The March Machinima Expo newsletter has just been published! Everyone on our mailing list should have received your copy in the mail. If you haven't received a copy, please sign up so we can get it to you without delay.
Our newsletter is packed with current news on the Expo along with ideas on how to improve your creativity and develop your ideas. Spotlight on films from past Expos and lots more. Subscribe today!
We'd like to thank Lucy George for putting this issue together. And thanks to Kate Fosk and Kate Lee for their help.
Machinima Expo Newsletter : March 2012
Welcome to the first all-new Machinima Expo newsletter, and thank you for subscribing.
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This month’s feature : No ideas? No problem!
If you're planning to get a film ready for the expo and struggling to get the creative juices flowing again, remember, you are not alone. Even the best storytellers sometimes get stuck in a rut. I asked some of the best-known filmmakers from the world of iClone, SL and Moviestorm how they stimulated their creativity.
Inspiration from others
Many of the directors I spoke to mentioned film and TV as a primary source of fodder for their own imagination, and reading was a close second. A line of dialogue or a sentence in a book can suddenly spark an idea, and become the basis of a new creation. Just don't forget to have something handy to write it down as soon as the idea hits you.
Ideas from life
You may believe that your daily life is too humdrum to be a source of stimulus, but often it's just a case of being more attentive, and finding ways to identify those crucial things which you can turn into fiction. Sometimes the things that happen to you can be woven into the tapestry of a film. Director Biggstrek, for example, was once stuck in traffic on a hot day, and that experience was the inspiration for a short story about hell. Read the "news in brief" column too, because sometimes other people's lives can provide material.
Ideas out of nowhere
Dreams and the subconscious are our minds' natural techniques for processing life. Our habitually dull lives suddenly become exciting and good enough to make a movie about. The crucial part is harnessing it. This means that if an idea comes to you in a waking moment you need to write it down immediately, because the mind is notoriously good at separating the night's imaginings from what is real. Occasionally I find myself thinking through ideas before I go to sleep. However, this sometimes entails getting up to make a note of something and then going through the process all over again!
Some people have perfected the technique of conscious or lucid dreaming where the aim is to attain a state of heightened consciousness. There are many websites dealing with the subject if you want to find out more about how to use this to boost your creative flow.
But if you're worried that this is going a step too far, there are techniques which don't require you to 'lose yourself' and rely on your imagination alone.
Random associations of words can sometimes produce ideas that will lead eventually to a story. By looking around you in two different places, or opening a book at any two different pages, you come up with two apparently unrelated words. So, for example looking at part of my DVD collection I come up with TOWN + NOBODY, or a similar process with a book leads to WOOL + FORTUNE. Working out how these things fit together can lead to the basis for a film.
Another technique which is great for filmmakers because it is extremely visual is the opening scene. This requires plucking a scene out of nowhere and developing it through spawning questions until you get a story idea. Take for example a car flying off a bridge. This stimulates many questions: Where will it land? Is this the beginning or the end of the story? Who is in the car? How many people are in the car? Is this an accident or not? and so on until we've fleshed out our initial concept.
Branching is another way to work out a story. You probably remember the create your own adventure stories, and they use this sort of arborescence to both involve the reader and depart from the traditional linear path of storytelling. The branching technique involves creating nodes leading to different outcomes. It's a way of working out the best case scenario for 'what happens next'. To go back to the car that has flown off a bridge as our node, we could create a number of branches: nobody survives, only one person survives, the car floats, the car is actually a hybrid aircraft, the car was empty but somebody staged his death…
Putting it all together
These three methods are by no means the only ways to kickstart the creative process, and many others can be found on the web, or dreamed up. The trick is finding a method that works for you, and then of course, getting it onto the (virtual) page.
Kate Lee of Chat Noir Studios says she tries her best "to 'show up' at her ‘writing desk’ as much and as regularly as possible". However, the writing desk in question is not necessarily a real desk but a metaphor for the creative session which can take place anywhere, such as riding the subway on the way to work, or in a traffic jam like Biggstrek.
Finally, Mac users might be interested in this free application by David Ackerman which allows you to pin your ideas onto a board, organize them into chapters and will go and fetch stimuli from the web based on the content of your notes.
SPOTLIGHT on a movie
The Goalkeeper and the Void is a Spanish film by Martz Azparren from 2009. At just under four minutes long it is a little gem and combines footage from Pro Evolution Soccer, artistically converted to black and white (and occasionally sepia) with the words of a basque sculptor, Eduardo Chillida. The scenes from PES are tastefully framed with graphical art and everything is set to piano music.
The simplicity of the individual elements that make up this film combine to make a whole which is much bigger than the sum of its parts. Here's a link to the Spanish language version featuring 'the beautiful game.' : http://www.ob-art.com/entries/
The New Media Film Festival is now accepting entries for their new 'machinima' category. The NMFF, founded and produced by Susan Johnston, takes place in April in Los Angeles. We are very proud to have submitted the Jury nominated films from last year to get the ball rolling. The festival is live and is attended by many professionals in Hollywood. If you are interested and want to submit your film for the machinima category, but sure to go to the NMFF website here. We'll also be featuring a write up on the festival and interviewing Susan for the Expo blog and podcast in the next few weeks.
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We hope you will enjoy Expo Spotlight, as we revisit films from the 2011 Expo.
Video features and reviews released every two weeks, your film might be chosen!