Give Yourself a BREAKOUT

We may find ourselves eating the same lunch every day, plopping down in front of the TV every night at 6:30 with the same dinner and the same show, checking our Twitter feed every time we feel an irritating itch of inactivity, or going to bed at the same time every night. Whatever routines we’ve trained ourselves into following each and every day (perhaps because we found comfort in the inherent familiarity) maybe now that comfort has become a prison of our own making. 

 Maybe life feels like an endless march of bland, boring same-old same-old days.

 When this happens our inner lives can feel like two tectonic plates have jammed together and refuse to shake loose. Maybe we’ve learned about meditation and we’ve tried looking inward for answers only to find sluggishness and resentment. We then might search for outside influences that can break us free, but those encouragements never seem to come. 

 And sometimes it even might seem that our outer world is working to prevent us from moving forward: perhaps a paycheck is late, a laptop’s wigging out on deadline day, or someone spills their vanilla latte on our new clothes. 

 We can take ownership of this situation and take action to turn stagnation into momentum. 

 Changing even the smallest aspects of our daily lives can help. We can break up a daily routine in little ways as well as big ways. 

 We can switch up our personal lunch menu, shut off the TV after work, change our dinner plans, and set our phones to Do Not Disturb. We can take a hot shower at night before bed (instead of the morning), curl up with a new book, and go to bed a fifteen minutes later. Grocery shop on Sunday mornings and Wednesdays after work? Let’s change it up. Shop on Saturday and Tuesday if our schedule allows. Free time on weekends? Let’s go on a nature hike instead of hanging out on social media or binging that new Netflix series everyone’s talking about. 

 Our new action should be whatever’s out of the ordinary for us. Maybe for you it is about allowing yourself to binge that new series with a bowl of popcorn on your lap! Let go.

 As an unscripted television producer, I bounce from gig to gig. I’ve been doing this for quite some time now and it’s easy to feel stuck in a rut professionally, especially during those weeks between jobs. Recently, I decided it was time to do something totally different with one of my mornings – something I normally just wouldn’t do. For me, that was bowling on a weekday in the middle of the morning. I bowled two games with my wife. We each won a game. We had a blast. We laughed at our gutter balls and cheered our strikes and spares. I felt a release afterward. It felt wonderful to change up the routine. It allowed me to gain an objective perspective and let go of negativity. 

Everyone’s different, of course. Maybe for you it’s not bowling, but it’s visiting a museum, taking a yoga class, or refining a spreadsheet that will track expenditures at home or in your business. Take a moment now and ask yourself, “If I were to do something that’s totally different than anything I would normally do right now, what would that be?” 

 Once you’ve made a decision, plan a time that’s sure to change up your routine. The idea is to interrupt your normal flow and to make you feel like you’re stepping outside of your comfort zone. Bowling was stepping out of my comfort zone because I wasn’t at home trying to make things happen professionally. I wasn’t sourcing new contacts or writing my second novel or posting on LinkedIn. I was out in the middle of the day playing. And it felt great!

 Act within reason of course; I wouldn’t advise ditching work or bailing out on an important appointment for a day at the amusement park! 

 You may feel fear. You might feel silly to even consider it. Make yourself a promise to break out of your routine and hold yourself to it. Go do it.

 From an article in Psychology Today (you can follow the link below): “Growth seems to require we take new action first, whether it's adopting a new attitude or a new way of thinking, or literally taking new action. Thrusting yourself into new situations and leaving yourself there alone, so to speak, often forces beneficial change.” 

 You’ll thank yourself as you experience renewed creativity, courage, and maybe even a new zest for life. You never know where your next inspiration will come from.

 https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-in-world/201004/trying-new-things

 Want to go deeper? Follow this link to a lovely twenty-minute meditation on new beginnings.

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1VgMbYujjS8

Take a chance. Do the unexpected. What are you waiting for?

#9: THE FUTURE OF REALITY TV PRODUCTION?

