2014 Portfolio + Demo Reel

Here is my latest demo reel! Tell me what you think!

 

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MMSBC – REAL BATTLE ON FILM!

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This is a hard post to write, because for the first time since launching the Bit Pop brand, I’m expecting a decent spike in traffic to the site. Why? Well, my good pals over at Pixel Brain just released the first teaser for MMSBC: Real Battle on Film, a live action short, showcasing the story and characters from my comic book series! At this point, most people know the story, and while I thought about retelling it for the millionth time, no one needs to hear about how it was a failure-turned-comic-turned-whatever. You can read that in the MMSBC section of the website. It’s super difficult because I can’t properly put into words how exciting this is. Really, it’s honestly so surreal. I’ve managed to churn out a few amazing projects over the last few years…

A self published comic? An Atari game? A children’s book? What?! How amazing is that? Why is this so much greater or more meaningful? It’s about closure. It’s about never saying never. It’s about seeing it, believing in it, and making it happen. Even before I made the call to make MMSBC into a comic book series, the helmets that you see in the trailer, they haunted me. They were stored in my parents basement for years, collecting dust and taking up space. I’d pick one up, dust it off, and all it brought were sharp, painful memories of heartbreak and failure. I talk about the MMSBC film project and I tend to point fingers and place blame on why it didn’t work.

Was it the fault of one person in particular? It was. That person was me. GASP!

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Yeah, the timing was off, and the people who I was keeping company with and trusting were poisonous, but the truth is…I was making the movie for all of the wrong reasons. I wanted people to cheer me. I wanted people to know my name. I wanted people to ask me deep, personal questions. When I was in my mid-20s, after I screened the short film, ‘Bizarre Love Triangle’ at MAGFest, I had a huge inferiority complex about being a a writer and a filmmaker. I thought my films were really simplistic and silly, and I wanted to write complex, intense, beautiful movies. That’s why I wrote MMSBC. You wouldn’t think that, huh? Anyway, I started writing it and studying these modern masterpieces that were winning Oscars and awards at Sundance, and all that I realized was that I didn’t really like contemporary A-list films. I genuinely enjoy garbage like the Swamp Thing TV series a lot. I guess I can’t change who I am inside. MMSBC is a campy love letter to all of my oddball interests and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

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The art of making a movie is so much more multifaceted than just pointing a camera and hitting record — it involves script writing, collaborating with other writers and artists, and some improvisation. I do have a lot of appreciation for what real filmmakers do now, and ALSO see that they can have an important and beneficial effect on the world outside of ONE event out of the year where people happen to like the same old antiquated video games that you do. I met a lot of cool kids at MAGFest, but why that happened to be the benchmark set in my mind for acceptance is beyond me. I’ve changed a lot.

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Hitting the reset button, getting married, having a child – it really changes your priorities. When I had the vision of collaborating with Pixel Brain, and we agreed to make this thing work, I knew I wouldn’t have to look at the Ranger helmets the same way again. Everything clicked this time around, and I can honestly say that it’s the most proud that I’ve ever been of a creative project. You guys, I have a comic book series, a few retro games, and now a super cool trailer (or two!) to show off. Finish your projects. Do the hard work. It’s worth it. Visualize it, see it, and act on it. You have plenty of time. Scratch that! Time is just an illusion! Remember, your reality is yours to create and if you do not like what you’ve created so far, you have the power to change it. Ultimately, what you believe is a product of your habitual thoughts. You can truly be, do and have anything you desire. All you have to do is believe it. You may have been taught to only believe what you see, but in truth you will only see it once you believe it.

In the words of Henry Ford, “whether you believe you can, or your can’t, you are right”.

Enjoy the first MMSBC teaser trailer!

Superfriends 2013

Two-thousand and thirteen. Even though it’s only September, I’m feeling inspired to recap what has been a truly illustrious year, or at least the last couple of months. I’ve been using this blog lately as almost sort of an open diary, which is unlike me. If I’m going to write anything like my last few posts, it’s usually in a Google doc that no one will probably ever read. I like to explore new territory I guess. Deep down though, there’s a piece of me that stays pretty consistent, so somewhere in this article I’m sure I’ll reference a Sega Genesis game or something. Two-zero-one-three. I needed a summer like this one.

