After 20 months of pushing forward, ‘Otto – 15 tiles’ is complete.
I have tremendous respect for each position involved in film making, and when planning this project, I had to consider what I could get done on my own. I have worked with indie, Hollywood, local and international filmmakers and actors. I have seen things the public never sees or realizes about ‘The Movie Business’, the most distressing was learning how many projects are killed by lack of funding.
Rooted in the idea that it costs nothing to tell a decent story, I decided to figure out how to best approach this from an in the trenches position. I call the funding ‘front pocket’.
I decided to use my last paycheck to buy a Canon T5i and a green screen. I would create a world in VR so I could do this all from my kitchen table. I had friends who were local indie actors. I had a crazy segmented story. I had a tripod, (the cameraman for over 90% of Otto). I had air to breathe. All I needed.
If Otto does well at 1:48, there is already a 2:15 Directors Cut version that has a couple of entirely different scenes, not just longer versions of the scenes in theatrical release.
My future will hopefully be a controlled burn of projects started and completed. I have 5 stories to tell. This is the first one. I am not fatalistic but planning dozens of projects at this point would just be silly. My hope is that the right producer will see the value of my ability to deliver and my understanding of nearly all phases of production and step up for a lifelong partnership of profitable creativity.
But in the end, profitability was never part of the criteria for Otto. Digital immortality was the point. I have actor and musician friends who are awesome and I wanted to share that too. To leave evidence that I was here, that I told some stories with friends and the most important job of Otto is to introduce the world to the life of Steve Morton, the friend that inspired me to create for nearly 40 years. Steve lost his life far too early and the world never got to know him the way some of us did. He left this mortal plane peacefully in his sleep. He left behind a legacy of music.
I’m not ashamed to tell you that Jane walked out into the garage while I was working on Otto one day to catch me crying my eyes out. I’m crying now. I will never get through losing my best friend until I am no more.
The whole ‘SRM’ thing in Otto is based on Steve’s screenname and nickname. SRM1138. That was his tribute to George Lucas and also his understanding that we are all just like THX only very few of us are sentient enough to realize it.
I have thought at least 100 times, “The world got fucked when Steve died. It would have missed me far less.” Of course one thing has nothing to do with the other but when you are in direct contact with a situation, you don’t look at the big picture.
That thought that, ‘I continue to enjoy life while my younger lifelong friend died at only 52 years of age’, created a sense of urgency in me to do as much as I can while I am still here in an artistic sense. I am just a clever fucker but he created the most beautiful and complex music effortlessly. He had a quiet wisdom that few have experienced and even fewer have achieved. If you take anything away from Otto, let it be ‘SRM 1138’.
I would never have been able to complete Otto without the endless loving support of Jane. One may be able to imagine, but to actually live with someone who is working on something 12-16 hours a day for 20 months, in a constant state of urgency, is to say the least, less than soothing.
I don’t really know at what stage she really believed I could do it, but what was a ridiculous undertaking for someone with the amount of experience I actually had, with her support and encouragement, is now done. Even more miraculously, our relationship is stronger than ever and I simply couldn’t imagine my life to be any more fulfilling.
Enter the Mensa brain. I don’t need to win the lottery. At birth I was given a gift that can’t be bought. A big fat head packed full of thinky-stuff.
Genius takes different forms, when it comes up that I am in Mensa, people always say, “I was never any good at math!” or “I can’t remember all the dates and events to be good at history.”
Well, maybe so, but those things have nothing to do with genius. Einstein was a math genius then, I guess you could say. Genius means ‘common sense’ really. It is ingenuity, the ability to figure shit out. To see a problem you have never seen and figure out how to solve it without outside help. That is genius. Trust me, I am documented as a genius level thinker, I know what it means.
As a machinist I used math all day long, but would never say math was something at which I excelled. In fact I have a love/hate relationship with math. But it is the only real ‘truth’ man can take credit for, math is flawless.
There is a saying ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’. Geniuses can be a ‘Jack of all trades and master of every last one of them’.
It probably seems like bragging or something, but it is just truth and it has been a long time since I cared to prove anything to anyone, but my genius comes in the form of, ‘If I find it interesting I can watch it be done once or twice, or take a tutorial and be teaching it next week’. Nothing I intentionally did gave me that power, so I just count it as what I got at birth instead of a silver spoon. Like all others on this planet, I am unique, is all. 😉
Anyway, this is how I was able to learn what I needed to know to get a full length feature shot basically in my garage and living room, edited at my kitchen table in 20 months with hobbyist photography and editing gear and have it ‘entered’ in a festival. Combine the gray matter with a 20 day stint in 2015 dragging photography gear, pulling a western dolly and even operating the first camera (Red Dragon) for some 2 scenes for a feature film called ‘The Trees’. Then acting on an L.A. set with a REAL set director in Dystopia with real movie-stars Michael Madsen and Al Sapienza, I learned how a precisely timed production was laid out. Combined with acting in a western series shot in Montana and in a few local independent pieces, I felt I had enough tools to start the job of shooting my own feature.
You gotta just ‘JUMP’ eventually, you know?
I felt this was necessary because here at ground zero, you see a lot of well-intended projects are little more than an IMDb credit and wasted time. About half of what I have seen peddled never actually happens. A lot of charlatans in indie film, like everywhere else, but here bumping into one or two of them can end your hopes for an acting career.
Well, I don’t give a fuck about IMDb credits, I just have a few stories to tell, each for a different reason with a different audience although all will have crossover. I am 58 years old, most of the sand is on the bottom now. Otto has achieved digital immortality because regardless of it’s reception, it will eventually permeate every corner of the internet. Steve will never die. He never intended to infest the internet. I do. I KNOW how to do that.
I am polishing the screenplay for my next feature which I WILL NOT do all of on my own.
I have a dream-team in mind for DP, Sound, etc for my next project. I will do only one/two job(s) in that production. Write/Direct.
It is based on a true story, but I may just go straight fiction with it because a lot of the people in the story are still alive, I know more about some of them than they realize I know and I don’t have time in my life for litigation over butthurt. Some of these people did bad stuff and they don’t know I know about, others have paid their debt to society and I don’t want to fuck that up either because I believe in the justice system, more or less. Also my reason for making that film is to prevent one of my ancestors from being forgotten. She had dreams. She was murdered at 20. I was a child but I remember her. I have lived my entire life and have heard her name mentioned less than a dozen times. I can’t let that stand.
After all the potentially offended people have died, (they are really old now) I will go public with the fact that it is a true story and I only went fiction to prevent aforementioned butthurt. If I outlive those people.
If not, maybe only readers of my blog ever know the truth.