What does the future hold for reality television production?

 Let’s have some fun and find out! 

** ** **

 FAKE FUTURE PRODUCTION COMPANY STUDIOS

MANUAL FOR PRODUCTION, POST-PRODUCTION, AND DISTRIBUTION PROCESS

Updated: Tuesday June 21st, 2039 at 11:56 PM

 

New hires, welcome! Please read this document thoroughly before starting your first day. We would like your on-boarding to be as seamless as possible. Thank you!

Footage Capture and Send to Cloud: As shooters capture the material for a particular episode, the cameras will automatically transmit the footage in real-time to the cloud. Fake Future Production Company Studios (FFPCS) gains access to all footage for edit almost immediatelyBasic errors in color-correction, exposure, and audio levels are corrected in real-time according to parameters set by the director of photography and the audio supervisor. More complicated errors that used to cause great headaches (such as recording in an incorrect frame rate) are corrected (automatically) in mere minutes. Please note FFPCS does not store footage on-site. No footage is ever sent (either via mail or via transmission) to us. Please make sure you always have your cloud password(s) handy.

 Instant Categorizing: Based on the information that camera operators and assistants enter before the scene is shot, footage is automatically categorized as B-roll, Reality, Interview, or OTF et cetera and arranged automatically in the cloud under these headings. All post-production editing software programs are compatible with these cloud storage and categorization protocols. However, please also note that post-production teams may have to further adjust the footage categories based on creative storytelling needs. Guess what: algorithms designed to automate this process don’t always work! A good example of this is while algorithms have no trouble determining OTFs from formal green-screen interviews, they tend to fall flat when it comes to discerning B-roll from cutaways. Many editors pull out vast clumps over hair over this and other similar issues. Therefore, it bears repeating that Assistant Editors must categorize footage as needed / requested, but keep in mind that all footage is retained in the cloud. Please make sure you always have your cloud password(s) handy.

 Instant Transcriptions: As interviews and OTFs are captured and sent to the cloud, a separate algorithm transcribes the material in real time and sends that to the cloud as separate documents. This means that you can search through interviews and OTFs for your bites and build them into your edit almost immediately after the material is recorded. Note: At FFPCS, we do not ever use FrankenbitePro to dictate our frankenbites and have the simulator spit them back at us in a participants’ voice. This is cheating! (And potentially litigious!)

 Automatic Editing / Story Structure Programs: Programs like Apple’s MyEpisodePro boast the ability to comprehend story beats and arrange the footage into a compelling narrative, choosing match cuts, L and J cuts, etc, and even selecting and dropping in music beds. But we’ve found that the algorithms’ choices in programs like these produce episodes that are humorless, dry, and sometimes ridiculously confusing. Here at FFPCS we NEVER use automatic structure programs. We celebrate the individual creativity of our teams. 

 Internal and External Notes Process: Many companies have attempted to streamline the notes process by outputting edits in real-time during the actual editing process. The idea is that execs can watch edits-in-progress and flag problems as they arise, but we feel that story and edit problems are solved by engaging in the creative process itself. That’s why episodes are edited and noted in the traditional manner here at FFPCS. Outputs take a fraction of the length of the episode to complete output and upload. All executives access all cuts from the cloud as cuts become available. 

 Network Distribution: Quick! Here’s a trivial question! What percentage of Americans stream their entertainment through one of a handful of streaming Services? Answer: 78%. That leaves about 20% of the rest of America’s population still watching their shows through cable or fiber optics. (Some 2% apparently have other things going on). We’re gonna have to wait until the year 2060 at the earliest before the High-Altitude Drone Entertainment System (HADES) comes online and makes cable / fiber optic systems obsolete by offering low-cost streaming to all Americans. Until then, here at FFPCS, we simply upload all locked cut episodes to the cloud.

