Comic Con 2014 PowWow

When I was a camp counselor we would gather with our cabins at the end of the day and go around the circle doing a powwow. The “pow” would be the low point in the day, something that was frustrating or disappointing, and the “wow” would be the best part of the day.

This year I managed to snag a badge for Comic Con. I was there for Saturday and Sunday and probably could have planned things out a little more in advance. Like I did with VidCon, I’m going to PowWow each day I was at the convention.

DAY 1
POW: Meeting so many new people at once. Another friend of mine who goes every year introduced me to her rather large group of friends. It was great to have some people to hang out with, but it was also a bit much for my introverted side. I kind of crashed from too much social interaction while we were waiting in line for dinner. Whoops.
WOW: Feeling like I finally got a sense for how the expo hall was set up. Last year I was only there for one day and I mostly walked around in a daze because I was so overwhelmed by it all. This year I managed to find a bit of order in the madness, which was quite calming.

DAY 2
POW: The realization (even though I knew it going in) that I wasn’t going to get to do some of the things I was really excited about. The lines were too long. The crowds were too much. And I was too tired. I definitely git a brick wall of tired on day two around 2:30. I was about to go into another panel when I realized that I should probably start my mini road trip before I got tired enough to fall asleep whist driving.
WOW: The Women of Marvel panel was definitely a highlight. I loved hearing about the female driven titles that Marvel has and the women who write/draw/color/manage/produce them. I’m so excited for the future of women in comics both as creators and creatives as well as the female characters that we see and will be seeing in the future.

All told it was an exhausting weekend, but I’m very glad I went. I am honored to be even a small part in the industry that puts these things out into the world. I’m excited that Comic Con is a thing I go to now, and will continue to be going forward. Every year I learn more and I’m excited to be learning and growing into this industry.

If you’re interested in seeing some of these thoughts in video form, let me direct you to this week’s YouTube video. And while you’re over there maybe subscribe to see more of my videos? I’ve very much appreciate it.

Hello, My Name is Rachel and I’m a Crier

Guys, I’m a crier. Always have been, always will be. It’s a trait I got from my mother who cries over The Wizard of Oz (and now I do too). I cry for good things, I cry for bad things, I cry out of frustration, and I cry over TV shows a LOT. Not even always sad moments in TV shows either. There’s an episode in Fringe where Walter’s love for Peter is just so overwhelming I’m sobbing every time I watch it.

I cry when characters get together and when people die and when they live miraculously. Basically when there is an excess of emotion – no matter the feeling – I’ll probably shed a tear or two. I’ve come to peace with the fact that I will be a blubbery mess even when no one else understands why I’m having such a strong response.

I’ve gotten used to it, as have many of my close friends. I choose carefully who I went to see The Fault in Our Stars with for this very reason. While there are very few people who can hold a dry eye through that movie, I knew I needed someone I would be about to ugly cry in front of because that was a real possibly (that turned into an actual reality).

On the TV side, the show I’ve been crying over recently is Call the Midwife. It’s a BBC show that has just finished it’s third season (series if we’re being British), and is scheduled to return for a fourth next year. The show centers around nurses who work out of a convent in London’s East End in the late 1950’s. Every episode is filled with a strange, but wonderful combination of beauty and decay as the nurses tend to both births and deaths in the community, along with dealing with their own personal lives and dramas.

This show is gorgeous, poignant, and soulful as it quickly shows both the similarities and differences of the times. One minute the universality of human nature is surprising and wonderful, reminding you that even though these characters are in a time very far removed from us, they are still very much like us. The next minute the changes of the times are starkly clear. A character has an asthma attack and halfway into the thought “Get her inhaler”, you realize that there isn’t one to get.

This show has turned me into an absolute WRECK and I’m loving every minute of it. I’ve still got a season and a half to power through and I couldn’t be more excited to cry.

