Episode Three of “Dying Alone”

Earlier this summer I mentioned that an episode I submitted to Chicago Sky View Productions had been accepted and was being produced. It premiered Saturday night at Blokes & Birds and went live online Monday morning. I had a crazy summer and wasn’t super involved in the production of the episode, but I am so happy with how it turned out. Kaitlyn Majoy, the lead, just nailed the main character and I love how it was tightly edited.

Take a look here (it’s only four-and-a-half minutes):

If you liked it, please vote for it over at Funny or Die here!

I was lucky enough to catch one day of filming and took some quick photos of cast and crew:

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Settled In

I moved three weeks ago, and as of right now, I have only one unpacked box. Before today, at least half a dozen boxes still sat in our living room, backed up against the sun room wall with the boxed-in dining room table. When I moved, I immediately ran out of storage space in my bedroom, but even more so in my bathroom. So on Friday, I bought a boxed set of shelves at Target.

Back in 2008, when Christina from college and I moved in together, she and I built a similar bathroom storage unit — just the two of us. We’d been pretty proud of ourselves because we hadn’t needed to ask either of our boyfriends for help, and the thing turned out looking like it was supposed to. I knew deep down, however, that I’d played second banana in that project, and had with every similar one since. Kevin took the lead in building all of our IKEA purchases, and even helped me build my bed shortly after we broke up and he moved out.

I woke up this morning from a stress dream about this set of bathroom shelves and briefly, hazily, considered asking for Kevin’s help. I woke up a little more and shook the thought out of my head. I was on my own for the shelves and I knew it.

My roommate and I went out to brunch this morning, with her visiting friend (and former roommate, whose place I took in the apartment). Afterward I had the place to myself for a bit. I resigned myself to the task of putting together the shelves, since no one would be around to hear me swearing.

First of all, whatever possesses us to keep buying furniture we have to build ourselves? Does IKEA have some kind of lingering chemical in their products that leads us to forget what a pain in the ass the thing was to construct in the first place, allowing us to buy more later as needed?

That said, the Target shelves, while similar to IKEA’s, were much easier to build than I thought they’d be. I only messed up once and ended up screwing two tiny holes in the wrong end of one shelf, but it’s the bottom one and no one’s going to see it. I sat back and marveled at my own handiwork.

I built these shelves all on my own, and they are mine.

Bathroom shelves from Target

Bow before me, queen of building boxed furniture

It’s a small victory maybe, but to me, it’s one more sign that I’m moving forward in my life. Moving out of my old place has had an extremely positive effect on me. I don’t think I realized how trapped I was in the old apartment — the memories it held weren’t always in the forefront of my mind, but they were present all the same. I lived in that one-bedroom apartment Kevin and I shared for six more months after he left it. I went a little nuts, but I didn’t know it until I was out of there.

Now I live in a bright, sunshine-yellow room and share an apartment with a lovely, kind person and I can’t explain to you how much better I feel for it.

bathroom-and-desk

Private bathroom, desk, bed

desk

New writing space

books

(Some of) the books, DVDs

closet

Clothes shelves, closet

bed

Bed, with Lincoln Square and Columbus art

It also helps that I’ve been insanely busy for all of August. In the last three weeks, I have:

  • Seen Jenny Lewis live with Stef
  • Enjoyed a visit from Rachel and Ryan, which included a trip to the Field, dinner at Crisp, lunch at Honey Butter Fried Chicken, Portillo’s, and a trip to Eataly
  • Joined Christina’s writers group
  • Gone to two live lit shows
  • Saw Shakespeare in the park with Travis, Alex, Becky, Andrew, and Leigh
  • Grabbed Giordano’s downtown with my aunt, cousin, and cousin’s friend
  • Attended a fancy pop-up dinner with Laura in support of the upcoming opening of a new cider bar in North Center
  • Grabbed dinner and a show with Jaimi
  • Met with the folks behind the webseries I’m writing for
  • Took two Pilates classes with Becca and Stef
  • Went to parties at Travis and Andrew’s as well as Kate and Erin’s
  • Had brunch with awesome women including Hillary, Anne, Katie, Sarah, Adele, and Sonya

This week I’m lucky enough to see more live lit, go to book club, and take part in Christina’s writers group again.

My summer has been filled to the brim with quality time with women I admire and feel great being around. There are still so many more of them I haven’t seen enough of this summer and I look forward to fixing that. I’ve been keeping myself busy and full and happy, and I find myself so encouraged and inspired by the people around me. I’ve been writing more in recent weeks than I did most of last year, and I’m proud of what I have to show for it.

