Monthly Archives: August 2012

Amazon Studios–A Den Of Unprofessionalism

Rather than go into extensive detail, I’m simply going to blog verbatim my profile from my Amazon Studios account. I am sorely disappointed and disiullusioned by the gaming that has been allowed to dominate that contest.

“I want to go on record about the fracas surrounding this contest. I have never seen so much unprofessionalism in all my days, nor have I seen contest moderators that allow it continue for so long.

I feel that I am not in control of my entry any more. People are rating and commenting things that blow my mind. Does the negative campaigning bother me? Not so much. I’ve already gotten everything I hoped to gain from entering this contest. But so much ill will and discord…whether anyone at Amazon Studios wants to believe it or not, this does seem to all center around one particular uploader and a group of his friends from a certain art school. Too much proof has been presented to me to believe anything otherwise.

At the end of the day, we should all remember that this is about A NOVEL. An AUTHOR. Exploring new marketing and promotion options, NOT about whether machinima is better than motion graphics or vice versa. Everyone but me and a small handful of other participants seems to have completely forgotten this. Now egos are dominating the contest, and both public and private unprofessionalism (via Studio Mail) are setting the tone. Sadly, these are the impressions I will take back to the writing community, that this is the kind of dog and pony show you get when dealing with Amazon Studios.

Back to my profile:

I am a storyteller. A writer first, a machinima director second. I believe story trumps all else–no matter how eloquent the prose or how impressive the camera work, without a story, all you have is empty words and wasted frames.

So why have I, a writer at heart, gravitated toward machinima? Short answer: machinima is a type of 3D animation based on video game technology, which gives it it’s distinctive look and style. It’s a technology available to armchair animators and does not require extensive training in digital arts. Royalty-free software has been developed for use in commercial application. Workproduct derived from this software infringes on no gaming copyright and is owned exclusively by the creator. In other words, it’s the perfect visual platform for someone who does not aspire to be a professional filmmaker.

I discovered machinima as a storytelling tool in 2010, and since that time have been exploring its uses in the mainstream, not just in the underground communities that have enjoyed it for years. One thing I’ve discovered is its value in the production of affordable book trailers, which are fast becoming a marketing staple for all new novels, especially ebooks.

Most authors do not have an unlimited budget. This means that for most of us, lavish, live-action book trailers employing professional actors and slick editing chops are completely impractical. One must balance the cost of any promotional strategy against the profit it will generate. The efficacy of book trailers is still largely untested in the literary community, although it seems Amazon is beginning to explore them as a viable marketing tool. Still, very few independent authors can take the financial risk involved in creating one.

While today’s audience (myself included) has been deliciously spoiled by Pixar-type animation with its flowing, individual strands of hair and fluid motion capture, that technology is not currently available to most amateur filmmakers. Commissioning a book trailer made with this technology would rival or possibly exceed the expense of a professional, live-action project.

Is machinima right for every book trailer? Good heavens, no. Will everyone adjust to its peculiar brand of animation? Of course not. But based on reactions within the literary community, I can guarantee it’s right for some, and that many writers can envision their own characters “live” on the screen as machinima avatars.

Now, a word or two about myself–yes, I’ve written novels. No, I haven’t sought to publish them. . .yet. The publishing industry has been in upheaval for a few years and I’ve felt no pressure to entangle with it. Amazon brought things sharply into focus in 2011 with the announcement that their ebooks were outselling print copy. Much debate has raged in literary circles about the demise of traditional publishing and the “plague” of self-published ebooks. Personally, I think the kerfluffle amounts to little more than brick and mortar stores (and New York’s Big 6) hitting the panic button when they see their new bottom line.

