Character Design

One of the most exciting parts of writing is character design. Once the characters are created, they begin to speak to you and the story begins. A long time can be spent just writing down character traits, character flaws and creating character goals. Having a rough visual image of what a character might look like helps make a story come to life as you’re writing. If you can create environments for the characters to live in, those environments can provide the final push you need to define goals and dreams of a character. Stories grow and change over time, as you bring in new artists to finalize the character designs the characters take on a life of their own. 

Below are samples from the character designs that have been done over the last few years for Painting My Life

Lead Character Evolution: Alice

Lead Character Evolution: Alice

Samples of Environments: Courtyard

Samples of Environments: Courtyard

Samples of Environments: Painting Studio

Samples of Environments: Painting Studio

Early Gargoyle Designs

Early Gargoyle Designs

Graphical Representation of Anna’s Wish Fulfillment in the script ‘Drowning’

When working on a psychological thriller that’s actually a character study following the structure of a European art film, you can be left with a lot of explaining to do. I created the graph below as a guide to help clarify questions I was facing about the story. The best part of the exercise was how much it helped me clarify what I was doing to myself.

The main anchoring scene of the film occurs in one room and other scenes exist in the lead character’s memory or within her wish fulfillment. In the end it’s up to audience to decide which version of Anna’s life they want to make real.

Crowdfunding Update

Hello everyone,

We wanted to give everyone an update as we push through the holidays and get ready for next year. Here’s a chart of how we’ve used the crowdfunding contributions so far and how much is left.

Our plan for next year is to apply for more funding and continue meetings with possible funders mid-January to March. We then hope to divide the film into pieces and start shooting it as a series of chapters or short films that we can combine into a feature film. This will stretch out the length of the shoot but will make things more manageable. First up will be shooting a 20-30 minute version of the film in the Spring/Summer of 2016. We know this process will take a long time but filming often does when working with a limited budget. As always, all we can do is keep going.  

The Indiegogo Care Bear Share Factor

You might have seen a lot of shameless self promotion for Drowning on social media recently. To explain why this plugging probably isn’t gong to stop for the next month, my care bear friends would like to explain to you the “gogofactor”.

The gogofactor is an algorithm that tracks activity on campaigns – everything from the total funds contributed on your campaign page to how many times your campaign page is viewed. This means that the more your project gets shared on social media the higher its gogofactor, and the more your campaign is promoted on Indiegogo. A higher profile on Indiegogo will lead to a wider reach for the campaign.

To get a higher gogofactor factor you need frequent campaign updates, a large crowd that signed up to be a part of your Indiegogo campaign, page views for your campaign, and % of goal completed. The more people share and contribute early in a campaign the higher your gogofactor rises, and that determines how often you get featured in Indiegogo’s networks and on their main web page.

So please be a care bear and share our campaign. Literally every like, favourite, and share is a contribution to our gogofactor.

How to give a good interview

So you’ve made a few films, got into a few film festivals and managed to get some press. Now what? You have to learn how to give an interview. I’ve never been comfortable on camera; as a filmmaker you’re always behind the camera, and an interview puts the camera and lights on you. It makes me feel like the world is upside-down, like I don’t belong there. What can I do to make this better? The only thing I can do is practice.

Practice: Come up with a list of possible questions you might be asked and create answers. What is your film about? What inspires you? Why did you pick this story to tell? Practice saying those answers aloud to yourself or to someone you know. Like a politician, you can prepare talking points and stick to them. No matter what question you are asked loop your response into one of the answers you’ve prepared. And whenever possible promote your next project.

Have a story to tell: When you are being interviewed, you should focus on telling a story. What is your story? What is your brand? If you’re working with a PR team, you should help create your story to tell. Don’t expect other people, even those you hire, to tell your story, because it might not be the story you want to share.

‘On Camera’ rules: Look at the person asking you questions; don’t look in different directions and don’t look directly towards the camera, unless you are told to do so. Do not, under any circumstances, touch your face during an interview. (Don’t touch your clothes or adjust your blazer either...see photo below.)  It’s a good idea to find out as much as you can about the interviewer before hand. Always thank everyone.


Ask for help: If you ever feel shy and awkward when giving an interview, be honest about it to the interviewer before hand and they’ll help you out. If your budget allows it, consider a media training class or enlisting the help of a PR professional to prepare you. And when in doubt and short on cash, a good Google search will always result in plenty of advice.

The MISE Dining Experience

Redefining ‘Dinner and a Movie’, MISE combines your favourite movie with a gourmet meal inspired by the film. Cook Jenny Chan and host Alvin Campana craft an evening of entertainment and a riveting meal for you and your guests to accompany a film of your selection.

Mise photo1.jpg

When attending a Surprise MISE, the only hint at the movie you are about to see is the logo projected onto the wall and a chance to peek at the menu before the evening begins.

At the most recent Surprise MISE, the movie is revealed to be Jurassic Park. As it starts, the guests giggle as drinks are poured. About 15 minutes in the first course is served, timed to match a reference on screen to the turkey in the salad. The menu matches the topics and images in the movie, creating an immersive experience for your brain and stomach.

The combination of a gourmet meal and film creates a new experience that introduces you to aspects of the film you may have never noticed. Having a goat curry with house roti and coconut rice as a T-Rex runs across the screen chasing a Jeep creates a sensory experience that completely envelops you in the film.

I highly recommend MISE for your next special event. MISE will provide a dining experience you and your guests will remember for years to come. You can visit their webpage for more information. 

MISE Video:

Music Video Camera Testing Theory

My ‘Music Video Camera Testing Theory’ is related to my ‘Crew of One Theory’ in testing how many locations can I get to one day, how many shots can I get and how many days I can shoot in a row without getting sick. Right now, results indicate that a 3-4 day shoot week can work with the limitation of one location per day. This will only continue to work if I stay healthy and avoid more back injuries, so we’ll see if I can manage that.

