Posts tagged with ‘Emerging Filmmakers’ Category

Crocheting for Fun, Relaxation, and…Anger Management! Q&A with Andrea Lemire, Education Coordinator of Lion Brand Yard Studio in New York City

When my mother tried to teach me to crochet as a kid, the lesson ended with my hurling a crochet hook against the wall. If only I’d had Andrea Lemire as my teacher! Howcast asked the patient and gifted crochet expert what it was like to lead lessons for our how-to video series on crochet for beginners.

Howcast: You teach people how to crochet every day as part of your job at Lion Brand Yard Studio. What was it like to do it in front of a camera?

Andrea Lemire:  I was more nervous than I expected to be. I decided to start off with “What is Crochet?” and quickly realized that it wasn’t going to be easy to explain in 3 minutes what I usually teach in a 2- to 4-hour class!  Patty (Lyons, studio director) gave me a hug and told me to just be myself, and then it got easier.

Howcast:  When did you start crocheting?

AL: I was 4 years old when a great aunt taught me. Of course, I only knew how to start, not how to finish, so for several years I just made never-ending scarves. My mom is a professional seamstress and she taught me how to sew, but crocheting interested me more. What I love about crocheting — and knitting, which I also do — is that you are actually creating the fabric.

Howcast: What’s it like teaching people how to crochet?

AL: It’s a little daunting for adults to learn; in a beginner class, they spend the entire first hour just learning how to hold the yarn and get their hands comfortable with the crochet hook. It takes 2 weeks for hands to learn new finite motions; I tell my students that if they can stick with it that long, they’ll be rewarded.

Howcast: I’ve read that both knitting and crocheting reduce stress by lowering heart rate and pressure. Do you find it relaxing?

AL: Yes! It’s incredibly meditative and soothing, and I think a lot of people are taking it up for that very reason. In fact, someone once told me that her therapist suggested she take up crocheting to get her anger management issues in check!

Howcast: Any funny moments on the shoot?

AL:  The Howcast producer, Ben, walked in wearing a crocheted hat and told me he’d made it himself. Later, when I was explaining how to work your first row in the turning video, he said, “I’ve been doing that wrong the whole time!” And I said, “Uh, yeah. I know. I could tell by your hat. I didn’t want to say anything because you were so proud of it.”

-Rosemarie L., Senior Writer

Making a Breakup Video with Your Real-Life Love: Q&A with filmmakers Craig Matthew Staggs and Jessica Gardner

When Craig Staggs took on How to Get Over a Breakup and Maintain Your Online Dignity, the only “casting couch” he used was the one he shares with his girlfriend of 4 years, Jessica Gardner. Howcast asked the couple what it was like working together on this project.

Howcast:  After making 71 animated videos for us, what made you decide to go with live action for the breakup video?

Craig Staggs: Well, my day job is animation, but I’ve always made sketch comedy videos and short films. A lot of the videos I’ve made for Howcast up until now didn’t lend themselves to live action, like How to Fight Pirates. I would have had to use some tiny, tiny boats for that. The breakup video had elements of both in it, and that’s the real sweet spot for me.

Howcast: What made you decide to star in this video with your real-life girlfriend?

CS:  Well, I’m cheap and she came cheap. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s adorable. She’s a filmmaker and videographer in her own right, but she started out as an actor, so she’s also comfortable in front of the camera.

Howcast: Jess, what was it like being directed by your boyfriend?

Jessica Gardner:  We’re both really opinionated when it comes to our work, so we’ve had to learn how to not make each other mad. Mostly we realized that we can’t work on a film and both be in charge, or we’ll fight to the death over things like camera angles.

Howcast: Did making this video bring up any awkward relationship issues between the two of you?

CS: No, but we had this strange phenomenon of friends seeing the video and thinking we had actually broken up. They were posting on our Facebook accounts, “OMG, I thought this was your breakup video.” Um, no. I will not make a breakup video.

Howcast: Do you think you’ll collaborate on more Howcast videos?

