Archive for August 2011

On failure, in filmmaking

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

It’s sometimes really, really hard to be a creative person in a money-needing world, ‘innit?

Say you’re a filmmaker, kind of broke, and you finally get that gig that you need to pay your rent. You’re pretty stoked (actually, you’re VERY stoked), and you show up on the day of the shoot and do your best to shoot it to the specs provided by the client– allowing yourself one or two creative divergences when everything starts to feel just a bit too…. corporate. You go home happy.

When you examine the footage the following morning, your heart sinks.

Due to one of those creative divergences you allowed yourself, the main subject is backlit. The client – who just wanted a simple interview and reminds you briskly that he made that eminently f-ing clear – is totally pissed. You feel like a failure, an amateur, and wonder what the hell inspired you to even think you could do this in the first place.


The realization of one’s own mistakes is hard. Even when one has an intimate understanding of the complexities that informed them, a self-defense mechanism kicks in and one becomes immediately inclined to blame. The client has no vision. The machine broke. I must really really REALLY suck. The light seeeeemed fine when I shot it. Whatever.

In truth, we all know that our angry blaming behavior – whether directed at the client or at ourselves – typically comes when issues aren’t being properly addressed within our own brains or when we just didn’t read the damn manual on the lighting kit. We find ourselves powerless, our knowledge lacking, unable to advance, and the voice in our head whispers, cruelly ‘This is all. your. fault.’ And the hard truth is that a lot of our failures – not all of them but a lot of them – are in our own control. This of course makes us feel extra-shitty when we fail: Not only did we fail, but we also double-failed by letting ourselves fail.

Incongruously, and counter-productively, when faced with the problems that we confront in our lives as filmmakers & artists, lethargy tend to kick in. A person is clearly better served by plastering on a big smile and adopting a kick-ass attitude, and starting over (doing things exactly as instructed this time). And yet we find ourselves straying from the line, griping about the client, and semi-seriously daydreaming about a new career as a florist.

And that, my friends, is what leads to a real, actual lack of success – or at least has led to mine. When you walk away, take the easy route, give up.

Sometimes, upon further reflection, those little failures – the ones that lose us the job but prove that at least we’re in the game – are the better alternative.


Schmooru of the Month- Steve Ogden

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Hi Steve, thank you for taking the time to talk with Schmooru.

Are you aware that there is a Steve Ogden in Texas who is a member of the Texas Senate?

Yes, it’s unfortunate. Almost as much so as the MTV stuntman I share a nickname with.

If you answered yes, how many times a day do you google your self?

Hmmm. Not in a long time, let’s see… Yikes! Damn you Senator!

Your design reel is really impressive, how did you first get started working with After Effects?

We touched on it a bit in school, but I think it was when I saw the film titling of Kyle Cooper (Se7en) that I got excited about motion and really dug into After Effects myself.

Are you self taught?

Yeah I guess mostly self taught in terms of After Effects itself, but I’m super appreciative of my design education at CCA. It was more about concept and the creative and visual aspects than the tools.

You say on your website “I’m big on stylistic non-monogamy” Stylistic Non-Monogamy could be the title of an article in the New Yorker. . . what do you mean by this? Break it down for us.

Hmm, you’re right. I think I’ll reword that. How about ‘versatility of style’. Basically I’m just saying that… because I tend to approach design problems from a strategic, concept-driven angle, rather than a stylistic or trend-based angle, it has forced me to learn to work in more and more new styles, rather than ‘sticking to what I know’, or using some new effect I got, just because it’s cool.  I first think about the message, the audience, the delivery, and then propose visual directions that work well toward those goals.

3D technology in the past few years has grown from professional use to consumer, with 3D televisions, video cameras. . . .etc. Is this technology really here to stay or is it all hype?

It’s definitely not all hype, but it will be interesting to see how it goes. I started doing a lot more stereoscopic work, even for corporate videos and documentaries. I initially thought of stereoscopic as an adrenalin thing, and scoffed at the idea of talking heads, yakking on about this or that “IN 3D!”, but I realized it really does put you closer to the subject and can even make pretty boring information more interesting. It won’t go as quickly the SD to HD shift though – every aspect of stereoscopic work takes a bit of knowledge and skill, it’s not just a switch on the camera. So it’ll take some time, and the technology will continue to morph, and the silly glasses are a big downside.

It’s interesting because a lot of your work has a humanitarian edge to it, do you have a preference in the type of client you work with?

The majority of my clients are probably corporate and entertainment, but I try to show-off more of the do-gooder stuff, because that’s the work I feel best about and that I’d like to get more of. Also that strategy-based thing I mentioned, and my passion for the visual-communication, comes into play with that kind of work. I like working on projects with an actual message more than something that’s just applying the latest design trend to a cliché ad blurb.

Your house is on fire, you have five minutes to grab your belongings, what do you grab?

My fire extinguishers. I have several.
If that fails, my cat, my RAID drives with all my work, and a couple paintings.

You worked a lot with the Obama 08 campaign, can you talk a little about that?

It was kinda like summer camp, except working 16 hours and drinking at bars for most of the rest. Lots of really smart people with very different backgrounds than me. Lots of bonding and camaraderie and the hourly emotional roller-coaster that came along with the latest poll or headline. I designed and animated a lot of little special purpose web videos, like for specific constituencies. I got to co-direct a couple bigger projects that got a lot of play, and that felt good. The interesting thing is how it changed my perspective on politics, I gained a certain patience and tolerance for it. There are so many people with so many different views, even within your own party, it’s like why draw lines around parties in the first place?  As much as I disagree with the way things are, I started to feel like they’re exactly how they are supposed to be, at this moment in civilization.

What advice to you have to aspiring graphic design/after affect gurus?

Hmm, it might sound kinda harsh, but I guess I’d say, if they’re really into the animation/after effects aspect, become an animator, there’s plenty of work and you’ll be valued as a specialist who knows their tools. If they’re really into the design aspect, become a designer, It’s competitive, so be inspired, passionate, dedicated and patient. If you really want to do both, prepare to put in the extra hours for the first few years.

To see Steve Ogden’s work, check out