The Royal Diner

As a part of the summer semester I took my class went around town pitching our original ideas to producers and production companies around town. The last week of class was both stressful and adrenaline-filled. On day two of pitching we pitched to a production company who’s offices are on the Fox lot.

A studio lot is about as magical as you would expect. There are rows and rows of trailers where actors spend their down time and get hair and make-up done. Parking spots are labeled with names of actors, producers, or even just the names of TV shows, saving spaces for trucks of equipment or stacks of flats covered in plastic with labels like “Barney’s Living Room” or “Jay and Gloria’s Bedroom” (#truelife).

For our pitch meeting I carpooled with two classmates and we parked in the adjacent parking structure about an hour before our meeting was scheduled. The extra time gave us the freedom to wander the lot, practicing our pitches on each other, scoping out where our meeting was, and searching to see if we could recognize anyone. Through this wandering we happened through the studio’s backlot.

The backlot is sort of a permanent outdoor set. Most studios have one, and it’s where movies and TV shows can shoot outside scenes in a controlled environment. It’s a place that looks like a city (usually New York), but most of the buildings are hollow save for rigs to set lights. Sometimes one or two of the buildings are what’s called “practical” which means that they can film inside the building and it can be “dressed” to look like wherever the movie or show is set.

“Oh look, this stoop is outside of the bar in ‘How I Meet Your Mother’!” my friend said. We took pictures and kept moving, and as we neared the next corner is when I saw it. “It” being the set of The Royal Diner from the show Bones. I was beyond excited.

Bones was one of the first shows that I would tune in every week for. The show began the first season that I was really following and loving scripted television. Since then I’ve tapered off on the show, but somehow seeing the set reignited that spark. I suddenly missed Booth and Brennan and wondered what had happened to them since I’d stopped watching. But there was more than that too.

Somehow seeing this set in particular reminded me why I was there to begin with. I am in Los Angeles to make television that people love. TV is an escape, but the fictional world of characters can bring up questions that make you examine your own life. They can help people watching to make memories of their own, and they can inspire courage, strength, and love in our lives.

Television is powerful. And seeing The Royal Diner reminded me of that. Just a silly little practical set, but somehow so much more.

The Good Guys

good guys

I vaguely remember watching The Good Guys when it was on in 2010, so that’s a win even if I didn’t get a chance to finish it until much more recently.  The Good Guys stars Bradley Whitford and Colin Hanks and lasted only a season which is both sad and something I’m okay with at the same time.  It’s a complicated… emotion.

The show follows Dan Stark and Jack Bailey (Whitford and Hanks) as property crimes detectives whose investigations tend to end up bigger than they started.  This of course runs them into some trouble with their Lieutenant, Ana Ruiz, and the Assistant DA, Liz Traynor (who is also Jack ex-girlfriend, naturally).  Later in the season they bring in Samantha Evans, a lab tech who helps out on cases, usually illegally.

I have very mixed feelings on this show.  On the one hand, what’s not to love?  The show is filled with busting punks, driving fast cars, and all sorts of buddy cop antics.  There’s the will-they-wont-they of Jack and Liz, Dan’s constant womanizing (it’s surprisingly endearing), and at least one car chase in every episode.

The relationships on this show are fantastic.  Dan and Jack are partners and later friends, Jack and Liz’s relationship is one of my all time favorite pairings, Dan and the Lt. have a sort of thing which is hysterical, and then there’s the ‘ship between Dan and his trailer.  And Dan and booze.  And Dan and the punks he busts.  And Dan and his Trans-Am.  And Dan and his gun.  And did I mention that Bradley Whitford is fantastic in this show*?

I’m also a huge fan of the fact that the show is set and was filmed in Dallas.  They use lots of footage of the Dallas skyline an I think it really grounds the series with a sense of place.  Paired with Dan’s love of Foghat and 80’s fashion, alongside the cars and dive bars, the feel of the show is completely unique.  It transports you to the world of the show in a way that I’ve never experienced before, and it’s absolutely fantastic.

