The Briefcase

a podcast by Benjamin Welch

You can't afford to listen to the corrosive critics. »

“The thing the corrosive critics want you to believe is that the sentence ‘Almost nothing will work.’ which is obviously true, is the same as the sentence, ‘Nothing will work.’ which is completely false.” - Clay Shirky

Ep: 09 - The Journal

31 May 2013

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I kept an audio journal for a little under 3 months. This was 5 years ago. I'm not sure why I started but while I was recording, the darnedest thing happened.

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Closer - a music video »

Meeting new people is complicated. This video is what happened as I failed to come up with a good strategy.

I love the song and I love dancing. I made this video with the help of some friends and basically no budget.

“CLOSER” by TEGAN AND SARA, from the album HEARTTHROB. It’s really good.

If you enjoyed it, you can show your support by sharing it with others. Thanks so much for watching.

Ep: 08 - My Love for You

27 Nov 2012

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A story about the first time I became really aware of music and what it could do to me.

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Ep: 07 - The Breakup

12 Oct 2012

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Oh the times, they are changing.

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Ep: 06 - The Bystanders

5 Oct 2012

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I've been living in Los Angeles my whole life. It's about time I had a movie idea.

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Ep: 05 - Field of Dreams

27 Sep 2012

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Some people take to sports like a dolphin to the sea. I'm not one of those people.

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Ep: 04 - Superman Isn't Brave

19 Sep 2012

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Sure, I'll review a movie. As long as it's kind of obscure and 17 years old.

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Ep: 03 - Where's My Party?

11 Sep 2012

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There's nothing like mingling at a political party.

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Ep: 02 - Zombies Bad, Chubby Good

31 Aug 2012

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There's a storm coming and I hope you're ready for it.

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Ep: 01 - My Comics Aren't for Kids

15 Aug 2012

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This is the first episode of The Briefcase. I talk about comic books. And why you should read them.

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Recognizing the Arrows »

This is the best thing I’ve read in a long time. I pretty much obsess about two things everyday:

The first is along these lines. What am I supposed to do? What is my calling? Where is this going? Am I working on the right stuff? Should I be a writer? Maybe I should take up songwriting again?

This is me, trying to find a sense of direction I’m satisfied with. So far, it’s a marathon, not a race.

The second goes something like this: Well, I don’t know what I want to do so I’ll just do something. I think I’ll start a podcast. Okay, what should it be? What will make it different? How can I make something as good as WTF or This American Life? Should I be serious? Should I be funny? Blah, blah, blah. Making podcasts is hard and I’m not sure I love it, I guess I’ll try scoring movies… And on we go.

Both of these problems come from the same stupid idea: If I think long and hard enough, if I plan hard enough, if I have a whiteboard big enough, I’ll know what comes next and feel good about it.

It just doesn’t work like that. At least not for me.

Here, Abumrad tells us the origin of the intro to Radiolab.

For example, one night, in 2003, Ellen Horne and I stayed up till dawn, playing around with the sound of radio static. By morning we’d made twenty of these little 30 second program ID’s…

I cannot tell you WHY that collection of noises was important. But it was the first thing I’d heard that I was like…hey, that’s not bad. I think I might hear myself in there somewhere.

It was like being lost in the dark and then an arrow appears. A pointing arrow; placed there by your future self, that says, “Follow me.”

The intro to Radiolab is one of the most iconic parts of the show. It’s brilliant and gives you a sense of what the show is. The first time I heard Radiolab I was immediately struck by it. And it came out of one night of fiddling with static. Not from some genius with a note book, working out the best way to intro a great radio show with a mindmap. There are so many great points and I encourage you to stop what you’re doing and read the whole thing.

From now on, I’ll try to recognize the arrows. And try not to map them or plan them or predict what they’ll be or where they’ll come from. Just recognize them when they come. It’s not my job to make great stuff. It’s my job to keep working on something until the big, flashing arrow shows up. And when it does, it’s my job to see it through.