This isn’t an article about finding true love or happiness. Getting married and having a child balanced my life out in a major way, and it makes you feel saturated in happiness and peace and contentment. The stereotype is that having a child is the best thing that could ever happen to you and that your life completely changes.  I didn’t think I would really FEEL much different once I had a child because I have always been so absorbed in some kind of project or grand idea. I knew I could be a good dad but I didn’t think it was really going to have the emotional impact that it had  on me. But I walked out of the hospital a different person than I walked in. I just fell so deeply in love with this little guy. He’s amazing and inspires me to be a better person.  At the same time, though, I will say on a practical level my life has not changed all that much. I’m still setting up at comic book and video game conventions, which I’ve been doing for a long time. I’m still, you know, pretty much keeping the same routine.  I still like to have a lot of time to myself, and I find that to be really artistically sensitive I need to close myself off from much stimulation so my feelings rise up to the surface and I can capitalize on them. But at the same time I know that I also have a desire to start the next big thing, to be out in the world, to have fun, to be social, and even to be in the spotlight a little bit. So, you know, I have all of these desires and it’s just a matter of figuring out what the right balance is. And also factoring in everyone else’s needs too. And once you calm down and start thinking about it rationally and discussing it with everyone, it’s really not that big of a problem to figure it out. Before I met my wife and my son was born, the things that I used to cherish seemed so silly now. It’s not that I CAN’T or don’t want to make movies and comics all of the time, but I just didn’t feel like I NEEDED to. Sure, it’s fun, but so is watching your kiddo try to ride a battery powered Batman themed jeep! But, what if I were to jump back into some of those old (albeit time consuming) activities that used to demand so much time and energy? Is it possible to balance a family life and make a movie or a TV show? Would I have any energy left to perform adequately at my REAL job?

I came to a pretty crazy realization over the weekend, and that’s why I’m writing this…

At the 2013 Louisville Arcade Expo, I stumbled upon another group of exhibitors who were showcasing a film that they were premiering called ZACH COOPER’S EPIC SPEEDRUN. I enjoyed it and noticed that they not only had a great camera, but seemed to know how to actually make a movie and tell a story on film! I’m not going to tell the long winded tale of how MMSBC was a failed film project. We all know that one. What I will admit, is how much lately I’ve missed that process of planning and casting and all of the comradery  that comes together with film making.  I never studied film, I never really had any desire to get any real formal training, but something kept calling me back.  Sure, I’ve made a handful of silly movies, most of them I’ll admit are COMPLETE throwaway garbage, but every now and again I would just get the bug! Why? It’s hard work. . .long hours. . .why would I be itching to go through all of that again, only this time, with the added responsibility of a family to take care of? Am i crazy? Perhaps. Independent film making is one of the most difficult tasks one can engage in. You could know everything there is to know about telling a story in motion picture form, but somehow someway, things don’t always go according to plan.

So, the Zach Cooper crew, (or as they preferred being called, PIXEL BRAIN) had my attention. Let’s just say I HAD finished MMSBC back in 2008. God, that movie would have sucked. One HUGE reason that the film was a total flop, had a lot to do with the crew BEHIND the scenes. The camera guy, while a generally nice dude, had no interest whatsoever in sentai or making a superhero film. He was talented, but I’m guessing he was better suited to direct an HBO original series, and couldn’t really relate to the source material. Everything was working against it. We also used really old flip phones in some scenes. Watching it back now. . .it feels about one million years old.

Thanks to the magic of Facebook, I got a chance to pitch an idea to Matt Gaither, the brain(s)…of Pixel Brain. Is Matt’s brain THE Pixel Brain? What if we did MMSBC justice? What if we shot a few key scenes from the script and used it as a vehicle to promote the comic book? I threw the pitch (slow and straight) and before I knew it I had grown men in spandex on my front lawn!

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Surreal. We actually did it. From the get-go, it felt like it was 2003 and I was out in the woods shooting a Blair Witch parody with all of my friends. Was it as hard and as grueling as before? Ha! That’s understatement. It kicked my butt. BADLY. It put a lot of stress of everyone, but we did it. We lost sleep, ate bad pizza, scorched in the sun, and even let tempers flair a bit…but we did it. Did it scratch the itch? Now that I’m at my desk ready to work on VFX can I honestly say that I got the movie bug out of my system? Well, here is my complicated answer…

I never had a bug or an itch to make a movie. It was all a lie. It was a dirty trick that my brain was playing on me.  What I was missing, suddenly became very clear to me.

I missed being among friends.

