One of the problems I’ve always had is underestimating. I underestimate how long it will take me to do an assignment. I underestimate what I’ll need to have for a project I’m working on. And I certainly underestimated how much stuff I need to do when working on my short film.
I’ve been working on a pre-production plan for the short film I’ll be shooting next month. Once again, I underestimated just how much planning goes into it. I have scenes pictured out in my head, but when I actually sit down and break down the scene, I realize that I’m going to need X number of actors; this, that, and the other prop; a lot of lighting to make sure people aren’t just shadows. The list goes on and on.
The worst part is knowing that no matter how much pre-production planning I do, I’ll have forgotten something. I always do. Every time I travel between home and school I always leave something behind. I know the same is going to happen with this production. But that’s a part of life. Things will be forgotten, but rolling with the punches is an important part of any creative effort.
It’s time for an update on the short film I’m working on. I figure it’s time to share the premise.
“A student who hates his roommates must spend 6 hours trapped in a room with them during an emergency.”
I’ll elaborate a little.
Tim’s a college student who just wants to be left alone. He doesn’t really have a good reason to hate his roommates; he just really hates living with them. He’d rather be on his own. He doesn’t want to talk to them. I imagine in the kitchen he probably has a cabinet that the others aren’t even allowed to open up.
This post isn’t about that though. This is about the inspiration for the other part of that.
When I was 12, my family moved to Southeast Washington. Part of the TV market in that area was Umatilla, OR. Once in a while, there would be a little PSA on the local channels about what they should do in case of emergency. You see, Umatilla was home to one of the US’s stockpiles of chemical agents. There was a plan to incinerate them, but until that was completed just a few years ago, there was some serious danger.
If there was an incident, they would have had to shelter in place (quickly, I might add) and seal off the outside air coming in. So that was the inspiration for the premise. In fact, the characters largely follow the instructions given on Ready.gov for sheltering in place (though in reality they probably would have evacuated; sheltering in place like that is only good for a couple of hours).
Now I’m at college in Rexburg, Idaho. And wouldn’t you know it, I’m close to another place. Idaho National Laboratory in nearby Idaho Falls doesn’t pose the same kinds of danger (they mainly focus on energy research), but they’ve had incidents too. In fact, they were the site of a fatal nuclear accident in 1961 (the ones killed were personnel working on the reactor).
So put my college experience and the chemical accident premise together and you get this story!
That image above is a good summary of the hardest part of making a short film (which is just one of the things I’m doing in the next few months). Seeing a blinking cursor on screen is just so intimidating. Even though my ideas are always brewing in my head for a while before I actually start typing things out, that doesn’t make it much easier.
The weird thing is that once I start, things open up. The words just start flowing out of my fingertips when I actually start typing. But it takes a massive amount of effort to just get those first words onto the page. I’ve started though. I’ve got the draft of my short film’s script written, though there’s some stuff I’m not happy with yet about it.
Until I get it refined a little more, I’ll just leave the logline here:
A student who hates his roommates must spend 6 hours trapped in a room with them during an emergency.
Some people build computers. Other people fix them. We all use them.
I recently built my first computer and was inspired to share my experience and also see what it’s like to fix a laptop. I visited with Michael of The PC Penguin and watched as he fixed a broken power port on a laptop, and we talked about what it takes to keep up with the changing computer repair industry. In this short documentary, I also share a brief overview of what I went through to build my first computer. Looking back, I make it sound a little scarier than it was, but it’s really not that hard. If you’re interested, you should give it a shot sometime!
My original idea for this documentary fell through, so I only had about a week and a half to put this one together. I had just finished building my first computer a day or two before and it was such a great experience that I decided to make that the subject of this documentary! I emailed Michael and he was perfectly willing to participate and it was really interesting watching him work. I wish I had known I would be doing this before I built my computer so I could have recorded myself as I put it together. Instead, I had to go back after the fact and recreate a couple of shots. Also, since the inside of my case is painted black, it’s really hard to get good shots in there, but I did my best.
[Trailer coming after it finishes uploading. Check back in the morning. This message brought to you by awful internet, which is what I have. Seriously, this apartment complex could use a major upgrade.]
Why would a little elementary school in a small town in the middle of Southeast Idaho be teaching their students Chinese? How would that even work? Well, they are and it does. At South Fork Elementary in Rigby, Idaho (population of the entire county: about 25,000) some of the Kindergartners and First Graders are not just learning their ABCs: their learning an entirely different language.
The long-term goal of the immersion program in the Jefferson (County) School District is to have the students learn the language all the way through high school, achieving a high fluency level by the time they graduate from high school. South Fork Elementary in particular chose the Chinese language to give the students an advantage in the business world in 15-20 years when they graduate from college.
In this short documentary, I tried to capture a little slice of what the classroom environment is like, while providing a little basic information on the program. I cannot say enough nice things about the staff at South Fork. They have been nothing but helpful and kind in their assistance making this film. The teachers are wonderful, the administration has been so cooperative, and, most importantly, the program is great. While it’s clear the students don’t understand everything the teachers are saying, it’s amazing to watch them pick up on and understand the contextual clues surrounding these new words they’re learning. They can already count at least up to twenty in Chinese. They generally have a good idea what the teachers are asking them to do. They’re little information sponges, which makes them the perfect candidates to learn a new language, even while they’re still trying to get a grasp on their native language.
Special thanks go out to Mr. Howard, the Principal of South Fork for keeping in good contact (even if I didn’t always do a good job at that), the school secretaries for helping me out (and saving me hours of work digitizing all the legal release forms), Yu Jin and Li Li for putting up with me distracting the students (though I tried not to, the kids will always be distracted by a camera), and anyone else I might have forgotten. I’ve had a lot of great support, and I’m very appreciative of that.