The Best Shows to Watch in 2018

BY CHARIS JOY JACKSON

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It’s a new year and the creative community needs good, new shows to inspire us to write and create our own new and amazing stories. Here’s a list of tv shows, which I think will help to inspire, provoke, and challenge us to make our own amazing content.

THE OA

If you haven’t seen season one of this highly innovative and creative story, then stop reading and go watch it now — be ready to do nothing for the rest of your day. Trust me, you’ll want to sit and binge the entire thing in one sitting. I did. Twice.

The story follows the return of Prairie, a young woman who mysteriously disappeared for several years. Her parents come to take her home, she stares at them and asks “Who are you?” They explain to the confused nurse, that when she went missing, Prairie was blind.

This inspired me to write and think outside the box for my own stories, hopefully you’ll find yourself inspired and provoked to create your own innovative stories. While we wait for season two, be sure to watch season one!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DvHJtez2IlY

 

THE ALIENIST

Set during the late 19th century, this show recommends itself with heavy-weights Daniel Bruhl, Luke Evans, and Dakota Fanning. Based on the novel, of the same name the show follows a phycologist and crime reporter who team up to investigate a sinister new threat: a serial killer, which is something the world hasn’t defined yet.

Author, Caleb Carr wanted to combine his knowledge of history with his love of fiction. He strived to remain integrous to what people then would have known about psychological threats, new science such as fingerprinting, and the first woman to work for the NYPD.

With a hint of Sherlock Holmes about it, this show can teach us many things about the importance of research for historical stories and it’s fun to try and figure out who the killer is before everyone else. It also helps us creatives to learn what other shows do right and wrong in the small clues they give about the killer along the way. Definitely one I want to check out.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcJQnaXiCfI

 

CASTLE ROCK

If you want to be a writer, storyteller and filmmaker there are two names you should always pay attention to for further research in how to get better; J.J. Abrams and Stephen King, and both are attached to Castle Rock. These two giants of story are sharing this universe full of creative and iconic characters. This alone is reason enough to watch it.

If for no other reason, this new show should inspire us all to keep striving to make awesome films. With both King and Abrams attached, it’s bound to help us creatives learn how to tell better and more innovative stories. Learn from the greats and watch the trailer to see how many easter eggs you can count.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWGP9nOGbqo

 

RISE

While I’m a bit sceptical about this show, I have hopes it will surpass the stereotypes of high school dramas.

Based on a true story, the trailer gives an edgier feel than other shows like it, which is also giving me hope.

If nothing else, I think this show will help us creatives to create messier stories which can still inspire and encourage people to live big lives, and to dream big.

Take a look at the trailer and see what you think.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u_jJ9ilpXlw

 

PHILIP K. DICK’S ELECTRIC DREAMS

Ok, this one looks amazing. The 10 stand-alone episodes remind me a bit of Black Mirror and the cast is packed with powerful players — Steve Buscemi, Bryan Cranston, Anna Paquin, Greg Kinnear, Richard Madden and more. The cinematography looks great and the production design fills me with mystery and the urge to explore. In short, this looks to be quite the ride.

Perhaps the biggest hook for this show is the fact it’s based off the book that Blade Runner was based off of, “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.”

I imagine it will give us creatives the much needed reminder to follow the rules, and know them backwards and forwards, but I think it will also remind us to break them sometimes too.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtX_LVwEJhA

 

These are only a few of the amazing shows coming in 2018, there are heaps more including This Is Us, Westworld, Dark, Gunpowder and more. If you want to know how to make movies and be the best storyteller be a consumer of film and learn the good, the bad, and the ugly about what’s actually getting produced now.

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Why ‘The Last Jedi’ Is The Star Wars Movie We’ve Been Waiting For

BY JAMES PRESCOTT

The Christmas season is fast becoming associated with popular movies, such as the Star Wars franchise, and this year is no different. The Last Jedi, the eighth chapter (and ninth movie) was released earlier this week, and I was lucky enough to see one of the first showings, at 0100 on Thursday morning.

I’m not sure I’ve felt quite as nervous and excited going into a film. I had no idea what to expect. I stayed free of spoilers (as this article will do), if there’s one movie to avoid spoilers with, it’s this one.

I’m glad I had no preconceived ideas of what it would do, because director Rian Johnson does an excellent job of turning all of them on their head, in what is an epic addition to the Star Wars saga. It’s the longest film in the franchise, but it earns its length, and the pacing and story are strong enough to keep you engrossed all the way through – I barely noticed the time passing.

The previous chapter, The Force Awakens, now feels more like what it was, a gentle re-introduction to the franchise, based on a familiar formula. This is where the real story begins, where we begin to see a real progression in the story – and it’s worth the wait.

The Last Jedi bears no resemblance to any predecessor. This is a great thing, and makes the film a real game changer. Johnson takes the franchise in new, bold, and interesting directions, and there are no rules he won’t break to do so.

The film begins with the resumption of hostiles between the First Order, the successor to the Empire, and the resistance – now led by General Leia, Organa, played by Carrie Fisher in what is a phenomenal and deeply moving last performance – with final scenes tenderly and beautifully handled by Johnson.

But the real story, of course, is happening down on the island, where Rey meets Luke Skywalker, and goes on a journey of her own. Without giving the game away, as time goes on we begin to understand more of why Luke has disconnected himself from the world, and Rey begins the journey into her own identity and exploring her powers, and her past.

And the other big story arc is Kylo Ren, fresh off killing his father Han Solo in The Force Awakens. Kylo – or Ben Solo – is a dark, conflicted, tragic figure, struggling to find his true path and the call to darkness.

In many ways, both Rey and Kylo are both on the same journey – trying to figure out their place in this story, both powerful with the force and wrestling with the call to explore their powers, tempted by the raw power of the dark side.

We see more of the history of both Kylo and Rey in this movie, all linked together by Luke, brilliantly played by Mark Hamill in arguably his best performance yet in the franchise, in the middle of it all – in many ways a broken man also wrestling with his own demons, yet trying to bring wisdom and guidance to Rey.

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One thing which impressed me hugely in this movie is the balance between light and dark in it’s tone – and this balance is in many ways an underlying theme of the entire movie. It’s one of the darkest Star Wars films, but it combines this well with, mostly earned, laugh out loud moments, and tender, intimate and deeply moving scenes.

This movie had me scared, in fits of laughter, and in tears of both joy and sadness, all kept in perfect balance. It’s very rare for a movie to combine these three experiences without going too extreme into one area, but The Last Jedi does this perfectly.

The Force Awakens feels like mere prologue to the events of this movie. The Last Jedi is without doubt the biggest, most epic Star Wars film since Empire Strikes Back. It’s also one of the most spiritual and mythical of the Star Wars franchise, exploring deep philosophical and spiritual questions, without becoming too self-pretentious. But it combines this with lots of action, great fight sequences and lightsaber duels, and the amazing visuals we’ve come to expect from Star Wars – and some surprises too.

The real genius of this movie though, is how Rian Johnson takes all the fans questions and expectations and predictions of what will happen in this movie, and about who the characters are and what they will do, and turns them all on their head. He also, with great subtlety, takes the audience down what looks like one path, only to turn a completely different way to what we expect.

Some hardcore fans won’t like where this movie goes, simply because it shifts the franchise in a whole different direction. By the end of this movie, we’re in new territory for Star Wars, yet there is no doubt that to be true to the heart of what Star Wars is, it’s where the story needs to go.

Many criticised The Force Awakens for being too much like a predecessor – I suspect some will apply the exact opposite criticism to this movie. But such criticism isn’t justified in my eyes.

The Last Jedi is the Star Wars movie we’ve been waiting for – a truly fresh addition to the story, which takes the saga into new places. It’s an epic, thought provoking, innovative, action packed, sometimes funny, mythical and at times deeply moving addition to the Star Wars franchise, and will leave you with many more questions for J.J. Abrams to answer in Chapter IX, in two years time.

Why Knowing Your Type Is Important

By Charis Joy Jackson

Previously published on Backstage.

I have a love/hate relationship with being typecast. I don’t think I’m alone in this thinking. Many actors endeavour to break away from being cast in the same roles over and over again. I think I speak true when I say it’s the actor’s dream to be one of those few who are known for breaking the mould. Gary Oldman comes to mind, the man is a chameleon.

However, I think it’s important to take note of your type.

Recently, I posted two of my head shots in a couple of acting groups. I was curious to read what people saw in them. Most of the people don’t know me, so I knew their answers would be purely on my look and not my personality or character.

It was a valuable insight for me and one I recommend you try too.

Knowing your type is important because it can broaden your horizon

We all have our own presupposition of the type of characters we should be playing. However, we’re not always as perceptive to the vast pool of character types we could go for.

For example, I only saw myself as the best friend type. Or the quirky girl on the sidelines. Not as glamorous as the leading lady types, but still fun characters for a lifetime career as an actress.

Then in one acting course, my classmates and I were asked to spend a full minute silently staring at each other, to think up the types of characters we could see that person playing.

I loathed it, but soon learned how beneficial it was to have an idea of how others saw me.

During the session, my preconceived ideas were replaced with a whole new bunch of characters I never thought about before. Knowing this, helped me to branch out in my acting too.

The same can happen for you. If you have a small circle of characters you think you’d be good for, try asking fellow actors what roles they’d see you in. Then use it to your advantage by workshopping scenes with these types of characters. Not only will it help you grow as an actor, but it may help you go for auditions you would’ve never gone for.

Knowing your type is important because it can save you time

As someone who has been Casting Director on two independent features, I cannot stress enough the importance of knowing your type. You’d be surprised how often I put out a casting call for a specific character, giving information on the age range and look only to have a heap of actors apply who clearly don’t fit. My favourite is when I have twenty-something’s asking to audition for a character who’s six! (True story.)

It’s a waste of my time and a waste of the actor’s time too.

When an actor knows the types of characters to audition for, it frees up their time to go for roles they actually fit, versus waiting on auditions where they don’t. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather spend a day auditioning for characters I actually have a real chance to play, versus ones where I don’t.

Last bits of advice… Sometimes it can be disheartening to hear what type others think you could go for, but take what they say with a grain of salt. Learn where you can and dismiss it where it hinders. And definitely don’t see it as a part of who you are, it’s not your identity, it’s like a skill or tool for your trade. That’s it.

Knowing your type is important and can definitely be beneficial to the actor’s career, but at the end of the day, go for the roles which inspire you.

The One Thing You Need To Know About Acting: There Is No Formula

By Keaton J. Evans

 

One of the biggest temptations for actors, when they begin their creative journey, is the desire to have everything figured out as quickly as possible. Which is completely natural. I did this when I first started learning how to act, and I still find myself doing this.

 

Thing is, I like to make formulas for problems I find in my life and in my acting. The classic A+B=C right? Well, mathematically yes, but not in other areas of life. Especially for any problems you face as an actor.

 

With acting you have so many things to think about and work through. You gotta break down a script, learn about the story, your character, your relationship with the other characters and emotions and everything else under the sun. And while there are things you can do which will help, there is no formula.

 

One reason for this is because of how different techniques work for different people. I mentioned this a bit in another article I wrote, which you should check out. The basic idea is an acting technique which works for someone else may not work for you. You may find certain acting tips don’t work, while other ones will. The point is don’t rush to find a system. Know it will take you awhile to figure out this whole acting thing. When starting out, patience is key.

 

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The second case for no formula is this: art is fickle as well as acting. And an approach or technique which may work for you once may not work again. And if you stick to only one approach, especially early on, you’ll get stuck in a single way of doing things, instead of exploring all the techniques which exist.