This time last year, Kevin and I were living together and we’d just gotten back from Colorado. We’d visited my college friends Doug and Chandra and their four-month-old daughter. I watched Kevin get along so well with my married friends, and I saw how good he was with their little girl. I came back from that trip thinking maybe he was coming around to the idea of a long-term future with me, and a day later he told me that being there made him more sure he wasn’t ready for any of it.

It was honest, and it hurt.

That was also the same time that, after months of job searching, I got hired for my dream job at a newspaper — only to have it fold days later and for them to have to retract their offer. It was a rough patch, to say the least.

Some days I feel like I’ve fallen backwards and I miss the way my life used to be. But now I have a job I love, and I don’t spend any time worrying that my boyfriend will never propose.

These days I’m afraid to date anyone longer than a month, because I can’t wrap my brain around letting myself feel too seriously about anyone again. My Single Summer has been rewarding in so many ways, but it’s also meant I don’t feel hurt anymore.

It’s been a good summer, though. That much is true.

Writing & Twitter

Part of my job at my association is to offer social media assistance to businesses, and it’s an extremely rewarding aspect of the work I do. It did, however, mean that I had to start a Twitter account. I’d had accounts in the past, including one for my news site. I knew how to use it, and I posted to it for 60625, but try as I might, I couldn’t train myself to check it often enough to make it worthwhile as a social media tool.

But now, after three months of use, I am here to tell you that I get it now. First off, you have to allow for text or email notifications or else you’re never going to check that nonsense in the beginning. Also, don’t follow every single person/spam bot who follows you first because it will just clog up your feed.

Anyway. Don’t get me started. I now see the value of Twitter, in terms of networking, research, entertainment, and — lately — finding freelance work. I’ve been writing like crazy in recent weeks, and Twitter has a lot to do with this burst of creative productivity.

I’ve been blogging for my friends’ pop culture site, The Addison Recorder, since January. But it was pretty cool to get tweeted at by the author of a book I reviewed for that site:

Additionally, I connected with a friend’s new magazine about the Midwest and expanded on an idea I’d written on here previously about the oil and gas boom in my hometown. I saw on Twitter a call for submissions, so I pitched my idea and got it approved. I turned it in a couple weeks ago.

I later found on Twitter that a friend-of-a-friend’s web series was seeking script submissions for the next episode of their show, so I wrote something and sent it their way. I just heard yesterday that they want to produce what I wrote into an episode. It’s really exciting.

I also started following tons of live lit folks here in Chicago, and now I’m trying to get in on some of those events. Longtime readers may remember that performing at a live lit event has been on my bucket list for the last couple of years, so hopefully soon I’ll be able to finally make that happen. Meanwhile, I keep writing down ideas and outlines of essays that might be suited for that platform.

I stand before you a (years late) Twitter advocate and convert. It took a few half-hearted attempts, but I can’t go back now.

John Cunningham for mayor

Paid for by John Cunningham

Tonight we went to Weinland Park in Italian Village to shoot John Cunningham’s response ad, which we will air a week from tomorrow on our Facebook page and YouTube channel. It was a lot of fun and Bill did great as usual. He’s so funny and he really gets the character, even though John Cunningham is nothing like Bill. He ad-libbed a really funny bit at the end that I left in, with some text running over top of it advertising the show’s website. It’s done and edited but we aren’t airing it until Friday, after Aryeh’s first one hits Monday morning.

Aryeh purchased http://www.CandidateSeries.com just now, and Stacey’s been hard at work designing the site. I wrote some content last night and we should be pretty well on track with that before Oct. 1, our series premiere.

On Sunday, we’re filming Aryeh’s two campaign ads back to back at Owen and Jamie’s house, on their porch. I wrote the scripts last night and Aryeh made some small changes to them today. He seemed pretty happy with them. If his turn out like Bill’s did, we’ll have some pretty amazing promotional material to run before the show starts up.

Meanwhile, I’m taking the plunge and purchasing Final Cut Express tomorrow. As soon as that sucker comes in I’ll be shut up in my room editing on no sleep for days. I can’t wait!

Day 3 of filming for “The Candidate”

This means WAR

We filmed a guy willingly getting hit with a water balloon Thursday night. Steve, who is playing Matthew, was braced for it and took it like a champ. My brother got caught in the crossfire/aftermath but being the pro he is, he didn’t stop rolling despite the shock (or the droplets of water on the lens).

