Indiana Jones Meets Harry Potter

Another day, another photoshop. After the warm reception to my previous post on Indiana Jones and the Halls of Erebor, I decided to put my favorite hero ever, Indiana Jones, into another franchise that is very near and dear to me, taking him to another realm of high fantasy and magic.

And giant snakes.

That’s right. Indiana Jones now finds himself at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and is pitted against Voldemort, the Death Eaters, and his personal favorite, a deadly basilisk.

Now I know Indiana Jones was active in the 1930s and the main Harry Potter arc takes place in the early 2000s, but come on people! It is Indiana Jones meets Harry Potter! Granted, Indy could have gone to Hogwarts while Lily and James were going to school and that could have been fun, but I didn’t feel like doing that so here we are.

How does Indy get to Hogwarts? I dunno. Maybe he is invited by Dumbledore and becomes the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. They switch that teacher out every few weeks anyway. Maybe he winds up on Platform 9 3/4 while fighting some Death Eaters and makes his way to the school from there. But who cares!? We get to see Indiana Jones fight a basilisk

So without further delay, here is my latest photoshop.

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Ah, such creative potential with this one. How would Indy get along with our three young stars? Would he and professor Snape actually find some common ground? How well would a fight between him and Delores Umbridge go? Probably not too well for Delores I would gather. One thing is clear. Voldemort is going to have his hands full with this muggle.

Hope you all like the eye candy.

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Indiana Jones vs. Smaug

Greetings from everyone’s favorite wannabe author. As expected, the holiday party for my store left me with one more completed chapter for my book Never Heroes, forty finished pages on the amazing Salem’s Lot, and a belly full of salad, biscuits, chicken and potatoes. As for my free gift, I got an electric iron. Was unaware people still used those things, but I’m sure someone I know will find use for it.

I haven’t done much writing since the party given my increased search for film related work. I have four interviews this week, so hopefully that will lead to something. Given the paperwork I need to fill out tonight, I don’t expect to resume work on Never Heroes until tomorrow. But that doesn’t mean I still can’t have some fun.

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I must once again state my undying love for the Indiana Jones series. To me, that is the standard by which I judge all other adventure stories. Like most of us, I always love to imagine how other favorites would be influenced by an outside character, in this case the Middle Earth saga.

Though I loved Tolkien as a person and learned much from him, I wasn’t really enamored with his work until this last year. Strange considering I’m writing a fantasy novel, but lets move on. Being a fantasy series, there will obviously be treasure, which would be fertile ground for a treasure hunter like the good Dr. Jones, but who could he fight? Not Sauron. I have no doubt Jones could pull off a gun vs. sword miracle in that case, but there was another rival that seemed more fitting. Jones is the ultimate treasure hunter, so he should go up against the ultimate treasure hoarder. Smaug the dragon.

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It seemed like a match made in heaven to me. I made the above meme as a giggle and shared it with friends on Facebook. We all hope a little meme we make will go viral. Apparently though someone already did something similar with Smaug and Kylo Ren. Not sure why other than Star Wars fans trying to stick it to Tolkien, in which case, shame on you Warsies. Stop trying to kick everyone else off the geek mountain. You’re making the other Warsies look bad.

Of course there was another way to indulge in my fantasy, and that is my habit of making fake movie posters.

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I love the art of movie posters, in particular Drew Struzan’s work which I always found appealing. Now I can’t paint to save my life…I think. But I do know a few tricks in photoshop to simulate the look of paint using photographs and a few filters. I did the above poster a few years back as part of my Everything Is Better With Carl Sagan series, and I’m still very proud of it. By the way, I’m a pretty religious guy, so I don’t want to hear anybody say I’m bashing religion with this picture.

I could clearly do a good fake poster, so why not a fake movie poster for Indy’s battle with Smaug? I even had the plot worked out. While studying artifacts in Eastern Culture, Indy is transported to Middle Earth where he saves Gandalf and Bilbo’s party from some baddies. Indy learns that an artifact that may have the power to send him back to his world is in the realm of the ferocious Smaug, so he uncurls the whip and joins the party on what may be the greatest adventure of his life. But some have other ideas. Evil wizard Saruman believes Indy’s world is ripe to be conquered, and wants to use him as a tool that will lead him and Sauron back to our world. Will Indy succeed in returning home and preventing the evils of Middle Earth from following him?

