Posts tagged Film
A New Hope: Babies, Teammates, Casting Calls
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You may or may not have heard the news, but about a month ago my wife gave birth to our first son! And I know everyone says this, but he has already completely changed our lives! We’ve had late nights--or more accurately, endless nights--and so many new rhythms. One of the serval things I didn’t anticipate is how having a newborn forces you to live in the present. Already, we’re hanging on his every movement; noticing small changes; and just trying to survive from moment to moment. Having a son has really helped me put things in perspective.  For instance…I am proud of that boy and he does nothing but eat, sleep, scream, and defecate. If I love my son for just being alive and being mine, how can I question God’s love for me? This new perspective also hasn’t diminished my love of this job! Writing scripts and shooting commercials is not any less important--quite to the contrary. It reminds me that I can put everything I have into making the best films possible, knowing that I’ve got this new life supporting me and also to support! We’re infused with a new hope (Star Wars pun not intended), and I can already see him improving the way we tell stories here at His Grace Productions.

And, at the risk of a not-so-subtle transition, something else that has been pushing my creativity over the last couple of years and bringing hope to our team is Josh Barbur. Josh is another member of the His Grace Production crew that you really need to meet. (To meet the rest of our crew check out these blog posts.)


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Have you ever had a moment when God brings the right person across your path at just the right time? That’s been Josh for me. We met working production at our church where I heard he was a good shooter. The rest has been history in the making. Josh has grown with this company, and he is a huge asset to our team.  From camera op-ing to lighting design, there’s not much this guy can’t do. Speaking of which, he plays in at least four different bands and is about to go on tour this summer with “Night Traveler.” See, my guys are rock stars! Oh wow… Dad jokes already?

Josh is always on the move and always booked. Whether he’s working with me, filming something for the church, playing with Thinking Caps, or sitting in with another band that needs him, his schedule is jam-packed. He’s a servant, a man of God, and he’s the person you want in your corner when walking on set.

Sunrise on a high-rise. Josh and James grab a beautiful time-lapse while I chill out and take this pic.

Sunrise on a high-rise. Josh and James grab a beautiful time-lapse while I chill out and take this pic.

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For His Grace Productions, Josh does a little bit of everything. On some shoots he’s our DP (director of photography) and on some shoots he’s in charge of lighting. (Pro-tip: The best way to increase your production value before purchasing a $100k camera is to light your projects well! This can be economical but can also take a long time. Thankfully, Josh IS a rockstar and can take budgeting lemons and make lemonade.) Josh is also a certified Steadicam-op and brings a high level of skill to each shooting. Whether he’s focused on perfecting some important detail, capturing big-picture shots, or bringing new, creative ideas, Josh is a source of inspiration and hope on our team. If you haven’t met him already, I hope you get to soon! (For now, you can stream the Thinking Caps!)

Another source of excitement and hope is the short film we’re working on. (For more on the short film, check out our last blog post.) We’ve officially begun casting, and so far we’ve had more than 150 people respond to our call (thank you Texas Film Commission for helping us spread the word)! Call backs and auditions will be happening soon and not long after that we’ll begin to shoot. We’ve got a location scouted--Jake’s Texas Tea House, a great restaurant and perfect backdrop for our story--and have had good conversations with the owners. I’ve been working with Will to get the shot list, and it’s all coming together. Then, depending on how this first vignette turns out, we’ll work to secure funding and shoot a full episode to use as a pilot that we’ll then pitch with the hopes of shooting a full series or feature-length film. To keep with the theme of this post, I’m hopeful.  Not because of circumstances, because we all know how quickly those change, but because Jesus Christ is faithful. We have a living hope that is solid, unchanging, fixed (1Peter 1:3). May everyone who reads this have an extra dose of hope today and as always don’t hesitate to reach out. We love hearing from you all!

So how are you doing? How’s business going this year? If you haven’t quite found a way to articulate how amazing your company is, we’d love to help. Tell us what’s going on by clicking the “CONTACT” button below and we’ll set up a time to chat.

