“Engineer the future now. Damn tomorrow, future now! Throw the switches. Prime the charge. Yesterday’s for mice and gods.”

English: The new Informatics Building on the c...

English: The new Informatics Building on the campus of Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) at the corner of West and Michigan Streets. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The suck-thing about being a student is you’re constantly looking to the future when you need to be focused on the here and now (save it, Yoda).

For example, today I met with one of my professors to discuss my resume. We discussed how it would be best to focus on my education, computer skills, work/projects, work experience…and so on. The good news is that we realized I have developed quite a few marketable skills, but the bad news is that there is still quite a ways to go yet.

So today I thought I’d tell you about where I am and where I plan on going in the next 12 months.

Family Life

Michael is our new babysitter

We approve of Michael’s tactics

 

I’m less than 21 days away from marrying the greatest woman on the planet, Laura Ann Fisher. We’ve been living together for almost 8 months and it almost seems like we’re already married, but I still cannot wait to make it official. We have two great kids, Cameron and Tommy, who I hope to adopt soon after. We have six children if you count Chance “McPants” and Stephen King (our German Shepherds, two guesses on who named the latter) and Oscar & Moose Kitten. And there’s eight if you include Chester Rabbit and the fish(es?), but I don’t. Fish aren’t really family members. F@#$ you if you’re a fish (I know you slimy bastards can read, it’s just no one will turn the page or scroll for you, so if someone is doing that for you now then they should be ashamed of  themselves. Human traitors! Close the page!).

FrogFish is about family. My family. Me, Laura and the kids.  We are a unique bunch with strong opinions, likes and dislikes, but we’re very compassionate and easy-going as well. We love everyone on principle alone, but we realize not everyone feels the same way about us and, for the most part, we don’t lie awake at night crying over that (Stephen King is a bit of a neurotic). FrogFish will not be for everyone. It’s not that we don’t want everyone to like us, it’s just that there are way more of you than there are of us and no matter how friendly we try to be, some of you are going to take offense. We can’t waste our time worrying about that. We want to tell stories. Scary stories. Funny stories. Stories that entertain first, and cause conversation later (“You mean like how George Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ was really about consumerism, but I was too busy trippin’ out on the zombies to realize that the first time I saw it?” Yes, observant reader. Just like that).  Stories for you to take and do with as you like. Like using as an excuse to hate us.

I’m cool with that (but seriously, don’t make stupid threats. I don’t respond well to stupid).

School

I am currently in my first semester at Indiana University – Indianapolis (IUPUI) as an undergrad in the Media Arts & Science program. Because of my previous BA in Liberal Arts (English), I do not have to take a single course outside of my program, but I still have to take some seemingly meaningless prerequisite courses like:

  • N100 – Foundations of New Media: It’s the marijuana to the school of Informatics’ hardcore drugs of Media Arts and Science. It gives the student just a little taste of what to expect should they pursue the degree, specializing in areas like Storytelling Fundamentals, Gaming, Web Design and Development, Programming, Audio/Video or 3D graphics. This blog post, right here, is actually part of my assignment for this class. It’s free too. But the next one will cost you.
  • N101 – Multimedia Authoring Tools: This class is all about Adobe Dreamweaver CS6. There is a lecture/lab component of the course and I enjoy both. This is the class that will help me develop the website for FrogFish.com (the end-zone to this hail-mary pass of a career).  I also use Lynda.com to support my lab work. It’s free to Indiana University students and I will be using it the entire time I am a student. The entire time. I’m using it now. And always.
  • N102 – Digital Media Imagery: Adobe Photoshop CS6. Same as N101 just different software. IU and their campuses love to let the students know that this software is free to them. I love them for that.
  • N199 and N299 – Directed Study I & II: How to use your education to find a job. It’s very helpful to freshman straight out of high school. It’s a good aid to those entering the job market. It’s a good tool for those starting their own company while using a school program as their main resource (do we know anyone like that?).

Next semester I hope to take N202 – Digital Storytelling, N256 – Digital Composition, N261 – Storyboarding for Multimedia, and N300 – Digital Media Production. Some of those may change. One of the biggest obstacles in having a set goal and a clear path is that there are other drivers on the road, and sometimes construction, and things do not work out as planned (which is why you will often hear me say, “God willing”). By the end of the semester I should have a stronger portfolio and, God willing, I will have not only my own projects to work on, but some friends who need a strongly opinionated, intelligently compassionate writer/production assistant/storyboard artist/cinematographer

Projects

While in school I have had several projects completed thus far. Here is one of them:

Student work with lots of room for improvement, but I’m proud of it.