 

There’s a “Creative Spark” starring production designer Rick Carter where he mentions how he never knows how he’s going to do a movie. He doesn’t go in with preconceptions. Carter is a major production designer in the film industry and his words surprised me at first. Surely by now he would have a system for making a movie after years of doing so many films. But in fact his openness and acceptance of his own limited knowledge is exactly why he’s so good. He understands it’s not about figuring it out.

 

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You gotta let go of what you think you know. As counterintuitive as it may seem, it helps to be completely clueless and open when approaching your craft.

 

Curiosity should beat out needing to have all the answers in a nice formula. If that makes sense. Just like Rick, you should always be searching for answers. There is no one method which covers all. If you think you’ll be able to find some formula or something that works each time, maybe you should try openness of mind and asking more questions.

 

You can’t have all the answers, and you’re not suppose to. My third point is exactly this. Have questions instead of answers. You’ll find answers when you ask questions. So ask away! There are answers to be found in the script, and you’ll be able to answer them. It’s the same as not going into the script with preconceptions. You come at it with a clean slate.

 

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There are definitely things you can do which will help you in acting. Little tricks and tips here and there which will help.

 

But needing to have a consistent overarching formula and approach won’t really help you here. Which is totally fine. Grow your curiosity, ask questions, and be free to be completely clueless especially at the beginning. That’s acting and that’s art folks.

 

As actors, we need to learn to let go of formula and embrace the journey.

 

How to Find Royalty Free Music That Doesn’t Suck

If you’ve ever been a film school student or a no-budget independent filmmaker, then you know the pain. Finding high quality music to fit your movie for free is darn near impossible.

God bless Kevin MacCleod, but if I hear “Sneaky Snitch” in one more short film I’m going to throw something.

Before you get started on the journey of including royalty free music, be sure you understand the laws surrounding creative commons and licensed music. Every artist may have different stipulations for the use of their music in your film; many of them refuse it for commercial use (you would make a monetary profit from the video) and almost all will require you to credit their work.

“Royalty free music” does NOT always mean “free to use.”

Please have a firm understanding of what is required of you in using the artist’s piece before including it in your film. When in doubt, contact the artist and ask them directly.

Here’s a list of resources for your own short films and videos to help fill it out and bring it to life.

1. Incompetech

I literally warned you about “Sneaky Snitch” two seconds ago, however there’s no denying Kevin MacCleod’s music is iconic to the fledgling filmmaker. It can also be a great introduction into the world of royalty-free music for film. If you’ve never used any of his music, check it out!

However, don’t be surprised when you hear it in every other student short film known to humankind.

2. Free Music Archive

With a wide variety of music, some with lyrics and some without, this is a great one stop shop for all your royalty free music needs. All the music is free to download and easy to use. It has a great search engine to better find the kind of music you’re looking for.

Also, if you’re an up-and-coming composer, you can upload your works to this website for filmmakers (or whoever) to download.

However, like every royalty free music site, you really need to invest some time in separating the wheat from the chaff in terms of quality.

3. Bensound

Another website similar in style to Free Music Archive, but with a more limited library, Bensound is filled with royalty free music by French composer Ben Tissot. There is some great work on this site, but much like Kevin MacCleod’s works don’t be surprised to hear it in several other short films and videos.

4. YouTube Channels

Currently, YouTube provides me with the best royalty-free music on the internet, particularly if I’m looking for anything remotely resembling trap/club music.

You can find music one of two ways:

  • Look through the audio library and download the song you like directly from YouTube
  • Search YouTube the old fashioned way, find a channel with great royalty free music, and follow the channel’s instructions to download the track you like. Channels like RoyalTrax, AudioLibrary, and Argofox are great places to start.

You’ll find some familiar faces hanging out on YouTube as well (Bensound & Kevin MacCleod). The only downsides to using YouTube as a source are:

  1. It can be a complicated process downloading the track you like.
  2. Finding the specific style of music you’re looking for can be a bit more complicated than some of the other sites.

A FEW MORE OPTIONS….

Now before you start a download frenzy with the above listed resources, here are a few more options to think about.

