very know horror movies which I've gathered that are worth your time if you're willing to lower your consciousness with some distraction to escape the horror of the Republicans running all three branches of Government.

Our short film Supervised had a significant horror element to it which was tons of fun. As someone always interested in making films with lower budgets, I do admit my bucket list includes making a single horror movie. It must be fantastic, with a compelling and original story, well paced, well shot, and memorable.

Midnight Meat Train - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0805570/
The Boy - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3882082/
[Rec] - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1038988/
Martyers - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1029234/
Hostel - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0450278/
The Descent - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0435625/
The Skeleton Key - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0397101/
As Above So Below - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2870612/
The Uninvited - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0815245/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Trick R' Treat - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0862856/
Eden Lake - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1020530/
The Shrine - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1341710/
Paranormal Activity - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1179904/
Trollhunter - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1740707/
Jeruzalem - http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4552524/

Psychedelic Milk (2017)

Joined comrade Ed Liu for Episode #43 of his podcast Psychedelic Milk to discuss the documentary series Shamans of the Global Village.

Ed Liu is a podcast host and a music producer - previously charted on the Beatport Top 100. He is currently the host of the Psychedelic Milk podcast, a long-form conversational interview with interesting and influential guests from all over the world to discuss topics of consciousness, psychedelics, and new emerging technologies.

This was a really fun free-form chat. From moment one it just flowed as Ed and I are on similar wavelengths. Thanks so much for having me Ed buddy.

 

Read Through Your Ears

Reading is very important. Wisdom and knowledge comes from life experience while information gathering comes from reading. People who are "well read" are generally more interesting to talk to and have a much broader range of depth than those who never read hardly anything. Many people won't even read this blog post let alone a magazine article let alone a fluffy fun book let alone a book of knowledge. Thus Donald Trump is the 45th president of the United States and the comedy Idiocracy has become a documentary. Which is understandable since we're so programmed to move a mile a minute and not ever slow down. Reading takes time and requires one to slow down. In order to be a good writer, you must read a ton more than you write. I'm constantly baffled how unwell read many "filmmakers" are and a huge part of being a filmmaker instead of just a person with a camera is writing compelling fleshed out characters of depth. Hence, so much of the problems with indie filmmaking is a lack of good writing.

PreWide.jpg

Technology has made it so we get information a mile a minute. Sadly most of it's crap because people seem to want to play Farmville on Facebook rather than read something juicy and yummy for their mind. The best information one can consume on a page or screen comes from books of knowledge. Usually old books or else books which retell old themes. 

For example, "The Art of War". A not easy book to read but something that requires one to spend time with it over and over again over long periods of time. Much like university study, it can take a long time to sit down with The Art of War and really get information out of it. And that requires not only that slowing down, but also a focused mental concentration.

As someone who is mildly dyslexic, this is an even greater struggle. The McDonalds for the mind B-level accurate Wikipedia definition of dyslexia is "difficulty in learning to read or interpret words". Which sure as shit was true here in this brain's real estate. In the mind control conform boot camp of public and private school I remember trying to read and having so much problem not remembering what I had just gone over two lines before. This was mainly in reading non-fiction and also meant being lost in place and time within reading fiction. However, it wasn't so much the information in the text but more the process of extracting it off the page and into memory that was the difficult part with a gear lodged in the mental cogs. However, being read that same text out loud was a different story. Hence books on tape saved me in the 80's and 90's.

Reading involves all your time. Listening does not. When you listen you are in your own world and can often times DO other things. I always have ear buds in my ears whenever I'm by myself in my spare time being a non-creeper street photographer. Either at home or on the move, or even getting various autopilot works done at the keyboard. If I'm alone and without headphones in, I feel weird like walking the dog through a park partially naked not wearing pants. The time is so valuable to be in-taking yummy information and life is too short to spend all your time listening to someone else's crap they would be all to happy to spoon feed to you over some ghastly live broadcast full of deplorable corporate commercials. I'm allowed to say that being someone who has occasionally directed commercials and has worked on and off in the commercial industry. 

Audio books and podcasts are quite ubiquitous these days. However many old texts that are packed with excellence have not been transcribed to audio book. The modern version of books on tape is the spoken word version of text on the page. Either read by a human and translated digitally into an audio file, just like a book on tape. This is a technique called text to speech. A secret weapon of excellence. Older versions of the Amazon Kindle allowed most if not all books you purchased on Kindel to also be transcribed to you as an audio book. An outstanding feature they very sneakily and slyly removed in later versions because of conflicts with publishing companies over copyright of audio book vs regular book. Who would have thought those running an industry would act like profit based capitalist dicks? The best solution I have found to mimic this is text to speech. There are pieces of software which allow you to copy text and have it read out to you, often but not always by a robotic Stephen Hawking like voice. For numerous years I would highlight text and copy it into a reader and push play. YUGE.