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Our Resident Genius AND News on Our New Film Series
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Happy New Year! It’s already been a busy one at HGP! I still haven’t introduced you to all of our team, but first I need to give you an update on our First 15 Project, my work to create 15 short films. For the next installment, I’ve been working with my good friend, Joseph. We’ve got an idea to put together five to six short films, each four or five minutes long, and they’ll all come together to complete one story. And, for this one, we’re thinking about not only releasing it and seeing who likes it, but we’re also thinking about combining it into one full episode that we can use as a pilot to pitch to the likes of Amazon and Netflix. Who knows what shape it’ll all take, but whatever we do with the film, it’s just fun to think about new ideas, dig into our creativity, and be ambitious.

We’re really excited about this next challenge in storytelling and filmmaking. Our goal from the start has been to create stories we’re interested in and then find people who are willing to go on the journey of making it with us. We know that, for us, if we try to create something we don’t believe in, then we’re probably not going to make something creative enough for people to want to watch.

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Now that we’ve taken on this next goal of pitching to a distro company, I know this short film isn’t just practice and that I’ll have to push myself, both creatively but also in terms of production value and the quality of my writing. We’re really going to have to find and bring everything together--equipment, setting, actors, etc. (Side note: if anyone reading this blog wants to act in this next project, send me a reel!)

Our first script is almost done. I won’t give away too many plot details here, but suffice it to say there a dark haunts, a vigilante anti-hero, and various pre-apocalyptic settings. So, stay tuned for updates! We’ll keep you posted here on how the shooting is going and our progress toward a picked-up pilot, and what it looks like to try and get your foot in the door with these streaming platforms!

Now, after that exciting update, it’s time to introduce you to another member of the His Grace Productions team (drum roll please): Ryan Young! Below is a Q&A with Ryan and the skillz he brings to our team.


Q&A with Ryan Young, animator extraordinaire.


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Hi, Ryan, thanks for doing this. I think we should just jump right in, no niceties or small talk. So, tell us about how you became a part of His Grace Productions?

Well, I met Jake through a friend. I was working on a shoot for an Antioch music video and needed a slider—so I went to Jake! We got to talking and he mentioned that he’d seen some of the motion graphics I’d done and that he needed help with a 3-D, motion graphic video and animation for a project he was working on. I helped with that and have been able to help with several projects since then.

At His Grace, we do a lot of live action, filming people and places for our productions, but could you tell us a little about why it’s important to have an animation component?

Animation is a great way to be engaging and a really good tool for promoting a product/service/event. It’s also very flexible, because we can control the colors and story in a way you can’t necessarily do when filming live action. We can also add animation to live action, which just adds a new level of creativity and engagement for an audience. With animation, we can pack a ton of things into a one-minute video.

Exactly, animation is a tremendous value add to our customers and the products we create. So, doing animation, you’re not necessarily on “set” or doing behind the camera work are  you?

Not really. I do digital animation, which lets us add a whole new element to our work and another way to meet our clients needs. I do 2D animations, which let us add illustration to piece and bring a lot more to our storytelling. I also digitally build 3D models. With these, I can basically sculpt a product to a client’s liking and allow them to highlight a product in ways that live action doesn’t necessarily let you. For example, we recently worked with cement barrier company to build a 3D replica of their machine and show it at different angles and in different ways that wouldn’t be possible by filming it alone.

How did you get into animation like this?

Like a lot of us, I started doing film in high school, and specifically I started to learn the program After Effects. I had to learn it for a high school show, and really just taught myself--with the help of YouTube. I’d watch videos of someone creating an effect and then I’d try it myself. After high school, I went to Baylor and started to learn a lot more. Along with After Effects, I started editing live action and eventually got a minor in film and digital media (I majored in entrepreneurship). While in school, I would help with video production at my church, and when I graduated I got to work for the church full-time doing video production. So now, along with working with His Grace Productions, I get to work alongside my church’s 17+ ministries and produce videos for their events and to promote their services. The more I’ve worked on this, the more I’ve realized that I’m just naturally a visual person, and I continue to realize how visual life is in general. There are just so many options and ways you can be creative visually.

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What’s been your favorite project to work on?