We had 11 people on set last night, and it was kind of crazy, including two extras, the talented Sean Eaton on Camera 2, our producer, assistant director, crew and actors. It started off on a frightening note when I realized I’d told Becca to be there at 7:45 instead of 7. Fortunately, we had a scene we could shoot while we waited for her and she got there as soon as she could. She was really nice about my mistake, too. We shot one interview scene in my office, a scene with Becca and Matt in Stacey’s office and the rest over on the other side of our building. The later scenes were the first ones actually in the campaign office. While Owen, Sean and Steve shot a quick scene outside before it got dark, everyone else teamed up and set up the office set in less than ten minutes. It was pretty impressive. The IKEA panel curtains we purchased last week seemed to suffice as a way to block off the long hallway we wanted to hide and Aryeh pointed out they could pass as window shades, merely covering a giant window in the office.

What the....?

The water balloon scene was tricky; we only had one chance to hit Steve with the balloon so it had to be good. To make things more complicated, it was dark by the time we got to that scene so we couldn’t show Steve entering the door as we’d planned. We worked around this by instead showing the office employees (Becca, Matt, extras Christine and Samantha) going nuts in all-out Nerf gun warfare before showing Steve step into the frame. So instead of him getting hit with the balloon the second he entered, he stood shocked for a few seconds watching the chaos and THEN getting pelted. I think the end result ended up being funnier than originally planned so it all worked out. Also we ended up having three cameras on Steve when the balloon hit. Action shot to the max.

I heart my actors

I love all the actors because they totally get their characters. I feel like the ones I wrote for this are more developed than ones I’ve written in the past and they seem more real. I am really happy with our casting and how everyone seems to be getting along.

Tomorrow the scariest scene of my life takes place, with every cast member on set and lots of craziness going on. It’s a good thing we now have three cameras, but we’re kind of going to need people behind them. Also, my dad will be there, yay! Hooray for the most supportive dad on the planet who randomly agreed to come to Columbus on a Monday night to be in a very silly production with me, my brother and our friends. It’s just like when we were kids, right?

Building buzz for a web series

The other night before the photo shoot with Bill, Aryeh made the interesting suggestion that we do some fake campaign commercials. I’m pretty sure it was just because he wants more screen time beyond his face appearing on a giant sign in one scene, but it turned out to be a pretty good idea once we got rolling. As a result, we brainstormed most of our marketing strategy for the web series.

When Bill got to the shoot, we ran the idea of a campaign ad by him and he was down with it. We’ll do a positive one surrounding Aryeh’s character, Mike Mowry, and another one of Mowry in an attack ad against Cunningham. We’re not sure yet which Cunningham’s will be a response to but I’m going to do some writing soon. My friend Andrew has agreed to donate his son’s time so we have a baby for either Aryeh or Bill to kiss. So ridiculous. Have you seen any crazy ads for or against candidates? Do share. We’re shooting the ads the Wednesday and Thursday after Labor Day and we’re also looking for a guy to do a really dramatic voiceover or two.

We plan to air one of Mowry’s ads first, then Cunningham’s a couple days after, followed by Mowry’s second one. This will be followed by a two-minute trailer of the show itself. Hopefully by this point our friends, family and acquaintances will be more intrigued than annoyed by all this buzz.

On top of these fake ads and trailer giving the name of the series at the end (and hopefully a website/YouTube channel), we’re going to embellish the hideous site Stacey made for Cunningham. We’ll also create Facebook fan pages for each candidate and try to get our friends to join them. We can post funny status updates in character and stuff, that could be cool.

I started a gmail account under the name CandidateSeries (TheCandidate and TheCandidate2010 were taken, boooo). Stacey has agreed to create a site as part of her personal one to host the series, and she does spectacular work. I would have loved to have had a site just for “Paper Cuts” but I had no way of getting one at the time.

Anyway, so that’s the plan. I hope it works and doesn’t backfire. We’ll have to be careful not to overexpose the thing next month. After all the build up we’ll air episodes on Mondays and Fridays in October. If we have more than 8 episodes, we might air them Monday, Wednesday and Friday until they’re done. We’ll see.

Day 2 of filming for “The Candidate”

I’m learning a new lesson with this project, and it is that delegating is very important for one’s sanity. Paul did a much better job with last night’s photo shoot than I would have, and his being there freed me up to help test the new light kit and assist Bill with wardrobe selections. It also gave me a few minutes to enjoy just being on set for a change. Tonight Aryeh helped me out with lighting and ran the clapper board while Stacey found time to finish an important part of our set design. Since I can’t be in three places at once, this was good news for me.

We finished our second night of filming, which means we are now 1/3 of the way through production. That was quick. We wrapped in under an hour tonight, which can happen I guess, if you don’t change the set, lights or frame. Oh, and if your actors have their lines down perfectly like our two did tonight. That made my life easier.