I’ve worked on a few other projects since my first school stint. You can find them through my imdb.com page. I give lots of credit to the Indiana Filmmakers Network and cool people like Zack Parker, Veronica Diaz, Brian Pearce, Joshua Hull and Jim Dougherty for those opportunities (my first “thank-you-speech” and I’m sure there are those who feel left out…damn!).  I look forward to working more with IFN and a new group I just met called Quadrivium Media; fellow Media Arts & Science students focusing on Video/Audio.

Some of the projects I am currently working on are…

  • Short Films – Next semester I will begin adapting several short stories into films. My first three our adaptations of Ambrose Bierce’s short stories: “The Death of Halpin Frayser”, “A Watcher by the Dead”, and “The Suitable Surroundings”. I’d also like to take a crack at Arthur Machen’s “The Gread God Pan”, M.R. James’ “The Mezzotint” and H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Tomb”. I think there are a lot of stories that audiences today don’t even know exist or the version they know is far from the original author’s intent. Whether my adaptations are faithful page-by-page renderings (and they’re not) or completely new imaginings (and they’re not that either) I hope they lead audiences to the source material that I fell in love with.
  • Graphic Novels – I use the term graphic novel here because I am not writing an ongoing series comic (yet) and the project has a limited run. The story is called The Wet Grave and is an action, horror story that explores what we are willing to do for safety, security and freedom. It’s set in 1750 New Orleans between the clash of the French, African and Native American cultures and is about a young slave girl who reanimates her murdered lover to seek revenge on her oppressors. I have found a talented new artist to bring the webcomic to life (she’s working on the FrogFish logo as we speak…I said, “She’s working on the FrogFish logo as we speak!”…so, I’ll be premiering that soon). I am writing the second issue right now (literally, I have four hands typing).  I will reveal more soon, but this is something to look for next summer.
  • Feature Film Screenplay – I am working with my good friend and sometimes reluctant witness, Eric Anderson on a horror comedy. The only thing I can say about it right now is that it is actually a two-parter, so the sequel is already built into the original. At this time, we intend to market the project to other producers when it is finished (thus “Screenplay”), but you never know. It could be the first Corn Bred/FrogFish collaborative production.
  • Others – Far too many to name here, and most are in the synopsis/outline stage (come on people, I’m a full time student, part-time employee, part-time SAHD, I can only give so much), but there has been a recent leaning toward 2D animation. A series in fact. I love animated horror. And this Halloween animatic at Horror-Movies.ca (one of the BestF@#$ingWebsitesEver that I will be talking about next week) got my heart racing like it did when I took Shakespeare a few years ago and decided creative performance was my true passion (and politics, yeah…you might want to avoid me on Facebook).  There is also a lot of Feature Films (God willing, my senior capstone will be a feature film project), more comics, more shorts…and that’s just the stuff I’m working on. Laura has got stuff for AsteriasMedia (the Fish side of FrogFish).  We’ll be publishing new, talented horror writers on our site. In fact…there should be a call for submissions coming up soon. Yeah…soon.

So there you have it. An eye on the future and a leg in the present with thoughts in the past and limbs in an alternate universe and…damn this was a long blog. What was I talking about? Hit me up on the comments to let me know. Follow me on Twitter. Find me on Facebook. Visit me in Indiana. Stalk me from the other side of the fence (remember, two German Shepherds. They’re sweethearts…when I have their leash). Until next week.

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“Indiana wants me, Lord I can’t go back there.”

That may not be true. I have a tendency to rub most of my fellow Hoosiers the wrong way with my political views, but I wouldn’t be the first, and certainly not the most famous one to have ever done that.

His name was Ambrose Gwinnet Bierce.

Born in 1842, the tenth of thirteen children, he grew up around Warsaw, Indiana in a poor but literate, Christian family.

He left home at 15 and began his first foray into publishing, but long before becoming a distinguished author he was a military hero. He was the 2nd man in Elkhart County to sign up for Indiana’s 9th regiment after Lincoln’s call to arms. At the Battle of Rich Mountain he earned praise in the media for his heroic rescue of a fellow soldier. He rose quickly in the ranks until he was commissioned First Lieutenant and served as a topographical engineer making maps of battlefields. At the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain he was shot in the head and survived. In fact, he returned to active duty less than six months later.

It would be easy to see why the man had developed a sardonic view on human nature.

In 1867 Bierce arrived in San Francisco and began writing for several local papers where he began one of his most famous works The Devil’s Dictionary. He traveled to England, where he lived and wrote from 1872 to 1875, then returned to San Francisco to become a regular columnist and editorialist for William Randolph Hearst’s San Francisco Examiner. He found himself in the midst of a few controversies of political matter while working with Hearst.

