For more intimate behind the scenes access - TheFCStartMovie.com
Work in Progress - Final character costumes. Here is the head scarf of one of our characters. The pattern is referenced from the scarf of my friend, Kirill's grandmother's authentic Ukrainian patterned scarf (with some color change for art direction purposes). Special thanks to Kirill and Tatiana for all your help in bringing authenticity to this project. In return, it is a pleasure for us to put your grandmother's scarf in our movie.
For more intimate behind the scenes access - TheFCStartMovie.com
All kingdoms crumble if they are built from the outside. Sometimes they fall from a natural disaster, and sometimes it’s from a neighborhood tyrant with a magnifying glass.
It’s a painful moment when all your hard work is thrown off course or knocked out of sync. But have you ever seen an ant complain about the weather, about being thrown out of sync? No, they are invariably relentless.
From the ant we learn where the real treasure is.
That which is superficial, on the surface, and irrelevant to our inner workings, will always be easy to blow away in the wind. Atrophy, the weather, or the obstacle the neighborhood tyrant sadistically throws in our path for his amusement. But he will get bored, the ant will not. The weather will change. The ant will not.
And that’s because the anthill you see is only the residue, it’s not their real kingdom. The ant’s true work carries on below, out of sight. It stretches deeper than that little anthill on the surface. And the very fact that it is a kingdom built from the inside out is why it will remain, and why it is indestructible. Because your kingdom is not what is shown. It is what is known.
The real treasure will remain after the wind, after the rain, after the snow, and after the tyrannical neighborhood kid with the magnifying glass.
He thinks he’s clever when he kicks over an anthill. But it’s only an anthill to him. For the ant, it's just a landfill outside their door.
So the next time someone kicks over your anthill, just remember: They didn’t hurt the ant, they didn’t hurt your kingdom. They just took out your trash.
The Journey Continues
Tyler Gooden is the director of TheFCStartMovie.com. For a tour below the surface, please join our community.
Sneak peek of Recent Lighting Work
These render passes are from the lighting stage. With animation complete, we are now fully focused on final art direction, and lighting. Each step requires a painstaking amount of work. When we finish lighting, all these passes will be combined in the final composite. The image at the top left is an example of this result we're going for.
The Journey Continues
Barney, Nate, and That Other Guy
Have you ever met Angry Tyler? He’s a distant cousin of Frustrated Tyler.
If you want to know how to fix a problem, Angry Tyler can help. Angry Tyler is great at solving a problem, because Angry Tyler always does it the easy way. He even fixed my laptop’s whirring fan by breaking off several keys on the keyboard.
It’s actually quite easy to work out a solution with him: He’ll yell, throw something, break it, lose patience, alienate, throw his hands in the air. If none of that works, he’ll burst a capillary, and that big problem you had before is now suddenly smaller than the new one.
That’s how Angry Tyler fixes things and I should thank him for all he has done to make my life better.
However, if for some strange reason, Angry Tyler didn’t fix the problem, I have only one thing really to blame: My hockey career. It ended too soon.
Let me back up a minute.
There’s many ways to approach a problem, and I could write about several. But since I often write about the harmony of three, I am going to leave Angry Tyler for a moment and tell you about Nate, Barney, and That Other Guy.
A Rare Opportunity
Skating around on ice doesn’t register as a sport where I am from. I grew up near the beach, surfing every day, sun bleached and tanned. Our only winter sport was walking outside to take vegetables out of the freezer.
So when they opened an ice skating rink a full hour from my house, my mom and another friend’s mom seized a rare opportunity: They took us summer boys to learn to play ice hockey.
They say an archetype is a recurrent symbol or motif. It’s something molded from a primitive recognition, an image embedded deep in our psyches. Archetypes come up in dreams, but they are also represented in our daily life: The archetype of the father, the wise person, the mother, the tyrant. These are just a few examples.
A representation of an archetype may vary in detail, but the very fact that you cannot change the pattern is what makes them archetypes. Primordial. Permanent. They are reflections of our most fundamental nature.
I remember standing against the walls of the ice skating rink. Three coaches were to guide us past the various stages of learning how to play the game. If we made it past all the stages, we would qualify for league play.
With ice skates on, I stood next to my friend, and we both wobbled without direction. With no clue how these funny shoes worked, I was afraid to even move because I might fall flat on my face, paralyzed by the fear that all the others would laugh.
Like a feather, he was light in the air and bristled, as he bumbled like a bull.
His real name was Scott, but I want you to meet Barney first. This nickname came from the belief that he looked like Barney Rubble, from the Flintstones cartoon, and the name seemed to fit.
Barney broke the ice with one big joke: He introduced himself by skating around in a hilarious impersonation of a figure skater. Miraculously completing clumsy spins in air, he performed a feat that would have been impressive if he hadn’t appeared absolutely ridiculous in the process.
He didn’t care. Each attempt was a bigger trick, a bigger chance to fail, a bigger attempt to entertain, and always with increased risk. Eventually he couldn’t sustain them, and he fell flat on his face.
Everyone laughed. Especially Barney. It must have been worth it.
That was the point. I don’t even think it was us he was attempting to entertain. I think it was he who wanted the laugh, who wanted the pleasure of the attempt. But, in the process of him enjoying himself, our own nervousness was immediately thrown out the window. If this was funny for him, then it was funny for us.
Hockey is meant to be taken lightly with Barney as a coach. Not with stress. With laughter. It’s just a game.
Nate The Great
Meanwhile, my mom was outside the rink, watching from behind the glass. There, on the other side of the rink, the older kids were in the middle of a scrimmage. These weren’t beginners like us. These were teenagers. They’d survived a little longer. They played a serious game. A rough one. They knew how to curse better than us.
If you listen closely, you might even hear the spray of the ice, the crunch of the armor, the clash of the sticks.
A whistle interrupted all of this. Among the kids emerged a tall, looming figure with a quiet elegance and a lean face.
This was Nate, my mom’s favorite skater.
At the time, I didn’t care or notice what she saw.
Amongst the carnage and roughhousing, the impressive cursing, the clashing of the sticks, the battle for the puck, between the losses and the gains, Nate skated with ease.
He had the finesse to quickly change direction, to immediately reach around a moving obstacle, to snatch the puck away with technique and method. And if he ever lost it, you didn’t notice that. Not really. Why? Because he was graceful.
Graceful. That’s what my mom said. She said he skated gracefully. That’s a good way to put it.
That Other Guy
I told you about Nate, and I told you about Barney. But there was a third coach. I cannot remember his name.
Although I don’t remember his name, I can tell you precisely why I don’t remember.
And maybe that is more important.
I told you how Barney performed for us, and his humor broke the ice. But I neglected to tell you that while Barney was making us laugh, That Other Guy was talking. They were a duo, both coaching in tandem. But we weren’t listening because we were busy laughing.
That Other Guy was stoic, always reviewing a clipboard as he talked. Every day he arrived with that clipboard, hat on his head, and always with a kind of concerned look in his eye. It seemed as if he was concentrating hard on something, as if he was constantly thinking:
“Am I covering everything?”
After Barney fell on his face and we laughed, That Other Guy reminded us that this is what can happen if you are a hockey player, but you try and be a figure skater without learning the rules.
He then proceeded to line us up against the wall in a row. Then he taught us how to dig in.
As you lean into the wall for safety, you plant one foot forward, and push your back foot against the ice. You literally dig into the ice as if you are pushing against it. Then you switch feet. This exercise is like a slow motion simulation of skating forward, meant to strengthen your legs while safely bracing against the wall.