Actually, it was probably the one for the cement company. It was just really interesting and fun. I got to work closely with the client. They brought in models for us to see and replicate, and we also got to go to the facility where they manufacture their product. Creating a model for them was really intricate and challenging, but I think it came out really well--and more importantly, so did they! The process of building that 3D model was fun, but so was getting to work hand-in-hand with the client throughout the process to give them a product they really love. Just in general, I’m really liking learning about different styles within 3D motion graphics and all the different techniques there are--for example, right now I’m doing a lot of 3D-neon looks. Motion graphics are just so versatile, and I love to add supplemental graphics on live action video to make it really stand out or even make a full-on cartoon that tells a story in a fun way that live action can’t always do.

Why do you like working with His Grace Productions? What sets it apart?

I think Jake is great at communicating with clients and understanding what needs to get done and how to get the client a great product. He has a really great creative mind but is also really good at seeing the big picture when it comes to what the client needs; if a client doesn’t have a great idea, he’s good at steering them away from that but making them happy.

Lastly, tell us a little about what you like to do when you’re not creating 3D models or animation?

Hmm, well, I play guitar and enjoy that, and I just like to hangout with friends, watch movies (I’ve really enjoyed Doctor Strange lately. There is so much going on in that movie that, at first glance, you don’t think of it as being animation but so many of the effects that make that movie special are animation). I also just like to come to Pinewood and read and hang out--right now, my favorite authors are Malcolm Gladwell and Brennan Manning.


It’s so fun to see people operate in their God-given talents and thrive!  So, now who needs a little animation in their lives? Click the contact button below and we’d be happy to explain a bit more about the process.



Ryan is just one member of our great team at His Grace Productions. We’ve assembled an amazing great group of talent so that we can make sure to meet all of our clients’ needs. Make sure to subscribe to our blog so you don’t miss our posts about the rest of the team! And, if you’re ready to create videos or a commercial to generate even more revenue for your business, let us know!

They Don’t Care About the Perfect Soufflé: My Conversation with Author and Filmmaker Robert Fuller

Robert and crew on a recent commercial shoot in Waco, TX.

Robert and crew on a recent commercial shoot in Waco, TX.

So you’re plugging along, working hard to create that next amazing scene, then BOOM.  You look up and a massive brick wall is staring back at you.  Starting my own production company has been a wild ride and there are times when I feel beaten down and like I’m the only one struggling through a certain process. We are in the middle of writing the script for our next short film while tirelessly crafting commercials for our clients, and the high intensity pace of it all started to catch up with me. That’s when God pulled me aside and gave me the best pep-talk ever.  Enter, Robert Fuller. Robert is an amazing filmmaker, writer, and production company owner who reached out to grab coffee with me, and close to 3 hours later, reignited my resolve and passion for this line of work.  I’ve done my best to capture some of his inspiration in this post (how do you capture inspiration in one post?!). Robert offered advice on facing fear and the discipline of creating. I think it’ll leave you as motivated as I was. In fact, it went so well, I’m hoping to do this again, with other filmmakers! Make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss the others!

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Robert Fuller’s journey to becoming a filmmaker followed a long and winding road. In fact, if you believe what he says, he never even wanted to be one. But I think at least his subconscious knew, because in between telling me how he wasn’t interested in being a professional filmmaker, he dropped in, “well, I did make cheesy horror flicks with my brothers as a kid, you know with ketchup and butter knives.”—spoken like a young James Cameron/Peter Jackson/Steven Spielberg

Even if Robert didn’t know he wanted to be a filmmaker, he’s always known that he’s a storyteller at heart. “I can remember writing stories when I was young, maybe six-years old,” he told me, “And I mean seriously writing, spending time and working hard on my stories. As I got older, I’d spend more time writing. Sometimes I’d stay up most of the night working on a story.”

His journey to shooting video has taken him down a lot of paths since his childhood writing. Robert’s been a missionary, a janitor, a worship pastor, and has produced musicals and plays—none of it with a camera in his hand, but the theme of storytelling always finding its way in there. Finally, the call to the camera won out.

“I’m addicted to real true stories, real human stories, fiction or nonfiction,” Robert explains, “and I got to a point where I knew God was leading me to focus on telling his stories—stories of salvation and healing.” So, he decided to start travelling, looking for and listening to stories and writing them down. 

