Tuesday, September 16, 2014

2014 VIDEO: COMEDY: Virtually News with AvaJean Westland. Not the nightly news. Intentionally funny.

Virtually News with AvaJean Westland.  
Not the nightly news.  Intentionally funny.
Scroll down for News and Notes 
Virtually News with AvaJean Westland is a mock/spoof news piece machinima created by actress/writer Gameela Wright.

 Filmed exclusively in Second Life, in the vein of SNL’s “Weekend Update” and “The Onion News Network,” AvaJean’s irreverent take on current events and pop culture pushes the boundaries, with animation as the filter. -“Virtually News with AvaJean Westland” premiered on YouTube, Vimeo, and SLartist Saturday, September 13th 2014.  

My Machinima Mission by AvaJean Westland

It sounds so serious doesn’t it?! Well it is, and it isn’t.
I am by no means a great machinima filmmaker. Not by a long shot. I am still learning and have tons more to learn. There are veterans who film machinima beautifully...elegantly. They make it look flawless and seamless. They are feasts for the eyes and soul. I try to learn from them.
There are limitations in filming machinima—specifically the platforms that we shoot in, like Second Life. Each platform provides unique challenges to the filmmaker. Just like there are unique challenges for filmmakers in real life. But in Second Life for instance, you’re also dealing with different time zones, language and cultural differences, people’s real life obligations, slow computers, bad internet connections, crappy microphones, limited animations and lag, lag, lag.
However, the one thing that connects both “real life” filmmaking and machinima is STORY. The story is King. Always. And there have been times when the story is sacrificed for the look or the tone.  If I see a beautiful or eclectic piece of film and I don’t understand what the writer and the filmmaker are trying to tell me, I get confused and lose any connection to the piece. I sometimes walk away thinking “That was beautiful! It was interesting! Now WHAT were they trying to say to me?” I’ve had the privilege to watch or work on some wonderfully filmed machinima...but alas I’m greedy. I yearn to see more.
Recently I’ve noticed something that was previously missing, is now showing up more in Second Life machinima…variety. In the past, there were amazing art pieces and music videos. But after awhile, you want to see more than avatars dancing to a music track or sitting there looking pretty. Fashion machinima has done a dynamic job of showcasing the art of machinima and the designers that create the looks, but the story is more often about the clothes—as it should be. Now there are machinima makers in Second Life that are doing an excellent job of combining story and art. And thanks to contests created by the likes of the University of Western Australia and Screen My Shorts, more story driven machinima is being created. Perhaps part of problem was and in some part still is—that there seems to be less machinima being made these days. That makes sense. It takes time, resources and finances. Maybe not a LOT of money, but you need SOME—and who has a lot of discretionary income these days? Plus there’s no guarantee of outcome. Will people see it? Will it find an audience? If it does, how do you keep them engaged?
In the past, I had only acted in or written for machinima, with no intention of becoming a machinmatographer*—or is it machinimographer? I can never figure that out… Then I felt that perhaps there was room for me to add my voice.  Also being a bit of a kooky person who likes a challenge, I decided to be different than all my actor friends who are making real life web series, and add animation to my resume.  Even with the given limitations, there’s SO much more you can do with machinima: access to talent from across the globe, minimal costs in comparison to real life film, and a 3D environment. No need for location scouting—find a suitable sim or just build your own!

[*Editor's note: I prefer the term video, especially for the product, because that term is more widely understood by the public.  Machinima is a technical name for a particular method of producing videos with digital graphic technology.]  

So why play it safe? Let’s continue to add original content, more dialogue, sound effects. Hire good, talented voice actors. There’s room for drama, comedy, dramedy, musicals, etc. I know my writing, and specifically my comedy writing won’t appeal to everyone—and that is fine. Someone else will appeal to them.
To all those with stories to tell—don’t give up! Take your time—there is no rush, but don’t waste anymore time! If you are a writer and filmmaker, then more power to you! If you are a writer and not a filmmaker, learn or find someone to film your work. And if you are a filmmaker and not a writer, give it a try or find a writer. Start with that. The story. The basic ingredients for your recipe. Make it tasty!
Think of it this way: Who would you prefer to date? Someone who is drop-dead gorgeous, yet so vapid that you can hear the air whistling through their ears? Or someone who is attractive, with SUBSTANCE? Someone that will challenge you, make you laugh, make you think. You never know WHAT they will say next, and you can’t wait to hear it! It might be scary. It may not be “right” every time, but DAMN, it sure is exciting and entertaining! That’s what I hope to see. That’s what I hope to do. That's my mission.


