Category Archives: Filmmaking

Dawn of the Reds – An I Am Tim Commentary

I’d really love to write a longer post about this (and probably will), including interviews with the various people involved in this episode since its conception years ago, but right now it’s somewhat more prudent to just get the thing in front of your eyes. Not a part of the original Season 2 line-up (which is a whole other story altogether; in fact, the fidgety, dysfunctional nature of I Am Tim as its own entity would make a great post all on its own), this “very special” episode of Tim likely exists in a slightly different universe to that of the series for the cast and crew most familiar with it due to the many attempts to figure out the right approach and its fluid, increasingly mythical status as…well, not so much “unfilmable” as “filmable when we get around to it”.

Hell, you should just watch the damn thing before I waffle on too much. Part Battle Royale, part Running Man and all nonsense, here’s Dawn of the Reds:

And there you have it. Since my fingers are flying and I haven’t posted much of anything in almost a week, I might as well carry on while there’s still gas in the tank.

This is an odd episode to think about having a hand in, especially since it existed in some form or another (like the bulk of Tim which I’m anachronistically credited in) about two years before I had even met creator Jamie McKeller. This is an educated guess so take it with a pinch of salt (and am happy to be corrected by anyone with the pertinent info) but I believe the first draft/outline of DotR came about in 2010, around the time when Season 1 was being made on no budget by a crew of two who (by Jamie’s own confession) had no idea what they were doing. I met Jamie in late 2011 on the set of the yet-to-be-released microbudget feature Nothing Man,
in which he was appearing and showing bits of Season 2 to the cast and crew during lunch breaks.

The rest is nostalgia fodder for some other time, but by spring 2013 I was writing Season 3 with Jamie & James, and Dawn was still a seldom-whispered notion to me and a twinkle in Jamie’s eye. I couldn’t tell you exactly how many drafts there had been before I was asked to have a crack at the script, but it’s not modesty that leads me to say that what I received was pretty damn close to the finished product, and most definitely an object of McKeller’s invention. Mostly I just added some jokes, trimmed some dialogue and tried to sprinkle some added character depth here and there, so I wouldn’t have been surprised or hurt if I ultimately got an “additional material” credit or even just a “special thanks”, but Jamie’s a generous guy.

I’ve occasionally beaten myself up for not trying to overhaul the script in order to make it as good as it could have possibly been, but to do that would have been to alter its essence and turn it into something not inherently I Am Tim (especially with the ideas I had and still have for new episodes…), and that would have been a mistake.

It seems odd to talk about the “essence” of a Youtube video in which young people in uniform try to dig bombs out of each others’ scalps and the most heartfelt line reading comes from a mass-murderer who really wants a Twix, but when you spend a while with this stuff you kind of get attached to it. Which is in itself weird because I almost feel like as much of an audience member as anyone else, despite having a not in/significant (delete as appropriate) hand in its creation, and yet I can’t watch the episode with any kind of objective eye.

I suspect that’s a similar feeling for a few people who’ve been involved with Tim generally and DotR specifically over the years, who wonder how much their contribution mattered in the long run, if at all. I’m kind of an optimist in that regard, insofar as that a Dawn of the Reds made four years ago would probably have been a far inferior product, for countless reasons.

It occurs to me that I’ve been talking about appropriate credit this whole time despite there not actually being a credits list for this episode yet, at least not on the credits page of the I Am Tim site where they live (there are never credits on an episode of Tim, in keeping with its mockumentary nature), as it’s been due for an update since episode 2.10.

[Not that I’m suggesting anyone needs to buck their ideas up and GIVE ME A DAMN WRITING CREDIT ALREADY.]

So I could be way off. Maybe everyone who’s ever suggested a fun death scene or supportively asked, “So how’s that Dawn of the Reds thingy going?” might end up getting a healthy mention. Not that the inclusion of something like that would change or legitimise their involvement in any way. I mean, does anyone beside me actually read the credits of web series anyway?

I thought not. Anyway, all this has made me think of a quote attributed to Harry S. Truman: “It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” I’ve applied it to projects I’ve been on and think it’s a pretty pragmatic mantra for anyone wanting to get into the screenwriting business, but it’s especially pertinent when talking about no-budget productions and web series, in which the chief satisfaction comes from actually having made something, rather than having someone know you made something.