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“Before I left, I was talking with my old youth pastor, he’s a writer, and I was telling him about my project and that it was mostly going to be written—he basically told me not to write the stories because video would have a greater impact. So, I got a camera.”

“I really didn’t know what I was doing,” he continues, “but I knew I was not going to wait to tell the stories until I learned how to do it—that decision transformed my creative process.”

“It’s easy to want to know how to do it, then start. I think a lot of creatives get stuck there. They wait until they know what they’re doing or have a great product before putting it out there for the world to see.” 

At this point, I knew Robert was the person I needed to be talking to. Then Robert dropped his advice on me. FILMMAKERS, HERE’S WHERE YOU NEED TO PAY ATTENTION: Robert’s advice—or maybe mandate—to beginning filmmakers: You have to be okay with failure.

He recognizes this is easier said than done. “I’ve literally written millions of words over my life. You wouldn’t believe how much content—unfinished work, even completed books—I have sitting on my hard drive! It’s taken me a long time to get a thick skin and conquer my fear of failure.”

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“Actually, what helped me get over it was a dream I had. In this dream, I was in a kitchen cooking, trying to make the perfect soufflé. I kept trying and starting over; never happy with the results. And then I looked out the kitchen window and saw there were so many starving people waiting for food! They were so hungry and didn’t care about the perfect soufflé—they just wanted to eat!” 

Once Robert woke up, he knew it was time to stop sitting on content, hoping it would eventually be perfect enough to release, and time to take the leap of faith to publish what he’d created. “I had to face my fear of failure and released my first book. It was tough to do. At every step of the process I kept thinking, ‘Are people going to think I’m a hack?’ or ‘I’ve always dreamed about this what if I fail?’” (…asked every visionary ever!)

“Perfect can be a killer sometimes. You have to just fall back on the truth that God has given gifts to everybody,” he’s says, “There’s no such thing as a magic wand; making good work happens through hard work.”

Robert’s other piece of advice (PAY ATTENTION HERE, it’s another golden nugget): Make your creative work—writing, filming, painting, etc.—a routine and a discipline.

“When I was younger, I’d write whenever I was inspired. I would go two weeks without writing, then an idea would hit me and I’d stay up all weekend writing,” he says with a slight laugh. “As I got older, I knew that needed to change.”

These days, he’s figured out a better structure. Every morning, he gets up before the rest of his family and writes for an hour, and to his surprise, his output increased significantly once he started this practice. “Writing became like muscle memory. I could sit down and my brain knew what to do and could move much more quickly. I’m finishing stories and books, and the writing momentum is like a train. Once it starts rolling, it’s hard to stop.”

Robert’s creative train seems to be moving full-speed ahead now. He owns a successful video production company, just released his first book (which is selling like hotcakes!), and is producing his first short film this summer. While his fear of failure is always lurking, it’s had to be pushed aside. “When I don’t write or create, I start to dry up a little and I feel off, which is always a good reminder. It’s not an option, I have to do it.”

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You can get his young adult fiction novel, In the Belly of the Earth, on Amazon and follow him on Instagram @fullerwriter to get updates on his short film and others projects.

This is just a small sample of what Robert and I talked about but it got me back on track to be disciplined in my trade and to not to let perfection keep me from moving forward in what God has called me to do. I hope this inspires you to keep pressing on, working WITH God on the amazing things He’s called you to.  We’re running this race together so when you’re in a rut and your soufflé is burning the kitchen to the ground, never forget to reach out.  You’re not alone and we’ve all destroyed plenty of kitchens before creating something really worthwhile.

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The Hardest Part...Getting Started: 4 Tips for Finding—and Keeping—Good Actors

A lot of the inspiration for starting my First 15 project came from my friend, Austin Meek, who recently started hosting his own radio show on local public radio. I was surprised when I heard his voice in my car one day, so I called him to ask how he made it happen. He told me about having the idea to hear the inside scoop of Waco’s growth and, instead of showing up to the radio station with just a good idea, he wrote out 30 basic episodes of who he’d interview and what they’d talk about. The station was fully on board, and now you can hear Austin every Friday at 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

His idea clicked with me.