JG:  Definitely. We’ve had a number of friends breaking up, people moving around, people changing their life directions in dramatic ways. I think seeing videos with a couple like me and Craig could be kind of pleasing — sort of like, how bad could it be? Like, everybody breaks up, says dumb things to their partner, gets mad and storms around. It’s kind of calming to look at relationship problems that can seem like the end of the world and see an interpretation that feels goofy and solvable.

-Rosemarie L., Senior Writer

From Toilet Paper Rolls to Hollywood

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve known I wanted to tell stories visually. Before I had a camera, I used empty toilet paper rolls as makeshift loupes, and created epic movies with my G.I. Joe figurines in my head. Nowadays, I do know how to operate a camera, but otherwise, my method hasn’t changed much: I start with a story. Without a great story, a beautiful shot is nothing more than a well-framed picture.

That’s why working with the Howcast Filmmaker Program is so satisfying. The super rad people who work there really get the importance of story. The other great thing about the program is that it’s actually preparing me for Hollywood, because the process works pretty much the same. I give Howcast my Kubrick-length cut, and they say, “Love the story! But let’s shorten a bit.” If you can produce a Howcast video that’s high in production value, meets tight deadlines, and sticks to a shoestring budget, then your future in this business is promising.

Let me take you through production on my latest spot, “How to Be a Supervillain.” After I secured the participation of 2 talented working actor friends to play the leads, I turned to my artist friend Karin and her assistant Evan to oversee the look of the film. Karin read the treatment I’d worked up, we met briefly about the style and feel of what I wanted, and she went to work. I didn’t even see any of what she worked on until the day of the shoot, so I had to totally rely on her. With minutes of arriving on set, which was a bare basement, I was delightfully surprised to see the supervillain’s “lair” taking shape. I really wanted it to seem like our character “BadKarma” was working out of his parent’s basement, so we used props that anyone might find in their own house: bell jars, funny foam hands, etc. As a director, it can be difficult to place elements of your vision into the hands of others, but if you do it all on your own, you often don’t achieve the look you initially envisioned. Plus, it’s been my experience that people really enjoy getting together and helping out with movies.

One fun little tidbit that fellow filmmakers out there might get a kick out of: the original concept of the costume for “American Justice” (our superhero character) was more military-like, but on set, we realized it didn’t have the right zing. So Mike, the actor who played “BadKarma” and who also worked as the costume designer, looked into his tub of possibilities and found a small wet suit. Initially, we all had a good laugh about how comical it would be if we tried to squeeze Philip, who played “American Justice,” into it. Philip’s laughter turned to sobering silence when he realized that we were, in fact, going to do just that. And in the end, the tight-fitting, multicolored wet suit proved to be the perfect costume for “American Justice.”

Shot in just 10 hours over 2 days, “How to be a Supervillain” is the closest I’ve gotten in my work so far to replicating those films I created in my head as a child — you know, the epic ones starring G.I. Joe. I think that if that 7-year-old were around today, with his toilet paper roll loupe dangling from his neck, he’d be pleased with how the video turned out. Tell me what you think of it in the comments!

- Bill R., Howcast Filmmaker

Change Is Good!

In the past couple of years I’ve had a chance to talk about web video to filmmakers at universities, conferences, and through blog posts right here and in a series on the YouTube blog. Despite how challenging change can be, I’ve tried to stress how exciting it is to be a part of an evolving medium. And in the Howcast Filmmaker Program, we’ve been embracing that very idea. We recently announced an expansion of the program to include new video formats, starting with interview-style how-to videos. No scripts. No voice-overs. No actors. Our first new format, more akin to a documentary, is certainly different from the videos that our filmmakers and users have been accustomed to.

Before getting our filmmakers started, the first order of business was to test this new format ourselves. We enlisted New York City bicycle tour guide Jesse McDonough and bike shop Spokesman Cycles to help us out on a series of videos all about, you guessed it, bikes! From basic questions like, “How long will the average interview last?” to bigger concerns such as, “Will the videos look just as great as the others our filmmakers have been producing for 3 years?” there were a ton of unknowns. But just a couple hours into the shoot, we already had some answers.