But on the other hand… when it was bad it was horrid.  Liz’s boyfriend, an unseen entity up to this point, is suddenly a suspect in an investigation.  In one episode he goes from boyfriend to suspect to dirty lying cheat, all as an effort to break them up and allow for Liz and Jack to get back together.

Around the same time they bring in Samantha.  I love the character and I see her uses in later episodes, there was no immediate need for another character in the show.  It seems to me that they were told to bring in more characters (Julius a sometimes informant also starts to play a bigger role around this time), and I didn’t see the need for it.  I loved the show from the beginning, but the complications made it tedious to me.

Thankfully they managed to finish on a strong note with Dan and Jack bringing down a dirty cop and Dan’s old partner Frank coming in to help out for one final showdown.  But overall, what executives did with the show left a sour taste in my mouth (yeah, I’m blaming the network on this one).

Bottom line: If you’re looking for a fun, episodic buddy cop show, The Good Guys is going to be your jam.  The vast majority of The Good Guys is just good clean fun.  If you’re looking for more intellectualism and a continuous story, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Have you seen The Good Guys?  What did you like or dislike about it?

*If you’re noticing a Bradley Whitford theme between this and Cabin in the Woods, you should know that it’s entirely unintentional.  Though I may do a West Wing re-watch.  Than would be intentional.

Upfronts

There is lots of things happening in the television world this week.  Besides being the middle of May sweeps (I’ve watched about half a dozen season finales so far), it’s also the week of Upfronts, the party presentations where the major networks announce their new and returning programming for the fall.

Networks make money through advertising revenue (as we talked about last week) and they use Upfronts presentations to persuade companies to buy ad time for their shows. Along with programming announcements everyone is trying to brand themselves.  Weather through showing numbers that prove they are still popular with the young-ins (Fox on Monday) or announcing plans for a live stream service (ABC on Tuesday).  Everyone wants a piece of the action.

For fans, Upfronts means that we finally get a chance to see bits of the shows we’ve been craving.  Once Upon A Time in Wonderland?  Don’t mind if I do.  Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.?  Don’t touch Lola, I’ll handle it.  There is also finally definitive word on continuing shows, Community for season 5?  Yes!

While upfronts have traditionally been a celebration, in recent years they’ve had to dial down the party.  Between the recession and competition from cable, online streaming, and web content, what is traditional is slowly dying out.  And then comes Aereo.

Aereo is a new online service that picks up network TV signal from the airwaves and then puts it online, also allowing for recording for later on.  Right now it’s still being tested, but the website claims that it will be available in select cities this summer.  Networks are furious claiming that the service violates their rights, but so far courts have been siding with Aereo.

It’s not that what Aereo is doing is illegal, it just making the networks mad.  They haven’t quite figured out how to count online viewers thought Hulu, Netflix, and their own video players, and they certainly wont be able to track viewers that watch through Aereo.  And if they can’t count them, they can’t make money off of them.

As Upfronts wind down today (CBS is the last presentation slated for later today), I can’t help but wonder how many of the shows we see presented this week will make it through the whole season to next year.  Which ones will we fall in love with?  Which ones will break our hearts?  I don’t know yet (though I may have some guesses), but I do know that I can’t wait to find out.

What new fall shows are you excited about?  Any guesses as to which ones will do well and which will fail?

YouTube, Advertisements, and Generation C

youtube-adds-3-000-movies-to-its-rental-service-e9d304406e

Lately there’s been a lot of buzz about the influence that YouTube has on the rest of mainstream media.  As everything is changing so rapidly networks are fighting for viewers right next to cable networks.  Premium cable networks are fighting with new online content put out by other subscription services.  Somewhere in there, YouTube is holding it’s own.  In fact, it could easily be argued that YouTube is winning.

In order to better understand where YouTube stands, I want to give a brief outline of house these other companies make money.  As much as I am interested more in the creative aspect, having an understanding of the financial makes me more aware of the industry as a future creator and helps viewers to have a better understanding of why these corporations makes choices in the way they do.