Patton Oswalt is smart »

Patton Oswalt gave the keynote speech at this year’s Just For Laughs Comedy Conference in Montreal. It took the form of two open letters. The first to the modern day comedian. The second to the gatekeepers of the comedy world. Though he is talking about the world of comedy, you could basically take these letters and replace comedy with music, film, tv, radio, author, illustrator, or any other creative title and his remarks are just as true.

I see no reason to paraphrase them here. Both are worth your time and you should read them now.

99% Invisible: Season 3 »

One of my favorite podcasts right now and an example how good independent content can be. Just backed season 3 on Kickstarter.

Ari Emanuel vs. The Internet

15 Jul 2012

For those that haven’t heard of Ari Emanuel, here’s a little bit from his Wikipedia entry.

Ariel “Ari” Zev Emanuel (born March 29, 1961) is an American talent agent and co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor (WME), a leading entertainment and media agency. He was a founding partner of the Endeavor Agency and was instrumental in shaping its June 2009 merger with the William Morris Agency.

Emanuel is a big time bigwig agent in the entertainment industry. He was interviewed for All Things D recently and I encourage you to watch the whole thing if you can stomach it. I don’t pirate anything but watching this guy speak so smugly about “Premium Content” is almost enough reason to start.

In a nutshell, Emanuel supported SOPA and would love for Google, Twitter, and Facebook to remove all links to illegally distributed copyrighted material. Let’s try to forget for a second that it would be almost impossible for Google or any other company to do so effectively. It wouldn’t do a damn thing to stop piracy. And it would give the power to regulate the most important communications tool ever to the entertainment industry.

The opposing side, and by opposing I mean the people currently paying for content and making it possible for the entertainment industry to exist, just want a better experience. They want to be able to see Game of Thrones without having to pay $90 - $120 a month to Comcast for a bunch of stuff they don’t care about. And personally, I’d rather not wait until season 2 is airing before I can watch season 1 on iTunes.

This feels completely broken. And if anyone in the entertainment industry is looking for a way to side step this land mine, just make it a better experience for those trying to pay you. HBO has the right to set these terms. I’m not arguing that. I’m simply pointing out that more and more, everyday, these terms are becoming bad business.

Ari (can I call you Ari?), you should be afraid of piracy. But there is something far more dangerous to your bottom line. The internet and digital media has dropped the cost of copying and distributing movies, TV, and pretty much anything, to basically zero. But it’s also making the creation and distribution of content much more accessible to everyone. More people are making awesome stuff than ever before. It’s the most exciting time to be a maker of things. And this is what you should be afraid of.

A short term threat to the “entertainment industry”, but the bigger threat is the onslaught of high-quality (and not so high-quality) independent media that is coming in the next 5 years. Your audience is about to get 500 new things to watch, read, and play. You only need to browse Kickstarter to catch a glimpse of what the future will look like. People will pay for “Premium Content”. They just won’t be paying Ari Emanuel.

Count - Dance with Somebody »

My wife and I make music together in her band Count. About a week ago, we asked some friends to help us shoot a video on the streets of downtown LA.

If you watch that video, you’ll see us walk by a stranger on a bench and you’ll hear him propose to Gabbi as we go by. His name is Daryl.

We started talking with him for a little bit and like lots of older people, he was friendly and just had this look on his face that comes from living through a lot. Knowing way too much and still working to figure things out. As we were walking away and talking about how nice he was, we decided to perform a song for him.

The response to the video has been far beyond what we expected or imagined. But even as we were performing the song for him, we knew it was a moment. It felt special and intimate. It wasn’t a marketing stunt and it wasn’t planned. No fancy sound equipment, no lights, no fancy camera. We were just lucky that our friend Adam was there to film it.

There are two factors about this that I find really fascinating: authenticity & happenstance.

We couldn’t have planned this. And if we tried, people would have sensed it’s fakey grossness. People feel that it’s real and so they’re moved by it.