So, without further delay, ladies and gentlemen I give you….

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This is easily my photoshop masterpiece, and it’s hard to say what will dethrone it in due time. Why did I do this? Just for fun. It felt good to take a short break from the land of Haiden to create a blend of the two series that jointly inspired my book.

Come on guys. This would be awesome. Indy and Gandalf would undoubtedly have much to talk about, Indy could call Bilbo ‘Short Round’ all the time and lots of orcs get shot and thrown under carriages. If you wouldn’t pay to see that, you either don’t have the money or don’t have the soul.

Hope you enjoyed today’s random post. Feel free to whore out-I mean share my posters at your leisure as long as you link back to the site here.

Catch y’all later.

Happy Birthday Harrison Ford

I’d like to take this opportunity to wish one of Hollywood’s best talents, the amazing Harrison Ford, a happy birthday. To honor this occasion, I’ve posted links to some of my favorite pieces of art of my personal favorite role of Mr. Ford, the man in the hat, the good swashbuckling doctor Indiana Jones.

Words can never express how much this character and this series mean to me. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade was one of my very first movies, me seeing it even before such essentials as The Wizard of Oz and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It has been a major influence on me, my fascination and pursuit of creative fiction, and is a spirit I try to capture in my adventure themed work.

Please enjoy these fine tributes by these and a host of other talented artists. Be sure to check out their work.

Remember, it’s not the years. It’s the milage.

Developing a Character Over A Series

It’s been three years since the completion of Breaking Bad, and it’s still considered a chilling and effective character study of a man slowly losing his soul. The saga of Walter White’s descent into depravity is regarded as one of the most well rounded and defined character arcs ever put to the screen, small or large. You talk to anyone, they’ll tell you the same thing.

“Walt was such a nice guy at the start of the show.”

Breaking Bad is one of the best examples of developing a character over a series, something that in writing, can be incredibly difficult. Organizing and executing an effective character arc is difficult enough in one book or film. To do it in several requires great tact and precision.

In a series, like in any individual book or film, you want your character to be changed by the end. To see them go through the same arc over and over again would make any sequels dull and repetitive. Where’s the fun in a sequel if it’s just a repeat? There are plenty of solid examples of characters that go through amazing changes in their respective series, and looking at individual cases can teach you any number of methods to use.

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Luke Skywalker of Star Wars is a good example. At the start of A New Hope, he is an idealist who yearns to escape from his home and be something great. It’s an old story, but where it goes next is what makes the character work. Over the series, he learns painful truths about his past, calling into question his black and white views of good and evil. With his newfound insight, his quest changes from one of destroying his enemy, to saving him.

A quest or journey where the goal itself changes does a lot to show a character’s growth. Previously a journey that seeks destruction, Luke’s changes to one of liberation, and shows how he has matured in his views of conflict. This is one way to develop a character over a series. Another way is to reveal something new about them, like the Indiana Jones character.

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Each film in the Indiana Jones series focuses on a distinct area of his journey as an archeologist, coming to appreciate the value of the artifact he’s after or overcoming greed and giving an artifact back to its rightful owners. Last Crusade is the most interesting, which delves into his relationship with his father. The character is laid bare before the audience, causing us to more closely look over and scrutinize his actions.

Looking at his once troubled home life and desperate attempts to reconnect with his father, one looks at the previous films with new eyes. Is he trying to outdo his father? Is he finally trying to win his approval? Last Crusade isn’t just character development, but a revelation. This revelation doesn’t just flesh him out in Last Crusade, it ads dimension to him in the previous films, an astounding accomplishment in storytelling.

A character’s quest changing to a reveal about who they are both work great in developing characters over a series. Still, there are other ways, like having a character seeming to embody one set of ideals, when in truth, they embody something else.