Whenever a camera test can be turned into something, it’s a good idea. Lately I’ve been disguising camera tests as music videos (or was it the other way around?). I’ve grown accustom to the Canon C300 work flow but I’ve never really been able to push it till now. In my most recent camera tests, I wanted to find the limitations of the latitude of the C300. How dark could the shadows be? How does the camera handle highlights? I wanted to check different light levels to see how the camera responded to darker areas and shadows. To test this, I set up even lighting with a strong base level of light in the first video I shot. In the second, I went with darker side lighting so I could compare results and see how much darkness I could get away with.

Still 1: Bright image

Music Video still.jpg

Still 2: Dark image

The range of stops is great compared to most digital camera, but highlights still burn out pretty quick. There’s a new look digital films have now where we are supposed to just accept that we don’t have the same amount of highlight detail anymore. We have a latitude range we have to work within. You have to decide; do I want detail in my highlights or do I want details in my shadows? You can’t have both. I want both but without bigger budgets for cameras that can handle that kind of latitude I’m stuck lighting to the limitations of the camera. The trick is to work within those limitations in such a way that makes it look like you didn’t have any limitations to begin with... easier said than done.

How many escapes does it take?

When structuring a story, you can get lost in the details. You can fall into traps that slow you down. From time to time reality, can get in the way. It can punch you in the face. The same questions follow you down the page as you’re writing; Does the character have a middle name? Can one shot replace this whole scene? How many characters is too many? How many times does the character have to escape?

Am I writing another movie that I’ll never make? That’s a big one. 

When you believe in what you’re writing it feels like the film has already been made. You can see the scenes and the story keeps growing. The uncomfortable questions will keep coming up and working your way through the answers is what will lead you to the next page.

Film as Therapy

Sometimes when you make a film it is because you need to get it out of your head. It has to be written down and it has to be made. It feels almost as like if you don’t make it you’ll go crazy and as a result the process of making a film can be a lot like therapy. You end up revealing parts of yourself that you’ve kept hidden, the parts of you that are screaming to get out. It is like you can’t sleep until you can let go of what inside you. Filmmaking is a very expensive form of therapy but it’s all I know. I’ve felt this way about Measuring Tape Girl and about all my other films.
For about a year now Measuring Tape Girl has been used by  Deneen Ollis, a Child and Youth Mental Health Clinician for MCFD in Penticton, B.C. Deneen works with young people ages 5 to 19. Measuring Tape Girl has been used with a girl’s group called ACE (Adolescents coping with Emotions). Deneen has use the film to start discussions with the girl’s group and in one-on-one sessions in her office. “For the most part the girls and one young man who viewed it nodded in agreement with what was said and understood the darker humour as well,”  Deneen said, “It was helpful as many of us tend to be the same as Measuring Tape Girl and when we compare ourselves to others find ourselves lacking. It was great to talk to the young people about not judging ourselves so harshly, and how we can be our own worst enemies, thinking things about ourselves we would never even say to someone we did not like.”
I’m looking into other ways to get Measuring Tape Girl in front of the audiences that need to see it the most. As an experiment I’m going to put up Measuring Tape Girl on YouTube for awhile so that it can be seen by anyone who might be interested. The process of writing and making Measuring Tape Girl taught me that ‘I was allowed to be happy’. Hopefully the idea that we control our own happiness can find it’s way to others who might need to hear it.

Satyajit Ray-The Music Room (1958)

There are films that entertain you, films that change your life, and films that change your perspective on filmmaking, among many other things. The films that are considered to be masterpieces can change your perspective on filmmaking, and they can change your life, but they don't always entertain you, and that’s okay. Our perspective on what is entertaining has been drilled into us by the Hollywood machine. If things don't explode every seven minutes then we might actually notice that most the films we're watching have no character development or story structure beyond the template film entertainment has been following since the early 1980's. There are also films that are good for you but don't entertain. Like a big plate of vegetables, these films may make your mind healthier but they don't always deliver the carb coma you're hoping for. A film that provides you with a different perspective from the norm on anything can be hard to find because you need to look beyond the mainstream delivery system. Lately I've been seeking those films out, and that search has lead me to the films of Satyajit Ray. The high praise of Scorsese and Kurosawa helped lead me toward his work:

‘In sheer terms of content and cinematic excellence, I rank Ray amongst the top ten directors of the last century...Ray's magic, the simple poetry of his images and their emotional impact will always stay with me" - Martin Scorsese 
“Not to have seen the cinema of Ray means existing in the world without seeing the sun or the moon.”  - Akira Kurosawa

The Music Room (1958) is a story about a man who refuses to change with the times. Music is a character in the film; it is used to help us hear the transition from one era to another. The film shows us the differences between the old feudal system and the new independent money, the new world slowly taking over and replacing traditional belief systems. In the end I had to take this film, that is in a different language and uses music as a metaphor, and watch it like a silent film. It was only then that I began to understand what it was about. I was overwhelmed by what I didn’t understand. There were some definite cultural barriers created by the difference between North American and Indian cultures and music. The strong use of metaphoric images helped me find my way through the story.
Here are some sample images:
A reflection of the lead character as he’s forced to look up at all the paintings of his ancestors and then look down to himself.
After a tragedy strikes the lead character the film starts to look more like a film noir.
Rain falls on statues after a dark moment in the story.
Seeing past the culture barriers can be difficult, but the performance of Chhabi Biswas and the use of the camera and lighting in the the last half of the story helped me more fully appreciate the film. The film slowly engulfs you in the music as the narrative moves the lead character to his eventual downfall. The poetic use of lighting and music lead me to embrace a film that I thought I could never find a connection to.