Monday, August 19, 2013

The Finale

Spoiler alert. If you're invested in the season's story, you should probably check out 'Ignition', if you haven't already, before reading on.

Feedback has been great and opinions mostly high, albeit mixed with a real sadness, apparently. I've yet to receive any death threats from viewers for going with the ending that I chose, which is nice. However, I've received a lot of e-mails from people feeling crushed in spite of their high opinion of the episode's execution, and numerous requests to release an alternative, happier ending.

That might actually make for a good gag, but creating a new ending solely as fan-service to be considered canon parallel to the original isn't an idea that sits well with me. That would be a bit like me e-mailing David Chase to create an alternative canon Sopranos ending in which Tony fends off an army of vampiric velociraptors with a chainsaw aboard an exploding space station. I'd give my left nut to see that shit, but as painfully abrupt as the true ending was, that was what Chase felt was most appropriate, I respect him as a writer, and I learned to love it.

"DO-ON'T STOP --"

Obviously I'm not comparing myself to David Chase. My point is that I think every artist deserves full control over the outcome of their work. There's a lot of debate about how the term 'art' is defined exactly, I'm not even sure myself, or if my show could possibly be considered as such, but I think it boils down to personal expression; and if that expression is influenced by the consumers of art, the work is no longer personal, and therefore ceases to be art.

'Ignition', while somewhat problematic in hindsight, felt overall appropriate to me, and I'm going to try and explain why.

After season six, ending it on a very high note, I felt like I had another story to tell. One that actually had something to say about confrontation with death and anonymity's effect on the human condition, and its heavy integration with society by the digital age -- but I told myself that if I was going to do one more season, I wanted it to be different in order to explore additional terrain in terms of my writing ability, and I wanted it to hit hard enough that it would be remembered. So instead of building to another happy-go-lucky ending, I decided to go the other way.

The decision seemed appropriate also due to the fact that the figures are so worn out, and incorporating that into the story seemed natural. The way I saw the story, the toys were gonna expire soon, one way or another. So I thought, what's the most intense way for them to go out? In a massive explosion. How would that occur? Gas leak, obviously. How does that happen? One of the toys rigs the oven to leak gas and strikes a flame. Who's the most appropriate character to do that? Chief, he's far more likely to make such a violent decision. Why? Make a list. Maybe he finally comes to realize how terrible he is. Maybe he's physically damaged. Maybe he's overwhelmed by guilt and can't go on. Maybe he's finally bored with trolling people on the internet. Okay, why would he be physically damaged? Maybe Arbiter beats the shit out of him. Why? Maybe he discovers something terrible about Chief. What would that be? It would need to be something big. Character death? Who? Well, who does Chief despise the most? Cortana. Wait, maybe this can be the thing that Chief feels guilty about.

And so on, and so forth. That was my basic thought process from the beginning of season seven's development. For the most part, I started with the very end of the story and worked my way backwards, and I suggest that writers seeking advice adopt a similar method.

Not out of ego, just faith in that the method works for me like a charm. Figure out what you want your work to say. Boil it down to a statement. Then ask yourself what the greatest possible way to reveal that statement visually is. Who's involved? What's happening? How does it happen? Where's it taking place? When? Why? Figure out your ending, then build up to it so it feels organic and plausible. That way you avoid that road block so many writers seem to hit of not knowing where to take your story half-way into act two. It also allows you to do cool shit like foreshadowing, which is a very powerful device.

Work your way backwards, building scenarios and images that complement and contrast that ending in meaningful ways. When you get stuck, start working forwards from the beginning of your story, with your ending in mind, until you get stuck again. Then start working backwards again. Keep switching until you finally have something cohesive you can then comb repeatedly to perfection. Those are my two cents.

Like I said, the toys were going to expire in a short amount of time, no matter which direction I headed in. Not only in the story, but in actuality. Every other conceivable outcome for the toys, to me, felt either too cheesy or weak sauce in comparison. I wanted the show to go out with a bang, so why not a literal one?

Plus, with death staring them in the face, it forced the characters to reveal their fondness of one another, in an appealing contrast, in my opinion, with their incessant and volatile conflict throughout the entire show.

Some people were turned off by the outrageousness of Tyler's appearance and demise. That scenario was actually inspired by a true-to-life scenario of a forty-something guy who decided to get on a plane and fly to the residence of a child who talked shit to him on an online video game and choke him out. Granted, Tyler's scenario was exaggerated for dramatic effect with the chainsaw and the conveniently placed police officer, but I'd already established Tyler as a psychopath, figured there's not much stopping him from walking out of a local hardware store with a chainsaw, and that it's not a stretch for a passer-by to have given an anonymous tip to the police over the phone of a suspicious looking young male waiting outside the front doors of an apartment building carrying a chainsaw.

The first image I ever had for season seven when starting its development was actually Arbiter sitting against the front door, riddled with bullet holes. Not long after, I thought about having blood drip onto his head from the holes, and then Chief spouting indecipherable gibberish from the bathroom simultaneously, in an effort to paint the most disturbing image possible and push Arbiter clear over the edge. That's what you should aim to do with your characters. Place them under pressure so extreme that they snap, and are forced to make extreme decisions, thereby thoroughly revealing character.

If the show stands for anything, I'd like it to be for what you can get away with purely through writing in spite of extremely limited resources. If you want to be a filmmaker, teach yourself how to write. I can't emphasize enough how crucial I've learned a good screenplay to be. You can have the best actors and most expensive cameras in the world, but a bad screenplay is still going to make for a bad movie.

I hope you can all learn to appreciate the show for what it is, and that you enjoyed the journey.

Thanks again for the tremendous support.

