Media Production Mentoring

Free online film school designed with beginning filmmakers in mind.


On Pandas and Writing for TV

My wife just got Pandaria, so I'm probably not going to see her for a few weeks.

Lost in the Mists of Pandaria

I, on the other hand, was much more productive in finishing the first season of Revenge. As the "shocking" twist came in the last few seconds, the world of television writing snapped into focus: There's a reason great shows die slow deaths.

We start with a killer story. In this case, a beautiful, young, independently wealthy, brilliant, and accomplished girl seeks out... er... revenge. The writing is snappy, the episodes rocket forward as she takes out her betrayers one at a time. And then, somewhere around episode seven, I sensed the shift as the story began to fall.

This is, near as I can tell, when ABC noticed that they had a hit show on their hands... second only to their similarly ill-fated Lost. Around this time someone at the studio said something to a writer about expanding the show into more seasons. And instantly the guilty stopped falling.

In the place of ruined lives, the story screeches to a halt while we investigate just how horrible we can make things for people. Each episode makes your skin crawl with the intoxicating nastiness that spills onto the screen. But we've lost the plot. Revenge, to be sure, but no longer against perpetrators of a crime... but a mafia-esque family I haven't seen since Godfather.

Indeed, the final episode of season one felt like a bad joke. Things twisted and turned in ways that felt forced and cheap. And I realized that my wife had made the better choice.

See, Blizzard Entertainment learned something about entertainment that ABC has yet to do: Sometimes we need to reel in our stories. Over the past few expansions, Blizzard has been forced to come up with ever bigger and badder bad guys for our hordes and alliances to fight. It's kind of like telling your audience that, I don't know, your mom's still out there. <cough> Chuck.

At some point you should just go back to your roots. Create something new and enjoyable. Change the scenery. Add pandas.

It's tempting to string out a series for seven seasons because it's popular. It's good business sense. It can even be good for fans, especially those who didn't start watching until that season...

But it's bad for your story.

Revenge was a fantastic, one season tale that has now been stretched to at least two. And, like Bilbo Baggins and so many of the "shorts" I see, it's like butter scraped over too much bread.

Don't you make the same mistake. Keep your short, movie, or series only as long as it needs to be. Give into the temptation to stretch it out a little longer, and you'll end up with a monster I wish I could have seen it's original form.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Revisiting Vice

I've already written how comedy--and scripts--should flow and circle back around on an idea. The reverse of this is equally powerful. Give your character a vice and help them overcome it. Then, when you need your audience to know the full extent of a crushing situation, drop the vice back into your hero's life. A relapse is a terrible blow, and one to which most of us can relate.

A Problem Worth Drinking Away?

Give you audience something to root for, and you'll have them by their heartstrings when you tear that away from them. The beauty of this is that now they can't wait to see how--or if--your character will ultimately overcome.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


RE Revenge

Include this in the "does not really matter at all" section, but I'm pretty sure I figured out where Emily Thorne buys her mugs:

Southampton Target

Emily's Room Essentials

If you've been wanting to match your home's decorum to that of a billionaire heiress, pick up this set of 8 Room Essentials Stoneware Mugs for a whopping $15.99.

The lesson?

In film, it is far more important to look and act the part than worry about reality. Who care's if most college dorms have the same set of dishes? No one. These little details are humorous, but the story matters more. Show your audience that your character can buy a building as part of a master plan of revenge, and it won't matter that her furnishings are on par with our own.

What doesn't work is to have your characters say things that completely contradict what your audience sees. For example, while walking through a barren warehouse in Atlas Shrugged: Part 1, Dagny says, "Looks like they just walked away." Uh...

No, it doesn't.

And, unless it's a comedy, don't say that you're looking at "incredibly sophisticated" stuff when the audience can clearly see that the room is full of paper, jars, and a couple cheap shelving units.

The Incredibly Sophisticated Chalkboard

Make sure your scenes look the part, but feel free to save money on props. It just needs to be believable.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


Image Inspiration: Alaric

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


First Year of Free Film School

This morning marks my first complete year offering a free film school 101 course. Let's glance at the numbers:

  • 1,200 people have expressed interest in this DIY movie making class by visiting the Filmmaking 101 page.
  • 147 students have subscribed to have the lessons emailed to them.
  • 17 students have completed the first assignment.
  • No one, as of yet, has finished the program.
  • 5,900 people have watched the most popular video: Paper Floor: Basement Improvement Project. ...somehow, I don't think they are interested in making films.

What's happened this year? I have been busy creating and working to promote this course. I have also blogged a couple times each month and begun work on another short (now in post-production). Currently 72 hours of footage is uploaded to YouTube every minute, so I'm not surprised my little free film classes haven't been seen by more people. I am hoping, however, that this coming year will produce several "graduates" and more incoming aspiring filmmakers looking to start their journey in media production.

What else is ahead this coming year? I may start teaching a film class or two at a local college, just for fun. I hope to produce a couple of shorts, complete with behind the scenes and write-ups detailing what I've learned. I'm also committed to help you hone your video skills. If there's anything I can do to help, please let me know!

Thanks so much for being part of the community! I'm looking forward to seeing what you create in this coming year.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor


The Remix Mashup: A New Story from the Old

The first mashup that I heard was probably the one "proving" that all Nickelback songs sound the same. It was impressive to me then because I was young, I have no personal musical talent, and the experience was new to me.

Since then, friends have introduced me to the "Top of the Pops" Germany-Mashups, like the 2012 Pop Mashup. The editing is unbelievable, but the video contains profanity and suggestive images... just like the original songs. What's inspiring to me is that artists deeply embedded in our "remix culture" have taken the art to the point where they can mashup not just audio or video... but both at the same time.

That's amazing.

They take popular, well-produced media and create a new, equally well-produced product. They use the elements from the original "stories" to create their own.

I've already discussed how you can get excellent editing practice by cutting to techno. I'd recommend cutting a mashup if I didn't think the process would be so insanely frustrating.

If you're up for it, and you're willing to risk current copyright law, I'd love to see what you produce.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Your Media Production Mentor