Every day, we simply did what he instructed. And we became better. Before long, we weren’t safely braced against the wall, anymore practicing what it felt like to dig in. Soon we were actually digging in on the ice, moving forward, with our sticks, against our competitor, and towards our goal.
Inch by inch, always with a clipboard, and always with the checklist, he took us through the process: “Am I covering everything?”
I don’t remember his name. His is not an easy name to remember, because his is not fun.
It’s not fun to be the step between Barney and Nate.
Let’s call him Discipline.
I made it through the first stage of skating, and eventually I was one of Nate’s cadets. That was when it got serious. Under his command, I learned how to sweat, I learned what it meant to always have something just out of the reach of my ability.
This was made evident by example. A few times, my mom would take us on that hour long drive to watch adult games on the weekends.
There, on the ice, was Nate, no longer a coach, but also a player, skating against snarling beasts, a clock, and high stakes. But he always skated against these odds just as gracefully as he trained us.
When something always remains out of your reach, something new always passes within your reach. Finesse is the result.
And skating next to him was his teammate - Scott. There was no sign of Barney, not on the ice, not on his face, nor in his skating manner. He may have not been leaping around in the air as light as a feather, but deep down, I knew Barney was there.
Inside, he was grinning and rolling with the punches, taking both the losses and the gains in equal measure: with lightness.
Because anyone who is willing to fall face first in front of others, but still enjoy their laughter, will have no problem facing them. There's no need to be nervous if hockey is just a game.
But finally, somewhere on the team, and in the mess of this game was The Other Guy.
Always less visible, but always most present, the scrapes of the ice and all his trails left behind do not paint a random design that goes unnoticed.
Those are the patterns which remain after the game. The trails of his skates are the only purpose to invent a Zamboni, they are why the rink is there.
Where his skates have been are the only thing that remains on an empty rink once the final whistle blows.
Those are the marks of he who constantly digs in, who pushes, who refers to his notes, who keeps focus in spite of distraction. Those marks do not belong to the nameless. They belong to those who face the game, not the entertainment. Their concerned look is of a person who must answer his own question:
“Am I covering everything?”
They closed the rink down after a few years. My friend I’d started the lessons with had long since left, but my mom continued to make that drive every Monday until I finished the four development stages.
I was ready to start the league. But I had nowhere to play.
My career on the ice didn’t last but a few years, and was only a career of lessons. But maybe it continued in other ways. Maybe I never got to put those archetypes to use because there’s a lesson still to complete?
So now, when Angry Tyler wants to solve a problem, I think back to Barney, Nate, and That Other Guy.
And I tell Angry Tyler to sit on the bench.
Because I already have a first string.
The Journey Continues
*My mom also did something else that probably no hockey student ever did. When Christmas rolled around, she made sure I brought my coaches a Christmas gift and thanked them. There’s probably a good reason she liked Nate’s approach to skating.
Grace is just another word for gratitude.
Tyler Gooden is the director of TheFCStartMovie.com If you like stories like these, subscribe to receive a monthly email with chapters, free artwork, and behind the scenes info.
Mistakes and Misgives
I rarely hear about misgives. I hear about mistakes all the time. If you know you made a mis-take, perhaps you should have made a give instead.
And if you only see another’s mis-takes, perhaps you should have noticed what they gave instead. Even if it was a misgive, it was better than a take. And when you notice what they did was a give, you realize they took nothing. Even a mistake is still a give.
It's up to you to realize there's two types of gratitude, and one of them is false:
1) Being thankful you got what you wanted.
2) Being thankful for what someone gave of themselves.
The Journey Continues
Tyler Gooden is the director of thefcstartmovie.com He makes misgives at least once a day.
We Paint With Light
We're days away from finishing the last touches of lighting on one of our most arduous scenes. A lot of work, a lot of revision, and still there's final touches to do. But, thinking back to a couple years ago, it's extraordinary what we've managed to accomplish. We went the extra mile every day.
Join us in the making of this film, it's something we will all be proud of together.
Your vision is strong. Your commitment is unbreakable, your discipline is there.
I’ve never questioned whether or not my life’s work was right, the seed was planted too firmly so long ago that it just seemed to be innate. And I’ve cultivated that seed, year in, and year out, since I was old enough to pick up a pencil. I’ve been willing to do the work, to focus, to learn, to study, to remain for the duration. But maybe that’s not enough.
Sometimes it’s the doubt of others that can blindside you. And maybe that’s what you needed. If you’re not careful, their doubt can cripple you, turn you inside out, and turn you into something so quickly averse to that seed you’ve been cultivating. But maybe that's just it. Maybe you've been cultivating a seed just for the sake of it. It can blindside you exactly because you never doubted yourself, you never questioned what you were doing, you were just doing it.
What’s missing here?
The Olympic athlete is never asked “Why don’t you get a 9-5 job?” Everyone around him recognizes his talents, his commitment, his discipline, his training. His vision is easy to be a part of. It’s understood he is going to the Olympics.
So, instead of asking "what the hell is he doing?" They say: "We should get him there."
Someone important to me recently began asking honest questions: “When will you finish? I thought you said you would be finished a year ago. Couldn’t you have made a lot more money during this time doing something else? Couldn’t someone else have given you a job? You don’t have a life. “ And the worst answer when you dream big: “Yea right!”
What were honest concerns from someone I listen to for wisdom, soon became a disconcerting voice which circulated in my head for two days. And I noticed something.
I noticed doubt everywhere. After that conversation, it was in everything. In quotes I’d see, in my own interpretation of what I was doing, in my self esteem. It’s really contagious.
On one side, it can be damaging: “What if everything I have been doing for 2-3 years was the wrong choice? What if they are right?” People often do see things you do not, and indeed, it is important to listen to them. And it's important to learn from them.
So know this: If you do believe them, they will be right.
Those questions haunted me for two days, and I almost diverted from my path. I was scared, I almost panicked.
On the other, helpful side, I noticed an empowering change growing in my perspective from this conversation. For so long, I have taken pride in resilience. Fall down 7 times. Get up 8. Take the hits and keep going. I took pride when friends said: “You’re the toughest guy I know, you always bounce back.”
Fail forward, fail until you succeed, failure makes success, failing is a part of success. You must fail to succeed. Fail and then fail some more. All businesses fail, a baseball batter fails more than he hits.
Fail. Fail. Fail. It builds character.
But what about success?
“Taking the hits is the price you must pay for stepping into the ring.” - This is what people like to say when you’re down on your luck.
Listen too long, and that also becomes what you believe.
But when you step into the ring, you can also win. You can also deliver the hits. That’s actually why you are there – to win. So why focus on how resiliently you can fail? You've chosen the dangers of the ring, so why not be the one delivering the hits? You can't hit hard if you're busy taking hits.
“Even when you fall face first, you are still moving forward.”
How about this instead:
“I’m not going to fall.”
It was helpful to hear someone else’s reasonable doubts, because although it was hitting me deeply, somewhere from the depths also came the response. A new one.
For so long, I’ve been proud of the struggle, of the sacrifices I’ve been willing to make, of the distances I’ve been willing to go. But from this day forward, it’s no more about taking the hits. As a warrior, whom my dad admires, once autographed in a book, given especially to me: “Tyler, attack life.”
That’s what I am doing everyday. I am not on the defense, I am not allowing others to shape my destiny – I am not taking a job I can easily lose, I am not taking the hits, I am not taking it in stride. I am not taking anything.
I am giving everything.
People dismiss faith too often. But faith is just trust, and trust means seeing the outcome as real. Let’s say there’s no heaven, but you had faith there was. If you lived your whole life believing and behaving as if you’ll go there, then you did go there – did you not?