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Hot Cameo Action

I Am Tim Episode 2.13, featuring ghosts, scares, pantomime sexual politics and an abundance of face time from yours truly:

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Redshirt Bonanza

Here are some Youtube clips of things that have recently been uploaded by Redshirt Films recently that I was at least tangentially involved in:

The new series trailer for I Am Tim, and the first (I think) to incorporate footage from the upcoming third season of the web series. That’s the one I co-plotted and wrote with Jamie and James (or Helsing Prime and Timothy II as I like to call them), so I’m at least partially responsible for some part of the nonsense that’s going on here.

BEHIND THE SCENES TRIVIA: All right, one shot is from an episode I wrote. And I think they ad-libbed that scene. Shut up.

Nights at the Round Table is back! Already?

Yes, already. The last episode is still warm and yet here you have your very own Hallowe’en special to be bemused and confounded (and quite possibly entertained) by.

BEHIND THE SCENES GOSSIP: In a rare reversal of form, Redshirt head honcho Jamie has given me far too much credit for this episode, giving him and myself equal credit for shooting the thing alongside my sometime role as sound recordist.

Full disclosure: Jamie’s in the episode and couldn’t very well film himself, so I framed, focused and recorded his takes while also getting his dialogue on mic and trying not to fuck up both at the same time.

Yeah, I’m a real Renaissance man.

I Am Tim Episode 2.11 –  “The Internal Review.” Clearly, Jamie and James’ recent visit to MCM Expo in London has helped the series as the views of this episode are currently eclipsing those of the previous instalment by about 1,000. Which is pleasant.

BEHIND THE SCENES BULLSHIT: I can’t exactly remember what I did on this episode, but I know I was definitely there. I think I’d just gotten Vine so I was probably faffinf around with that and making irritating alternate dialogue suggestions. Y’know, the important stuff.

Also, this episode was originally called simply “Internal Review” and I kind of prefer it without the definite article. Also the full stops, but that’s a train that ain’t getting derailed and it’s probably just me, frankly.

OH, AND ONE MORE THING:

The one episode of I Am Tim season 2 that I co-wrote, the oft-vaunted and much-troubled Dawn of the Reds, is being released into the wild this week. Tomorrow, if I’m not mistaken.

It’s all kinds of crazy gory fun, so you owe it to yourself to watch it when it drops and tell me that I didn’t drop the ball (even if I did because why would you want to hurt me like that?). Kay?

What are you still looking at me for? Go watch!

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Nights at the Round Table #4

The fourth episode of Nights at the Round Table – on which I recorded the sound – has just hit the airwaves:

My favourite parts of the episodes are often when the actors add tiny little embellishments to the written performances, and this time around is no different; Max’s “my new inbox” schtick is so understated and throwaway but it gets me every time.

Um, not that I don’t appreciate the non-throwaway (i.e. permanent) parts of the show, like the writing, performance, camerawork, graphics, musics and *straightens tie* crisply captured dialogue that are the foundations upon which such moments can sit.

Why are you looking at me like that?

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A Coupl’a Cool Videos

So last week Redshirt Films launched our new webseries Nights At The Round Table, which I contributed material to, recorded sound on a couple of episodes and occasionally made attempts to stop things falling apart (mostly by heading to the shops to buy flapjacks).

It’s picked up a fair few fawning reviews and a ton of steam (at the time of writing the view count’s pushing 1100, which is excellent news for a video posted five days ago), and I hope everyone who worked – and is still working – on it is as proud as I am that it’s finding an audience, especially the show’s creator Jamie, who regularly comes close to killing himself at every stage of production so that not only can an episode be finished but to such a high quality that it astounds people to learn that the only budget we had was for tea.

Anyway, if you’ve somehow missed my laser-guided social media bombardments of the first episode until now, here’s your chance to catch the premiere episode:

And if that didn’t whet your appetite for the next episode, perhaps the tantalising promise of a cameo from your humble blogger will suffice? Yeah, I thought so.

In other York-related movie news, local production company Parashoots just posted this trailer for a Blade Runner-inspired advert that looks (predictably) pretty incredible. I thought you might like it:

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Pun Approval

So I got some more notes on my medieval educational film from someone else, i.e. an actual expert, and it turns out that I’ve still got a lot to work on, which is all right by me. I find it much more comforting when the finished product barely resembles the initial outline or draft, as it tends to illustrate progress in most cases (excluding Hollywood blockbusters, in which case most of them might be a hell of a lot better off if they were simply faithful to a shitty first draft) and, I don’t know, growth in me?

So I’ve got stuff to change in it and a lot of new material came up in yesterday’s meeting, including permission to be a heck of a lot sillier. I’d been holding back somewhat as certain, more out there aspects of my sense of humour aren’t always well received and I didn’t want to freak out these people who don’t know me yet quite so quickly. I’m sure I already have in a dozen other ways, but at least it’s not like that.