There really was a fantastic sense of comradery and…well, just people having fun. There were lots of smiling faces. This is what I really missed. Every challenge, and there were a few, was met with a “Let’s get it done” attitude. Matt Gaither and everyone from Louisville, you guys did everything that was asked of you and maintained a positive attitude during the down times. I sincerely thank you guys and look forward to working with you on future projects. To my excellent cast, Aaron, John, Landon, Marissa, Summer, Lily, Jason, Matt you guys were just a joy to be around and really brought these characters to life. Thank you so much. I recommend you all in the highest terms possible. Summer, you get a double thanks for tolerating the makeup and crazy wardrobe while pregnant!  Caleb, thank you for being a professional and jumping around in the cicada suit! Last but not least, Jennifer (that’s my wife!) thank YOU for allowing me to see this though, and while I know it was hard, it meant a lot to me and I love you.

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If this short, promotional film rockets me to the moon, great! You’re all invited to come along for the ride! If not, and all I get are a few hundred hits on YouTube and a picture of John with David Yost to show for it, that’s okay too. What I have now, means much more. I made some pretty great friends, and for a long time, without really knowing…it’s what I’ve secretly needed. So, since it’s been a while since I’ve made an update, I’ll share some pictures and stories to close out this post!

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Summer, along with Landon, Marissa, and Jason all returned from being cast in the original 2008 version. We did several makeup tests with her back in 08, but to see her in the costume (which was made by my wife!) was truly awesome. She is a really sweet person and it was hard for her to act mean!

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Using the same actors is one thing, but what was just as cool, was using some of the same locations! This is a picture of the airport parking lot scene. Shooting it again, over 5 years later with different actors was such a trip! Devon was a great Jonas, don’t get me wrong, but I really can’t imagine anyone else playing him now. Aaron was just tremendous and even shared a lot of the same personality traits and body language as Devon.

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I love this picture. This really captures the moment. A funny side note, we originally kicked around the idea of having John Chambers (Kelley the Pink Security Ranger) playing Jonas. Like I said above, I can’t imagine anyone else playing that part now. Not only did he knock it out of the park, but his physical presence in the suit was just hilarious. He’s jacked!

MM_06I gave Jason a ton of creative freedom not only as our makeup artist, but as the brilliant alien Dr. Wallks!  He gave the character such an awesome voice that rides a thin line of cartoony and completely serious, which is what this franchise is all about. He was awesome and I can’t wait for everyone to see it!

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’m going to check eBay prices on Street Smart for the Sega Genesis. It’s an early 2D fighter from SNK. Ha! Betcha thought I’d forget!

Interface – Loveletters to Old Video Game Magazines & Sega CD

I have a little box in my office filled with old video game magazines from 1992-1995. I’d say about 85% of them have a Street Fighter II themed cover. I wouldn’t call myself a collector of old magazines. I’m more like a hoarder. In fact, I’m trying to really narrow down my “collecting” to some things that are more specific. Something to make the chase a little more exciting. The idea of owning a complete set of something always seemed impossible, so any “collection” that I’ve amassed, is quite the hodge-podge of crap. As far as video games go, for me, it’s not about having every single game, but having the ones that mean the most to me. While not the BEST system of all time, my favorite system is the Sega CD. That’s one console that I feel like I could realistically own every single US release. I’m actually well on my way, and just yesterday I found a pretty rare game out in the wild for under $20. Yup! Mad Dog II – The Lost Gold! Chances are, I’ll never ever play it, but man it feels good to own it. I shouldn’t say that actually. I WANT to play it. I just never have time. I like to imagine myself retired at age 55, looking up codes for Sega CD games. Very likely.

Anyway, 1992-1995 were when video games meant the most to me, and that probably explains my fascination with the Sega CD. It was something that felt so premium, yet so affordable. We can thank the magazines for that. I wound up finally owning one closer to 1995 after it had fizzled out, but you best believe that I rented one as often as I could. In fact, I “accidentally” rented a Sega CD game once JUST to con my parents into renting a Sega CD for me. I’m certain that I was a turd of a child.

So, I’m gonna flip through Electronic Gaming Monthly (May, 1993 – Volume 6, Issue 5) in search of something to ramble about. Let’s see what we find!

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Welp. That was fast. THE COVER! I love this image. LOVE IT. It’s an airbrushed masterpiece. Today, things are way too…uniform. Everything adheres to such a strict style guide and look, that it all comes off as so sterile and boring. Remember the thousands of artistic interpretations of the Ninja Turtles way back in the early 90’s? Variety is good. And confusing. How many people saw this and thought Bison was sitting on a crate and forcing Guile to smell the bottom of his boot? I just noticed this.