But I digress. Although I have yet to put any real energy into seeing my manuscripts turned into novels, other works of mine have appeared in various trade publications and online magazines like Amarillo Bay. I’ve been heavily involved in and credited with the revision and pre-publication critique process of several novels including The Messenger, Exposure, The Story Makers, The Rest Of Forever, and Secret Confessions Of The Applewood PTA, all available for purchase on Amazon’s main site. I’m also an active machinima critic for Sims 2 and 3 derivative works, partnering with another adult machinima director to bring the art of storytelling to the hordes of kids who populate that community.”

Chronicles Of A Hermit

A few days ago, a dear Internet friend asked why I’ve been so “quiet” lately online. Well. . .it’s a long story and I won’t bore you with all the details. Let’s just say that I took a little hiatus from blogs, critique groups, machinima, and sorta-kinda from Facebook to take care of a few personal things.

Whew! And now I have. Taken care of things, I mean. I’ve raised a bevy of birds and seen them through a very successful release, finalized a video project I’ve been working on since earlier in the summer, helped my husband develop some cool graphics for a major printing job, and–even though I’d warned him I might not be able to do it–kept working on Bill Weldy’s trailer a little bit at the time.

My payoffs for re-prioritizing are this: last week I was treated to the sight of all four of my baby starlings together at the same time, sitting on the fence in my front yard. All four the same size, all in identical stages of molt–it had to be Melody, Shakey, Big Mac, and Chip. (The nail polish on their little toes has long since worn away.) Melody still drops by every day to eat food I leave out for her and occasionally brings a sibling. This time she brought two. And Chip–well, Chip still lives inside with me. He flies outside from time to time, stays gone a day or two, then comes back to sleep it off just like a partying teenager. That day he flew to the fence and joined his family for a few minutes–too bad I didn’t have a camera handy. That precious group pose didn’t last very long.

My next big payoff was being helpful to my hubby. He can be a tough taskmaster–for me to actually contribute in a meaningful way to one of his projects is actually a pretty big deal. The collaboration between the two of us resulted in some pretty cool designs, if I do say so myself. 🙂

Next, I have practically ALL the content I need for Bill’s trailer meshed and imported. All the motorcycles, the sets, the props. . .I should be able to jump headfirst into filming tomorrow and get this project completed in a matter of weeks. Maybe even days. We’ll see. Hang in there, Bill! I’ll have you a trailer finished yet!

Last but not least, I entered a contest. It’s a book trailer competition sponsored by Amazon Studios, and the prizes are significant. More than that, my credibility as a producer would compound exponentially if I win. Even if I don’t win, the exposure is terrific. It’s for the horror novel Seed by Ania Ahlborn–which is a good novel, by the way, if you like that sort of story. As picky a reviewer as I can be, I would probably give this one at least a 4.5 for character development alone, maybe even 5 stars. The plotting was pretty tightly woven, too. I would definitely recommend this book to friends without any qualms at all.

The contest is judged by the author and there will also be a fan favorite. Viewer ratings and comments are a pretty big part of the package. So naturally I hope some (all?) of you will venture over to the Amazon Studios Seed contest page, watch my trailer, rate it, and leave a comment. My trailer is #21.

Word of caution, though–the website looks simple and straightforward, but it can be a little tricky to navigate. The trailers are compiled into a view list with a clearly marked tab, but each individual trailer has an identical “cover” so it’s hard to tell exactly what you’re about to watch. Mine is, of course, iClone machinima, and it begins with a car traveling down a wooded road. There is a tiny hyperlink below the viewing window that says “ratings and comments.” Once you click it, you then have to register with Amazon Studios, which is simple and requires nothing but establishing a username and password. But once that is done, I can’t find a simple way to get back to the ratings and comments page. My best suggestion is to simply re-click the URL here. Maybe someone more techno-savvy than me will have better luck with the website.

However, I’d sure appreciate your time and trouble if you choose to support me in the contest. My winning would be great, GREAT news for all of us taking a chance on machinima book trailers. If the Amazon community gets on board the idea, book trailers will almost certainly become a successful new cornerstone of the publishing industry.