He is best known for his short story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge”  and his strange disappearance where, in 1913, he was rumored to have run off to join Pancho Villa in the Mexican Revolution.

I’ve read a few of the biographies written about “Bitter” Bierce and would love to one day make a biopic of this great author. In the meantime, I hope to adapt several of his short stories next year for both class projects and my personal portfolio. One of my favorites, and most likely the first story I will adapt is the “The Death of Halpin Frayser.”

The story, in a nutshell, is about a man lost in the woods, who falls asleep and has a mortal encounter with a malevolent spirit. However, Bierce’s prose and description, the subtle tools of a well practiced author, elevate the story to something more then mere spookery despite its contrived ending. Many of Bierce’s stories have characters whose undoing is due  to the lack of recognition of some flaw in themselves, their past or their peers (often lunatics in disguise), in this case it is the former.

Halpin Frayser claims he is ” a helpless mortal, a penitent, an unoffending poet,” but Bierce goes to great lengths to show that “Halpin was pretty generally deprecated as an intellectual black sheep who was likely at any moment to disgrace the flock by bleating in metre.” This is a great of example by Bierce where, how the character sees himself versus how the author sees him, combined with how the world of the character see him, presents a vivid, three-dimensional picture for the audience on a limited two-dimensional medium; leaving them with a subtle change in their own perspective on their own perception (i.e. it changes the way they think they think) all delivered under the guise of a mere ghost story. It is this type of a subtle social commentary that attracts me to horror and humor and authors like Ambrose Bierce.

He then continues to describe the lost fool as a bit of a momma’s boy with a bit of the Oedipus in him:

Between him and his mother was the most perfect sympathy, for secretly the lady was herself a devout disciple of the late and great Myron Bayne, though with the tact so generally and justly admired in her sex (despite the hardy calumniators who insist that it is essentially the same thing as cunning) she had always taken care to conceal her weakness from all eyes but those of him who shared it. Their common guilt in respect of that was an added tie between them. If in Halpin’s youth his mother had ‘spoiled’ him he had assuredly done his part toward being spoiled. As he grew to such manhood as is attainable by a Southerner who does not care which way elections go, the attachment between him and his beautiful mother — whom from early childhood he had called Katy — became yearly stronger and more tender. In these two romantic natures was manifest in a signal way that neglected phenomenon, the dominance of the sexual element in all the relations of life, strengthening, softening, and beautifying even those of consanguinity. The two were nearly inseparable, and by strangers observing their manners were not infrequently mistaken for lovers.

This all ties in to the character’s demise in some bit of an unfortunate, serendipitous encounter; for as I said, Bierce’s characters often have a hand in their own ending and this is no different. However, if you’re looking for more scares than backstory, then I suggest this passage from the story:

But what mortal can cope with a creature of his dream? The imagination creating the enemy is already vanquished; the combat’s result is the combat’s cause. Despite his struggles — despite his strength and activity, which seemed wasted in a void, he felt the cold fingers close upon his throat. Borne backward to the earth, he saw above him the dead and drawn face within a hand’s-breadth of his own, and then all was black.

Even in his day Ambrose Bierce was accused of overwriting, and surely in today’s immediate access world he would find it difficult to play in the sandboxes of Twitter. But he was an artist and his written words nearly beg to be read aloud to enjoy them to their full extent. This is just one examples of his great talent. I would suggest some of the following:

You can find these stories and many of his other works here at the Ambrose Bierce Project

“Aaahoo, werewolves of…Indiana?”

Vincennes Historic Marker

Vincennes Historic Marker (Photo credit: jimmywayne)

When I was a child one of the most influential films on my young psyche was Joe Dante’s “The Howling.”  In fact, it was while I was watching that film that first understood the concept of death, so werewolves have always had a special place in my heart.

 Me with Director Joe Dante

So imagine my joy when I discovered that werewolves had a unique connection to Indiana!

According to Weird Indiana, “Indiana’s werewolf stories date back to the first French trappers who wandered the Land.”  Vincennes, Indiana is the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in Indiana and one of the oldest settlements west of the Appalachians according to Wikipedia.

It was officially established in 1732 as a French trading post. A story collected from an elderly French woman in Vincennes was recorded by Ronald L. Baker in his book, “Hoosier Folk Legends” and is as follows:

It was reported many years ago that some kind of wild animal was running loose out by the old French graveyard. It was claimed that several queer animals were not animals at all but people that had been bewitched. John Vatchet claimed that one of these animals sprang at him one night as he was going through the old graveyard and that he had quite a tussle for his life.