I don’t want my own radio show, but what’s stopping me from writing and shooting my own films? And, one-by-one, I can build up a more narrative based portfolio and pitch it to a company. I got to work right away.

To start, I took down a few notes that looked something like this:

Faith is central to my story and the story I want to tell, but I really don’t want to do faith-based stuff the way it’s usually done. I want to do something that I actually want to make and that I’d like to watch.

I love and am influenced by action movies from the 80s and 90s—Jurassic Park, Terminator 2, Big Trouble in Little China, Blade Runner, Alien, Escape from New York (Man, HOW GOOD IS ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK?! I could write a blog post entirely about that). And the show Eerie, Indiana. (Does anyone remember that show?) So, I want to shoot something with fun action scenes and some sort of training montage and figure out how to pull it all off.

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Those were my starting points for the first of the First 15, and the plot I put together goes something like this: a young woman goes for a nice, leisurely jog on a trail in the woods (what could go wrong?) and crosses paths with…something. She’s not sure what it is but knows it’s not human (an animal? A monster? An alien?). When she’s tries to tell people about it, no one believes her. So, instead of waiting around for someone to take her seriously and come to her rescue, she trains so she can confront it herself. Eventually, she heads back into the woods for a final showdown. On her way, she’s confronted by a hermit who tells her she should turn around. Will she listen to him? Will she keep going? Stay tuned to find out.

Obviously, I put together an awarding winning storyline. (Check that off the list.) All I needed to do after that was bring together a cast. That’s when things got real, and that’s the first lesson I gleaned in the First 15: How to Find Actors.

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Unlike big-budget, Hollywood films, I didn’t have agents lining up to get their clients a part in my short film. I wasn’t sure where to start. I know how to shoot video, but for the commercials I’ve done, the actors were already there. This time I had to find them myself. I put out a call on social media, but I didn’t get many hits. I handed out cards and tried to explain my story to people at my gym but, surprisingly, that didn’t work well either (I am, however, now avoided when I go work out, so I always have plenty of space. Maybe that counts for something?). From hits and misses, I’ve put together 4 tips for finding, and keeping, actors for your short films or commercials:

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1.     Contact your local film commission. Local film commissions are great resources. Their goal is to promote your local film and videography scene—for those behind the camera and those that want to be in front of it. Film commissions already have an established network and can send your info to their contact list. Once I reached out to the film commission in Waco, I quickly heard from people who wanted to act. If you’re based in a smaller town, reach out to commission in near-by larger cities. In Waco, I also use the Dallas and Austin film commissions as resources.

2.     Set clear parameters for your time and how you want to be contacted. I hadn’t worked much with local actors, but I’ve learned they are…passionate. One meeting over coffee lasted almost two hours. Another actor was excited to text me his ideas for the film, at 6 a.m. Maybe you’ve got time to spare and are a morning person, but that didn’t work well for my schedule. So, be up-front about your expectations and what you’re looking for. If you’re meeting with potential actors, tell them you’ve got 30 minutes to hear about what they’ve done and why they’d be a good fit. If you’re giving out your contact info to someone, tell him that he should only contact you during business hours. Clear expectations and parameters at the beginning make things easier for everyone. 

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3.     Auditions are probably unnecessary (and probably awkward). Auditions take up time—your time and your actors’ time. If a person wants to star in your commercial or promotional video, he/she probably has done some acting that has been recorded. Instead of in-person auditions, have people send you video of their work. This way, you can look at their work on your own time, and they can send you a variety of pieces where they’re at their best. Plus, you won’t have a bunch of people lined up in your living room reading lines to you. (Surely that’s happened to others, right? Right?!)

4.     Have everything planned out in advance. On a low (zero) budget film, your actors are likely volunteers. Don’t make them wait around while you’re trying to decide how to frame a shot or where you want the plot to go next. Make a plan and stick to it. Not everything will end up going according to plan, but when you control the things you can control, your actors will give you more grace for the inevitable hiccups that arise.