Did you not live a life of service and goodness? You made it real.
If a man is in the middle of walking a tightrope, and the crowd says “That guy is going to fall,” they are wrong only until he falls. Doubt is not correct just because the crowd cannot see themselves on the tightrope.
As long as he is walking the tightrope, he is walking the tightrope. He is not falling. The crowd should let him get to the other side and enjoy the comforts of the ground. Or better yet, they should help him get to the other side. Usually, they will.
And for all you tightrope walkers out there, to the skateboarders defying gravity everyday: You don't need to look down, you don't need to know what will happen if you hit the pavement. That's not the point.
Keep your focus on where you want to be, and don’t ever question the miracle of your own capacity.
That’s the price they pay for not getting in the ring.
The Journey Continues
Tyler Gooden walks the tightope every day with TheFCStartMovie.com
Background Singers: The Harmony of Three
Background singers always come in threes.. Why is that?
Because, somehow, nature expresses harmony best in threes. The triangle is composed of three lines, a story has a beginning, a middle and an end, and even the golden rectangle is still divided in 3.
The smallest group can only be composed of 3 parts. Not two, otherwise that is a pair. A pair is symmetrical, but has no harmony. Try and look at a series of five and still not see a series of three.
This appears throughout nature, but the pattern is only recognized in our minds. It's how we organize infinity.
Why is this? I don’t know, but everytime I compose a shot, I make sure there’s relationships of threes.
How do I know this will create harmony?
Because background singers always come in threes.
The Journey Continues
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Art Direction for upcoming scene of TheFCStartMovie.com
The Diamond and The Rock
There exists people who only see rocks. They don’t care to look for anything else. To them, it’s all just a bunch of rocks.
On the other hand, we have people who sometimes see something shiny. It catches their eye. They know it’s valuable, and they will pick it up, but they don't know why. It’s shiny to them, that’s all they care about.
But when their possession doesn't give them what they want, they toss it back, deciding it was, in fact, just some selfish little rock.
And finally, there exists people who will want to know more about what they are holding.
These people will turn it over in their hands and investigate, they will study it, they grow to love it, they find out why it shines, and they come to know why it is valuable.
These people find the meaning in the rock.
Through this understanding, they allow what shines to be itself, to be free. But, inevitably, the wind will take it away from them. Because these people, paradoxically, cannot bring themselves to own what they see as free.
For these people, this loss is not sad.
These people know they stand in a luminous field. They knew what was valuable in that rock. And therefore, they see in everything something that shines.
The Journey Continues
A Love Affair
All stories come with conflict, but through trial and choice, a story’s protagonist returns with a resolution, and the audience recognizes their own character reflected back, either through lesson or example.
Thus, a great story stays with us our entire lives.
Last week, a fan of our project wrote to tell me of his current antagonist: An ongoing divorce.
I’ve written about perseverance, finishing, and sacrifice, but one thing I have not written about yet is quitting. Is there a time to quit?
No, never. That’s why I don’t write about it.
But there is a time for divorce. Quitting halts growth, quitting is giving up, quitting is admitting defeat. But divorce is not the same thing as quitting. Divorce allows growth to continue.
The root in Latin, “divertere,” divided and diverted to become the word “divorce.” Even the word itself continued to mean new things. Divorce, in it’s seed, means little more than to divert: to turn aside from a path, to separate, to divide.
But not to quit.
I was married once. Well, at least, I thought it was marriage. It lasted 10 years – that’s marriage, right? When we first met, I was barely out of my teens, I had that pitter pat in my soul, the feeling you get at first sight, when you know it’s real and you know it will last forever. Elation and romance. She kissed me with her sun, charmed me with her elegance, and seduced me with her beauty.
When she knew she’d been won, we moved in together; We went to the best parties, we took a job I’d only dreamed about, and she constantly encouraged me every day to believe anything is possible. We met our best friends together, she even taught me new languages, and she always opened my eyes to another way of life. I’d won the prize, and we both knew it, because jealous onlookers stared with envy at us: We looked good together, really good.
But it was her own rich story, with all it’s depths, soul, and romance that I was in love with. And it wasn’t long before we were wrapped around each other’s fingers so close we were sure we’d never leave each other's sight, forward into the infinite.
If you’ve met her, you’ve probably also been charmed by her.
I tried to make it work with her, I really did.
See, the thing about Europe is, on the surface, she is as magical as I described, there’s no question about it. She’ll seduce you, she might even love you, but she’ll leave you questioning. And those aren’t your questions - it’s hers you are hearing, she is challenging you to answer. And her allure is always going to pull you back in, punishing you worse each time, until your answer satisfies.
She’ll anger you, she’ll depress you, she’ll break things you expect to work, and she’ll do the opposite of what you ask or expect. Her game can be tantalizing because those callous free winds are so easily summoned, right alongside enchanted nights under a castle with live music played by exotic bands floating down a glowing river, all orchestrated to charm, mystify and defeat you.
Because what makes Europe enticing is also what has existed long before you arrived. Yours are just one of many footsteps, and she is not your test. Your test only passes through her.
The Earth Between
No adventure comes without peril. Neither does a marriage. I felt at one time that I must be walking on some kind of a magic beam.
I wanted an adventure, and adventure is just another word for excitement, right?
Once I had my backpack on, and I flew over the Atlantic to meet her, we kicked it off with reckless abandon: Everything happened so serendipidously, so evidently magic, and with such rising action, that I could never imagine what was to come next. I could tell you about these days and nights, and eventually maybe I will, but I will say for now that my lover’s promises of an interesting life were well kept...
Until, suddenly it all crashed. Then faded.
I followed my bliss, but eventually the beam was gone. It disappeared. I couldn’t find it. A path that served me so well was faded. Why? I honestly do not know.
Perhaps because I was not really married. (No, of course, you can’t marry a continent.) But, what I mean is this: A love affair is not a marriage. You wanted an adventure? Well, here’s your dragon to conquer. Oh, you don't want trouble? Then why don’t you just call it a vacation? Yours is a mirage, stop calling it a marriage.
A Diverted Path
There I was, lost in the forest. I wandered for years, trying to spark a flame that had burned so intensely, so warmly, and so deeply. But at every turn, she told me "No," this is not the path back to her. I pleaded, turned angry, I blamed her and shouted: “Stop being difficult - I already won you! You are now mine, stop your games!”
These are dangerous words for any man.
I traced my steps.
I was given opportunities to make my life in Europe work, but I ate the dessert first. The beam never faded, nor did it disappear. The path diverted and I simply wanted it to follow me. But it doesn’t work that way. Growth has nothing to do with what you want. Growth has everything to do with pain.
The love affair was over, and since quitting meant admitting I was never really married, I had a hard time leaving it.
It took me a long time to admit this. Doesn’t leaving it mean that all those memories, investments, experiences, and all the magic was for nothing? This is a frightening question.
Once I had the answer, I knew what I needed to do. I needed a divorce.
I left her and started over. With a new love, of course.
But that’s the great thing about a divorce. It’s only a diversion. The love never disappears, it never fades, it’s always there, and I can pick up where I left off, with whatever I choose to love. Because it’s love that remains: It was love that bound us in the first place. After all, ours were just one set of many footsteps. We are not love's test. We are merely passing through her. And she will remain.
I could also remain where I was, looking backward as she faded further away in the distance. Lost in a forest where the path refused to follow me. Or, I could be honest with myself.
The path had diverted, and so I diverted too.
Even if we only see each other from time to time, we never quit. In fact, we continue to grow. And I know, the next time we meet, we will be different, older, but somehow, strangely, we will be newer too. Because a tree’s roots do not stop growing just because the branches above are born and spread in their own direction.