But it blows my mind to think that if Daryl wasn’t on that bench, if he didn’t have a sense of humor, if we weren’t late because I forgot something at the apartment and had to go back before we could shoot, this video wouldn’t have been made. And it wouldn’t have been seen by almost 100,000 people in 2 days.

It’s an important lesson when you’re someone that makes things. There are so many factors outside our control. It’s not your job to plan for moments like these and there’s not much you can do to “make” them happen. You just have to do your thing and keep doing your thing. That’s the only way you’ll end up on the streets of downtown, singing a song for the nice, old man that just proposed to your wife.

Short of the Week »

We believe the web will change everything. If short films are a filmmaker’s playground, then the web is an open field. We’ll see new ways to make stories through DSLRs, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding as well as new formats for telling stories like web series, branded films, and interactive films.

This excites the cuss out me. Not just for film but for pretty much everything. And it’s not the web that’s changing everything. The web made it possible. It’s what people are doing with the web that’s changing things.

Up until the last couple years, these changes were something I had to proclaim to non “web” people. “Don’t you see? It’s coming!”, I would say. But recently, the web has started to make good on those promises. Starting a media network from your bedroom is a real thing. It’s been done. I just bought and watched Indie Game: The Movie. A brilliant documentary about independent video game developers funded on Kickstarter by those that wanted to see this movie made. I helped fund an interactive 3D animated story book that I can’t wait to read? play? see? listen to?

I don’t mean to get all hyperbolic but this is the most exciting time to be making anything. And it’s a lot of pressure. Big excuses like money, resources and distribution are being pulled out from under us. The only big question left is, what do I want to spend my time on?

Introducing the Source Filmmaker »

The Source Filmmaker (SFM) is the movie-making tool built and used by us here at Valve to make movies inside the Source game engine.

If that doesn’t make any sense to you, just go watch the introduction video. This is an application that lets you create animated movies within a video game world. Imagine you’re playing a video game and at some point during play, you decide you’d like to create a short animated film of this scene in the game. You hit a button and you’ve just turned that scene into a virtual movie set. That’s Source Filmmaker.

Seeing tools like SFM offered for free seems like a sign of things to come in animation. These tools don’t make character design or getting a story right any easier. But they make the animation and editing process easier. And this allows people to focus on the characters, the story, the music, and still be able to try their hand at being an animated filmmaker.

I can’t wait to see how the world of independent animation changes over the next 5 years.

How to launch a blog in 2012

25 Jun 2012

I feel a little insane debuting a blog in the middle of 2012. The rise of the bloggers happened over a decade ago. In a world of tweets, instagram, and 1 sentence emails, asking people to read more than 3 sentences seems like a lot ask.

And I’m afraid. I’m afraid it won’t be that good. I’m afraid this won’t be worth 3 minutes of your time. I’m afraid that for all my talent, enthusiasm, and persistence, I might not make anything great.

Technology makes it really easy to peek at anyone’s life. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But I think we need a little more than that. I don’t know about you but mindlessly clicking through profile pictures leaves me with a sad, sweaty film in my brain.

The truth is, I just want to be moved. I think everyone does. We want to be moved by the works of others. Sometimes, we need to be moved by what we make and do ourselves. But mostly, we just want to be moved.

So, I’m trying to let go of my safety blanket here. Being moved isn’t always about being inspired and feeling good. No one makes fun of the stuff I never show them but protecting it from imaginary mean feedback tastes an awful lot like failure.

Long before Rivers Cuomo took a swan dive from grace, he wrote this:

I’ve got electric guitar.
I play my stupid songs.
I write these stupid words.
And I love every one!
Waiting there for me. Yes, I do.
I do.

I almost cry every time I sing along to that. Making things I’m proud of is really hard for me. It’s hard. It can take a long time and a lot of work. But caring too much what other people think, wears me down and let’s me shrug my shoulders and convince myself I didn’t really care about making something awesome, did I?

And now is the part where I tell you I’ve learned my lesson. I’ve grown up. I’ll never do it again. But I will. And that’s okay. Because I wrote these stupid words. And I love every one. