The Science of Sleeplessness

One of the themes I’ve been playing with lately in screenplays and ideas for short films is insomnia, the nuances between sleep and sleeplessness. This is a branch off of Trepidation, my 2012 short film, which explored the connection between dreams and fears,  and the connection between association and psychosis. But this idea is something different. This idea is something along the lines of: what if at any given moment you were completely unaware of whether you were awake or asleep. This idea most likely stemmed from a conversation I had a few years ago where we threw out the question of: what if real life is a dream, and our dreams are actually our waking life? It’s a very trippy concept. And thus we trail off into the subjects of sleep paralysis and sleep apnea.

We sleep in ninety minute cycles. And in that sleep, each dream is incredibly brief. A matter of seconds. Longer dreams are tied together by smaller incidents, which, while sleeping, are very connected. Dream theory is incredibly fascinating. Why we do things, how we associate things, things that make sense in a dream that make no sense in real life. It’s happened so often where a person from our waking life enters our dream, but they look nothing like they do in real life. While this could probably be tied to a psychology of desire, lust, attraction, and our deepest wants, I’m not interested in analyzing that. These ideas of sleeplessness are rooted in the repercussions of it. If right now you were told that you were dreaming, would you believe it? There’s a certain unsettling terror connected with not knowing, and that sense of unsettling terror is what I want to find out more about.

Take this scenario into consideration. You’re a student in a classroom, and the teacher tells you to read a passage aloud. You discover that you can’t read and your voice comes out as an inaudible crackle. There are telltale signs of dreaming, and most of them are subtle changes in your state of being. For one, inhuman abilities such as flying or talking with deceased persons as though they were still alive. But then there’s the small differences: the inability to read or speak properly, or that we have extra fingers. It’s the smaller things that can tell us that we’re dreaming. But what if our dreams are so exact, so precise that we don’t notice these things? What if our dreams are as mundane as walking down the street? Are we dreaming or awake, and how do we tell?

So this isn’t just a long-winded rambling on dream theory for the sake of a long-winded rambling on dream theory. Believe it or not, there’s a point to all this. I’m currently writing one of the psychologically scarier things I’ve written—a short film about insomnia and sleep and sleeplessness and all this stuff that I’ve been jabbering about. The screenplay isn’t a search for truth or answers or enlightenment or anything like that. It’s posing questions on awareness of sleep, and that’s everything I have right now. It’s still progressing, still growing. At this point, it’s a big enough idea that it probably can’t be contained in a twenty-minute short film. But of course, am I one to ever take a feature-length idea and put it into a feature-length film? Heavens no. So here we go. WAKELESS.

A Retrospective of 2013

What did I do the past year? At the same time, a lot and little. Here’s ten of my favorite things things I did in 2013.

  1. Wrote this beautifully dark dystopian romance called The Ghost Symphony, which might have been my favorite thing I’ve ever written
  2. Was in a production of Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, turned wonderfully Wes Anderson-esque
  3. Jumped into the Minnesota Fringe Festival for the first time and saw something like fifteen inspiring shows
  4. Finally finished writing The Ice Storm—a farcical stageplay I’ve been writing for just shy of a year
  5. Started directing Check Please, my first stage directing endeavor
  6. Just generally wrote a lot. Across the Threshold. Sepulveda Boulevard. Double Vision. Black Mirror. The Daymare Tempest. Threnody. Nightfall Dawning.
  7. Started a spec script for 30 Rock, which I left unfinished. But anything that’s titled “Brian Williams is Not a Crook!” might be worth considering finishing.
  8. Traveled to South Carolina to discuss indie film with a screenwriter
  9. Saw Phantogram at First Avenue, which pretty much made my life
  10. Started Hide the Sun, this huge effort of short films with overlapping themes and progressing darkness, which I hope to be finishing within the first half of next year

I didn’t get to everything on my 2013 Projects list, which I’m okay with. I never wrote that feature-length film noir. I never fleshed out The Red Shoes into a full-length stageplay. It was a year of finishing things. It was a year of being inspired. And now we go forth into 2014, and we make wonderful things.

Getting ahead of myself. Not like that’s a bad thing.

Scheming ideas for movies that aren’t happening for a while. Hans Zimmer always seems to be useful. Him and Philip Glass. And Angelo Badalamenti. They’re magical creatures. Philip Glass is one of my nine spirit animals. But, digressions abound. Take a listen to this. It’s beautiful, in a really dark kind of way. This singular piece of music is what’s powering the development of a whole bunch of short films. You can stop listening when the really loud music starts around 3:37; that’s not swooningly beautiful and sort of comparatively ugly. I’ve just put those first three-and-a-half minutes on repeat. #hypnotic.

Finished the first draft of Threnody. For a first draft, it’s come together surprisingly well. So much emotion put in, it’s difficult to actually read it. It was essentially written four lines at a time, at which point I started to tear up and stopped writing and listened to indie music and took of the rest of the day off from writing. This is how it can take a month and a half to write a 19-page script which could have, in all honesty, been written in under a week.
One more script to go in the summer shorts program. Then some collaborative scheming with other writers from across the country, heavy or not-so-heavy revisions, and then off to funding and auditions we go. How thrilling.

It’s never too early to start dreaming up a shorts program for after this summer’s shorts program. And, lordy, this starts soon. I’ve (foolishly?) slated production to begin November 2013. But shorts won’t be produced one after the other like this summer. More spread out, one every three-or-so months. Still. Kicking around ideas. Right now, a gracefully-shot Dark Knight-esque film on dream theory (a predecessor of my planned debut feature of “Nightfall Dawning”), something reminiscent of a Twilight Zone episode, and a translation of a machinima film into live action are all being seriously considered. One title that I’ve really latched on to is obiectum somnia, which is Latin for “object of dreams.” I don’t know, we’ll see where this takes us. Maybe I’ll be completely burned out after a summer of making movies. Let’s hope not. Let’s hope that I’m so empowered after a summer of indie filmmaking that I just want to do it forever. And that’s probably what’s going to happen.

12 Awesome Things that Happened in 2012

 

Final day of the year, and looking back upon it all, it was a pretty kickbutt year for more than eleven reasons.

1. This year was a year of unexplainable beauty. Still wading in the creative aftermath of Hannah Steblay-Olson’s The Snow Queen and the HBO adaptation of Mildred Pierce. There were awesome discoveries, such as Moonrise KingdomBeasts of the Southern WildThe Red Shoes, indie music as a whole (Of Monsters And MenDark Dark DarkPhantogram, . Frequently I would walk around smiling because of streak of beautifully magnificent discoveries.

2. Trepidation was released this fall, albeit not as I wanted it. It ended up being pushed until weeks before the deadline at which point I filmed like there was no tomorrow. As a result, there were minor imperfections which stand out to me and nobody else. Minute occurrences such as holes in sets, mediocre sound design, awkward hand gestures, and overuse of camera panning. In the end, though, the film received honorable mention at the 2012 Machinima Expo and was screened alongside Chat Noir Studios’ film, which was what I secretly wanted from the very beginning.

3. 2012 brought forth more workable creativity than the past 16 years combined. Unfinished drafts of Sepulveda Boulevard, a television pilot for neo-noir series After the Fall, stage adaptations of Criterion title after Criterion title –The Red ShoesLes DiaboliquesLast Year at Marienbad, as well as a farce, The Ice Storm. Ideas and one finished script for a machinima documentary program that never materialized into anything.  Two short stories–one of which was published in an art-lit review, the other of which was developed in a creative writing program over the summer. In the final days of the year, I finished the first draft of Nightfall Dawning, and boy is it exciting and full of potholes. (Not literal potholes, but you get the idea.)

4. Pizzicato strings. You better believe I’m using them.

5. Had this crazy idea involving time traveling through dreams and an equally crazy idea to make it into a film that doubles the length of Trepidation. Following my intuition and decidedly am doing this for the sake of making a film and not changing it to be more eligible for a jury nomination. In the following year, I’m pushing to be less lenient and to get Nightfall Dawning finished on time. It probably won’t be in time for the Machinima Expo, but I’m adhering to a calendar this time. Woah, revolutionary.

audreyin1952

6. This past fall, I was in a production of Julius Caesar, set in the 1950s. (This was definitely a factor in my recent fascination with the 1950s.) It tested my patience and drained my creativity. But in turn, I became mesmerized with blue lights. And the music that played as I died was Artie Shaw’s Nightmare and I have since become enamored by it again.


7. I have gradually been developing a stronger and stronger love for live action film. In the final weeks of the year, I have developed a four-phase plan to resign from machinima and transition into brick-and-mortar film.

8. Gratitude. Supporters, audiences, family, dreamers, doers, samurais, innovators, adventurers, storytellers, magicians, pioneers, and patrons of the arts. To the phenomenal cast and crew of Trepidation and the future team forNightfall Dawning, and to the international assistance given by machinima filmmakers to rising talents. This is the year that Studio Mystique launched, and it’s all due to the efforts, patience, and understanding of individual members. Plus, a little time and fate, too.

9. I have fallen into a deep trance of typography. A total nerd point of discussion, I know, but Neutraface makes me happy.

10. As I continue to write, I deepen my own core principles. Change, interconnectedness, and intricate mysteries keep unearthing themselves, and I take that to mean something. Perseverance is what defines us as writers and directors and as creative thinkers and as innovative warriors. To quote Hushpuppy from Beasts of the Southern Wild, “Sometimes, you can break something so bad it can’t get put back together.” This year was a lot of breaking. Pieces of scripts have fallen apart, especially in Nightfall Dawning. But from that breakage, we can take the fractured pieces and reform them into something new, we can birth new beginnings. In 2013, I plan to glue together shards of glass.

11. Monologues. I’m not sure why, but this was a big year for monologues. Practically everything I wrote had them. Come to think of it, maybe I’m too reliant on them.

12. I’ve had the opportunity to get to know and/or work with some of the most awesome and talented creative people since ever. Among them are MJ Slide, Kate Lee, Hannah Steblay-Olson, Joseph Kwong, Cat Potts, Ricky Grove, Kristin Price-Wilson, Kay Challis, and so many others. On New Year’s Eve Eve (or one in the morning on New Year’s Day) I put together a list of my ten most influential people, and suffice to say many independent artists made that list (everything else was all Alfred Hitchcock this and Max Ophuls that.)
Everybody who composes Studio Mystique (be it creative work or spiritual support), y’all are 99 different types of awesome. Let’s build worlds together.

2013, I’m totally unsure of what you have stored, but I’m following you with a blindfold and open arms. Godspeed, yo.

Monsters of Pretension and Payrolls: So-Called Challenges with Time Travel

Slowly, steadily, Nightfall Dawning is being made. With the help of God and a few strong policemen, a workable draft will be finished by New Year’s Eve, and a finished draft arriving the second week of January. Not looking for perfection, rather strong elements that form a cohesive story. I’ve come to accept that my narrative style involves grandiose ideas and themes (what has been described as a “cinematic” voice). My greatest fear is coming off as pretentious, which is why I haven’t been giving this script everything. I don’t want it to have an over-inflated ego, but I also don’t want it to be shallow either. A few revisions between now and mid-January and I’ll probably feel fine about the script. This, unlikeTrepidation, I want to enter in national and international film festivals beyond the Machinima Expo. The question that I’m facing with this project: do we primarily create for ourselves or what will earn consideration for jury nomination placement?

That said, this project holds a lot of exciting prospects. Learning how to use a new animation platform is not one of them. I love the look of DAZ, but the learning curve is something I’m avoiding like the plague. But the final product will be worth it, I’m sure. Plus, I get to delve into the style of the 1950s. I started writing the portion of the script that takes place in 1952 last night, and I don’t know why I didn’t start sooner. It’s extremely fun and interesting to write.
 
(Note to self: wean yourself off of poetic language. Cordially, Evan)
 
Also exciting is that I’m in the process of landing space and local actors. I’ve entered Phase II of my four-step machinima master plan, which includes the interweaving of professional voice actors and local theatre actors. By Phase IV, I’ll have transitioned to almost exclusively local actors so there won’t be a huge change when I transfer from machinima to live-action film. Right now, I’m in the midst of getting audition/rehearsal and recording space for this gaggle of local talent. According to the informal calendar I have, I could have the local recording finished by the end of February.
Expect an Indiegogo campaign launching in January. I need to get pricing sorted out with these local businesses.
I’ve been thinking about the soundtrack I would license if I had a million-dollar budget for the film:
  • Lakehouse, Of Monsters and Men
  • Outro, M83
  • Daydreaming, Dark Dark Dark
  • (a score composed by Hans Zimmer and Benh Zeitlin/Dan Romer)
(Side note: it could be entirely possible to license “Daydreaming” on a budget since Dark Dark Dark is on a local indie label. I just don’t know where I’d put it in the film. It will probably slide over to my ‘I Want To License This Music In My Shorts Program In 2014’ pile.)

Full of Beginnings

This is where we birth new beginnings. This is a production blog where you can follow the studio’s goings-on. Can’t say that things will posted frequently, but, you know, this is a heartland for awesomeness. Join in our outreach of MJ Slide’s indie film world domination plan. Come be innovative arthouse pioneer cowboys with us.