Those memories, which often feel as if they were washed away in the rain, all the magic, all the dreams of a young man and his romantic love were not in vain. No, call it a marriage, call it a love affair, or simply call it what it really was: Living abroad in a daydream. Call it any human made title you want.
Those moments are still here. They still inform me, and they still beckon me towards that path which brought us together in the first place.
And since this path may divert, but never disappear, I know I still may visit, it’s there for me at any time, and however I choose to walk it.
The roots do not stop growing just because a tree has gone in the other direction. They continue to feed the tree, far below, deep into the past, strengthening the tree above.
And for this, the future will always be bright.
The Journey Continues
What is your story?
Tyler Gooden is the director of the upcoming film: TheFCStartMovie.com
This story is originally a part of the online journal. For more stories like this, you may also follow:
Or write him at firstname.lastname@example.org and tell us your own story.
Steven Soderbergh gave me the best advice I’ve ever heard.
I met Mr. Soderbergh at the bar of the famous hotel Majestic during the Cannes film festival a couple years ago. Between sips of Jagermeister, I asked him if the rumors were true: Was he giving up filmmaking?
He confirmed it to be true: Mr. Soderbergh, the Oscar winner and posterchild of the nineties indie movement was finished. He was going to become a painter instead. I didn’t ask him why, but I told him I enjoyed the lesser appreciated Schizopolis as much as I enjoyed the film that made him famous.
He said, “I only knew one film executive when I wrote Sex, Lies, and Videotape. I got lucky. It was easier for me then than it will be now for you.”
I asked him if he had any advice?
“Yea. Don’t screw up. Or it's over. “
Let me back up for a moment.
I was on my way out of Europe. 2 weeks remained in paradise, then I was shipping back to the United States after a decade living abroad. I’d lived throughout eastern Europe, and before that, in Italy, and had enough adventures, foul ups, near hits, many misses, and ramblings to fill three lifetimes. I was exhausted, fatigued by a life of constant extroversion, of constantly living six inches in front of me at a time, of constant adaptation, of surviving, of being a stranger in a strange land, and losing so much of myself in the process. Home was simultaneously everywhere and nowhere at the same time.
I was on my way back to my family for a wedding, and then anything could happen. Maybe I’d come back to Europe, maybe I’d move to LA, maybe I’d lock myself in a basement and write the great American screenplay.
I’d had enough of chasing jobs, chasing girls, chasing dreams, chasing life. Something had to change. My last plan was to figure out a way to start making my own movies and let everything else go.
My former roommate in Prague, Andy, had told me before he left that he had a brother who worked in film sales and distribution. That previous winter, I tracked Andy down and asked him for an introduction. I was looking for any door that would take me out of my current world and into where I wanted to be.
To my surprise, his brother, Nick, was on the way, from the US, to the Berlinale within the next few weeks. I was one country away, so I asked him to meet. A little more effort and I found someone in Berlin I could stay with. With a floor to sleep on, it was now a 5 hours trip for a conversation that may or may not last twenty minutes.
We sat outside a cinema, with only a short time between screenings, and I absorbed as much advice as I could about a side of filmmaking I knew very little about. I knew how to make a movie, but that’s the easy part. It’s not complete until the audience is found watching it, and there’s a whole side of the industry dedicated to making that happen.
Armed with this knowledge, three months later I was on my way to Cannes, in the south of France, with a short trailer for a screenplay I’d written, and months of sending emails to anyone and everyone who would take a meeting with me.
Cannes is a glamourous place. But under that golden coat is a belly of hungry filmmakers slithering along the croisette with their unseen films, weighed down by the pressure of the celebrated, they are suddenly shell shocked and rendered invisible by the bloody ocean of everyone else’s films in the market, all screaming “me, me, me.” And there is a division between those films and the films in the competition, walled off by the long line of limousines and the jammed pack crowd outside, as they sit, waiting for hours, with ladders, all for a chance to climb up above the rest of the mob, for one brief moment to take a photo of the stars on the way to the premiere of their films - the films that made it.
One walk through the film market and you can see at least 5 film posters of guys holding holding guns, and another 5 posters of zombies, all probably made by filmmakers who think they did something original, revealing all you need to know about which films no one will remember. In fact, it didn’t matter. I had long ago made a list of the 5 films I wanted to make in my lifetime, and none of them featured a zombie.
But through a handful of scrappy meetings (compared to the hundreds of emails I sent), I learned an enormous amount about the realities of the film market. It was always a recon mission, complete with staying on strangers’ couches, hitchhiking along the Cote d’Azure, and even crashing in a French friend’s car one night after getting stuck without a train back to Antibes.
My last day there I had a final meeting with a Hollywood agent. As I went to meet him at our chosen rendezvous, I found him sitting next to someone. The person turned to greet me, and it was Nick, the brother of my former roommate. My surprise of finding him here was only outweighed by the surprise of the agent when he asked “How do you two know each other?” and I answered: “His brother was my roommate in Prague.”
This is, of course, the short, and perhaps more seemingly interesting answer. The less glamorous, but more honest answer is: “I traveled 5 hours to introduce myself simply because my roommate told me he had a brother in film distribution.“ The answer I offered gave the meeting a little extra magic. But the fact was, only now, here under the sunny French Riveria, did it sound so serendipitous. Without that initial contact that winter, I would have never known the person I would have said "hello" to was the very brother my roommate once talked about over beers. This is the reward of effort: Luck.
“I only knew one film executive when I wrote Sex, Lies, and Videotape. I got lucky. It was easier for me then than it will be now for you.” – Soderberg.
I didn’t know any film executives, but I knew the brother of one. From there, he gave me advice, told me which companies might be interested in my project, and he helped me do exactly what I had set out to do – find the door into where I wanted to be. As they say: Take a leap, and the net will appear.
I was willing to hop on a train and sleep on a stranger’s floor for a twenty minute conversation, and later hitchhike across the Cote D’azur with a backpack filled to the brim of 9 years in Europe, and sleep on the sofas of kind and generous strangers. All of this for the sake of affirming a commitment to learn what I was required to know, if I was going to get where I was required to be.
And I still recall standing on the bottom of the red carpet and watching Deniro and Kustarica walk inside the cinema to be celebrated for their own work. And I watched Owen Wilson turn to take a quick snapshot, from his phone, of the crowd gathered on the croisette, before he disappeared inside for the premiere. I later told my mom that in that moment, I’d set a new goal: “One day, I’m going to take a photo like that.” It wasn’t the desire to be photographed or even to be celebrated: but to stand on the mountain of my own hard work, and take a photo of the view.
“Don’t screw up, or it’s over.”
Steven Soderbergh’s words rang deep then, and they still do now.
But I have screwed up. A lot. I was willing to screw up. I was willing to not know. I was willing to fail. But I also had success. I also took chances not everyone would take. I dared to go. Always. And my life has been remarkable because of that willingness. Not only was I willing to take the chance, I looked for chances, and I followed through with all of them, precisely because I was willing to screw up, I was willing to take the hits, and I refused to believe it would be over, even if it was measured by anyone else to be a failure.
It would only be over if I decided to give up and become a painter. But that would be my choice, not the result of my mistakes.
So, for now, I’m still making my movie.
In retrospect, I think, instead, Mr. Soderbergh’s advice says more about a filmmaker who was also formerly a no-hitter baseball pitcher: Be precise and be smart, because a champion makes every chance count. You might be willing to make the mistakes, but you cannot afford them:
So, if you only know one film executive, write a screenplay called Sex, Lies, and Videotape – and send it to that one person. Do the reconnaissance, sleep on the floors, take the 5 hour trip, learn how to throw the perfect curve ball, make it important to know how to throw the strike. Know the batter you face, so you aren’t the shell shocked filmmaker who wonders why his zombie movie didn’t sell.