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Inspector Harry Callahan, aka Dirty Harry, is a hot button character. He’s a cop who doesn’t play by the rules in a system he views as broken, violating numerous laws and Constitutional codes on his quest for what he views as justice. In the first film, Harry regularly complains about what law has become, dispensing with civil liberties and allowing his magnum to do the talking. The sequels however show someone far more fascinating.

In the second film, Magnum Force, he’s confronted by a gang of dirty cops executing criminals. Instead of siding with them, Harry sees them for the criminals they are and deals with them exactly the same as anyone else. Then there’s the forth film, Sudden Impact. After finding out a serial killer he’s tracking is a rape victim killing her attackers, Harry has come to empathize with her so strongly, he can’t arrest her. The once lethally effective cop has developed such empathy, he can’t even do his job anymore.

Harry is a good example of a character who seems one note when truth, there’s a far deeper humanity within him. In many ways he tricks his audience with an urban wild west, and delivers instead something more provocative. This series doesn’t just see its character change, but speaks directly to its audience in an effort to teach them something new. That’s exactly what a character and a story should do.

From Walter White to Indiana Jones, from Callahan leaning right before bolting to the left, each of these characters shows many different ways to which a character can grow and evolve over a series, be it books, films, or any other medium.

One must find a balance thought. By the end of Breaking Bad, Walter White is still human enough to do something selfless and admit he was wrong. In Sudden Impact, Harry still pulls out his six shooter and blows some bad guys out of their socks. People do enjoy coming back to see a favorite character over and over again. One must remember that people change in real life. Going on a journey with a character and seeing them change is like watching a real life friend or relative change. It makes the audience feel that much closer to them, because it makes them that much more real.

VIDEO – Temple of Doom and My Attempt at Internet Reviewing

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is one of my favorite pictures of all time, and while some of the criticisms against it are not without merit, I can’t help but think they often get a little too harsh. So I thought I would take a crack at this internet reviewing thing and offer some compliments to the film and some answers to the criticism. Was the end result a nice retrospective or an abysmal failure? You will have to click the link to find out.

VIDEO – Temple of Doom and My Attempt at Internet Reviewing

Atticus Finch and the Adventures of the Next Draft

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee’s supposed sequel to her pulitzer prize winning masterpiece, was released not too long ago. It brought with it a shocking revelation.

Go Set a Watchman told the story of a grown Scout Finch returning home during the civil rights movement, and finding out much to her dismay that her father, Atticus Finch, was in fact a racist the entire time. She becomes progressively disillusioned with her home life, her father, and her roots, eventually cutting ties and moving on.

For a character as revered and loved as Atticus Finch, it came as quite a shock. Many viewed the character as a desperate plea to those in positions of power to treat their fellow human beings with compassion and understanding. To find out he in fact held similar views to the villainous Bob Ewell was a gut punch.

Of course, people are forgetting one little thing.

Go Set a Watchman is not a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird.

It is the first draft.

In Harper Lee’s own words, Go Set a Watchman is the parent of her highly revered novel.

Taking this into account, that gives the novel an entirely new meaning. Stories and characters, just like people, change. From the moment an idea is conceived, it is in a constant state of change and flux until it is finished. The bigoted fool in Go Set a Watchman grew to become the persecuted father in To Kill a Mockingbird. As such, literary nuts rest assured, the character of Atticus Finch remains the same saintly figure we can all admire.

This so called latest vision of Atticus was a work in progress, and provides an interesting look at Harper Lee’s original, and much darker vision for To Kill a Mockingbird.

Looking at earlier drafts of stories is a very fascinating look at their origins. One of my favorite examples is The Terminator.

The original script was a much more complex and multi layered story. James Cameron eventually decided he packed in too much information and edited the story down to its most essential elements, resulting in a very different narrative.

These changes included the villain. Originally, Sarah was stalked not by one, but by two killer cyborgs. One of them was a liquid metal shapeshifter. Sound familiar? This villain was excized from the first film and resurrected in Terminator 2 as the T 1000.