We had a blast shooting all the beautiful bikes in the shop and Jesse doing his thing out on the busy NYC streets. The shoot lasted about 3 hours and we shot 10 short videos. In the end, we discovered our interview-style approach to how-to was a success. The videos not only looked great — aesthetics being something our filmmakers obviously take a lot of pride in — but Jesse was passionate about the subject and excited to share his expertise. Take a look at the results on our All About Bikes playlist.

Still, there was a looming question that remained unanswered: Would our filmmakers get the hang of this new format? Just 1 month into these new assignments, I’m proud to say the answer is a resounding “Yes.” From How To Make Balloon Animals: Swan to Cake Decorating: How to Make Marshmallow Fondant and How to Conduct an Airplane Landing, our filmmakers have really embraced the interview-style format. Working with truly accomplished professionals in a wide variety of fields, they’ve created unique, beautiful, and sometimes even comical videos and helped us evolve a new way to show our users how to do just about anything. Stay tuned for more as we ramp up production on this new format! In the coming months, our filmmakers will be teaming up with tattoo artists, video gamers, HTML experts, Ping-Pong players, gymnasts, and more to teach us all some new tricks.

-Heather M., Director, Filmmaker Program

How to Cut Off Your Own Arm (or just write about it)

As a Howcast writer, I’m expected to keep my finger on the pulse, to anticipate what people want to know before they even know they want to know it. Know what I mean?

So when I saw a trailer for the movie 127 Hours, about a hiker whose arm got stuck under a boulder, forcing him to amputate it with a pocketknife in order to survive, I figured that a lot of folks who watch this film will walk away with one thought: “I’d better learn how I can amputate my arm in case that sorry situation ever arises.” I also figured it would make a great “Hot Topic,” a new experiment here at Howcast where we write a script and shoot a video in only a few days to take advantage of a developing news story or an event that’s just around the corner.

After I got the green light, I realized I was now in the uncomfortable position of having to actually research and write the damn thing. In my excitement over the idea, I’d forgotten something important: I’m really squeamish. Never mind fainting at the sight of blood, I get light-headed when the nurse begins pumping the blood-pressure band. So having to go into detail about how pliers are good at yanking out tough pieces of muscle, and advising that it’s best to leave the main blood-spurting arteries intact until your arm is literally hanging by a tendon really made me want to vomit. But I persevered. Because whether I’m telling users How to Stuff a Turkey, How to Look Like You Got a Full Night’s Sleep, or How to Cut off Your Arm and Save Your Life, I’m committed to giving them thorough instructions. And it’s a good thing I did, because it turns out that there may be more people interested in the mechanics of self-amputation than I thought. Did you know that there’s a psychiatric disorder called apotemnophilia, which is characterized by an intense and long-standing desire for amputation of a specific limb? You can’t make this stuff up.

Check out the amazing video that Luke Neumann created from my script. Start to finish, we made this Hot Topic happen in 4 days. And yes, if you’re wondering, I’ve started carrying a pocketknife with me. I may be squeamish, but I wouldn’t want to be caught unprepared.

– Rosemarie L., senior writer

Inside How to Survive a Zombie Attack

As a kid, I would often head to Blockbuster video a few days in advance of my allowance, find the movie I wanted, and hide it behind the box art for Prince of Tides so no one else snatched it up. In similar fashion, when I saw How to Survive a Zombie Attack on our editorial calendar, I was instantly plotting to be its producer. There was no cassette box to hide it behind, but in the end, I claimed the spot for my own nonetheless.

From the start, I knew Luke Neumann had to shoot this video … shoot it right through the BRAINS!
Admittedly, Luke and I aren’t mega zombie fans (though I have been getting super pumped for AMC’s television adaptation of The Walking Dead). But I’m always excited for Howcast topics that stray from the purely practical and require an extra dose of visual creativity. Action-packed violence doesn’t hurt either. Having worked with Luke before on the also-sensational How to Sword Fight, I knew he would be eager to put his Glidetrack and finely crafted lenses to good use.