Last time I checked, it’s not over for Steven Soderbergh either. He is still making movies.
The Journey Continues
Tyler Gooden is making a film inspired by the legendary true story of FC Start.
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Werner Herzog and I...
Get On Your Feet
A big part of my daily routine is walking. I guess it started somewhere in Europe, when I didn’t have a car, but was surrounded by a culture on foot and beauty everywhere. Mix that in with a restless spirit, and you have a person who has an insatiable appetite to just walk for the sake of walking. The best problem solver is to take a long walk. But there’s more to it than that.
I often write about my heroes and influences, it’s a way of easing my burdens – to know that others have blazed their own trails before me, and to remain inspired as I get to the distant shore.
The winter before last, I read the book Herzog on Herzog, where one of my heroes, Werner Herzog, goes into great detail about the importance of walking and going out on foot. Herzog walked from Munich to Paris to convince Lotte Eisner, the German filmmaker at her deathbed, not to die, that the world still needed her. To emphasize: He did not take a plane and go through the condolence motions; He walked that distance to defy death’s calling. In his mind, she wasn’t going to die until he got there and told her she wasn’t allowed to die. She didn’t.
The day I finished the book was the first week in January, a very cold day. I was in the middle of a transition in my project, I’d just lost my lead artist, and we were in a bad way. Really bad. Our pipeline for shot delivery was a wreck, I had a mutinous crew, everyone had abandoned ship, and I had no idea what to do. Absolutely no stars above, no navigation – my ship was spinning out of control. I’ve written before about hits I’ve taken, but I have since learned to look to my heroes, those who have made it to the distant shore, and seek their advice. Working in a vacuum, the best way to connect with them was through reading. I finished the book in a week.
Immediately, I knew I needed to walk to the nearest town, which is 10.7 miles away. In fact, I had one measly cheque from the past six months to cash, and this was an excuse to go to town. I didn’t know what answers I would find, but I knew I required defying something, I required increasing my willpower. I required breaking the monotony. When you can’t get practical answers, get ethereal answers. They stretch deeper.
Flurries of snow were falling, the sky was gray, and I didn’t think to put on a warm enough jacket. Even better.
I made it to the bank, about 7 miles away. Cars were passing me, no one stopped. They had places to go, fears of people on foot, and radio music they needed to sing along with. I felt sorry for them. Here, I had the open road, strengthened legs, and control of my own thoughts.
I cashed my cheque, and finding myself hungry, I walked the rest of the distance to the nearby town, 3 miles away, to grab something to eat. That food never tasted so good. Everyone else who arrived by car couldn’t possibly enjoy it as much. Their fuel came from a petrol station.
I checked the clock. Also important. If I was to make it back home before dark, I needed to get out now. I had a film to finish. And just like my movie, I’d made it to the middle, but now the return trip had just begun, and it’s just as long.
Conquer The Useless
Several hours later, I made it home. A distance I could typically travel in 20 minutes had taken a whole day. I was exhausted, but somehow invigorated.
Herzog was right about how walking opens one’s eyes in new ways. Time was different, controllable. Distance was longer, scale was bigger, detail was clearer. People in cars looked like blurs of color, lacking depth and detail. Food tasted different, better, more real.
But when he wrote that his quest was to "conquer the useless," did he mean it nihilistically? Was he seeing his mission as conquering something that was useless to conquer? That it was a waste, but it was too late to turn back?
Or did he mean that what he was conquering had no use, and therefore, it should be conquered?
Filmmakers who drive cars at 60 mph usually finish their feature length films in about a year, and the world blurs past them. They go collect their prize, which they hope is a nicer car.
It’s taken me 3 years to do a 20 minute film all on foot, and we still aren’t finished. My problems seem smaller, scaled by the now larger distance between each dotted line in the middle of the road.
I went back to work. Since then, Herzog’s point has only been emphasized, and my own answer emerged. One doesn’t walk to town because it is easier than taking a car, nor does one drag a boat across land because it’s the best way to get it to the other side. The resilience and tenacity required to drive your project home, to not be stopped by a mutinous crew or a broken system, to spend 4 years on a movie that will only last 20 minutes is the same resilience and tenacity it takes to conquer the useless. To brave the jungle. To defy the universe. To make something exist in an indifferent world.
To conquer the useless is to render cars and parking lots and those who need them obsolete.
Last week, my teammate, DJ, who has been quite heroic in his own commitments to this project, needed a break. I was left holding up the tent, and nervous if he would make it back after tasting a bit of freedom. Just because you are tenacious, doesn’t mean everyone else is going to share your vision. This is a real problem, and it was bothering me. Again, in times like these, I go for walks. I did my daily routine around a nearby field, but unconsciously, I kept head down the whole way. Trained between the yellow lines of my own problems.
As I made my way around the corner, I heard a shout from behind me. I looked over to see a silhouette on a bicycle. Slowly and gracefully moving down the highway, was man on a bicycle, traveling through a blanket of fog, on the same path I’d taken that cold January. Something about him was ghostly, familiar and strange at the same time, but the longer I looked, the clearer he became. Others might have seen someone rough around the edges, scrappy, just like his bike. To me, he seemed like a secret brother.
He didn’t say anything, but slowly raised his arm, and unfolded a scraggly finger pointing across the open field I‘d just circled. It was a slow and poetic gesture: One finger beckoning me to quit looking down at my feet, and instead open my gaze across the horizon.
I looked where he was pointing, and there, on the horizon, in a cotton candy sky, was an immaculate rainbow, stretched out in perfect symmetry. It was gorgeous.
A car zoomed by behind me, taking me out of the tranquil magic. Inside, surely a radio was blaring loudly, and a person focused on staying in between the lines. A person who only knew the road at 60 miles an hour and had no spirit cyclist guide to save them.
I looked back towards the man on the bike. His hand was now lowered, his back turned to me, his eyes on his own horizon as the fog slowly swallowed him up. I didn’t see his face, but I knew he was smiling somehow, somewhere.
Here was a journeyman who would be passed over by another 100 cars until he reached the nearest town. No one was going to stop and ask his story, why was he on this bike, where was he going, and does he need any help? They had radios to listen to, places to go, tramps on bikes to avoid, yellow lines to stay between. They would look at his resume and be incapable of noticing who he is, but instead, they will see only who he is not.
They'd see an unkempt man, not a witness and certainly not a messenger who'd kept his eyes open. And there I was, meeting him at the crossroads, and he saved me from the yellow lines of my own problems.
I shouted “Thank you,” but he didn’t look back. He had places to go. I knew the bank was still a few miles away. And a few miles further was the nearest town, and maybe he would stop there for a bite to eat. He wouldn’t have long though, and there would be no time to talk. He would soon be checking the clock, knowing he should get back to pedaling if he was going to make it home before nightfall.
I watched him go, and as I felt the camaraderie, I realized I don’t relate to people who only know their speedometers. Those on foot, those outside the yellow lines, those with their eyes open, they are my people.
By the time I’d turned back to his message, the rainbow was gone.
The Journey Continues
Tyler Gooden is making a film inspired by the legendary true story of FC Start. He's doing it all on foot.
New Concept Art
Laying out color sketches for our upcoming scene to light. Don't forget to check out our gallery!
Gordie Howe's Teeth
Gordie Howe gave his teeth to hockey. It's a rough game and if you can't play hurt, you can't say you really played. And in the case of ice hockey, that usually meant you lost your teeth.