Network television includes the “big 4” networks, CBS, ABC, Fox, and NBC.  If you include The CW it’s 5.  If you have the right kind of TV, these stations are free to pluck out of the airwaves.  Legally they must provide news coverage along with entertainment.  They make their money from advertising revenue, AKA commercials.

The next step up is basic cable.  These are networks like TNT, TBS, and USA that create original content to run next to syndicated repeats of network shows, as well as 24-hour news channels like CNN and MSNBC.  Whatever your niche is, you can probably find it on basic cable.  These channels are scrambled in the airwaves and you have to pay a cable company a subscription fee to give you a box to unscramble it.  These companies make money two ways, through the subscription fee as well as through advertising revenue.

Beyond that are premium cable channels and subscription services.  These are considered separate entities by some, but they turn a profit in the same way.  They include HBO and AMC, and Netflix, Hulu Plus, and Amazon Prime.  These services run solely on subscription fees and are broadcast through scrambled airwaves, digital boxes like a Roku or Apple TV, or through online streaming.

Then comes YouTube.  While there are a few other video hosting sites, Vimeo and Yahoo! Screen come to mind, YouTube holds the market share.  YouTube is viable only through advertising revenue which include sidebar ads (that run along the bottom and sides of web pages), lower third ads (that pop up along the bottom of a video), and pre-rolls (commercials that run before a video will play).  The difference here is in the content.

While TV networks and subscription services create their own content or pay syndication fees to run older shows made by other studios or networks, YouTube content is made by individuals and uploaded to the site directly.  This leads to lots of videos of cats and stupid human tricks, but also has allowed for a new type of content to emerge.

Web content falls under a handful of categories and, in a similar style to basic cable, anything you want, you can find it online.  What I’d guess to be the most regular and consistent content is vlogs (video blogs), how to videos, and web shows.

In the case of any of these you can easily subscribe to a channel (the term used for a YouTube creator).  Once you’ve subscribed, their videos will show up in your subscriptions list and you can follow their comments and likes on other videos.

To me, and clearly to thousands of others, what makes web content great is the community it creates.  By following a how to channel I have a group of people I can go to if I have questions.  By following a vlogger and commenting on their videos I start to become a part of their online community.  By following web shows and interacting with other fans in the comments we create a whole new experience of fandom.  Down the line this leads to things like VidCon and other meet ups where fans can meet the creators.

Creators of web content are more accessible to what’s starting to be called Generation C (“C” stands for community).  While sometimes described by year, Generation C is defined more by their way of interacting with each other online.  Generation C is made possible by YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.  The platforms they use to stay connect to each other across city, state, country, continents, and oceans have shaped their existence and these habits are being cemented into popular culture.  Get ready, because it’s not going away.

Are you a member of Generation C?  What type of media gets your eyeballs?

The Doc of the Matter

I have been a pretty terrible television student.  In the past few weeks I have not watched nearly enough television.  I am keeping up fine with a few shows (Once Upon A Time, Elementary, and Community), but am not watching anything besides. A few weeks ago it was because I was on a deadline, but now that excuse is out and I am grasping at straws.

What was I watching while I should have been working on my spec?  Documentaries about design and social justice.  It started while I was still in San Francisco when I saw an ad for 56 Up.  When my mom heard of it we decided to watch all of the Up Series and then see the new one.  Then one day I had some time to kill and watched Eames: The Architect and the Painter, about Charles and Ray Eames.  Really interesting.  One thing lead to another and… here’s a short list of interesting docs on Netflix.