End User Interface: Back in the days of passive viewing, End Users were called ‘viewers.’ Today, we End Users interface with our content. Almost all entertainment programs incorporate some form of real-time interactivity – everything from choosing the color of a participants’ dress (using color correction software embedded in modern monitors) to choosing alternate responses / decisions for a series participant. At FFPCS we pride ourselves on having the BEST interactive content available. 

Quantum Parallel Entertainment: You know the shows where End Users choose alternate endings and watch their choices unfold in real-time? Guess what: We. Own. The. Patent. That’s right, we own the patent that allows Quantum Parallel Entertainment (QPE). Using the latest in quantum computing, End Users can interact with our episodes and alter content in multiple parallel universes! Sound like sci-fi? It’s just everyday business here at Fake Future Production Company Studios. 

 Automated Social Media Feeds: No! No, and no! Everyone remembers this debacle. A certain company, which shall remain nameless (not us), used algorithms that posted human-sounding comments from millions of fake fans for hundreds of television shows both scripted and reality. No one could tell the difference between actual humans’ comments and fake ones … that is until a twelve-year old-kid hacked into the company’s systems and trolled the heck out of their fake feeds. The company was exposed. They apologized for lying to the public. After serving three years the founder of the company disappeared. We think he’s living somewhere east of Jimmy Hoffa (Google it). We don’t use Automated Social Media Feeds and we never will.

 Ratings and Renewals: Gone are the days of television series taking as long as an entire episode to get a cancellation or a renewal. Nowadays, real-time tracking software allows these decisions to be made automatically and within the first quarter hour. Recently, a popular network’s heavily-promoted show was cancelled within the first eight minutes of the premiere episode (also not us). So, let’s make our Act One content SING!

  

Please sign and acknowledge below that you have read and that you understand this document. 

By signing and acknowledging this document you will gain your first 50 Social Credits! This will help you Level Up here at FFPCS. Remember, the more Social Credits you earn by following company directives, the higher your Level, and the more perks you’ll get!!

Thank you … and have fun on your show!

#8: PRODUCING REALITY TV AND WRITING NOVELS -- TWO SIDES OF THE SAME COIN?

Quick! Answer this trivia question: What are two basic elements of Storytelling that reality TV producers and fiction writers utilize?

#1: Structure.

As a reality television producer I cull through hours of raw footage to build stories that adhere to television-friendly act structures. Depending on the episode’s length (usually 22 minutes for a three-act half-hour show or 42 minutes for a six-act hour-long program) I work with my teams to devise a scene structure that will retain the most eyeballs. The goal is to tell compelling stories that engage viewers throughout each season.

How do we do this? There are many techniques, but one thing we always try to do is build acts to end on cliffhangers so that viewers will keep watching after all the ads. If there’s a big argument, we will probably end the act in the middle of it, so that viewers will want to keep watching after the act break to find out what happens next. That works well for cable and network, but for OTT (Netflix, YouTube Premium etc) we don’t need to rely so much on hitting a cliffhanger moment at 11:30 into the show, for example, because there are no ads. This allows more creative freedom. In addition, these programs don’t need to hit the exact TRT (Total Running Time) that network and cable shows must.

#2: Story and Character Arcs

Stories and characters must have arcs. This means that viewers must be able to follow a coherent and intriguing storyline across multiple seasons as well as track the development of the show’s characters. The story and character arcs must make sense and compel viewers to bash out comments on social media and keep tuning in. One common technique? The misdirect. The character you believe to be the villain turns out to be innocent - or vice versa. If done well, the seeds that are planted throughout the season will misdirect the viewer exactly as planned.

Of course, these basic elements of Storytelling make up the foundation for fiction as well. In fiction, there is generally more freedom to tell non-linear stories (time jumping, side-realities, etc) but structure is structure. Great stories make us care what happens next. Same with the characters: We love them, we hate them, we must know what happens next to them.

And me?

I love telling stories. I started writing back in elementary school. The earliest forms of my writing came as screenplays based on my favorite TV shows. I wrote short stories in high school, college, and after college. I have dozens of boxes stuffed with printouts of stories I never sent in for publication. As writers we must be patient as we push through the growing pains to develop our voices. I look forward to self-publishing my first science-fiction novel this year.