5. Hire a Local, Up and Coming Composer For Free

Of all of the roles in film production, I’ve never had a group of people literally throw themselves at me like film composers. 60% of the messages we get as a production company asking for an opportunity are composers. I’m not kidding or exaggerating (if anything I lowballed the percentage).

There are people out there who are looking for a chance to score a film. Ask for their samples of previous works, and if you like what you hear, then you’re able to help them out as well as yourself.

6. Ask Your Musically Talented Friends to Help You

Other than downloading music from the interwebs, this is my go-to for finding music for my projects. Being a creative, I have no shortage of friends who are musical geniuses who have yet to make a break into the business.

They often appreciate the opportunity to stretch themselves in creating something, as much as I appreciate receiving some great music for my film.

Be sure to ask a friend however who is open to constructive feedback and direction. You don’t want to ruin a great relationship over a short film.

7. Audiojungle

If I find myself in a pinch, I bite the bullet and purchase a song from this comprehensive music library.

While there is plenty of mediocre music on the site, there is just as much of good quality. I’ve never been disappointed by a track I’ve downloaded, and to date I’ve never paid more than $20AUD for a track.

There is some great music out there, free for you to use. Happy hunting everyone, and don’t be afraid to find creative solutions.

 

Written by Brenden Bell.

“The Expanse” Will Make You Feel Lost In Space

BY KEATON J. EVANS

Netflix’s new show, The Expanse, is extraordinary, visually stunning, and has a gritty, realistic look which makes the show quite unique and creative when compared to other sci-fi shows.

There’s a lot going on right off the bat, with colonies across the solar system, a futuristic Earth, a militant Mars, and plenty of water shortage on some smaller worlds. I would say there’s a lot going for the show.

This being said, there are also a few things which the show isn’t so great at doing. Below are some thing it does well and some things where it misses the mark. All points considered, you’ll feel lost in space watching this show.

Now whether that’s a good or bad thing is up to you.

The Worlds Are Incredible

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The production quality is the shows number one quality, hands down. The worlds and ships they show glisten with details and have almost a Blade Runner vibe especially on the Asteroid colonies.

The show also hits well on the realities of space and what could go wrong. One example, is the water shortage on the asteroid belt. There’s moments where shipments of ice are delayed and the people on the belt suffer because of it. It goes even farther to point out that if a second shipment is delayed then people will die.

It was refreshing to see so much thought put into the mechanics of world outside of earth, and see the messy reality, and complications which could arise. The visual aspects of the worlds and the realism they present are both excellent.

Seeing all these real intricate worlds allows you to get lost in them, a feeling which was a pleasant surprise.

Wait, Who Are These People?

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After watching The Expanse, I noticed the one thing I didn’t quite like: the character development. Probably the weakest aspect of the film. While the production design is quite superb, the characters fall short, especially in the beginning.

I thought about why this was. The characters are interesting enough, they live in incredible worlds, and the plot is good, so what gives. Well, here’s the deal. While the characters may be interesting, it’s hard to know because they rush the character development.

It feels like we are supposed to know who these people are as soon as we see the first shot. It almost seems like the beginning of the show is the middle of a show. Now, there is development of the characters, a little.

But for the most part, all the introductions are rushed and end up leaving you feeling  little connection with the people you are watching. I think to myself, “A spaceship explodes and people might die! Oh no! Wait, who are these people?”

If they want the events to hold any weight, they need to let us get to know the characters, and then put them into dangerous life-threatening situations, or we won’t care.

If you feel stranded and not quite sure how to feel then don’t worry, it’s an effect of rushed character intros.

Feeling Lost Could Be Either Good or Bad

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Both the best qualities of the show and the worst qualities of the show will make you feel lost. But which feeling sticks with you? Does the production design and visuals carry you through the hard-to-know characters, or do you feel not knowing the characters takes you out of the show?

Either way, it’s an inspiration to anyone who wants to make a science-fiction show.

Anatomy of the Best Loglines

Knowing where to start in the creative process of writing can be daunting for a first time filmmaker. I know it was for me. I’ve tried building a story around every possible thing imaginable, and I found Blake Snyder’s longline method from his infamous book, Save the Cat, to be the most effective.