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Time Gal! A Sega CD game that I don’t actually own. This one is kinda-sorta rare, and is a full motion video romp that I think just commands you to hit the right button at the right time while a movie plays. I’m pretty sure it’s popularity stems from it’s anime look, but again, looking at that cover, the world just wasn’t ready for dem big eyes. Hysterical. Could you imagine if that were still the case today?

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I love this movie unironically and will defend it’s amazing brilliance until the bitter end. Nothing left to say. My only regret is not seeing it in theaters.

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This guy is complaining that they changed the SNES version of Ranma 1/2 to a generic fighting game called Street Combat. How was this guy aware of Ranma 1/2 in 1993? I guess in 1993 I was only 11, so it’s not IMPOSSIBLE for this guy to have picked up on it somewhere but still…the pre-internet days amaze me.

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I wanna carry this into a serious Street Fighter tournament. Also, I was a SEARS FUNTRONICS t-shirt. They had such an awesome video game display.

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X-Men was the very first game I owned for the Sega Genesis and I have to say, I completely agree with this review. It’s jerky and ugly. The game doesn’t hold up very well, but the sequel, X-Men 2 Clone Wars is top notch!

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This man is a pro athlete. Look how happy he looks to have his very own SNES game! According to Wikipedia, he’s now 60 years old and was arrested in 2008 at an NCAA basketball game for not wanting to leave the arena. Um, okay. Moving on…

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This is an ad for Bomberman on the Turbo Grafx 16. Nothing says grunge rock like Bomberman. Sing Pearl Jam’s “Better Man” song replacing better with BOMBER. I just made you laugh out loud. 😀

On that note, I need to get back to work and this article must conclude on a different day! Stay tuned! We’ll get through this magazine!

Old Friends Die Hard.

Look at this fool. Look at him! No one would know that I was just getting over major sickness number 2 for the year. I have to say though, I look pretty thin! I have a jawline! Neato!

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I just got back from the Louisville Arcade Expo. It’s our third year in a row, and despite being horribly ill, I managed to make it and rock the faces off of everyone in attendance. It’s a tremendous show, and it reminds me of the old days of MAGFest. I played some Game Boy music, got a chance to meet my MMSBC 2600 collaborator, and even managed to make it into the finals of the Super Puzzle Fighter II tournament. Also, the news. My buddy Landon had a huge crush on the reporter! D’awww.

What now? Good question. I s’pose this entry can be my annual “I HATE SPRING” post. Even though I made a nice chunk of change at the expo, it’s all washed up by overdue bills and old debts. Not that those things are bad, but it would have been nice to use some of that money for some kind of weekend getaway. Fight for the future I guess…

In other news, if you missed my chiptunes show at LAX, I’ll be doing another over the summer at IKASUCON in Ft. Wayne, IN. It’s an anime convention. I’m glad that I’m going as an artist/performer, because honestly I never wanted to be the creepy 30-something at the anime show. For some reason, it’s okay at comic cons, but anime cons are so littered with…I don’t know…young people. Like, 14 year olds. My little brother had his butt groped at an anime con rave a few years back. I don’t wanna go through that. Other than that, I’m truly looking forward to it and I know that it will be a good time. I’m currently not teaching, so doing a panel/seminar for the kids will be like scratching a long overdue itch. I’m pretty stoked.

I’m trying not to let the post-expo depression set in, but Ikasucon is a long way off, and I need some kind of stop-gap event to give me something exciting to look forward to….

I was debating on whether or not I should blog about this, but I feel like I have to. I got word on Monday that an old friend passed away. The concert on Friday night was probably the best show I’ve had, and my love of performing live music and songwriting can be traced back to one dude. I’m going to miss Ethan Statler. I would be lying if I said I didn’t daydream constantly about the original three members of The Mochajaro performing together again some day. Ethan and I wrote and recorded a song together called ‘The Stars (Look Super Cool)’ I’ve always wanted to do a chip arrangement of that song, and perhaps I’ll do that for him at the next show. The funeral is tomorrow, and while I promise you that I hate funerals (and the idea of funerals) more than anyone else, I might sneak over. If anything, I’ll sit on the doorstep of the joint and have a Jones soda. If they’re not sure about letting you into heaven, brother, jump the fence.

http://www.myspace.com/music/player?sid=22182986&ac=now

Post Holiday Depression

Yep. I used the D-word. It’s a Friday night and I’m shocked that this time last week I was gearing up to head out of town for the holidays. It feels like at least a month has passed since then. I told everyone around me that I was okay turning 30. I am. What I’m not okay with is how fast the holidays seem to fly by. Sure, Nikoh’s birthday is this weekend and 2013 is filled with all kinds of fun stuff, but something about this year has hit me really hard.

