Saturday, December 22, 2012

sharks + mavericks

Hollywood is a scene. Actors, writers, producers, and directors all climbing the totem pole. Everyone is all about movies and entertainment and making a hard, cruel, living at it. There are really steep canyons. In between long sessions of editing, Internet surfing, labradoodle walking, ZERO DARK THIRTY watching, car riding, and future postulating, it was a +EV place to be.

Throughout the course of this project, many movie people have asked us the question "what audience are you targeting?" I have thought about this question a lot, really since the days of From Busto to Robusto, and have almost always come back around to the same conclusion: if we can recapture the energy and spirit of the online poker boom, and make it easy for poker players to support, we will find the bullseye. I think this past week was time well spent towards doubling down on that ideal. Leaving LA, we're in good shape: the final movie will be about the online poker boom of the 2000s (ldo), but it will be centrally focused on the evolution of poker and the professional poker player, embodied by three modern day pros: Tony Dunst, Martin Bradstreet, and Danielle Moon-Andersen. $$$

Yeah, yeah, that sounds great Jay but tell me something REAL!!! In early 2013 we will be launching a website where you'll be able to get more frequent updates (we have a lot of cool media to share) and information about the movie. Meanwhile, Taylor and I will continue to work on our distribution strategy. As soon as the movie is finished, we will be aggressively trying to get it in front of you. 

Heading North for Christmas (I get 2x presents, suckers!). Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

bonus fortune cookie: strive to make 2013 > 2012. You will acquire new skills and find money on sidewalk.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

BOOM lockdown

Right now I'm in LA, living in the documentary editing room (literally) for one week. Ryan recently made a great 2p2 post explaining what we're up to with the movie. Basically, we had always intended on sending out our latest edit to a group of people whose opinions we really value -- experienced filmmakers, storytellers, poker industry professionals and the like -- who we could trust to supply us with the kind of brutal, critical feedback you need to truly see all your weak spots and how to fix them. Our SXSW edit is not bad at all (in fact I think if we released it many people would still enjoy it), but Ryan is right when he says it's just not good enough and doesn't quite do justice to the expectations we established with our first trailer, and to the story we set out to tell. I think it's fortuitous that we didn't get into Sundance, because it gives us a little bit more time to get this done right.

So where do you start once you make the decision to make some large structural changes to a story? After you go to the Tilt Room you get back to basics. What we had was a combination of a character driven narrative and a detailed expose of the shifty, shadowy nature of the online poker industry. That sounds intriguing on paper but because we're a documentary and reliant on footage we've shot already to tell the story, it was hard to make it completely resonate for an audience member who sits down with no preconceptions. We knew that Black Friday was the crux of the plot, and we knew that the way to deliver the most powerful story is in connecting with our characters and the choices they were making on various levels both before and after the pokerpocalypse. So once we made the decision to fully commit to telling their story through the shifting context of the online poker boom (rather than placing the emphasis on the details of the rise and fall of the industry), and after a lot of deep thinking, discussion, and index carding of scenes, we found the heart of our story again. 

And with this new, clear angle in mind, we're repurposing what we have in full support of that heart.

Why should this matter to you? You've been waiting forever and like Ryan said, this probably sounds a lot like perfectionist nitpicking. But it's important to understand that we (and I mean we as a poker community, as enthusiasts of the game, of people who experienced the crazy thrills and spills of the past 10 years in this wild world) only have one shot to have a movie we can love and share that truly captures the spirit of what it was like to be a part of the online poker boom in the 2000s. The road to that movie may have been long and circuitous, but your continued support and enthusiasm for this project has really been a major driving force in getting us to the finish line with something we are confident that we will all be proud of. Thank you for that. As a creator there's nothing that makes you feel better, more optimistic and confident than support and faith from your audience.

Now back to work I go -- right now we're fine tuning and repurposing a fun scene that we've fondly referred to as "the Party Poker boom." Ahh, nostalgia.

Monday, December 3, 2012

November recap

I was aiming to get one of these posts up per week, but November kicked my ass. A huge leak of mine is setting unrealistic goals and falling short. But better lofty goals than none at all...

My inklewriter story still isn't out of development. I have the concept in mind and ended up doing a bunch of research into CYOA interactive paths and player choice in narrative (I played 999, which was insanely awesome, and The Walking Dead Episode 1, which I thought was both better than the TV show but not fun enough to get me to play more episodes), so I feel like I'm in pretty good shape as far as understanding what makes interactive stories successful. But the writing itself has been basically nonexistent. I'm mainly stating the obvious, but choice should matter a lot, and there should be incentive for going back and getting all the endings...

This game is the cat's pajamas.

I did develop a few other ideas simultaneously. One by myself, which I'd describe at this early stage as a "realist Hayao Miyazaki epic", and another during an extended lockdown session with Alex, my zany writer/director pal. We spent 3 days bunkered up pitching ideas and spinning stories until we burned out upon realizing just how insanely hard it is to generate something original. Twice we thought we had zeroed in on something great only to find that both concepts had been done already... 

On the non-movie front, my younger brother and I have been working on a new web series, which may or may not see the light of day but has been a lot of fun to collaborate on, and led to an 8-hour Halo 4 campaign co-op extravaganza (research!!!) the likes of which we hadn't seen since our days spent jamming on toy lightsabers.

As far as BOOM goes... we submitted to SXSW (we didn't get into Sundance :-/) and sent our edit out for one final round of critical feedback, which was incredibly helpful but also tremendously daunting. Ryan and I have one final month to slay our demons and claim Gladiator-style victory. We're feeling juiced up and inspired. The key now is to fearlessly manage all 10,000 variables in play while focusing the story even further in order to make our argument more emotional and coherent. Happy to say there was no better training for making a movie than my years spent playing high stakes poker! 

So no new goals for December--for now I'll continue plugging away at all these projects (and The Micros! Viva Chase Berger!), and aim to get more ravishing blog posts up more often. A few ideas I've got percolating: "the 7 Skills of Poker"; "Lessons Learned in Making Our First Feature Film: "; "Favorite Fictional Character Relationships"; "Action-Adventure Movie Analyses."

Rungood, readers...