Charles Vatchet lived down by the site where the present hospital is located. There were a number of apple trees along this street, and as this was before the time of street lights, the place was very dark. One night as Mr. Vatchet was going home, and object having the shape of a wild animal sprang at Mr. Vatchet. He cut the animal with his knife in his struggle, and the object turned into a man. He gave Mr. Vatchet his name and address (the man was from Evansville), and request that he should not tell anyone for one year and a day or he would turn back into an animal. When the animals were injured to the extent that brought blood, the charm was broken.

The Loup-Garou is a human who changes into a wolf by his own free will. The word loup is French for “wolf” while garou is Frankish and seems to mean a man who turns into an animal.

Spookyweb posted a legend with citations on their site here. It was collected in the 1920s.

  A brief snippet describes the attack:

“Other dogs get out of the big man’s way when he wave his hand. Mais [But] this one come advancing with hideous howls                                                        and gleaming read eyes the be like coals of fire in the black of the night. Then Page he be mad the dog and he said, “Bete Noir Vole! Vole!” [Black beast, get lost!]

 Mais the black beast did not fly away from him nor turn its eyes from his. With a great leap it came near to him by five feet.   Then Page cursed and lifted his big foot to kick it in the jaw. With a stealthy pantherlike movement the great frothing beast sprang at his throat. You bet his time he tried to kick and get his knifte to finish the dog who hot breath was singeing his hair – whose great paws were tearing his shoulders and whose fangs were near his neck. With one powerful arms he grab the neck of the dog until his tongue hang out. The shaggy hair on the dog’s neck be lashing his face and his eyes blazing with madness. The loup garou be trying to betwitch Page.

He know now it be loup garou.

I’ve not had the opportunity to visit Vincennes, nor have I heard any recent legends regarding werewolves in Indiana, but I’d like to find the time to visit the scary places of lore here in Indiana. Sort of my own “Hoosier Horrorland” if you will.

There is a place up the road that I have in mind. I’ll tell you about it next month. In the meantime, tell me what you think about werewolves, Indiana, movies, or whatever else you feel like commenting on.

http://www.amazon.com/Weird-Indiana-Indianas-Legends-Secrets/dp/1402754523

http://www.amazon.com/Hoosier-Folk-Legends-Midland-Series/dp/0253203341

http://spookyweb.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/loup-garou-of-vincennes-indiana/

“What’s the Story, morning glory?”

I think in a previous post I said something about not being a writer.

That was only semi-true. I’m not a sit-in-the-seat-and-pound-out-pages kind of guy.

I think I’m great at coming up with concepts, outlines, treatments, drafts, and rewriting…so in that sense, I’m a writer. But there are long periods where I do everything but the draft…or the rewrites…and spend all my time at sites like DoneDealPro Forums.

The main site, Done Deal Pro, is for “The Business and Craft of Screenwriting.” For a small annual fee you can subscribe to the site and get tracking board style information – like what screenplays have just sold, what screenplays are being sent out, from whom are they being sent and to whom are they going. Loads of great information.

But it’s the forum that sucks you in and keeps you at your laptop and away from the blank page.

The forum is a place where screenwriters and storytellers, from every level of the entertainment industry, get to mingle and share their thoughts, idea, opinions, advice and critiques (lots of advice and critiques) on everything regarding the business and craft of screenwriting…and multimedia in general.

The forums are broken down by topics like:

  • The Basics, where all the newbies go to ask questions about formatting (which is EXTREMELY important if you want to appear professional) like, “How do I use INTERCUT?”
  • Business Questions and Advice, where most members ask legal questions like, “Can I Take a Pitch And Write My Own Script?” (i.e. someone pitches you an idea, they don’t like your take, but you say screw it I’ll write my take on spec – the short answer: No, it’s a dick move)
  • Script Pages – Advanced, where working professional screenwriters like Craig Mazin and Derek Haasagree to read the first three pages (sometimes 5, if you’re shady like me) of your screenplay and give you feedback. The guys are a bit overwhelmed with their own work at the moment, and they promise they’ll return to help DDP Forum members (only), but that’s what makes the forum so great – you have screenwriters from every level sharing their thoughts, ideas, opinions, advice and critiques (lots of advice and critiques, lots) on the business and craft of screenwriting.

Craig Mazin – Writer: Scary Movie 3 & 4 and The Hangover 2

Derek Haas – Writer: 3:10 to Yuma and Wanted

Making Done Deal Pro Forums my first “BestF@#$ingWebsiteEver”