I had a really scary incident happen yesterday where I passed out/collapsed. It turns out that there was nothing wrong, but I have to tell you with all sincerity, and at the risk of sounding over-dramatic…I thought I was going to die. The past couple of days have REALLY sucked.

I tend to find comfort in nostalgic things. Typically I’d grab an EGM magazine from 1994 or watch an old Coliseum Video tape, but right now…none of that seems to work. In fact, when I went on a nostalgia hunt on Ebay, it made things even worse. You have to understand something about me, and this is about as private as I get in a public forum like this, but the STUPIDEST things make me sad. Like, not just an “awwww sooo saaaad” but full-on DEPRESSED.

For example…

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THESE Halloween costumes! Gah! I can’t even tell you…(but I’m going to!)

This one especially. Go ahead and titter! It’s a 1993 E. Honda Street Fighter II “budget” Halloween costume. You know the type. I’m pretty sure you can find them in certain circles of retail hell, but man were they everywhere when I was a kid. I can pinpoint a certain event in my life as to why they make me so depressed, but goes back further. You see, there was always some pitiful child in my class in grade school that had one of these for our school Halloween parade. Me? I went ALL OUT on Halloween, and it was a big deal to have the best, most current and hip costume I could manage! In 1992, I was the Penguin (Batman Returns). In 1994, I was The Mask (Jim Carrey). I won first prize for both of those costumes. I was happy to to have won, but I’d see the kids in THOSE costumes, and to just look sooooo defeated made me feel so incredibly guilty. I mean, they HAD to have known that they didn’t have a chance, but they entered the parade anyway. Here’s why these costumes continue to haunt me…

If you know me or have spent 15 minutes with me, you know that I LOVE Street Fighter II. Yes, TWO. Not three. Not EX PLUS ALPHA. Just plain old 2. Okay, and also the upgrades like Turbo and Champion Edition. But anyway, even though Street Fighter II was EXTREMELY popular back in 1993, finding Street Fighter II merch was still not as common as you would think. I want to say that this was even before the lovely Hasbro Street Fighter II GI Joe figures were even released. There was a discount store in town that I absolutely adored called Woolworth. It’s actually where I bought my original SNES! Soooo…one night, while out shopping with my mom and my little brother at the infamous Woolworth, we spotted the aforementioned E. Honda costume. I was pretty stoked to see this. Not only was it a unique and rare piece of Street Fighter memorabilia, but it featured what I personally would consider a ‘B’ character. You’d think that if they were going to make a Street Fighter Halloween costume that it’d feature a favorite like Blanka or Ryu, right? I guess not. Anyway, I was so jazzed to see it, and being the fanatic that I was, I wasn’t EVEN about to leave without it. The only problem was, I was probably 11 or 12 and a little husky. I wasn’t about to squeeze my fat into that jump suit. So, I did the unthinkable. Like, I literally think about this and become so disgusted with myself that it makes my blood boil. Remember what I just said about the PITY that I had for those children who’d parade around in those costumes? Welp, through pure evil manipulation, I convinced my little brother to be E. Honda for Halloween that year. God, I was such a piece of shit. So as you can imagine, when it was time for the first graders to take the stage…there he was, parading around as E. Honda. Can you imagine how many people probably asked my brother “Who are YOU supposed to be?” I guess that’s why they print it on the front of the jumpsuit. So stupid…That’s another thing about them. Personal opinion aside, THEY MAKE NO SENSE! “Hey, I’m E. Honda! How did you not know!? It’s WRITTEN ON MY CHEST!” Grrrr.

So, you get the picture? I have to live with that guilt. It’s no good. I also have a “thing” similar to the costume story with grocery store toy sections, talking plush dolls, and popcorn. I’ll save those for another cold, wet, December day.

Happy NEW YEAR! And to my brother Ryan…20 years later. I’m sorry I made you wear that for Halloween.

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