Gordie Howe was the first to score 1,000 goals. He is a Hall of Famer, played hockey in 5 different decades, with the record of the most games ever played in the NHL.
With a career on the ice until his 50s, he is so well respected, his number nine jersey has been honored or retired by three different teams.
But how did Gordie Howe feel outside the rink? Amongst those who did not know him, he probably often felt out of place, different than others. When he smiled, he must have recognized their gaze when they saw a man who didn’t care enough to preserve or protect his own teeth.
There would be no way of knowing he just won the Stanley Cup if he was only standing there in sneakers. Because, let’s face it, even for a hockey player, much of our day will still require us to be Clark Kent, not Superman. That's a lot of time in front of people who must stare at your toothless grin.
Perhaps Gordie felt even vulnerable when he talked to normal people. Exposed. Different. An outsider with a mark many may consider low class.
Or maybe he didn’t feel he’d lost anything at all. Maybe he was too busy playing hockey.
Alternatively, perhaps when others gave him that glazed look, he felt stronger, an inner presence, knowing they had not a clue - not ignorance of who he was, but ignorance of what it took to be who he was.
Maybe the gap between his teeth was as big a trophy to him as the Stanley Cup
Then again, who knows, really?
Maybe he never even considered any of this. Maybe he didn't think achieving greatness came at the price of losing a part of himself. Maybe he never gave a second thought to what it would cost to play the game.
Maybe Gordie Howe just simply lived without a body part others took for granted, and maybe he just focused on what he loved to do.
His zone was not standing in front of people who wore shoes. Shoes are slow and boring. His zone was not talking to normal people with teeth.
There's nothing to fight over with them. They only waste your time if you only really and truly live on the rink, when you've only got sixty minutes to be alive.
In fact, all of these are fantasies.
We don’t know what Gordie Howe felt about losing his teeth.
What we know is that he was willing to lose them.
Tyler Gooden is the director of the upcoming movie, TheFCStartMovie.com, the animated movie inspired by the true story of FC Start.
The Journey Continues
Harris Savides and I...
I never met Harris Savides.
But everyday, I am reminded of him when I take a look out the window at a certain time of day.
The sun sets in a way that casts a pinkish light in the distance, with the forest in front so that it feels as if the light is punching holes through the trees. It’s soft and dreamy, but rich in hue. Pinks mix with orange and green, the colors never pop or force me to look, but they but bleed and float, seductive, and invite me to stare longer. And the longer I stare at them, the more of them I see.
The contrast of the backlit trees is just creamy enough during magic hour that it remains silhouette while simultaneously reflecting a rich variety of every color your eye can witness, but it’s so subtle your brain must work hard if it’s to fight the repulsion of looking into infinity.
I tried to take a photo of this view, I tried to redraw it, but every time I try, the result, like my words, is a miserable failure, and I have no idea how to capture a feeling that my eyes are seeing.
Harris Savides would.
These days, when something strikes me as particularly beautiful, always understated, and always with a creamy contrast of harmony, I find myself thinking “This is how Harris Savides would see it.” And I stare at whatever it is, wishing deeply that I knew how to master a lens the way my eyes are experiencing it.
It’s been a few years now since Mr. Savides left us, and there’s no doubt that the world lost a great cinematographer. But through his lens, I feel that I’ve gained a new eye.
Last summer, once, while out surfing, the sky was open like a crack in the sky, bleeding out color. I looked into the distance to see the sun setting on one horizon. Then in the other direction: The clouds were catching the sun's reflection on the other side, as if these great celestial bodies were having some trans-oceanic conversation.
I couldn't help but think how much the sun was like a giant bulb on a film set, casting light like throwing water across objects. Whatever lucky object gets splashed is blessed with the light, and anything outside its path is in shadow.
And anytime I looked away and back again, I was witnessing a new moment in the conversation. Nature unfolds like this, constantly in miraculous ways. The infinity is not just in the depth, but also in it’s transience. Blink, and you miss one magic moment. If you don’t pay attention, you don’t receive the gift. Beauty works like this- because if it isn’t secret, the world will destroy it.
But the sun is not like a cinema light at all. The film set lights are pathetic and full of human weakness. The lights from the film set can only dream to one day be like their hero, the sun, having such a grand conversation with the world it feeds and brings life to.
Many artisans have forgotten this humility and go through the motions, or they repeat an old trick, do the latest trend, or just want to get the next job. Humility is overwhelming, it’s not easy to stare into infinity, to give yourself completely over to something greater than yourself. Arrogance and loudness, volume and quantity need not be aware- they only need to function, they only need to have a shelf life.
But there’s the rare artist who chooses service, sees what is there, and somehow manage to frame the perfect, but often quiet, gift for us. This, still, is a constant failed mimesis by flawed humans, because the artist is an imperfect third party, faced with an immense challenge to recreate what’s perfect already.
Few have succeeded. Harris was one of them.
Until I discovered Mr. Savides’ work, I thought I had a pretty good grasp on all things visual. But I am now unlearning what I once thought I knew.
And it is because he taught me how to see.
Tyler Gooden is the director of TheFCStartMovie.com, you can keep in touch with him on twitter or send the team an email and we will send you behind the scenes sneak peeks of this special film.
The Journey Continues
Talent Doesn't Exist
Current work in progress. People mistake the essence of talent.
Talent is an illusion.
This is what very hard work, discipline, and commitment looks like. A lifetime of commitment.
A very special thanks to my A-list teammates who are working together to bring this story to life.
The Journey Continues
The Wheel and the Hurricane
The Wheel of Commitment
Over a year ago, our project was taking a really rough beating, and I didn’t think I could continue.
I escaped and took a walk down the beach to try and sort things out.
As I looked across the horizon, I thought of the depths of the water, and how far away any other shore was. And when I put myself out to sea, sailing the merciless ocean, slowly an empowering metaphor began to form.
Committment is a wheel, it’s a circle. Once you are on the outside of that wheel, you are not committed. There is no halfway mark. To be committed, you must exist and thrive in the deep waters that are making a concentrated effort to suffocate your dream, to pull you to the outside of the wheel, and spin you out. Your will power has to be stronger than those forces, because the daily battle is not "how to do this" or "how to do that." The daily battle is keeping the bow steered towards the distant shore.
This is a battle against exhaustion, a battle against what Steven Pressfield elaborately identifies as the enemy named “Resistance.” It’s an enemy we each face if we ever want to become anything other than a pile of jelly.
It's easy to celebrate the journey when you are coasting with the wind in your favor, or when the water becomes shallow and your view is clear, with people cheering safely from the finish line. But that’s not commitment.
You only know what commitment looks like when the weather is crushing you, when you have a mutinous crew, when beautiful sirens summon you to leave your battered ship, when the sea is angry and full of vengeance. You only know if you are committed when you can no longer see the shore behind you, or the shore in front of you, and the sky is opaque without a star for guidance.
That's when you are in danger of spinning out. And once you are in that spiral, it's only a matter of time before you are flung out to drown in the sea of mediocrity, or get torn apart by it's indifference.
The horrible irony of the spinning wheel is you need those forces spinning if you are to get anywhere. If it's not spinning, it's not going anywhere, and intentionally not going anywhere also requires no commitment.
So what do you?
I think there is a trick. If you look at the center of the wheel, it is dead calm, dead focus.
And yet, the vessel keeps going.
At the time I wrote this, I concluded that perseverance is possible if you stay in the center of the wheel while everything else constantly spins to the outside.
But it seemed to have a flaw. Because, in fact, the center of a wheel does spin.