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Putting together the pieces for my first short film in my First 15 project has made one thing clear—I’m going to learn a lot. Hopefully, the things I learn—the do’s and don’ts—will help you as you begin filmmaking or shoot a commercial for your business. But, if my pitfalls have made it clear to you that you don’t want to do your own videography, I can help with that too! Contact me at jake.mcghee@hisgraceproductions.com or visit my hisgraceproductions.com to learn more about how I can help you with your video production needs, or if you just want to share your own “interesting” filmmaking stories.


Three VCRs, Afghanistan, and Wedding Videos: A Little About my Path to Video Production
Afghanistan 2012

Afghanistan 2012

My First Video Production Class

I grew up in a small town in near Kansas City, and the film-scene was not necessarily booming. There was, however, at least one cinephile in town—Mr. Shaw—and every summer he’d offer a film class. Now, when I say film class, you have to remember that this is small-town Kansas in 1998. So, if you’re picturing state of the art cameras with the latest editing software, you’re way off. Mr. Shaw’s A/V setup essentially consisted of three VCR’s. To make a “movie,” you’d put your tape in one VCR, play a scene, quickly hit record on the second VCR that was loaded with a blank VHS. “What about the third VCR?” you ask. After getting the first scene, you’d hit play on the third VCR to transition to the next scene. If you got all of that right, you’d quickly eject the first VCR and insert the tape for the next scene. Do that 15 to 20 times and—voilà—you’d have your movie.

And that was it, after cutting together a bunch of my dad’s old horror film tapes on Mr. Shaw’s VCR’s, I was hooked. But, as any sensible young adult would, I decided that I couldn’t make movies as a career. Instead, I made the safe choice and became an engineer and joined the military. After college, I was deployed to Afghanistan where I was able to put my engineering skills to important use and climb the military ranks. By the time I had finished my first tour, I had built an impressive résumé and schools were telling me that I was a shoo-in for grad school, the next logical step. My path was set and videography was not in the picture.

A New Camera and A Lot of Weddings

Anchorage Alaska Wedding 2014

Anchorage Alaska Wedding 2014

When I arrived back in the U.S., I contacted the school that I had applied to. The admission’s employee that I spoke with was confused, because she couldn’t find my application. “M-C-G-H-E-E,” I spelled to her over and over, but it didn’t help. Somewhere between my time in the Middle East and this U.S. school, my application had been lost. I didn’t have the spot that I thought was guaranteed, and I wasn’t going to the grad school that I needed for my career. I was completely at a loss for what to do.

One administrative mistake and my engineering career hit a wall. All I knew to do was turn to my faith, and through prayer, I was reminded that my military commitment was technically over.  My wife and I brought some friends in to pray with us and not long after it became really clear that it was time to pursue something completely new. So, I bought a camera.

Camera in hand, I got a job working for an experienced wedding videographer. It was basically a six-month crash course learning how to frame and expose shots, color correct, organize footage, film interviews, do postproduction editing, record good audio, organizing shoots, and getting to a final product. I shot wedding after wedding, each time learning something new.  When I wasn’t filming a bride I was running a camera at our local church.  Any practical experience available I jumped at.

Clients, Commercials, and Creative Content

First Commercial Shoot for Wendy's Kitchen

First Commercial Shoot for Wendy's Kitchen

A couple years of that and my wife and I felt like we were being led to back Texas.  I began working with my own clients and helped sell products through commercials while telling meaningful stories through video. Now I’m ready to take another step in my video production journey and start making more narrative based films. Distributing a film has never been so accessible as it is now. YouTube and Vimeo allow anyone to share their creations. Professionally, streaming services like Netflix and Amazon are disrupting the traditional movie industry. Big movie studios are putting all of their investments into blockbuster sequels and still struggling to make as much money as they used to. The film industry is ripe for disruption, and I’d like to put my content into the mix. I’ve got to start somewhere, so I’m making my First 15 right now. My first short films consisting entirely of my own creative content. From start to finish, it’ll all be me. Percentages say that I’m going to fall flat on my face with some, if not all of them, but it’s worth the risk. And I’m going to chronicle each treacherous step in this blog, so me failing might be more fun for you to read! Either way, here we go…