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By far the biggest change in the story was the loss of a complete arc. This segment actually made it into the can and was shot, scored and edited. Cameron again however deemed the scene unnecessary and removed it from the film. In this scene, Sarah and Kyle have an altercation where Sarah suggests they blow up Cyberdyne and prevent the rise of the machines.

Again, this element was cut out of The Terminator, and resurrected as the main story arc in Terminator 2. It even includes the signature “There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.” line that many believed originated in Terminator 2. 

Many stories do this. The mine cart chase in Temple of Doom for example was originally written for Raiders, but Spielberg decided the script had too much action and put it on the back burner. It eventually became the signature scene of the sequel.

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This happens often in writing. Scenes and characters are excised, re-written, and sometimes re-used when they do not fit in the context of one story, but are perfect for another. My story is no exception.

Back when Zhyx first began to resemble a story it told a very different Wizard of Oz style tale. The plot was that three teenage boys on a camping trip are whisked away to a magic land by a yet unexplained phenomenon. The rest of the story is a chase, with these three boys on the run from a large red dragon who, in later drafts, would become the central protagonist. Though the dragon does save the boys in the third act, for the most part, he was a false antagonist, distracting the reader and viewer from a much more serious threat. That draft was a script written back in twenty ought twelve. Eventually it became the book, the dragon became the hero, two of the boys became and elf and an orc.

Writing a draft, be it a book or a script, is a way for an artist to get something on the page. This makes it easier to see what works and what doesn’t, and sometimes, in the case of Go Set a Watchman, show an author that their original story may be but a mask for something far more compelling.

Due to pressure from her publisher, Harper Lee began to elaborate on her character’s childhood, and something new and magic happened. Atticus sacrificing his standing to defend a wrongfully accused citizen, the whispered rumors of the mysterious Boo Radley, and the villainous Bob Ewell stalking two children on Halloween night. The bigoted Atticus Finch died, and he became a man of conviction, who would take the spit and insults of every one of his neighbors as long as he knew he was doing the right thing.

The same thing happened in Zhyx. While writing those early drafts, whenever the red dragon interacted with one of the boys, a shy and introverted lad named Derek, there was something there. Some kind of magic. Eventually the red dragon wrenched my hands away from the keys and told me something. ‘This is where your story is.’

I have been taking his advice ever since, because lets face it. The dragon can weave a much more interesting tale than I can.

That is the way drafts go. They are the birth of a story, and like people, stories grow up, they change, grow more complex, and learn new things. The tale of Scout losing her father to bigotry became the story of how he tried to protect her from it. The story of Sarah and Kyle trying to prevent armageddon became the story of them trying to survive it. And the story of a red dragon pursuing three scared kids became the story of how that same dragon had to save the world.

For those fearful or angry at this newly revealed Harper Lee novel, fear not. The story of To Kill a Mockingbird will forever remain the same treasure it is. This new book however does offer an interesting glimpse into what the story could have been, but ultimately was not.

The Ice Cream Man Shoot

So how did the shoot go on the 16th? I know many of you are wondering that as it has been three days since I have checked in proper with a hefty article.

Obviously the third draft of my fantasy novel is completed, and has been taking a much needed rest for the last week. Though the ideas seem to be coming in pretty quickly, to truly look at the manuscript with fresh eyes, both of us need a break.

In the meantime I have been keeping busy with other projects. The first of which was a little joke called The Ice Cream Man.

The Ice Cream Man was a short script of mine in the spirit of the fake trailers found in the film Grindhouse, for movies like Don’t, Thanksgiving, Machete, Werewolf Women of the SS and Hobo with a Shotgun, two of which were actually made into films.

After a friend of mine was nearly carjacked while delivering frozen yogurt, the idea for the story came, a kind of parody of Dirty Harry, only instead of a cop, our hero is an ice cream cart driver.

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The story behind the fake trailer is about as cliched as you can get. A Vietnam vet and his friend come home from the war and try to leave their demons behind them. They take up selling ice cream and sherbet. When the lead’s cart is stolen by a drug lord, the two go out and search for it, resulting in the hero’s friend getting killed.

