So earlier tonight, technically last night because it is past midnight now, I made a decision that may have very, let us say, interesting repercussions for me as an independent filmmaker.
It started with Amazon Video Direct letting me know that its streaming services were now at my disposal. So I logged in and began to set up the selling of my first documentary, Fly First & Fight Afterward: The Life of Col. Clarence D. Chamberlin, but something happened that led my night into a very different direction. Right when I thought the process was complete, the site asked me to please upload the closed-captioning file to accompany my video file. Well, I do not have that. I have never needed to have that. And, while my sympathies towards the hearing impaired are very real, I did not think not having that type of file should keep me from making my film available for streaming.
There are two great articles I have read over the course of the year (I am even citing from one in my dissertation’s critical introduction) that, as the pieces moved into place tonight, now make complete sense to me: my documentaries will never be, short of a Harvey Weinstein-inspired miracle, part of that 1% of films that will be both watched by millions and turn incredible profits, generating countless articles and tv specials tracking the journey. But that does not mean there is not an audience for the works I have created, am creating, and will create. Enter YouTube.
After cleaning up my old YouTube account, I turned it into the new free streaming channel to my first documentary. It will be home to all my films from now on. Free. I know, crazy, right? Why would I want a potential audience of millions to have direct access to my work?
I am proud of myself. I chose to be part of the conversation. I chose to generate more conversation. I have a great job. I do not need to rely on my film work to pay the bills. I am fortunate that way.
Physical DVDs are still available through Amazon and Createspace, and I hope people opt to purchase their own copies. But I am no longer holding my breath. It is a new era for me. I am excited.
And, to ensure my honesty, enjoy the film!
So on the last day of 2015 I find myself thinking back exactly 365 days ago. On the last day of 2014 I was one week removed from having decided what my next documentary would be on: Hubert Julian, the ultimate showman of the 20th century.
On that day, I had nothing. Correction: I had one book on him and his 1960s autobiography on the way from a used bookstore in England. Both would prove frustrating. Truth-stretching, tall tales, and outright lies would plague me in the first few weeks as I tried to learn about this man’s life. But I knew there was a compelling story despite the misinformation. There had to be. We are talking about one of the first persons of color to fly an airplane, a parachutist whose aerial stunts captivated Harlem (hence the moniker), and an all-around larger-than-life personality, so I knew there was a hook in there somewhere. Of course, the hook is the entire damn story; its nearly impossible plot points which, I had to find out with research, are true!
After eight months of research and planning I had everything I needed: primary citations, some old photographs, selected newsreel footage, and, most importantly, over 500 newspaper articles from between 1922 and 1983, putting into focus the truths within Julian’s account of his own life. So in September I started to write. Once a week. Every Friday morning. Between 8am and 1pm I was cut off from the world. I thought it would be tedious, boring, and that my discipline for sticking to the schedule I had set would falter. Wrong on all counts.
Thirty-four thousand words and 94 (single-spaced) pages later and I have a screenplay entering into its revising and editing phase. That will take a month; I don’t like to dwell especially when I have spent four months writing at a very careful pace.
The year 2015 was dedicated to the research and writing of The Black Eagle of Harlem and 2016 will be the year in which the documentary is made. It will feature a narrator and voiceover actors to tell the story. It will utilize archival materials and original artwork to create a visual for audiences to identify with. And there will be very interesting interviews with people whose interests in Julian have brought us together. In short, I’m excited to see where the journey will take me.
Here’s to 2016! Happy New Year!
So after two five hour long plane rides, between grading papers and mapping out my lectures, I was able to finish “Jim Henson: The Biography” by Brian Jay Jones. It’s probably no surprise that because of Jones I have just joined the Biographers International Organization (BIO, cute, right?).
I thought I knew who Henson was and what he was about. I’m really glad that I was wrong because this book was a really entertaining view into the life of one hell of a creative artist. I wasn’t lying in the tweet I sent to Jones, telling him that the ending had me tearing up.
I’m not one to criticize the works of others, especially at this caliber and on this level, so all I will say is that I would like to have known more about…nope, I can’t do it, the book was a gem. What impresses me most is the trust Jones was granted by the Henson children in the form of their father’s private journal. For a guy who wrote speeches for a living before putting out a Washington Irving biography, there was a huge amount of respect bestowed upon him. He delivered.
Now, it’s off to learn about the Wrights and that damnable flying machine of theirs.
I always swore that I would never start a blog. I figured, who would read it, right? I mean, I’m typing this post right now and there is nobody following me. Maybe I’ll get a few readers, or maybe I’ll simply be writing for the benefit of myself. Either way it’s going to be interesting mostly because I’m very curious as to how often I’ll update this thing. My initial goal is to use it as a way to keep a running narrative on my creative works, in this case, my new documentary currently in the works, The Black Eagle of Harlem. But more on that later on.