Luckily, in the past few weeks, my commitments were tested again, which gave me a chance to complete the metaphor.
The Circle Connects.
A few days ago, I had a conversation with Sylvain Despretz (check out his work: He’ll tell you he isn’t an artist, but his own apparent commitment speaks otherwise) about the importance of an artist being a self reliant warrior, to do things from the right place. Without any mention from me of the wheel of commitment, he suggested I was in the eye of the hurricane. I had not thought about it like that, and only later did the idea begin to fully form.
My social life is mostly absent, my financial life is at risk, I am working from 3 different time zones, and after 3 years of grinding, my already restless spirit is taxed beyond it's normal threshold, and most people I interact with don't consider the journey I am on. They can’t see it, they don't have time to hear it. I am strange to them.
But this indifference is understandable: Until the path is complete, a man carving his own way through a forest already filled with bike paths is either unnoticed, misunderstood, or just looks like a crazy person to everyone else. "Why is that crazy man chopping through the thicket when everything is right here and easy to take?" It's a lonely road, or else everyone would be on it. And if everyone else was on it, I would certainly complain about how crowded it is.
Everything comes with a price. Choose what you are willing to pay and then don't complain when you get the bill.
Same Image, New Name.
As our conversation ended, the earlier metaphor slowly changed shape, and I saw commitment from a new perspective.
I was wrong. The center of the wheel is still going to spin. There is no zen in the wheel.
But there is in the eye of a hurricane. There is dead calm in the eye of the hurricane. Like the wheel needs to spin to get anywhere, without the storm outside, there is no need to commit.
Because if nothing is risked, nothing is gained. Sailing calm waters is easy.
Ever feel the anxiety in your daily battles? The fear, the regret, the longing? You need that signal. That’s the madness out there, surrounding you on every side. It’s dangerous, it’s the voice of all the lost souls growing stronger with every new victim. Its howl is scornful and jealous of your center – and it viciously wants you to join.
Take a half step in any direction, and you will.
The tempestuous storm is there. You can hear it everyday. But so is the calm inside.
The Journey Continues
For a more intimate connection to the making of TheFCStartMovie.com, please send a quick email with the subject line "community" and you will receive more personal insights into the making of this film.
Special thanks to the photographers and artists whose images are included here.
Amadeus and I...
In September, the man responsible for the art direction of one of one of the most beautiful and sublime films ever made, Karel Černý, passed away.
Today, we lost the second in the team: Miroslav Ondříček, who photographed it.
I watch this film often, but like a great restaurant, which I want to return to every week, I hold back from doing so, because I never want it to lose it's flavor.
Probably, single handedly, it is the film I would most strive to influence my work. Not for any of the specifics, which, are all beautiful and well done; But for the deeper choreography that make a work of art actually a work of art.
Amadeus is not just a film about Mozart. Peter Shaffer could have named his story any title he wanted. Why did he choose "Amadeus?" Because, in Latin, Amadeus means "loved by God", and that's what the film is really about.
The film is not really about Mozart's life at all. There's only bits and pieces of historical known accuracy. Instead, Salieri hears God's voice in Mozart's music, and Salieri, jealous of this voice being channeled through Mozart, sets out to destroy him. It's often been said that 'satan was jealous of God's love for man', and that's what the film is really about.
Despite his efforts to destroy the voice of God, it is Salieri who is "consigned to flames of woe", which is in the last major scene of the film, depicted here between the actors Tom Hulce, and F. Murray Abraham.
The filmmakers (originally a theatrical play - and even further back, a Russian poem), tapped into grander themes which permeate every aspect of it, from the title, to the design and look, to, of course, the screenplay. But this allegory and image system is understated and subtle, and that's why I say it is an example of the sublime in art.
The sublime and subtle allegorical system which still functions structurally as a great and poignant story, is at the heart of any art I am ever deeply interested in. Amadeus is the perfect example of that.
This film is a giant. I admire and look up to the people who made it. And it remains a benchmark of near perfection to strive for in one's own work.
I was very lucky to see live performances inside some of these locations, and one of them, the Estates Theatre, is where Mozart performed Don Giovanni for the first time in 1787. How many people have walked those same streets since then?
And around the corner from the shot above is where I used to work. I would walk down this same street every day for lunch. And down the side street below now exists a bar where Peter Stormare threw a party for Terry Gilliam when I was working on the Brothers Grimm. Every time I would walk down this street, I would think of this film. Miloš Forman, the great director, was often in the studio where I worked, and he autographed the wall I passed by every day.
The culture we build in our present day resonates to those who come later. I am not sure who now carries the torch they once carried, but I know it's a bright one, and one worth protecting.
So, in honor of those who came before us, I took some time yesterday to think and reflect on this film and the experiences I had, even on a personal level with it. I had memories of watching it as a very small child, and now I have memories of walking those same streets, and being in the same room as those who created it.
Films like Amadeus are the reason why I try to do what I do with my own work.
A deeply sublime film.
Rest in Peace, Pane Ondříček
The Journey Continues
Tyler Gooden is the director of the upcoming film, Playing the Game, inspired by the true story of FC Start.
Releasing the arrow is easy,
Preparing the bow and perfecting one's aim is where the real work always will be.
A few millimeters off in your preparation, and your trajectory is off by a mile by the time it should hit the target.
Accept no assurance that your aim is correct. Only know the sequence:
Embed this in your brain. Practice the sequence and you will not need assurance, because you will find certainty through ritual.
Your arrow will face the wind and the elements, gravity, resistance, and likely the movement of your target.
You are the arrow. Your focus is everything.
The Journey Continues
The winter of 2009 was a rough one.
I was moving from Prague to Budapest 3 suitcases at a time. I couldn’t afford to rent a car, so after several trips spread out by bus and train, I finally had everything with me that was going to continue the journey. The rest of my life, 5 years of Prague, I left behind.
Hungary had just introduced a tax incentive program, and I saw the potential. Determined to start over, to cut out the path I wanted for my life, I rented hotels, arranged meetings, and presented 'the best of what I did best' to the local production managers. Nothing came of it. Money from previous jobs was drying up, and after hearing of other friends being hired on a project there, I gave it one last shot. Finally, I was offered a job.
But they offered me a job I had no experience at whatsoever. The learning curve would be steep. I was bold, I was grateful. I loved making movies, it meant everything to me. So, I took the plunge.
Two weeks later, I was fired. I had just moved my entire life, piece by piece, paying my way for busses, trains and apartments to a new city, to a new and difficult country. I knew the risk, that's the price you pay for getting in the ring instead of sitting on the sidelines. But now, I was trapped, surrounded by an unfamiliar language, and with few resources other than my wits.
Square Peg in A Round Hole
As I sat there in a cold Hungarian apartment in the middle of the winter, broke, with no heat on, with snow falling outside, I watched as friends who owed me money were flown in and put up in warm apartments, get paid per diems, be invited into the local industry, paid a salary, and still tell me they didn’t have money to pay me back, while knowing the money I loaned them help them secure the same job. It was painful, to say the least. To make matters worse, positions I was perfectly suited for were offered to friends who were flown in and put up in hotels to do them instead. The world was not only indifferent to my efforts, it was laughing at them.
But I had roughed it before and made it to the other side. I got my first big film job while sleeping on floors, eating with food coupons, living out of backpacks so I could see the world, and spend my free time drawing in cafés throughout Eastern Europe. In fact, that’s how I got my first job. The owner of a magazine saw me drawing in a Prague café, liked my work, hired me, and then recommended me onto my first film.
So, back to zero, with nothing else to sustain me, I did what I only knew best. I returned to my art.
