Zach's PEN #28: Filmmaking in Public

2021 Week 5: An idea (and first scene for the pilot) of a series.

Hello PENpals,

It was an exhausting week. Louisa is all about whining and crying these days (and sometimes getting up in the middle of the night to do so). She's relentless. Her go-to tactic currently is some variation of "You're hurting my feelings." If she were in possession of the hydrogen bomb, she would use it to get a "veggie straw" before she eats her dinner rather than after.

By the way, "veggie straws" are the most hilarious, bald-faced branding in food. It is top shelf late capitalism.

Anyway, both Allison and I have had moments this week where we're really, seriously angry with her, and it doesn't feel good to be angry like that, but when sleep deprivation works its way in, various other stresses, it can feel uncontrollable.

That kind of anger that feels uncontrollable, where you yell at your kid or partner and immediately regret it, is something I've been exploring a zombie television series concept about.

I did some story development this week and then went into virtual reality with my friend, colleague, and longtime director of photography at Short Order to start building out the opening scene. Also used it as a chance to test out live streaming, as I plan on going into VR to storyboard scenes and livestream it regularly, both for the promotion of my friend's storyboarding tool and as a little filmmaking accountability and feedback.

The series, which I said was a zombie series, explores the possibility of a virus that has no symptoms other than it removes your ability to control your rage if triggered in some way. So as it spreads it creates otherwise normal people who are walking grenades just waiting for the right circumstances to pull their pin out. It's inspired somewhat by the story of the the Texas Tower Sniper and the possibility that a brain tumor in his head was pressing on his amygdala. His journal entries and note from the day of what many consider the first mass-shooting event in US history are chilling accounts of "I don't know what's wrong with me, please study mental health."

We ran into a couple bugs (the VR features are beta) and so didn't get far in storyboarding, but here's a piece of the video where I describe the scene. (It's an upsetting scene where someone attempts to harm children, but it's like 80s Spielberg upsetting, not Kubrick upsetting):

I think the ideas of culpability and free will and self-control are wildly interesting to explore, and this would be a zombie concept without any zombies, where the zombies walk among us, and they may in fact be us. I think that sounds like a good series.

I usually name projects before I start on them, and I love naming things, but for some reason I haven't come up with a name for this one yet. I'll keep you all updated on its progress. The goal right now is to create the entire pilot in Storyboarder and then we'll decide on what to do next.

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Posts (Threads) for the Week

Great news/upgrade: I realize that many of y'all aren't on Twitter, and I've been meaning to move these over to an actual owned property (my blog) for a while, so from now on, the PEN will include real blog post links to every one of my writings (which I can call writings now and not just "threads").

If you like reading them on Twitter and seeing any conversation around them, I'll still include the introductory tweets here as well.

I wrote about the Netflix envelope and what it can teach us about reducing friction for any kind of change.


I wrote about how, while we're stuck in these monopolist's walled gardens, we may as well get the most out of their constraints (and some thoughts on how to do that).


I wrote about my decade+ experience with Inbox Zero (and Inbox Zero Sickness) and the first tool I found that helps avoid the avoidance behavior of getting to Inbox Zero...


I wrote about home movies in the age of the iPhone, about the irony of how we all have great cameras now but we don't make home movies half as good as we made when we were shooting on very bad, big, and clunky VHS technology.

I wrote about a way that I externalize communication around the creative process.

This one also got picked up and reposted as a guest post by our local tech magazine,

I'm still writing daily. Knock on wood, it's now been more than 40 days in a row... Which is crazy. This week and last, what I wrote in the PEN ended up making its way into posts as well. Here's today's and last Saturday's.


If you didn't see it in the thread above, here's Wendell and Louisa in the beautiful snow on Tuesday. It was Wendell's first serious experience with serious snow. I love and miss the snow in Syracuse (at least a couple days a year).

And here's the promised Louisa panoramic portrait. She may be being annoying as hell right now, but she's still cute.