  • The Up Series.  Mentioned above, The Up Series consists of 7 Up, 7 Plus 7, 21 Up, and so on.  It’s a series of TV documentaries following kids who were 7 in 1964.  It’s a commitment if you’re truly going to watch all of them (56 Up is just coming out), but it’s interesting.
  • Eames: The Architect and the Painter.  I watched this on a whim a few weeks ago and was completely entranced.  It’s the story of Charles and Ray Eames, designers who created the Eames chair and many other architectural and product design-y things.  They made movies and furniture and curated art exhibits.  They lived really interesting lives and it made me want to do something with myself.
  • Urbanized.  A documentary about urban planning and all the nuances of designing a city.  This film looked at maybe 10 specific projects or situations.  A bit nerdy, but interesting.  Perhaps a bit long?  Worth checking out if you’re interested, but I found myself drifting.
  • Helvetica.  This is actually one that I watched a while ago, but it fits so well with the rest that I have to include it.  It’s about the creation of the font, Helvetica, and the process of creating fonts and how they are precised.  Really, really cool and super-duper nerdy.
  • Objectified.  By the same people as Helvetica, Objectified looks at the design and creation of the things that we use every day.  After watching it I wanted to create myself an oasis where everything that beautifully constructed to flow together.  I still wish that I lived in that world.
  • Vidal Sasson: The Movie.  This was made about a year before he died and includes interviews with Sasson.  It’s gorgeous, if a little long, and made me want to get the 5 point haircut that this guy invented.  Sasson has an interesting story and his interviews are captivating.

I think the thing that these docs had in common was that they all made me want to do something.  When we watch movies or television we want to be moved.  Moved to tears, to laughter, or in the case of documentaries, called to action.  These aren’t really “call to action” movies as much as some of the genre can be, but still moving in their own way.

There are a bunch more that I’m interested in too.  About architecture, origami, newspapers, dancing, puppetry, and happiness.  Documentaries get a bad rap for being boring, but I think you just need to find something you’re interested in.

What good documentaries have you seen?  Any suggestions for me?

House of Cards

1-house-of-cards

I finally finished watching House of Cards.  Late to the party?  Perhaps, but the party’s still going, so I don’t mind.  Well done in some of the most brilliant ways, I’m not even sure where to begin with this show.  Is it even a TV show?  Where did this magic come from?

House of Cards is a Netflix-only show that was released all at once to stream on Netflix.  Thirteen episodes of gorgeous, scandalous political anarchy, that Kevin Spacey talks us through step by step.  I’ve described it to friends as The West Wing with Hamlet’s soliloquies and more sex (I’ve noticed as I grow up a lot of things can be described as [blank] with more sex).

Since they released all of season one at once the format gives way to easily slipping into spoiler territory.  The format vs. content thing has actually been a bit of a point of frustration for me.  We keep getting distracted by the format when I want to talk about the content.  It annoys me, so I’m going to go ahead and talk about the content of the show as much as the format.  You’ve been warned.

The format vs. content discussion usually leads to the binge watching discussion, which is actually a very short discussion.  Either you binge watch or you don’t.  I don’t.  Though I see the appeal.  Each episode of this show leads beautifully into the next.  When you finish one the only thing you want to do is click through and continue to be consumed in this world.

The show is visually stunning from the opening shots of Washington to the angles and movements.  They show visually how the characters grow and how relationships between them change.  This is visual story-telling at it’s absolute best.  Personally, I love when they show text messages on screen (They have a similar style in Sherlock).

The world of House of Cards is full of shady deals and misplaced trust.  Honestly, the shifty morals going on here make me more than an little scared of Washington. Is this how candidates are chosen?  Is this actually the way things work?  I hope not.  But outside of reality, it makes for pretty fantastic television (internet-vision?).

In fact, the shifty morals and under the table deals are what makes this show feel so real.  Haven’t we all been in situations where we think it would be easier to make a deal and let something slide than face the actual consequences of our decisions and the decisions of others?  No?  Just me?  Well then…

Bottom line is that every character on this show is trying to play their hand to their advantage.  And seeing the board shift as each one makes their move is fascinating.  No one has a bad hand, but sometimes the cards don’t intermingle nicely.

They have signed on for season 2 and I couldn’t be more entranced.  Have you seen House of Cards?  What do you think?