Now I tell stories by producing reality television as well as writing fiction. I find that many skills translate, and I am thrilled and grateful to have the opportunity to entertain the masses.

#7: How Can We Gain Momentum In Our Lives?

Recently, I’ve been thinking about momentum. Do we gain momentum in our lives through mindful thought, taking purposeful action, or a combination of both?

Let’s take the first idea, which is that we gain momentum in our lives simply through mindful or meditative thought. In some esoteric manner does the universe listen to our ‘good thoughts’ and respond by giving us just what we want?

Can we create the reality we wish simply through creative visualization?

It would seem that if our thoughts are to have any impact on the universe, then they would have to have mass, right? The same way that if we blow on a candle that flame will most likely go out. The next logical question is, then, do our thoughts have mass? According to a PBS Nova video (link is below), our thoughts do have mass because thought, at its core, is electrical energy in our brains.

According to the video, when you recognize someone you know, a part of your brain known as the ‘fusiform face area’ lights up. That’s a hundred million neurons of electricity running through your brain. That activity has mass: about a billionth of a joule. Not a lot. And it doesn’t weigh much either: less and a trillionth of a trillionth of a pound. If we were to convert that to a measurement of information, the mass is even less. Far less. Like, the weight of a molecule. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/video/how-much-does-a-thought-weigh

So, does that mean that sitting around all day thinking good thoughts is a waste of time? Perhaps it’s more about cultivating a feeling of confidence and hopefulness. I’m sure we’ve all heard or read about the power of positive thinking. Smiling reduces stress and releases lots of free happy juice that neuroscientists call dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. If you expect good things to happen, psychologists call it ‘dispositional optimism.’ Those health effects have been linked to feeling less lonely. https://medium.com/thrive-global/how-positive-thinking-makes-you-more-successful-517263266664

So, at least for right now, it seems like meditation alone might be good for improving our outlook, but doesn’t have much influence on the physical properties of the universe, and therefore, won’t do much to help us gain that momentum we seek.

It may not be that simple. Let’s take a look at quantum mechanics.

The world of quantum mechanics is, well, spooky. According to an article in the Huffington Post (see link below), if our brain is a storm of electrical activity, then it follows that our brains are subject to the rules of quantum mechanics. Now we’re talking about weirdness involving entangled particles: changes to the spin direction of one entangled particle can change the spin direction of the second particle instantaneously - even if the two particles are light years apart.

Therefore, can setting an intention and creatively visualizing that intention actually cause the result we intend? Some researchers believe so, but the hard science isn’t yet behind this notion. https://www.huffpost.com/entry/-can-thoughts-manipulate_b_971869. We are locked into the private theaters of our minds’ eyes. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/inviting-monkey-tea/201308/why-our-thoughts-are-not-real

Let’s take a look at our second idea, that we can gain momentum in our lives by taking purposeful action. Turns out there’s science backing this up as well. According to research compiled for an article in Inc. Magazine (see link below), confidence is a stronger indicator of success than competence. In other words, if you’re good at job but lack confidence, you may not do as well as someone who has more confidence than you do but does not do as good a job as you.

OK, as frustrating as that may be, we now know that if we want to gain momentum we need to gain confidence. We can gain confidence when we take action over our lives. Get out there and try … and fail. We learn from our mistakes. We gain confidence that way. Guess what: we gain competence that way, too. It seems, therefore, that getting out of the lotus position and grabbing life by the Kombucha can help us gain momentum. https://www.inc.com/sonia-thompson/science-says-taking-action-and-failing-often-will-increase-your-confidence.html

Now let’s look at our third idea, which is that we can gain momentum in our lives by combining mindful thought with purposeful action. Let’s boil that down to mindful action. In other words, it’s the old saying: ‘think before you act.’ According to an article in Frontiers in Neuroscience (see link below), we react positively to stimuli produced in our mind when we meditate - and that helps us make rational choices. We think, then we act. Making rational choices likely increases our success rate, which likely increases our confidence level, and therefore our competence. This can create additional opportunities for us. We gain momentum. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2011.00049/full

So, in order to gain momentum in our lives, it would seem that a combination of mindful thought and purposeful action is the best approach. That can come in different ways. We can meditate before the work day. We can meditate after work. We can keep focused all day long on our tasks, centering ourselves and choosing what we believe the best course of action.

