Wow! I have not updated this in a while. How embarrassing. This is going to be a general post, and then hopefully soon in the future I can do a couple specific deep dives: a Dystopiapiapia post-mortem, and a ‘what I learned’ post regarding my experience making my first short film, ‘If Sims were self aware.’ I believe that is also the description of a post-mortem.
So the summer of 2014– busiest summer of my life. There’s a lot non-theater stuff here, but this blog is near and dear to my heart so I’m happy to post about my life ‘as a whole.’ Here’s a ‘quick’ timeline of the past few months:
- Found house that my wife and I want to move into up in Garrison/Phillipstown, NY. So begins three months of crazy paperwork, money-scrounging and fulfilling weird last-minute paperwork requests.
- My friend and co-WhAT founder Danton Spina decides he wants to put on a little one-act festival in Philadelphia and asks me if I’ll write a short little play for it. I do, calling it “If You Were the Last Man on Earth,” basically with the premise ‘what if the human race died out because the last potential couple on earth made the seemingly arbitrary decision to not reproduce?’
- ‘To the Table’ posts a thorough and fantastic video review of my board game, “Rum Run”
- My play “Dystopiapiapia” is accepted into the Thespis NY Theater Festival with 3 productions set for July 9, 12, and 13. I will be directing.
- I keep working on our Global Game Jam Unity game, Walkabout. On the one hand, I want to improve it. On the other hand, working on it serves as a great Unity/scripting tutorial, teaching me techniques I find myself using at work with the Oculus DK1.
- Liz’s brother has been living with us since March, and will continue to do so until mid-September.
- I begin casting my play. I’m nervous about hiring ‘professional’ actors since I know we’re going to be doing this on a near-nothing budget, and I didn’t know how they might feel about rehearsing in my apartment/parks/whatever we could find. Ultimately I (happily) settle on a WhAT-based cast. I’m particularly thrilled to be working with all 3 generations of WhAT, from original parents (Ian, Morgan, myself) to our ‘children’ (Sarah, Julianne, Dan King) to one of the current heads of WhAT at Syracuse (Alice Blank). I also get to cast Nick Douglas (head of Slacktory) in the excellent role of Colonel Gotye. We do a readthrough at Ian’s with Sarah joining us via skype. I’m excited to work with all of them.
- Based on a Breaking Bad office mashup video I made over Christmas, Jules Fisher (9-time Tony Award-winning Broadway Lighting Designer) hires me to make six introduction/portfolio videos for his Broadway Lighting Design Masterclass at the end of the month. The videos are for Twyla Tharp, Jennifer Tipton, Mark Barton, David Weiner, Don Holder, & Japhy Weideman.
- In a mad sprint, I spend a plethora of hours trying to use my new Unity knowledge to craft an interactive sightlines model for the Park Avenue Armory, who are about to put on their very epic and very expensive production of Macbeth in a couple weeks, but are just now realizing that there’s a lot of terrible views in the current layout. I make a super cool (non-Oculus) Unity model determined to squelch all doubt in our design. It squelches most, but not all doubt.
- I start to realize how busy the summer is going to be and try to start performing basic editing on my Sims video, which I have promised to have done before The Sims 4 is released, the date of which is yet to be determined. Maybe early 2015?
- Toward the end of the month, I’m struggling to complete a potential breakthrough freelance job for Screen Junkies, a youtube channel known best for their excellent Honest Trailers series. I contacted them after learning that Slacktory could no longer accept copyrighted content, and it turned out they were a fan of my Breaking Bad/Weird Al “Albuquerque” video and happy to see what I could do for them. Unfortunately, I’m so busy that I can’t quite get their idea of a ‘giant superhero battle mashup video’ there. I send some ‘draft’ footage, including a battle of Wolverine with Doctor Octopus, the Fantastic Four fighting Voldemort, Storm doing Thor stuff, Spiderman and Batman falling on Max’s taxi from Collateral (the title for this video should be ‘a better Electro origin story than the one in Amazing Spider-man 2), and an Avengers/Batman/X-Men mashup at Grand Central Station, but none of it is quite cohesive enough to fulfill the task at hand. Despite a nagging sense of unfulfillment all summer, it doesn’t get any further.