And it paid off, because I now have pun approval. That’s the good news.

The bad news is they expect me to film the damn thing. This week, too.

Cue me cursing my ambitions for heavily-laden feasting tables and period extras every which way and striving to come up with a name for a believable-sounding supervirus that I can ‘come down with’ as soon as I hand off the final draft.

That’s what I was thinking earlier today. It was immediately followed by this question: why am I reluctant to make a film?

There are many reasons and rationalisations, from the fact that I’m not getting paid to my usual unease with the idea of casting for a no-budget film, but chief among them is that I don’t want to be responsible for making a mess of what I think might be a fun video.

Of course, this is the price you pay when you go around telling folks you’re “a filmmaker”. You really can’t be shocked when they expect you to be able to, y’know, make a film.

I’m working on the bedsheet rope as you read this. I’ll let you know how the escape plan works out.

In other not-quite-news, here’s my Nerdly review of Dexter Season 7. It’s funny, it’s sexy, it’s coldly violent and regularly disturbing – fun for the whole (incestuous, sociopathic) family!

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Save Points

So I’m pretty close to finishing Bioshock Infinite and this song has taken up a good chunk of my brain. {SPOILER}, as you well know, is the reason why:

There’s also this, because we were filming an episode of Nights at the Round Table last night and the cast & crew are a bunch of great big nerds and hum at least 400% more than normal humans:

Ah hell, this got thrown in there as well just because we were on a run of old game music. I just played it in my head though because if I’d have acknowledged it out loud I may have started weeping salty tears of nostalgia:

And damn it if I don’t love a good cry at pixel-related piano.

 

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A Short Film Experiment Update (#4)

So today I finally got round to actually scripting this chase film, after several weeks of ‘outlining’ (read: procrastination) and the realisation that I won’t have any idea what it’s going to look, sound, smell or taste like until I get the words down on the page – and even then it’ll only be a guess.

It’s actually been a pretty strange process this time around: usually with shorts I list all of the scenes then write all of the description or action that needs to happen in the first pass, and once I’m satisfied that everything’s where it’s meant to be, I take a run at the dialogue.

It’s not that I’m scared of the dialogue and writing it is like producing wine from my wang – quite the opposite. I love dialogue, actually, and often the problem is that I have so much fun getting the characters talking to each other that it completely derails any momentum that might have been built in the action until they opened their dumb mouths.

So I get the action in place as markers to essentially remind me THIS IMPORTANT THING HAPPENS HERE and that all the dialogue really needs to be is informative colour for each scene, rather than an actor’s showcase. So if I can’t see a sentence that runs the width of a page anywhere onscreen, it’s usually a hint that my guys are getting a little carried away.

This time, though, I wrote the first couple of scenes fully – chatter and all – then got scared of the middle and decided to write the end. After that it came to me that I wasn’t exactly clear on what my characters wanted to talk about (the plots of most chases aren’t particularly oblique, so the only expository lines that are needed are just to flesh out the world and characters, and can run almost separately to what’s on screen). So I opened up a scratchpad on Celtx and got Natasha and Clint – those are their names, FYI – yakking.

[I also made a playlist tailored to the genre for the first time. Have a listen if you like.* You can pretend you’re in my head and start pulling at the wires:]

Turns out the pair had a lot to say about things I didn’t know they would. Not too much, thankfully, but there’ll likely be fat to cut off as ever. Dialogue may well be my favourite part of the writing process, which might be a subconscious hint that I should think about seriously giving playwriting a go (though the lack of boundaries may result in a little overindulgence…).

Now it’s just a matter of deciding when they say the damn lines. More as it happens, but I’m hoping to have this first draft done by the end of the night, with my playlist to guide me.

*Oh, and if you have any suggestions for good chase music from movies or anywhere, I’d sure appreciate it.

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The Short Film Experiment #3

Today I was wondering what made me so interested in making a chase movie. Then I remembered that I watched Point Break last week:

Yeah, definitely taking a couple of notes from Kathryn Bigelow. Zero Dark Thirty would have benefited hugely with a scene where Jessica Chastain’s character chases Bin Laden through Californian alleyways.

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Spot the Difference

There’s an opportunity for interesting back-to-back I Am Tim viewing this week:

Season 1 episode The Daily Grind:

Season 2 episode Back To The Daily Grind:

Same carnage, different Tim.

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