His argument centers around starting your writing process by creating something called a logline (your entire movie summarized in a sentence). He would say, if you can’t do this in a compelling way from the start, then you don’t have a story worth telling.

Many of you more seasoned writers may find this approach “formulaic,” however for writers starting out, this is a great place to begin.  

Ingredients for the best logline:

  • One Character
  • One Goal
  • One Source of Conflict with a dash of Irony

In short what you will be creating is the following equation:

Your hero is going for their goal, but something ironic happens to stop them.

If you cannot put your story within this simple formula, then perhaps your story is too complicated, OR missing a crucial element.

FOR EXAMPLE:

Disgraced pilot, E. Ripley is left with PTSD after her encounter with the xenomorph and tries to rebuild a life for herself. However, when a human colony is overrun with xenomorphs, Ripley may be their only hope.

From the film Aliens

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Element 1: Establish Your Hero

The first step is to insert your main character into your logline. This isn’t a place to go into great detail on their backstory; all that’s needed are one or two descriptive words. Sometimes the scenario they find themselves in is sufficient enough information.

As Blake Snyder says, you want to paint a clear enough picture in the minds of those who will hear your logline. They need to be able to see where your story is going. This includes who your character is.

In my example, I defined Ellen Ripley as a disgraced pilot with PTSD. We know she’s an underdog, and it will be easy for the audience to get behind her.

Emma-watson-as-belle

Element 2: Establish Your Hero’s Goal

The next step is to show what the character is trying to accomplish before they are confronted by the story’s major conflict.

In Vertigo, Scottie is investigating Madeline for her husband (his goal) before he begins to fall in love with her (the conflict).

In Beauty and the Beast, Belle wants more than what her small town has to offer (goal) before she is held prisoner in an enchanted castle (the conflict).

Sometimes the goal can be something more passive, or simply keeping the status quo. For example, in Toy Story, Woody isn’t actively trying to do something new, but is enjoying the “status quo” of being the toy on top.

Don’t just tell us WHO your character is, but where we find them at the start of the story.

For Ellen Ripley, I have her trying to rebuild a life for herself.

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Element 3: Conflict with a Dash of Irony

Lastly, we introduce our story’s major source of conflict into the logline.

This is where people tend to struggle the most, either because they realize they have no real source of conflict throughout their story. Even if they do it’s lacking the crucial element of irony which gives a story it’s hook, edge, or bite.

Conflict is truly what starts your story and what moves it forward. Without this element, there is no story.

In my example from Aliens, the conflict comes from the xenomorphs overtaking a colony, forcing the corporation to turn to Ripley for help.

It’s conflict, because it’s both stopping her from starting a new life, while giving her an opportunity to gain her old life back.

Irony?

Before I explain how irony comes to play in this equation, let me explain what irony IS. There are two forms of irony: situational and irony of fate. Situational irony is when events defy expectations, while irony of fate is when it seems the gods, fate, the universe, etc are toying with humanity for their own amusement.

Situational irony would be getting robbed by a police officer (an amoral act practiced by someone who is sent out to stop such behavior). Jesus being crucified by the very people he was to save is another great example of situational irony. Both examples play on your expectations and subvert them.

Irony of fate is when something occurs with lasting consequence beyond a specific situation. A former athlete who is now paralyzed is an example of irony of fate. Beethoven, one of the world’s greatest composers lost his hearing. He can no longer hear the beautiful music he puts out into the world. Irony of fate.

Irony is all about subverting our expectations in an effort to hook us.

The irony in Aliens is drawn mostly from the situation Ripley finds herself in; she was seen as a pariah and a liability by the company at the start of the film, and becomes the very person who could save them.

That’s irony.

There’s no right way to go through the writing process, but by beginning with a logline my writing has grown simpler and stronger. I hope it helps you on your own writing journey. For more great film advice, check out Blake Snyder’s book, Save the Cat.

Written by Brenden Bell.