I didn’t bombard Luke with notes. By the time an emerging filmmaker reaches the upper tier of the Howcast program, they’ve proven their ability to make a topic interesting. Plus, my preference is to give our filmmakers breathing room to explore the script and get a sense of what they want to do.

Luke and I nailed down details like costume, makeup, and the sick-awesome beard he sports in the video. We didn’t really discuss the explosions and pile-on finale that took a good deal of special effects to throw together — that was all Neumann. Check out Luke’s walk-through of how he pulled it off — it’s just as educational as the video itself.

Here’s the final product:

And behold, a mini-epic that deserved its own trailer:

-Joe P., associate producer, Howcast Emerging Filmmakers Program

Hey filmmakers, school is in session!

Today the Emerging Filmmakers Program kicks off a semester’s worth of digital filmmaking tips and tricks with YouTube. After three years working with filmmakers from all over the world, we’ve learned quite a bit about their concerns surrounding online filmmaking. What’s the best way to export for the web? What’s a codec? What are other filmmakers doing to build an online community of viewers and collaborators? And where are trusted sources for information?

Starting today and wrapping up on December 17, we’ll be answering these questions and more on YouTube in a Modern 101 for Emerging Digital Filmmakers. Every Friday you’ll find a new post on YouTube’s blog. Through case studies, interviews, and curated lists we’ll be talking about the sites every filmmaker should be aware of; how filmmakers are making great web video cheaply; how you can distribute and promote your work on the web; who you should be following on Twitter; and more. And, we’ll be taking your questions, so ask away!

Today: Embracing exploration — filmmakers on the web. Next up: breakfast with Howcast filmmakers — a video mashup of our filmmakers sharing their take on web video.

Let’s get digital!

-Heather M., Director, Filmmaker Program

Did You Catch Our YouTube Livestream?

Monday, in our first livestream broadcast with YouTube, we walked you through the process of making a Howcast video, bringing you straight into the action of my shoot for How to Avoid a Sucker Punch.

For those eagerly anticipating the final product from our livestream shoot, here’s the video:

The dark space and heavy shadows came out great! We didn’t even need to do any tweaking in post-production to get that total emptiness behind them. I originally envisioned that we’d have a much cooler, fluorescent color palette for this (a la Million Dollar Baby), but Rob “The Job” Pimental convinced me to keep the skin tones warm to evoke the “heat” of the video.

The fake sweat also came out really great. All we did was apply baby oil to the skin, then spray with regular water.

And for filmmakers who thought we were “keying” the rainbow, I should have been clearer during the livestream. The blue sheet in the background was meant to be a compromise — a dark color that would maintain the black dark space for the beginning of Step 3, while also giving the blue sky background needed for the double rainbow when the spotlight came on.

But the icing on the cake? The slow motion, which really adds that last piece of genre I was going for. I really dig that splashy Raging Bull punch in Step 5 as well — people watch a sucker-punch video looking for a punch, and we had to deliver.

Hope you enjoyed the video! Want more behind-the-scenes secrets? “Like” the Emerging Filmmakers Program on Facebook for filmmaking tips and highlights, and most of all, tell our team of producers what you think!

Remember to visit Howcast’s EFP page to learn more about the program and how you can make your own Howcast video! Just head over to (link) and sign up.

-Joe Pettinati, Associate Producer, EFP

How to Promote The Heck Out of Your Video

Editor’s Note: This is a guest blog from EFP filmmaker Oriana Syed about how up-and-coming online video filmmakers can get their spots noticed. Check back for more guest posts in the coming months!

A couple of months ago, while scanning my Facebook Newsfeed, an interesting post from Howcast Emerging Filmmakers caught my eye. “Calling all Gleeks! Who’s a fan of Glee and wants to pay homage by making some kick-a** how-to spots?”

The post had barely been published a few seconds when I replied that I was very interested, stressing my words with a few too many exclamation points!!!