Choose whatever works best for you — and go out there and gain your momentum.

#6: AT PLAY IN ANOTHER UNIVERSE

Diving into a work of fiction is what visiting an alternate universe must be like. How easy is it to lose track of time when we’re wrapped up in something we love to read?

Here are ten of my favorite books that I’ve read over the course of my life. These are in no particular order.

  • Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson: just straight out cool. Hardcore punchy prose. Deep characterization. Sharp and prescient. Plus it has pizza.

  • Lost Illusions by Honore de Balzac: the story of a 19th Century twenty-something would-be writer who struggles to make a name for himself in the big city simply resonates with me as a writer. It’s a book I wish I would’ve read in my twenties.

  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin: I loved sinking into the world-building of this story, but more than that, the character-based structure of this novel is sublime and innovative. Her use of the second person narrative is surprising and effective.

  • Blindness by Jose Saramago: oh, my life for quotation marks or even a period. Without the expected punctation, this book made me feel like I was hearing the story in my head, not seeing it. That’s a good thing.

  • If on a Winter’s Night, a Traveler by Italo Calvino: wondrous swirling prose that wraps itself around the narrative like a dream

  • Radio Free Albemuth by Philip K. Dick: a fever dream of deep philosophy and seizure induced hallucinations that may actually be a sign of spacetime folding in on itself. Do you know what year it is? Don’t be so sure.

  • Blackout by Connie Willis: WWII time-travel story with rich historical detail, grit and insightful characterization. Major historical events of the WWII era are woven expertly together. The scenework at Dunkirk still resonates with me years later.

  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: years later I would read this again (and again) and find myself once more lost in the magic of this alternate reality.

  • Way Station by Clifford D. Simak: a quiet meditation on time, relationships and tolerance.

  • HONORABLE MENTION: Special Deliverance by Clifford D. Simak: one of the first science-fiction books I ever read. I think I read this in the 4th grade. I still recall the moment when the protagonist, a schoolteacher, pulled the slot machine lever … and ended up in another universe.

#5: NOISE

Listen.

Wherever you are, right now, listen.

What do you hear?

If you’re living in our modern world (which, of course, you are) then I’d wager that you’re inundated with information flooding your five senses. It can be overwhelming, right?

We awaken with an alarm clock. Perhaps that sets the dog barking. Our smartphones ping and alert us to notifications and emails. We make the necessary phone calls, grind coffee, run the coffee maker, listen to NPR, tend to the needs of our families, listen to the radio or an audiobook on the way to work, deal with traffic and engines and car horns, chat with co-workers in the kitchen as we put away our lunches, tend to all the business of the day, listen to music on the way home, perhaps watch a little TV with dinner to unwind, and finally we sleep. But when we sleep we dream … so guess what, we hear the babble and clatter of our subconscious minds. We become so used to the constant background cascade of clamor that it’s like a second skin.

We forget what it’s like to live for a moment in silence.

All we need is a recharge. Like this:

silence like empty space

a moment in nothingness

just to sit

watch the wind in the trees

imagine the noise leaves us

and we are at peace

for a moment

#4: TO BE A STREAM

I sit beside a stream and watch the cold water rushing over the river stones. In the Potawatoni language, a stream is not a noun. It is a verb. It is action. To be a stream. It is alive. It is water that has become a stream.