I began teaching myself new software and, admiring the work of my friends, I tried to emulate them. When you are cold and broke, you aren’t distracted. You are desperate. And desperation channels energy into whatever you focus on. And since you aren’t distracted, you are focused on what you hold most valuable, you pour yourself into getting better.
I didn’t know it yet, but I was building a road toward self-actualization. The skills I was teaching myself were intended to serve the production industry, but since they weren’t hiring me for that, those skills naturally flowed into my own project instead.
Iron Meets Iron
Over the next period, I designed the city from the screenplay I had written several years before. Every day, in a room with only a small table and sofa, I sat at a laptop with a tiny screen, and worked on getting better.
I had no idea how it was going to be used. My intentions were to put this in my portfolio, and simply use it to get a job I desperately needed; And that winter I still had not even considered making this as an animated film. But I had unknowingly taken a step forward in a journey that is still coming into fruition six years later.
A Perfect Fit
Yesterday, after three and a half months of intense daily work, we finally finished the texture painting for one of the more dense scenes in our movie. But we were missing our element outside the window. I put the rough cut on loop, and watched it over and over again, but the blank screen outside the set was maddening. I had ideas, but nothing formulated. How was the outside scene going to play out? I needed a guide to go with my vision.
Suddenly, I remembered my models built in 2009. Would they work? When every day is a battle to maintain, sustain, lead, and produce, it seemed too easy to already have something ready to go. I brought the models I built on that tiny laptop into the set.
A Clear Reflection
Today, I will begin working on the final choreography outside the window. I don’t have the answers yet, but I have some help.
I have the guidelines I started six years ago, when I was cold, desperate, fighting, and alone in a foreign country, with nothing on my mind but the desire to survive and create.
And looking at all we have accomplished so far, that creation is beginning to meet me halfway. For that, I am grateful.
Thinking back to 2008 and 2009, I did not get the job I was willing to do anything to get. Nor did I keep the job they ended up giving me.
Instead, I ended up sitting in a cold Hungarian apartment, making my movie without even knowing it.
And looking at how the work I did back then is being used now, the once bitter taste I felt in my mouth somehow tastes a little bit sweeter today.
It's the taste of conviction.
The Journey Continues.
If you like stories like these, write to email@example.com and you will be included into the making of our film.
Comments welcome below.
I recently posted a detail of one of our set pieces: Cossacks on The Steppe.
Below is further development of how the actual detail paintings will be used - a feeling of the hand painted detail in furniture so often seen throughout antique Europe.
Lybid, Kyi, Shchek, and Khoryv are the legendary founders of Kyiv, and the Cossacks, are of course, the guardians. Depicted elsewhere will be their leader, Bohdan Khmelnytsky.
To see more images, be sure to check out our gallery. An early copy of the film is now available as a presale for a limited time.
The Journey Continues
The Grocery Bag of Surrender
A couple weeks ago, things were tense within the project. We were trying out our renders, failing to get our look right. It seemed all the work we had done in a previous scene was not transferring well into our new scene- the style and method no longer seemed to fit our new environment. We were getting exhausted and confused. Keeping the project financed, battling dark and cold winter days, and just the sheer levels of fatigue from working on this for so long was starting to catch up.
I took a break and went for a walk. I wanted to just give up. Suddenly, it all seemed overwhelming and pointless. I started to think about how good it would feel to just abandon the work and do something incredibly freeing, to just leave it all behind. This has not happened often, but with animation finished and now full time on our lighting stage, a new leg in the journey had begun. Suddenly, it just seemed like this would never end.
As I rounded a familiar corner, I looked up to see a white plastic supermarket bag hanging from a tree above my head. I swear it was laughing at me. It looked like a white flag, the universal symbol of surrender, as it swayed calmly in the breeze. For a brief moment, I saw my future in it. I did not like what I saw, and something had to change.
I knew in that moment, that plastic bag must come down. There was no way I could return to my work with a white flag of surrender just outside my door. This bag was a symbol of a future I did not want, and I wasn't going to let it happen.
But it wasn't a simple matter of walking up to this flag of surrender and snatching it down. The bag was a good ten feet above me, out of reach, and guarded by an especially viscious and deep patch of briars. If I wanted to tear down this bag, it looked like I was goiing to need to get dirty, and possibly bloody.
I made my way in, anyway. If it had been a moat of fire from the pits of hell, I probably would have gone, just to defy the universe. I had done enough damage even thinking about giving up, and here was the universe egging me on. And definitely, as I made my way in, I thought to myself, this is ludicrous, there is no need to do this. It was "I get it, I get it, you dont want to give up." But this was a symbolic journey. That bag had to come down.
I managed to get the plastic bag down, but not without getting scratched, not without a struggle, and not without needing to find the clever solution of using another limb to help tear it down. It was a bit of a chore and to any passerbys on the road, I must have looked totally insane wading into a thicket of briars to tear down a plastic bag, falling all over the place and yelling at it until I succeeded.
But that predicament was fitting. It felt like the perfect metaphor for this journey. There's been too many times I didnt have the solutions I needed to get us to the next stage, and there was always a thicket of obstacles I needed to get over. Those briars have been there at every turn, and there has always been that second voice: "yea yea, I get it, you dont want to give up. But just leave it there and go do something easy."
Briars are a fact of life, and they aren't going to appear when everything is going okay. No flag of surrender is going to set itself in front of you when you are having a great day with a cocktail on the beach- they are going to show up when they know you are weak.
You have to be stronger, smarter, and more importantly, you have to be willing to get bloody, muddy, and uncomfortable - or you have to surrender.
We have now moved full time into lighting. As I mentioned in my last update, I was looking forward to this one, because it would mean we are starting to see progress on the final look. And we are. We are now several shots in. There's still the daily wrestling, the daily struggles and anxieties of wondering if we did it another way, would it look better, wondering if we are doing it right, and fighting technical breakdowns - which leads to emotional breakdowns - and getting over the hurdles. This is a two pronged stage in the process - lighting it, and then putting it together in the composite. Lighting is now the priority, but once that is done, we are in the home stretch. These are the last two stages of image completion, other than our final edit.
We haven't thrown in the towel, and we're not going to. I am not sure if that is a good thing or not. Smarter people than myself would not have taken this on, or would have given up and done something else long ago. You only live once, as far as I know. Making this film has not been anything like a normal life, but neither has much else of my life, and as long as I am in service to my art, to my audience, and in pursuit of the aesthetic catharsis that comes with it, then I do believe it is worth it. And if I am dragging this film across the finish line from a ditch, with a cable and an extension cord hooked to my computer because the apocolypse happened the night before, then so be it! The glow of my skin from the nuclear fallout will at least allow me to work on through the nights.
The Journey Continues
Cossacks on The Steppe...
This is a detail of one of our set pieces, which includes a hand painted scene. This was inspired by the great Polish painter, Józef Brandt.
To see more artwork, be sure to check out our gallery. For more exclusive and private production notes, be sure to send us an email and become a member of our growing and interactive audience.
Your pre-sale copy of Playing the Game is now available.
The Journey Continues
TheFCStartMovie.com includes production notes, stories, and images behind the making of this animated film, inspired by true the story of The FC Start soccer team, who played a game against death in the heart of World War 2 Ukraine.
We Paint With Light...
“Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen.”
― Leonardo da Vinci
Don't forget to check out our gallery or ask to see a sneak peek into the making of the film.
Keep up with this animated film set in Ukraine:
The FC Start Movie Production Journal
3 percent of every one hundred dollars goes to Ukrainian Relief Funds
Welcome to our online journal. Our film is inspired by the legendary true story of FC Start.
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