Steve, playing Matthew

Becca, playing Lauren

I’m a little concerned about the sound quality of tonight’s footage. There was a lot of white noise going on in my office so we’ll see if it’s enough to constitute a re-shoot. I hope not, because it will mean having to find a different office, but we’ll see. Keep your fingers crossed.

Tomorrow, the more complicated scenes begin, but we can handle it. My brother and I were discussing some of the shots tonight and I think we’ve got a decent plan of attack. I am so glad he is our director of photography. He’s going to be behind Camera 1 an I’ll be at the monitor with the headphones. Someone else will operate Camera 2 but needs to avoid a large part of the room as well as getting caught in Camera 1’s frame. Should be interesting.

Day 1 of filming for “The Candidate”

Clint, an extra, at the door with Matt (Dennis)

We had a great night last night, completing our two exterior shots outside Stacey’s apartment. They revolved around Dennis (played by a very talented improv contact named Matt), the douche baggy character who tries to usurp power from another character, Alice. Alice sends him out on a literature drop in an unfriendly neighborhood for revenge. We shot several scenes of him knocking on Stacey’s housemates’ outside doors and having them slam them in Matt’s face. I got my director cameo in! And Stacey, now officially called assistant director after weeks of doing half the work of this production, got to slam a door on camera as well. Without giving too much away, one of the production’s more complicated scenes was filmed last night involving that giant yard sign with Aryeh’s face on it and Matt ending up appearing unconscious on the sidewalk. Think you can connect the dots there? I’m glad it went well and that it’s wrapped.

This is my serious face

Matt had never acted before in his life until last night. He didn’t seem nervous but he admitted he kind of was when I asked. Despite that, once he got into character he really performed well. I’m looking forward to his office scenes coming up with the rest of the cast.

This was some of the first hand held camera work I’ve done for any of my projects and I have to say I think it’s much more interesting to look at than just your standard tripod shots. We’ll be using a tripod for the interview sequences, but that’s all. We watched the 10 minutes or so of footage we got last night and it looked pretty good. Stacey said she could see the “Office” influence on the camera work, and that’s the style we’re going for.

New Delaware's favorite mayor

Having a budget and people to help you rocks. A lot. Stacey took total charge of the giant sign (among other things), planned where it would go at her place and rallied her housemates to work as extras. Aryeh didn’t argue when we said we wanted to order said giant sign and it turned out more professional looking than it would have if I’d tried to make one on my own for a few bucks. Our production value is going to be all the better for this, and I am really excited about the final product.

SIGN ATTACK

Another really great thing about shooting “The Candidate” is the better equipment we’re being given the opportunity to use. I am very thankful for the connections I made with The Summit Workshop, whose proprietors have been extremely generous in agreeing to let us borrow some of their sound equipment. Noah John of the Workshop gave me a crash course yesterday and let me test a couple different mics to see which would work better and gave me tips on how to best use them for our purposes. He asked questions I probably wouldn’t have thought of and was really cool about letting us operate the mic on our own. RJ (playing Chad), my good luck charm and willing participant in everything I film, helped us run sound last night to great success. I am really glad he was there to assist and bring his LA-learned skills to the table.

Tonight we had a photo shoot with Bill, who is playing John Cunningham, a.k.a., the candidate. My cousin Paul is 19 and a far more accomplished photographer than I am, and he agreed to shoot our photos for us. Here’s a teaser of what we had going on this evening:

A real straight shooter

...With a softer side

The two best shots by Paul will be used in a scene as some fake campaign mailings. They’re meant to target two very different voter demographics but the mailing lists get mixed up.

Here we go…

Filming began this evening on “The Candidate.” It’s late, so I can’t say a whole lot about it. Just know that it was awesome, and we are 1/6 of the way through production. That is more than 0/6, and that is important. Everyone was awesome, the shots looked and sounded great and I feel awesome right now. One of the scenes was pretty complex and involved an unusually large prop, but our actor pulled it off perfectly and we got the shot. Pictures to come, but not until tomorrow night.

Speaking of tomorrow night, we’ve got our photo shoot with our candidate, played by Bill, my improv instructor from earlier this year. He is naturally hysterical and has the skills we felt we needed in someone to pull off this absurd character well. I am glad he is such a good sport and is willing to go through with my silly photo shoot ideas. I’ll likely post those tomorrow as well.

Day 2 of filming is Wednesday, but it’s just some simple interview segments that will be shot in a chair in my office, one by one. The heavy-duty stuff picks up Thursday, but my brother will be our DP that night (and the following week) and my friend Christine has volunteered to work crew. We still need someone to run Camera 2 (aka, my Flip Cam) but we’ll figure that out in due time.