- At E3 2014, it’s revealed that The Sims 4 will be releasing on September 2nd. Crap. I’ve had long-term projects often enough to realize that it is going to be a struggle to get this done by then.
- Bob Campbell, a project manager in my office and I give my first public presentation of the work I’ve been doing with the Oculus Rift for my company at the ‘Intersections’ Symposium at the Metrotech Center in Brooklyn. The way everyone fights over ‘their turn’ to play with the Rift after my talk amuses me to no end.
- Dystopiapiapia rehearsals start in earnest every weekend, with Sarah commuting from Baltimore and Julianne from Connecticut. That’s dedication!
- Danton, Ian, Lindsay, Morgan, Dan, and I learn we’ve been accepted to compete in the World Championship of Gameful Architecture in Witten, Germany. We launch a Trevolta campaign (like Kickstarter), I edit a video of Danton and the work we’ve done together, and we manage to raise enough money to fund almost our entire trip. Some people are crazy generous.
- I venture to Philadephia to see Danton’s production of my play “Last Man” and enjoy it, though am confused by the main male character being transformed from an uptight, quiet, awkward guy to an athletic, charismastic, high-energy guy. Still very interesting to see one of my plays done entirely without my input during rehearsals.
- Later in the month our marketing director Alexa and I venture to the Opera America Conference in San Francisco where I give my second public Oculus presentation (and have a booth set up for a few days). Because now we’re speaking to Opera donors and producers, I adjust the discussion from a focus on theater design and more to ‘how this technology can get people excited to go to/donate to the Opera.’ I’m proud of the 4 models I’m showcasing for the Oculus: 1) XIQU Cultural Center 2) Utah Performing Arts Center 3) The New Rose Theater (based on the set of Shakespeare in Love) and an Oculus version of: 4) Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth at the Park Avenue Armory. This also gives us the opportunity to get FDA to purchase a new work laptop, which I end up using a lot in the future (though I was scared to bring it to Germany).
- July 4th weekend is spent feverishly rehearsing, preparing costumes, making fun/weird youtube videos, and watching Dan King struggle with a terrible new Adobe program called Edge. It’s intended as a Flash replacement since it outputs HTML5, but is super counter-intuitive and a certified mess.
- Finally the show opens and hey! We’re at the Times Square Arts Center at 43rd and 8th, right off the C train. That’s rad, especially since it was supposed to be up in Washington Heights. Now I can tell people I’ve had a ‘surprisingly-not-far-off-Broadway’ show. I’m super happy with the resulting performances and super proud and super grateful of my cast. We have a beautifully fitting cast party at Nick’s house– fitting because I finally got the play into fighting form after editing it during a writing night at his place.
- The week before going to Germany, I’m off to San Antonio, Texas for work to ‘punchlist’ the Tobin Center. Basically I shake a lot of seats and make sure the theater is being built to our specifications. It’s always great to see our theaters in the flesh, and I learn a lot from this trip.
- Right after that, Ian, Morgan, Danton, Lindasy and I all take off for Germany for 10 days. It’s an incredible experience and for our prompt ‘create a space for intercultural communication,’ we build a giant epic 5-tiered foosball table. We receive awards for ‘Best Community Engagement’ and ‘Best Craftmanship’ because, well, we made 5 freakin’ foosball tables in 72 hours. Of particular note is one that needed to be assembled on site because it wrapped around a tree. Really didn’t think it was going to happen in time– but then it did!
