I was once told that nobody is interested in a Jack-Of-All-Trades. People are only interested in the Masters of particular genres. Though there are some notable exceptions like Leonardo DaVinci and triple-threat entertainers like Jennifer Lopez, in general most artisans of notoriety have developed their craft in very narrowly defined fields. A decade ago I bought into this sage advice and dedicated most of my time to the art of bodypainting. I closed the previous 20-year chapter of my life pursuing the passion of songwriting and playing music. It seemed to work and I gained an audience for my body art work on a global level beyond my wildest expectations.
As this decade begins I am starting a new chapter as a filmmaker. Will I have to close the chapter on bodypainting? Quite the contrary, films are filled with makeup and special effects and bodypainting. A few of my favorites are Mystique from X-Men, Anck Su Namun from the Scorpion King, and Darth Maul from Star Wars. In fact, I am planning on re-opening the chapter on music and songwriting because these are also prominently featured in film. Who knows, maybe I’ll make a music video for a song I wrote many years ago or incorporate some instrumental work into the score of a short film project.
I believe that a true Master of filmmaking has to be a Jack-Of-All-Trades and the more I learn, the more I realize how much I have to learn. I do think that life has been preparing me for this journey. For example, I have become very proficient at photography while taking pictures of my bodypainting projects. I have taught myself the technical aspects of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings as well as the artistic aspects such as the rule of thirds, framing, and balance. All of this translates into motion cameras and has given me a leg up on learning cinematography. Lighting is another talent that I have been nurturing with my studio lighting set ups in the photography realm and architectural lighting in my career as a lighting designer and electrical engineer. Soft lighting or harsh lighting, saturated colors or specific color temperatures of white, key and fill, ambient and accent; I understand these terms and more importantly I know how to produce these lighting effects and I know where they can be most effective in films.
There is no doubt that saying you can do something doesn’t mean a thing until you actually do it and although my on-the-job training has been very limited, I feel very fortunate to have been involved in a few significant film projects. Most notable was The Villikon Chronicles: Genesis of Evil. Early on, I contacted a few people to help me do this as a little “back yard” video project and fortunately it snowballed into a full fledged production that had a cast and crew of about 30 people at two remote locations (Imperial Sand Dunes near Yuma and Grand Canyon Caverns in northern Arizona) and a green screen set at Collins College. My main role was special effects make-up artist, but I am also credited as an associate producer since I gathered the core team together. This was a very humbling experience and it really opened my eyes to the magic of making movies with an experienced team of artisans working together as a well-oiled machine.
If the experience gained working on a set is worth a million bucks, then the friendships gained from networking are priceless. I met cinematographer Webb Pickersgill on the Villikon set and we subsequently did a project together for a short film challenge called Second Chances. This was my first foray into screenwriting. Not long after that he brought me on-board as make-up artist for Romey & Jules, a film made from an award winning script that went on to multiple film festivals.
At this point I had pretty much caught the bug of filmmaking. What kicked it into a higher gear though was the inspiration from my son who has aspirations of becoming an actor and seems to have the talent to back it up. I wanted to try and get him plugged into the film community and first helped him by making him a member of IFP and attending a class by Joe Grubberman on color keying and green screens. I was so fired up that night that my son and I went to Best Buy and bought an HD camcorder. In truth, we haven’t really done a project together with it, but he has stayed busy in the acting arena with starring roles in his last two high school musicals and I have been on on set for two music videos.
Last fall the two of us enrolled in The Film School at Scottsdale Community College. The introductory TCM100 class taught us the basics of film editing using the very powerful AVID software. I had toyed around with the consumer version of this software, Pinnacle Studio and also iMovie on a Mac computer, but this class went deeper into the artform of editing and learning the importance of getting the right shots to build the story. This semester I am taking Screenwriting I. I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of this since I have done a great deal of research on my own to write a handful of short scripts, but I’ll confess that after reading the first three chapters of the book, I still have plenty of new concepts to explore.
Luckily writing is a skill that was taught well in my high school in Pennsylvania and I found that a few of my high school buddies and I were breezing through college English compared to those around us from other school districts. I have enjoyed writing about a dozen articles for magazines and even wrote 100 pages into a novel before getting sidetracked by life. Hopefully this class will spark that interest back up to complete that goal too. I’m anxious to get the creative juices flowing and see what my muses can help me to create.
So, onward to the dream of becoming a successful filmmaker. Once I learn every aspect of the craft as best I can, I look forward to working with a cohesive team of visionaries that will support me in completing multiple productions. I hope to ultimately have an inherent knowledge of everyone’s role on the crew, but still have the courage to delegate the things that I am capable of doing to those I’ll learn to trust. I have found filmmaking to be a team sport.
Once it is time to break out of this cocoon I’ll spread my wings and soar as a Master of Filmmaking boasting the brilliance gathered as a jack-of-all-trades. Oh, yeah!
(note: this was originally written in February 2011 and since this time I have completed a short film project with my son called “No Time For Reason” and I have done spfx makeup bodypainting for Miss Krystle’s music video for “Run”.)