Fast-forward a few months to the day my video was scheduled to go live. My two terrific actors (Tommy Mountain and Amy Lee Goldstein) and I were determined to do all that we could to promote our video. Modesty-shmodesty, right? It helped that my lead actress, Amy Lee Goldstein, not only resembles the “Rachel Berry” character from Glee, but is as driven as Rachel, too. It became a fun challenge: could we get 500 views in one week? What about a thousand?

In just four days my Gleek video got over 1,500 views on alone! Here’s how we did it:

1) Don’t be shy. Share it.
You’ve worked hard on your video and you want a big audience — there’s no shame in admitting that. Start sharing your video within your own social network on Facebook. Don’t just publish your video without an explanation of what exactly it is that you’re posting–write a clever, or if possible humorous “pitch.” You want people to ignore the information overload on their newsfeeds and pay attention to your post! Make sure to mention that you made the video and if you are friends with your actors, tag them!  I’ve noticed that people are more likely to watch a video if they feel personally connected to it in some way.

Tip: Limit your postings. You don’t want to be that self-congratulatory jerk who people defriend or hide on their newsfeeds.

2) Tweet It.
Twitter is another great tool for sharing your video. The trick, however, is to tweet your video to the right people with large followings and hope that they will re-tweet it. Who are the right people? Well, it depends on your video. I tweeted my video to Ryan Murphy, the creator of Glee (and he followed me back!). I also tweeted the video to every actor on the show, some Glee fans with lots of followers, and groups like “Gleeks.”

3) Plant seeds and watch ’em grow.
Embedding your content and pitching it to other sites can result in a tremendous spike in views. I e-mailed my video to the site manager of (one of the most trafficked Glee fan sites) and asked him to promote it if he liked it. He did, and this was a huge pick-up! even posted the video on their Facebook page. I also posted the video on Glee pages on Facebook and Myspace.

Tip: If you are posting your link on a comment board in response to another Glee fan video, make sure to compliment their video. People are more likely to check out your work if you say something nice about theirs!

4) Go local.
My actress Amy Lee “Rachel Berry” Goldstein had a great idea. She e-mailed her local newspaper in her hometown of Pembroke Mariner, Mass., letting them know about a Howcast video she starred in. They watched it and wrote a little blurb about it in their paper. I did the same thing with my local online paper in Brookline, and they posted it with a little shout-out to me!

Even if you cover 1 or 2 of these 4 steps, you’re golden. Now promote the heck out of your video! Go!

- Oriana Syed, independent filmmaker and official Gleek

Wrapping Up Our Summer Hint Hub for Filmmakers

Kim and Zach here again! We’ve had a great time working for Howcast this summer and gathering tips for DIY filmmakers of all stripes. We really hope you found the Hint Hub tips helpful. Before we go, we have compiled one last list of tips from film students (just like us!).

Jon Truei, Junior, NYU Tisch Film, on editing:

  • It’s better to set a later deadline than to miss an earlier one. In other words, never tell people you’ll finish a project before you really can.

Alden Tuck, Junior, NYU  Tisch Film on community building:

  • Never use someone on set if you’re not willing to return the favor, because chances are they won’t be working hard for you.

Cyrus, Sophomore, NYU Tisch Film on preparation:

  • Always visit locations on the day of the week and at the time you will be shooting, You may see an abandoned street in the morning, but Monday at 5:00 pm may be a whole different story.

And here are our last words:

Kim Lessing, Junior, Barnard College, Columbia University on ways to get involved:

  • Help! Be helpful and useful; be pro-active about helping out others whenever they need you.

Zach Valenti, Junior, Wesleyan College, on buying cameras:

  • Cameras are getting more affordable everyday. Even if it’s a stretch, try to get your hands on one. Even if it’s 15-second videos, just make stuff.

So that’s all from us! Kim’s off to film a travel log in the Gulf Coast, and Zach is growing his beard. It’s been a great summer and we loved working for the Hint Hub. Goodbye!!

-Kim and Zach, EFP Summer 2010 Interns