Screen Shot 2017-02-10 at 1.36.10 PM.png

These days I will give credit to Apple and mention that the latest versions of Mac OS have an incredible feature where you can simply highlight any text, be it the full pros on an entire novel or a single article, then right click on the highlights text and say "Add to iTunes as spoken track". After a short bit of processing... BOOM! You've got an audio file that's essentially an audiobook. Created quickly from ANY text you can copy from. Alchemical mind gold! A life-changing process for the autodidact we will all one day come to be.

Being a couple years into listening to self-created audio book files, I've started to incorporate a time-saving technique of listening to them at faster speed. A feature which YouTube as added to their videos as well mind you.

Music requires being listened to at proper speed but a human being's voice does not. In fact, most people's voices and speech patterns have caused them to deliver oral information quite inefficiently and work better sped up a bit. Rather than spending 3 full hours listening to that latest epic podcast at speed, try it at a 1.5x speed or even a 2x speed. You'll get just as much out of it in a much more efficient time frame. This process will allow your yummy intel sponging to increase daily. It also works well on mediocre films. Such as kind of boring documentaries or Michael Bay action films where the dialogue just doesn't carry the visuals. Like all muscles, mental processes require exercise and building up the ability to listen quicker will rapidly move you to become more Jedi and less Muggle in no time. 

New Means Little

With any piece of hardware that you use to advance an art, it's easy to get lost in the technology loop of acquisition syndrome. Caring so much about the latest + greatest newest thing. While there's an understanding of getting more for the same price, which is what happens with the latest model, in reality very little does change when you upgrade to any piece of technology.

For example, I use two cameras for street photography. A Leica M rangefinder series and a Panasonic micro 4:3:

 

Each has its own advantages and it's nice to switch it up between the two day in and day out. The Leica prides itself by maintaining and old design style, while the micro 4:3 camera is essentially a more compact SLR camera. Just like the rangefinder, the micro 4:3 is over 5 years old now and still producing great images. Getting battle hardened lots of use, but still there are only so many shots it can take before it will die.  My motto of late, shoot it till it dies and only upgrade then and there. Zen minimalism all the way.

Transmutation Teaser Trailer (2017)

Moon / Feminine , Sun / Masculine , Earth / Feminine + Masculine

Transmutation is a documentary film I've been working on as the main side project for the last 3/4 years with my friend and colleague Neil Kramer. A British philosopher and esotericist. Neil explores the relationship between inner development and the many social and cultural factors that influence our lives. Attention is drawn to embracing truth, confronting challenges, and transforming self. Neil shares his ideas in writings, film, audio, seminars, and individual teaching.

At a surface level this film is about not following the "normal" prescribed path society and culture lays out for us in the first world. At a deeper level, it's about spiritual philosophy. At an even deeper level it's about Hermetic philosophy. At the deepest level, it's about the alchemical transmutation of the soul, changing the individual from lead to gold which is the purpose for each and every one of us over many lifetimes as we evolve and grow. Minus any woo or fluff.

It's been absolutely life-changing for me making it and the official site can be found here:

www.transmutationfilm.com

Third Eye Drops (2016)

Fantastic chat with friends Michael Phillip and Michael Garfield (The Michael's) over at the Third Eye Drops podcast. Purveyor of interviews, outerviews and wonder-mongering for sentient sapein seekers.

We chat about my background and the struggled of transmuting your life energy into dollars for others while at the same time always wanting or trying to make you own content.

Being a Documentary Photographer + Filmmaker

As a street photographer, I'm often out in public, lurking in urban areas in an attempt to find interesting subjects to candidly photograph. 

Building up your guts to go up to people cold is a skill I will never stop needing to work on. Occasionally when photographing someone and having it go well, they'll ask me to send them their picture. When speaking to the remarkable John Siegel on the podcast, he mentioned that he's learned to have a business card to hand out. This gives subjects some quick insight on who he is and also writes the photo number on the back of his card when he get's asked by people to share their portraits he's taken of them. Genius idea. So here I am making my own. 

As someone who realizes and appreciates the importance of one condensing and conveying their brand to others, it's important to solidify and streamline what you do professionally or for hobby. The further along I get in the craft of capturing still images of unknown subjects, the more I realize documentary photography is a major part of my life, if not the primary passion of my life. Outside of my spiritual development of course. Which if you're scared off the the word "spiritual" just switch if out for "life" and call it life development. With filmmaking being the occasional side hobby that only happens periodically. I've also come to realize how much my street shooting effects my directing style in the way I work with subjects and lens a scene. Being chipper and upfront and proactive to make those I've just met and are pointing a camera at comfortable being on screen, while at the same time developing a shooting style of cinematic documenting. With a kit of specific visual cues that re-occur as one finds their style. For me, that style is psychedelically influenced hyper-saturation with beautiful bloomy optics. High contrast ratios and ethereal skies. Think conscious multidimensional art meets Makoto Shinkai. All done lite and lean to support what is hopefully always paradigm-crushing content.