Cheers,
Jon

P.S. Here's a Facebook status update I wrote a while ago regarding sad movies that I think somewhat relates:

"I don't like sad movies." Eat a cock. Movies that have you leaving the theater feeling like a complete piece of shit don't get nearly enough credit. They have you re-entering reality with a marginally uplifting mentality along the lines of 'life sucks, but things could be worse'. The movies in which the lonely, sewer-dwelling orphaned hunchback with gargantuan heart and a microscopic dick slays the dragon (voiced by Morgan Freeman) and its deadly militia of vampire space bears, and ends up tit-fucking the princess on a tropical island for the rest of eternity have you leaving with an enormous smile on your face, which swiftly drops like a bag of bricks into an icy, coma-inducing grimace as life, the grotesque wall-to-wall shit-show, in which happiness was only ever intended to come in fleeting moments, in contrast, becomes painfully revealing of what it truly is. The same, of course, applies to the Hollywood system that produces them -- a dream fabricator, delivering you an endorphin rush in a room full of farts in exchange for hilarious, toe-curling fees which will only increase. I need to see more sad moves. I want sad movies occupying every single box office slot. Starting tomorrow.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Arby 'n' the Chief S07E25: "Ignition" (Series Finale)

Hey all,

Well, this is it.

Arby 'n' the Chief S07E25: "Ignition" (Series Finale)

It's been a good run.  I can't say that I'm sad to see the show go, though.  Not in a hateful way, just that it seems like an appropriate time to end it.

Truthfully, the figures couldn't survive for another season anyway.  Every joint of the two of them is hilariously loose, and the Master Chief figurine literally kept crumbling in my grasp during the grueling filming of the finale.  It was a fucking nightmare.  I lost count of the amount of takes that were ruined by Master Chief falling to pieces in my grip, despite my effort to keep the figure together with duct tape and Elmer's glue.  If I had a swear jar during the production, I'd have had to drain my bank balance.

My apartment's still a mess from shooting.  Haven't even scrubbed the fake blood off of my front door yet.

That said, I'm feeling great right now.  The finale's reception so far seems to be overall very positive, and I've spent so long trying to keep my head above water with the show's production that to be finally out of the pool is an immense relief.

I don't expect everybody to be pleased by the ending.  In fact, it'd be a miracle if everybody was, but I know it won't happen.  However, the ending pleases me, and I've learned to aim for pleasing myself with what I write.

Thank you very much to you all for your tremendous support over the years.  I feel proud to have made something that made people itch to find out what happens each week.  I feel that this seventh season is my best work thus far in terms of writing interesting and developing characters, and I'm glad to have it out there on the net for display.  Hopefully it factors somehow into kick-starting my Hollywood career so I can sell out and abuse hard drugs.

I'd also like to offer a big thank you to the staff at Machinima for putting up with my numerous delays, as well as offering me the creative freedom that I've had and the extra time I've asked for to maintain the show's quality.

I encourage fans to watch the entire season again, as it contains an abundance of foreshadowing all pointing towards the finale's final scene, starting with the first episode.

Also, please leave feedback in the comments section for the finale if you can, or shoot me an e-mail if you want.  I don't reply to everything, but I read everything.  I'd also appreciate feedback on the season as a whole as well as the finale itself; what you liked, what you didn't like, how well you felt everything was tied together by the end, and so on.

Hope you enjoy.

Cheers!
Jon

"Ignition" Saturday, 3 PM PST

Hey guys,

Finally churned out and submitted the finale, past my deadline, which was very unprofessional of me; but that's nothing new.  I've been told that it'll be available on Machinima's channel around 3PM PST, so keep your eyes peeled.  Big thanks to Machinima for being patient with me.  Hopefully the upload happens without any hitches.

"Ignition" will be just over twenty-five minutes long.  Stay tuned.

Cheers,
Jon

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Arby 'n' the Chief S07E25: "Ignition" Teaser

Hey guys,

Sorry for the delay, again.  Apparently the problem this time was that the teaser was placed in a folder it shouldn't have been before the two guys overseeing the upload left for a wedding event over the weekend.  Shouldn't happen again for the finale.  Unless I'm the one who fucks up somehow, but I'm doubtful.

Arby 'n' the Chief S07E25: "Ignition" Teaser

Cheers,
Jon

Film and You: A Filmmaking Instructional Video

Hey, guys.

Consider this an apology for the series finale teaser delay.

The following link will lead you to a video on a new YouTube account I've just created for myself.  The video is a short I wrote and directed in film school as a final project for my first year cinematography class.  Technically, it's the worst possible assignment that could be turned in as the video is, from the standpoint of cinematography, utterly unappealing.  It's terrible production quality is intentional however, for comedic purposes.  I play the role of a deluded film instructor named Cameron Shuttersnap who basically turns the basics of filmmaking completely on its head.  I'm not sure I received a very good grade on it, but it sure went down well with the class.

Here's the video:

Film and You: A Filmmaking Instructional Video

Hope you enjoy.

Cheers,
Jon

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Arby 'n' the Chief S07E24: "Game Over"

Hey guys,

The new episode's out now.  Sorry for the delay:

Arby 'n' the Chief S07E24: "Game Over"

I've noticed a lot of aggression towards Machinima over the past twenty-four hours due to the delay, but it was an honest mistake.  A little button wasn't clicked on the episode's upload ticket before it went into the pipeline, causing it to be listed as 'private' and rendering it inaccessible.  The slip-up might not have occurred if I hadn't cut the episode's submission so fine, who knows.

Well, this is the second last episode.  Show's almost over.  Next week a short teaser will be released for the finale, and then the finale itself the following week, which will run longer than usual.

Hope you enjoy, thanks for being patient.

Cheers,
Jon