  • Gameela Wright (pronounced “Guh-MEAL-uh”) is an actress and writer based out of New York. She began acting in theater, then moved into commercials, voice overs, television and film. Some of her on-camera credits include:
  • (TV) Blue Bloods, The 3 Law & Order series, The Blacklist, Members Only (new series)
  • (Film) Admission, John Wick, Shelter
  • (Commercials) Staples, FedEx, Ally Bank, GoDaddy.com
  • As her Second Life alter ego AvaJean Westland, she performs live theater with the Avatar Repertory Theater Company (ART).  She has worked as a voice actor or avatar puppeteer for The Blackened Mirror, Running Lady Productions, Chantal Harvey, Island Rain Studios, and Alfonso Kohn.
  • She created her own production umbrella, Virtual Girl Productions and has collaborated with Suzy Yue of Running Lady Studios on machinima projects such as “The Twilight Sim” and “Name That Schmuck!”
  • In addition, she created machinima for the Project Homeless campaign (“The Quiet Dark Wind”) and SciFi Film Festival (“Centuries Past”) in conjunction with Screen My Shorts and The University of Western Australia (UWA). “Centuries Past” took home two awards.
  • It is her hope to use machinima as a way to bridge real and second life and to help cement machinima as a form of animation that appeals to all.

News and Notes

  • OSgrid down 
  • More news in my blog roll (column on the right)

Events in the virtual worlds  

How to handle a Hypergrid address 

From any Hypergrid-enabled grid, paste the address into the address bar of Firestorm and press enter. Or paste it into the world map search bar of any viewer, search, and click Teleport when the destination is found. If it doesn't work, don't give up. Try again later. Some hypergrid destinations are offline part of the day.


Contests and dated calls/invitations

Trilonnet Short Poetry Workshop-Tue, 9/16, 7pm SLT
This week the Short Poetry Workshop explores a new poetry form- the Trilonnet, which is a 14-line poem made up of four three-line verses of 8 syllables and a rhyming couplet. So join us at the Short Poetry Library to learn, write and share your Trilonnet.

Machinima - 2014 Project SciFi Competition (Registrations by 3 Oct)

2014 Project SciFi Competition in partnership with Screen My Shorts and sponsored by the Parramatta City Council is giving filmmakers, Machinima makers and animators 30 days to write, shoot, edit, produce and upload a 3-10min short film with $5,500 (Australian Dollars) in cash prizes. -All films that enter into this years Project SciFi will be screened at Riverside Theatres.  Teams must register by 3rd October 2014 and nominate 2 scifi subjects that they would like to make their film about. For registrations visit ... 

Subjects for Machinima makers, 2014 Project SciFi Competition

  • Sci-Romance – Love between Aliens, Robots and more! (Can be Happy, Sad or Tragedy) 
  • Sci-Comedy – Science fiction that is humorous in nature. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a good example of SciFi Comedy. 
  • Save the Environment – A theme focuses on saving the dying planet and/or ecosystem 
  • Zombie / Disease – A theme focuses on the effect of a disease in the future. 
  • Apocalyptic / Post-Apocalyptic SciFi – Stories about the extinction or near extinction of humankind either by forces of nature or by our own means. Post- focuses on telling the tale of the survivors of an apocalypse. 
  • Spy-Fy – Science fiction about futuristic spies and espionage, and the effects of technological advancement on their professions. 
  • Super Hero – Stories related to super heroes who get their powers from technology or because they are from another world. Often focuses on futuristic superheroes. 
  • Robots / AI – Fiction in which the science of Artificial Intelligence and robotics is a central theme, typically relating to Robot stories. 
  • First Contact / Alien – This sub genre imagines the various scenarios in which humanity makes contact with other civilizations. 
  • Social Science Fiction - Fiction in which future societies are extrapolated, explained and often criticized, usually for the purpose of social satire. The social sciences are the overriding theme in this type of fiction; however, science and technology will usually play a central role in the structure of the extrapolated society.

National Agenda 2014 focuses on the battle for control of congress midway through the Obama second term, with some of the biggest and most experienced names in American politics
Midtown Arts Museum is launching its first participation storybuild on Monday, 9.1.2014, Wear Your Goggles to the Goldrush. All elements are ready for visitors, explorers and amateur sleuths to plunder. A storybuild mystery is not an event that is attended. Rather clues and story are collected, assembled and written by the participants who journey through it. It is writing via pictures and conversation - - the natural, entertaining and effortless way. Oakes Valley blog
Hypergrid address:  grid.kitely.com:8002:Oakes Valley  
The theme is 'TRANSCENDING BORDERS.' Artists & filmmakers can interpret the theme as they see fit. Whether transcending borders between time and space, past and present, one nation and another, one language and another, a culture or civilization or any other of the innumerable borders that present themselves as we navigate our lives. You the artist... You the machinimatographer...You decide.
Entries Close at Midnight SLT 31st October 2014. Winners will be announced in December 2014.   
UWA Art & Film Challenges 2014 with L$1.03 Mil in Prizes, early entries 
And don't forget the many imagined borders, walls, that we make for ourselves.   Those are the worst kind.--TKR

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