Inside My Microcosms

I’m a very visual person. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I describe things (sometimes ad nausium) in a lot of detail. I relish the thought that I can interact with microcosms. By that I mean that I like small sub-sets of reality; self-contained little environments that I can get in and manipulate and spend my time perfecting.

What began it for me were Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars. When I was just a kid and lived back in Michigan, I can remember dozens of times where I would load my cars into a cheap plastic tray that rested on top of another cheap plastic tray in a thin, vinyl, lunchbox-sized case and go downstairs into the front yard of the old apartment building we lived in. Settling down, usually in an area where the grass and sand/dirt met (usually adjacent to a sidewalk or driveway), I’d take some of my favorite cars out. I was able to look at the small tufts of grass and rocks and be able to instantly build a mental picture of where the “house” my little imaginary drivers was. I’d take the cars and gently ride them across the sandy areas and make little two-track dirt roads. This was my little microcosm that I could shape, mold, and grow with my own hands. The people getting in and out of the cars, the actual houses, stores, and streetsigns were all imagined, but I could almost see them as if they were real. And, as the streetlights flickered on each night and I headed in, I could walk away knowing that I could easily build an entirely new little civilization the next night, even if it was in a new location (usually due to a fresh pile of dog crap, a new mound of ants, or a destructive lawnmower making the existing location undesirable).

Time went on and my Star Wars and G.I. Joe action figures replaced the diecast cars, and I would do pretty much the same with them, albeit on a larger scale. The addition of the people into my imaginary worlds helped a lot, and they could even get in and out of the vehicles that filled my toy closet.

As I got older (late junior high and early high school,) I moved on to scale-model airplanes, cars, and mostly Star Trek spaceships. Building these, detailing them and then (geekily enough) play with the models a bit, carefully of course, was an even more intriguing creative pastime. Granted, there was the loss of the people, but I could spend time building out the meticulous details of the spaceships, paint them with a lot of detail, and then try to cram rigged Christmas lights into excavated window opening. I found that I had a lot of pride in the building of the models. I thought that I would be the next brilliant builder at Industrial Light and Magic… Someday.

Eventually software took over my life and I was captivated by 3D rendered video, especially that from Pixar. I fell in love with the concept of animation from the technical side. So, I thought “what the heck, I’ll try this whole animation thing” and got a hold of LightWave 3D and quickly realized that this was a great vehicle for creating microcosms. It was amazing to be not only be able to create my spaceships from scratch (like the scale-models), but I could make star fields, planets, and COULD make the aliens and people once again. Oh, amazing joy to me and mine.

You see, to me there are three types of visual stimuli that exist around me: static, semi-interactive, and fully interactive. To explain:

Everyone likes a nicely done-up fish tank. We all enjoy the tranquil sound of the water trickling, the effortless gliding of the fish through the water, the little diver-man standing next to the incessantly opening, bubbling treasure chest. Other interesting things in that tank may be the old, sunken pirate shop, the swaying seagrass and the colorful rocks adorning the floor of the scape. This entire environment is dynamic but static from my view point. I can’t really reach in and move the fish around to where I want him, or add extra detail to the plants, etc. The job has been done for me for the most part and all I do is sit back and watch. I see movies and television the same way. It’s all entertaining, but I can’t do much to change it.

A semi-interactive experience for me is a comic book. I see the panels and can very easily move from one to another, adding sound effects and music as well as hearing the voices from the word balloons all in my head. Hell, I might even verbalize it to myself, quietly, so my wife doesn’t think I’m insane. I can extrapolate the movement of a character from one panel to the next with ease and love the challenge of figuring out how that character spun to that position, etc. I can be challenged creatively, but only to a certain level.

Then there’s the fully interactive experience. When I played with the Matchbox cars, I was BUILDING the world, not just watching it happen or making a couple of things change from time to time. This is, by far, the most enjoyable thing. To see something come from nothing, to create that which did not exist before, then to spin it off into it’s own little universe and build story, character, sound effects, and general entertainment. That’s what it’s all about. And as much as I enjoy watching a film, this is the fundamental reason why I enjoy making them.

So, the real reason that I bring all this up is because I’ve been bumping elbows with some rather creative minds over the past month or so. Creative in artistic, musical, and film senses. I see people getting excited around me and I start to get excited and that generated ideas in my head to dive back into the microcosm of making a movie or show.

There’s a great project that I’ve been working on for Suncoast Studios now for several months. I’m extremely proud of the project, but I’ve realized that it’s been slowly eroding my enthusiasm and momentum with film. The idea for it is really cool, and I think it will turn some heads when it’s released, but I feel that we’re about 2 months behind schedule. This is mostly because we’re building sets, props, and developing story only two or three days a month. This is mostly due to the fact that we’re building everything at Jeff’s place and I don’t have the energy to go to his house every single night of the week to work on this for an hour or so because of my very busy work schedule.

The odd thing about all of that is that this project was birthed from the idea that I needed to do something small in scale, but a lot of bang for the buck that I could do by myself, for only 15 minutes at a time if that’s all the time I had. I needed it simple, fun, and accessible. So far it’s been the first two, but the latter has been a real challenge. So, I need to spend some time rethinking the complexity of the project. The first set is beautiful, and I’m very proud of the work we put in, but the reality is it will take us an entire year to build sets, lighting rigs, and props at this rate.

My creativity into my microcosm is waning too much and that’s got to change.

Now that all of that is out of my system, I can talk about my car, which I got back a couple of weeks ago. She’s beautiful and running fine. Other than replacing the battery, there’ve been no problems. My fingers are crossed.

I’m not sure I’ve mentioned up here before and I’m too lazy to go look, but Shauna and I will be moving to Tampa beginning of July. We’ve secured an apartment and have got in motion the task of getting the power and cable TV and internet turned on. I’ll have a decision on the movers done in the next few days and that will be behind us to. The next thing to work on is packing, which we will start next week. That’s going to be great. It’ll be like a very extensive spring-cleaning; sending old clothes to Goodwill and throwing out shit we haven’t used in years. I love that part. I just hate doing the manual labor associated with it.

I’ve also decided to re-rip our entire audio library.

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