Is it not the same for all living things? Right down to the level of quantum physics everyone and everything is in constant motion. As we move forward in our lives and try to find meaning, we are all becoming someone different. We are in constant flux. We are becoming what we are becoming.

Working on that novel? Taking classes to upgrade your job skills? Leaning about string theory — just for the fun of it? Taking a few minutes every day with your Headspace app? Or just enjoying the silence for a moment?

Whatever we’re doing in our lives, we are a constant dance of energy. How wonderful is that?

#3: THE STRUCTURE OF REALITY

You load your server drives and fire up the Avid. You check your email as the system churns away. Maybe you sip your coffee or respond to a text message from one of your editors. You’ve got another episode in the bay and it will be screened at the end of the day. Right now, however, you need to start your next episode.

You dig deep into raw footage. You surround yourself in recorded reality. ‘Reality is subjective.’ you say to yourself, as you rearrange the material to create a cohesive and compelling story. The structure of reality is yours to control. The entirety of the footage, all of the camera angles and all of the scenes, are building blocks that you can position into any order you like. What will your structure be? What will the point of view be? Down the line you will share the responsibility of generating this artificial reality with your teams and the executives at the network.

That gives you an idea …

… You think of your life. Of real reality. Your scenes. Moments that perhaps may one day be switched around just like the video clips you are currently arranging on your Avid timeline. Pay a Reality Producer a fortune and he or she will restructure your life-scenes into a revised episode of your life. Call it an upgrade.

You’ll have notes, of course. It is your life after all. The Producer will execute the notes and upload the completed project into the memory centers of your brain.

Later, in the edit bay at work, your episode screening goes well. You’re thankful for all the hard work that went into the cut so far. You and the editor finish the notes and the assistant editor outputs another episode to the network.

Driving home, you wonder just for a moment if you’ve already paid a Reality Producer to restructure your life, and perhaps you paid extra to have the knowledge of this transaction erased from your memory.

You arrive home and greet your family. You feel grateful they exist in your life.

But perhaps in the original reality …

#2: THE LAST HUMAN MIND

I’d like to pose a philosophical question. Nothing too wild … consider this a fun little mental exercise.

There are those who believe that human souls can achieve nirvana. These souls will no longer ride the wheel of reincarnation. They will no longer inhabit bodies on Earth or anywhere else in the physical universe.

Others believe that the universe is simply a projection of the human mind.

Let’s assume that both of these beliefs are true. This poses an interesting question: when the last human being achieves nirvana and does not reincarnate – would the universe no longer exist? With no minds to project the universe, well, there would be no more universe, right?

Are human beings collectively so powerful that we hold the existence of the universe in our minds? And as each soul achieves nirvana, one by one, are we chipping away at reality itself? Would the last remaining human beings feel this change in their environment, and if so, what would it feel like?

Perhaps reality is already slowly vanishing …

#1: A BOY, STARLOG, AND SIX CATS

1/6/2019

Coming home from school as a boy, my heart would leap as I spied the latest Starlog magazine waiting on our living room table. I felt like a secret agent reading dossiers on George Lucas and Steven Spielberg and Gene Roddenberry as well as the myriad teams of writers and producers and effects gurus who worked to bring life to the strange new worlds that glowed in front of my impressionable eyes. I had an X-Ray view into the structure of a mysterious and magical industry. With my family’s SIX cats prowling around me (I think my mom was one cat short of needing a kennel license), the hours flew by as I read and savored every tidbit of information.

Recently, I discovered that EVERY SINGLE ONE of the Starlog issues are available online to read … for free!

So after I jumped around the room dancing and singing, I ran to my wife and told her this FANTASTIC news. After she blinked and said, basically, ‘That’s nice, dear,” I sat myself down in front of my laptop, scrolled through the pages of Starlog, and relived my childhood.

These days I experience many of the same challenges and triumphs as those who produced my favorite childhood shows and movies. Working in television has made me all the more appreciative of the great work those men and women did to bring to life all those amazing stories.