Sampling Luther

It’s no secret that I love British TV.  Between my Whovian tendencies and my research paper on Downton Abbey, it’s not a surprise in the least that I think TV shows from across the pond are fascinating.

The culture and norms there are so different from what I’m used to in the U.S. and I love learning about people and situations that are different from me.  The best way for me to discuss this is in a sort of case study example.  Lately I’ve been watching and studying Luther, a show staring Idris Elba (The Wire).

In a word, Luther is intense.  It follows John Luther, the head of the Serious Crime Unit (and later the Serious and Serial Crime Unit) as they work bizarre and inhuman cases.  The show is more graphic and fast-paced than anything I’ve ever seen on American television.  It’s a high-risk high-reward situation as it certainly makes for a thrilling story.

It also focuses a lot on the friendship between Luther and Alice, a sociopath murder.  This relationship is borderline the most bizarre thing in the entire series, even over some of the crimes they solve.

Luther, and British television in general, doesn’t skirt around issues of violence or sexuality.  Graphic crime scenes are just background noise to the crimes being shown.  Scenes will often leave me with a “that escalated quickly” feeling when suddenly two characters go from greeting each other at the door to laying in bed a few hours later.

Besides the way that it approaches social issues, there’s also a really different form of storytelling that’s going on here.  Each season so far (and the upcoming season 3 from what I’ve gathered) has had an ongoing personal plot line going on the side.  Now, this isn’t completely unheard of in any television regardless of country of origin, but Luther does it differently than any show I can think of.

Confession time: For my class right now I am writing a sample script for Luther.  This is kind of terrifying to admit because this show has such a specific style that I’m worried I wont be able to properly emulate it.  And that’s without even the fear that I’m going to screw up some British thing and accidentally turn it more American.

Admitting this is also scary on the level of this-is-the-internet.  While I love the internet, it’s also a very permanent and very public place.  I don’t have any fantasies of someone from the show seeing this and then wanting to see my sample.  But more the opposite.  The worry that if someone sees this I could get in trouble for trying.

A little silly?  Yes.  Because I’m not trying to sell it.  I’m not planning to even shop it.  I’m writing this script as a sample.  A way of practicing something that I hope I can turn into a living down the line.  Practicing the method and the madness that I will apply to another show that probably doesn’t exist yet at some undetermined point in the future.

Maybe someday, far off into the future, I will get to work on a British show.  With people who will help me correct the mistakes I make as an outsider.  Maybe.

Have you seen Luther?  What are your favorite foreign shows?  

Band of Brothers

I first saw Band of Brothers this past semester.  In one of my classes we watched pieces of it in honor of veterans day.  I had heard of it before.  It was on the vague  “someday” list of things I’d like to see, but had no way to watch.  In looking it up I was surprised to discover that it’s just over a decade old, premiering in the fall to 2001.

Band of Brothers is an HBO mini-series about the 101st airborne division of the United States Army during World War II.  A historical, action drama about those who fought together from D-day to the end of the war and the things lost and gained along the way.

The show is ripe with historical facts and remembrances as each episode begins with interviews from the remaining living veterans of Easy Company, the platoon we follow throughout the story.  While it is certain that aspects of the show are fictionalized, I am not here to determine truth from fiction, only to see to the show as it is.

And what it is, is a case study of fantastic television   Band of Brothers succeeds on every level.  It is climatically beautiful and thematically brilliant.  Each episode has a message and follows a smaller story within the larger span.  As a bit of a history nerd, I appreciated the realism (sometimes strikingly so) as well as the individual aspect of each episode.

My only two “complaints” as they were, are nearly unavoidable in a story of this nature.  I had a terrible time of keeping track of all the characters.  I might be able to name three.  The other comment is a warning: graphic violence.  I hardly consider either a complaint though, but more of a facet of the type of storytelling that Band of Brothers is.

Overall, Band of Brothers is a fantastic show chronicling the battles — both military and personal — of a group of soldiers.  It can be hard to find, but it is well worth the time.