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From then on, the Ice Cream Man goes on the warpath, becoming a soldier again to take down the drug ring that stole his cart and killed his friend. It was pretty silly, and deliberately so, hitting all the notes from the disgruntled police commissioner to the bad punch lines. All involved had but one commitment, to not take this thing too seriously.

I was looking forward to directing my first short film involving such a large crew and trained actors. I expected it to be a practice run but in the end the short took off. Patrick Kilpatrick of films like The Toxic Avenger and Minority Report was cast as the lead, so now I was expected to direct an actor who had been directed by Steven Spielberg. I couldn’t help but be more than a little intimidated. Instead of wading in a little, I got thrown right into the deep end.

We were able to shoot a few scenes before the big day, such as a reporter getting chase by a mask wearing nut job, Santa Clause getting attacked by a drug dealing lone shark, and a drug dealer getting tortured by the Ice Cream Man via brain freeze.

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That was an easy day of shooting, but on the 16th, we had to get the rest of it done. With a six page long script, the day promised to be a hard one.

Looking for a confidence boost, I decided to wear my Indiana Jones hat, an authentic fur felt recreation of the famous fedora custom fit for my head. With a pair of white shorts and a blue button up shirt, I made the unlikely transformation to douche bag director.

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Isn’t that the face you just want to punch? Just what a director needs to be.

Okay I kid.

We began the shoot at 11:30 am. We dressed the set and waited for our actors to arrive. From then on, everything went pretty smoothly. Here are a few more highlights of the film.

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We were able to wrap the shoot at around 10:30 pm, which for a film set is very short. Of course there were a few hiccups.

Firstly we shot things on this day that we didn’t need to. For instance, most of the conversations were done via shot/reverse shot. That is the character’s don’t share the frame but their dialogue is spliced together, like this.

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As such, those scenes do not have to be done on the same day. Hell, both actors don’t even need to be present. Had we done that, we would have been able to get done with Kilpatrick and all the other actors we had to bring in much quicker.

These issues with scheduling show an aspect of filmmaking that most forget. Time is your enemy.

This is especially true when you are shooting outside. We had a scene in a park that was scheduled to be our second to last location for the day. We were supposed to get to this location by 5 pm. However, on a film set, there are multiple takes and shots go longer than expected, so we ended up getting there at 8 instead. The sun was rapidly setting, so we had to plow through the scene, not getting nearly as much coverage as everyone wanted. Now, we did get great footage, footage that we could use, but doesn’t anyone else think that location should have gone first?

Our day went like this. We shot at the producer’s house first, moved on to a private residence, moved to the park, and then returned to the producer’s house in a big circle. What it should have gone like was the park, the residence, then the producer’s house. As the producer’s house was a location that we did not have a time limit with or any restrictions on whatsoever, we could have shot there all night if we needed to, and it would have been fine.

The good news is at the end of the day, everyone left the set in good spirits, but the hiccups we did have could have easily been avoided. As a director, it was my job to prevent such things from happening, but alas I am a very shy and soft spoken person, so when the time came to assert myself, it was something I couldn’t do. Defiantly an aspect of myself that needs a lot of work.

The following day we filmed some pick up shots, and finished it up this this little work of art right here, me as a dead crook getting decorated with a cherry by the Ice Cream Man. I figured a shot of the dead director would be a good way to end things.

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For the last few days, I have been editing the film. It currently stands at a nice four minutes and thirty seconds, two minutes shorter than we had originally thought. To top that off, Patrick Kilpatrick is interested in producing this as a feature, a film similar in spirit to Machete and Black Dynamite. Time will tell if this ends up happening, but the possibility of seeing this little joke short becoming a feature is pretty exciting.

Here is the photo of all of us together after the shoot wrapped. I may have been the shortest one there, but I was still able to get the job done with the help of these great people.

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The 16th of June was my first venture into being an actual director. Can’t say it wasn’t exciting. When the film is done, I will share it gladly with all of you. Hope it makes you laugh.