- Hey-o! On the 11th Liz and I finally close on our house. We spend the rest of the weekends in August (3 day weekends because my office is awesome and gives us ‘summer Fridays’ in August) traveling to the house to unload stuff then going back to Brooklyn for the work week. Unfortunately for my wife, I don’t help with packing much at all because I’m working on…
- My Sims film. Where did the time go? I have almost nothing done. I finally buckle down on this and end up with a lot of late nights. By the 14th I have a rough cut that I’ve sent off (no VFX) and get some very helpful feedback from Nick Douglas and Alex Schmidt. Despite the late hours, I feel energized, determined, and I’m having fun!
- My friend and awesome comedian Alex Schmidt recommends me as a Macro-Video Editor for Cracked.com. They don’t have a macro video for me to make at the moment, but offer me a chance to make some money by doing some greenscreen editing on a web series they’re making called ‘Starship Icarus.’ I put together 28 shots, learn a bunch about ‘proper’ green screen editing, and then am thrilled to see when the web series comes out it garners all sorts of critical acclaim, notably from the NY Times and (to me) the AV Club.
- Over Labor Day weekend we finally move into the house.
- I finally finish my Sims film, unfortunately a solid 10 days after the Sims 4 was released. It doesn’t get a ton of views (just above 6000 as of now), but all the comments are glowing, and hey, 6000 views is way more than the actual play had! People seem to really like it, and I’m proud of it. I also learned a lot. Here’s a pro-tip either make tracking dots very large, or don’t use them at all!
- Rum Run receives a thorough and fantastic review from noted board game critic Father Geek.
- I host a three-hour lunch discussion with my office to talk about Revit. It goes well, and it seems like I’ll be leading the charge of this revolution.
- Andrea Lackie, a friend of mine who I did a 3 day charette with back in 2008 (incidentally, Spring Semester of 2008 was the last time I felt as busy as I did this summer), asks if I would be interested in doing a freelance rendering for her company, Equinox. I do, and it’s simple, well-compensating, has a quick deadline, and the result is very satisfying. Would love to get more of these
- I hit a new milestone with my Oculus Rift/Unity progress. We’ve received the DK2 and in addition to getting our models to work with its excellent motion-tracking feature, I manage to write some Unity scripts that allow for random audience generation– I fill the seats with legs, then from those legs sprout random torsos. Those torsos can then be given a random ‘height’. Next steps: individual audience member settings, and also randomizing hair across the 4 exisitng torsos I have set up (just needs more sprouting!).
- After a screening of my Sims film during a ‘beer and pizza friday’ Charles Stone (one of the partners of FMS, FDA’s sister office) checks that I’m ‘the video guy’ and asks if I’d be interesting in moonlighting something for him. I assume he wants me to make a video, but he actually wants me to write a ‘narrative’ about a crazy LED system they’re building. I have no idea where to start, but when I ask him why he thinks I’m the guy to do this, he says ‘because I wouldn’t know where to start.’ A week later, with the help of Jeff McCrum in my office, I have something. He says it’s a ‘fine framework,’ which is what we were shooting for, so good.
Whew! All that in addition to my standard 37.5 hour work week at Fisher Dachs Associates and keeping up with my daily ‘The Productive Commuter’ blog, which is about, well, you know, my commute time (which is now nearly 4 hours per day). The summer’s been undoubtedly fun, but I sure would like to lie down and turn my brain off for a while. I mean, I guess I’ve done a little of that. I beat Assassin’s Creed 2 and played a little bit of the new Tomb Raider as well as The Sims 2&3 (you know, as a reward for finishing my film). But now my current projects include more Oculus Rift craziness, editing Dystopiapiapia into a film, submitting Dystopiapiapia and other plays to various play events, adapting Cat’s Cradle into a play, writing a fun little Transparent/Six Feet Under mashup, writing a Firefly spec script with Danton, crafting a Game Crafter version of Masterplan, designing a new board game about meat-eating, finalizing the details of Rum Run so I can finally get a ‘final’ copy, color-correcting Terra Neo so I can finally get my first copy, and beginning to think about the 10 year anniversary of La Salle d’Or. Can my brain ever actually rest?
No. I think the answer is no. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.