Outstanding Science Fiction Shorts

Over the past couple weeks, several incredibly well-made short films have released online and received some well-deserved attention. Some have received Hollywood's notice and it seems to be more and more common for features to be sourced from shorts, or at least the industry seems to be flirting with the idea more.

"The Leviathan," by Ruairi Robinson was released as a proof-of-concept piece that has drawn the attention of Neil Blomkamp and Simon Kinberg as Executive Producer and Producer, respectively, which should help get funding. This is familiar territory for Blomkamp, whose "District 9" started life as a short film.

Dark and eerily beautiful, Mischa Rozema's "Sundays" has ignited a bidding war between major studios for the feature treatment. Not bad for a $50,000 Kickstarter-funded short.

In addition to original pieces, there have been some adapted shorts that really transcend the notion of fan fiction. While it's unlikely that either of these pieces will morph into features, they are incredible accomplishments and the filmmakers deserve recognition.

"Star Wars: TIE Fighter" is an 80s/90s Anime-style adaptation of Star Wars from the Imperial point of view. Kudos to Paul Johnson for playing with both form an theme.

Finally, we have a dark, adult adaptation of the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers -- Joseph Kahn's "Power/Ranger." This originally received takedown notices on Vimeo and YouTube over copyright concerns, especially since there's a Power Rangers movie in the works. This short is smart, though -- the kids who grew up with Power Rangers on afternoon TV will love seeing something this edgy.

Huzzah! The Movie

One of my early film making projects -- my first  foray into the realm of documentary film making -- is actually still an ongoing project. We shot Huzzah! over the course of a couple years, not really having a lot of experience or knowing what we were doing. But my partner, Glenn Bailey, and I were (and still are) passionate about it. This is our love letter to a subculture. Glenn's in the process of editing it right now and I'm handling the web aspects of it. If you know me, you probably know about this project; but if you don't, please pop on over to huzzahthemovie.com and check us out. I'm really excited to see the project finished.

Announcing "Ruff Draught"

My writing setup -- I use Final Draft for a number of reasons. One of my favorite things is how much information about a script I can have at my fingertips.

A while back I committed myself to learning Java. I figured that, apart from being very helpful for my day job, knowing a programming language is every bit as important in the 21st Century as knowing a human language. I've been poking around it for a while, writing small programs for work, but you learn the most by doing and the best projects are those where you scratch your own itch. So I wanted to build something for myself.

I work heavily with Final Draft's index cards feature and I like the way it's implemented -- split-screening index cards with a view of the script is helpful. I tend to lean on index cards in the outlining phase of my work, so by the time I'm ready to get down to business I've already got a 25-50 cards written up. I give them pretty heavy descriptions and I like to read them all together. In fact, what I like to do is take all of that index card text and transform it into the rough draft of my treatment. The problem I had is that FD doesn't really provide a way to do this except to copy the text out of each card and paste it into another document. Over and over again.

Yes, this is a First World problem. Medieval monks who copied the Bible must think so little of me. But I repeat this process several times, often generating new treatments as I work on a new draft of the screenplay. So I figured I'd be my own solution. What I came up with is a little utility that I call "RUFF DRAUGHT."

Ruff Draught Icon -- by http://www.icons-land.com/ -- used free of charge for non-commercial purposes.

Ruff Draught Icon -- by http://www.icons-land.com/ -- used free of charge for non-commercial purposes.

At this point, all this does is takes the index card text out of an FDX file and write it into a TXT file. This is version 0.1 -- what you might call a Minimum Viable Product (MVP). It does exactly what I needed it to do but in the most minimal way possible. It's a learning experience for me in programming, but it's also very useful to my screenwriting. From here I definitely have improvements in mind and I'm going to be releasing iterative versions while I can.

Right now, Ruff Draught is free; and it will probably stay that way for a while. If I ever get it to a state that it feels like a product, I may sell it for a nominal fee -- a fraction of what I would have paid when the need first arose. One thing is certain, though, I will continue to develop it as an open source project. The source code is already available on Github if anyone cares -- just please don't judge me by my code.

The Windows version of Ruff Draught is available here.

The Mac version is now available here.

"Painting of Heaven" from La Sagrada Familia cathedral in Barcelona

We visited two cathedrals in Barcelona, and while the sensation of awe was certainly more palpable at Catedral de Barcelona, the astonishing beauty of La Sagrada Familia cannot be understated. The cathedral is still about 50 years from completion but there's so much that's done so well that it really doesn't feel like a work in progress.

Barcelona, by the way, is a place where you really want a wide lens. The city begs to be shot wide - I had the Canon 8-15mm on almost the entire time I was there.

"Backstage" at Barcelona Cathedral

Every step taken in the Catedral de Barcelona was a step taken in awe. I don't know how, but we were the first people in when they opened the sanctuary in the afternoon so we got the opportunity to appreciate it in solitude for a few minutes before it was flooded with other tourists. It's very hard from a photo to appreciate the pure grandeur of the place.

Photos like this are a great defense for the use of HDR photography. I don't think it's gaudy or overwhelming at all; and this level of detail can't be had with a single exposure. There's not enough dynamic range. It's three bracketed images and at least one looked quite good on its own but was very dark. All of the HDR photos from this Cathedral turned out great.