2017: Postmortem

Posted in film, meta on December 27th, 2017 by Samuel Kenyon

I skipped a couple years, but here’s a new personal postmortem. If you are wondering, a “postmortem” in project management is a retrospective to figure out lessons learned. Postmortem articles were featured in the classic magazine Game Developer, where I learned of the concept.

red carpet at Newark International Film Festival

What Went Right

  • Finished my feature film directorial debut “Brute Sanity.”
    • I traveled around with the movie on the film festival “circuit.” It won a couple awards. (You can get more info here.)
    • Massive amounts of learning technical post-production skills (continuing from 2016.)
    • It was picked up for distribution. This led to even more work and learning…
  • Did another Boston 48-hour Film Project. This time, instead of just acting, I also assisted with the screenplay and casting.
  • Left tech job (writing robotics software). It was forced—but they gave us a severance, and it freed up my time to work on film stuff.
  • Started working on my film company Imaginary Danger Productions LLC.
  • Skied in the Rocky Mountains (Brighton Resort, specifically) for the first time. Easily found—backcountry of course—what was probably the most difficult skiing I’ve ever experienced.
  • Visited Atlanta for the first time, Salt Lake City for the first time, Newark NJ (which I’ve been to before but this time I was more immersed). Also went to Kansas City, the Cleveland area (first time in Ohio), the Detroit area, Washington DC, and New York City.
  • Got divorced from Emili.

Brighton Resort, Utah

What Went Wrong

  • My tech job employer, the Cambridge division of Bio-Rad, which was a continuation of a start-up company called GnuBIO, was shut down completely by the parent company.
  • Started doing job interviews. The reason I put this under “What Went Wrong” is that I shouldn’t have rushed into it so soon. I was caught up in the excitement, with recruiters bombarding me, and now I regret wasting time on this. Instead what I decided I needed to do is take a break for couple months from normal tech employment and work on my own projects.
  • Stretched my leg a bit too much during the aforementioned Brighton ski trip and had to do some physical therapy.
  • Got divorced—so you might say that the marriage “went wrong” but that depends on how you spin it. The relationship itself was a fantastic journey and a mere marriage-and-divorce does not sully that.

Sam and the Philip K. Dick robot at Escape Velocity in Washington DC

2014: Postmortem

Posted in film, meta on October 20th, 2015 by Samuel Kenyon

Oh no! I forgot to post a personal postmortem 1 for the year 2014 like I did for the previous year! Oh well, here it is ten months late.

What Went Right

  • Started a new day job at a biotech company called GnuBIO, now the skunkworks division of Bio-Rad. Essentially I write robotics code for microfluidics inventions that will ultimately contribute to human health improvement via diagnostics.
  • Made a short film based on my screenplay Enough to be Dangerous.
  • Got married to Emily. On Halloween. Proposal happened…on April Fool’s Day.
  • Visited Istanbul, Turkey.
  • Visited Philadelphia, including the Mütter Museum.
  • Moved to a smaller but better located apartment in Cambridge.
wedding dance to dubstep

wedding dance to dubstep

 

Istanbul

Istanbul

We had a few drinks with AI researcher Eray Özkural in Istanbul:

Eray Özkural, Samuel H. Kenyon, and Emily Durrant in Istanbul

Eray Özkural, Samuel H. Kenyon, and Emily Durrant in Istanbul

The Movie

I was able to kick my film Enough to be Dangerous into gear fairly quickly once I decided it should be done. Aside from writing and producing it, I also was the lead actor.

Enough to be Dangerous

Enough to be Dangerous

Making a film has all the same problems that a startup company does, although the boundaries between the “company” and the “product” can be different. Particularly in this case, my new company (called at the time “Subterfugue Films” (a horrible portmanteau)), is vaporous and all the resources existed for the “product”, which is the film itself. Recently (in 2015) I renamed my film company to Imaginary Danger Productions.

Enough to be Dangerous was finished under budget, although I went over-budget on film festival costs. It was accepted to various film festivals (see the official page for more info), so it was successful in that regard. I’d love to remake it as a full-length feature, however, as it really is uncomfortably compressed to fit into 35 minutes.

What Went Wrong

Startup

I co-founded a tech company called Glug, but within a few months decided to leave it (the company is now dissolved).

This startup turned out not to be ideal for me for various reasons, so I quit. Also at that time I realized I’d rather put all that startup energy into making my film.

The most important lesson learned is not to invest any money on incorporation or legal fees before you know if the product/company will even launch for real. Another thing I learned is a proposed new tech product should be able to garner followings from hundreds if not a thousand people (e.g. on mailing lists or social networks) even if those first thousand people aren’t the actual early adopters—it’s a crude measure of general interest.

Image Credits
– wedding photo by Tanya Rose

Notes

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The Ideal Film AI

Posted in film on February 18th, 2015 by Samuel Kenyon

This is prompted by Ben Bogart‘s question “What do you consider the most seminal representations of AI in cinema of all time?”

I think the best is yet to come. Ideally an AI (Artificial Intelligence) in a film would have two elements:

  1. The alien aspect: It’s not a human or some other animal (although it can be very similar).
  2. Some connection with humans (or a human), e.g. humanity created them for a job, or this particular human created this particular AI for some reason, etc. This is the difference between the screen character being just another sci-fi alien (extraterrestrial, previously-unknown terrestrial monster, et cetera).
cropped_Automata-crossing-the-river-of-time

Autómata (dir. Gabe Ibáñez)

 

Automata and Tron: Legacy both make meager attempts to show AI emerging and evolving and trying to figure out their own way that’s not quite the same as for humans.

The robot R2D2 (Star Wars) superficially meets these ideals: we know it’s intelligent, yet it doesn’t speak English or get subtitles. Its connection with humans however is not really used in any interesting way in the film (we don’t analyze the slavery of robots in Star Wars …at least I don’t). And if the history stories are true, R2D2 and C3PO are just metal copies of the peasants from Akira Kurosawa’s The Hidden Fortress.

fortress1

The Hidden Fortress (dir. Akira Kurosawa)

 

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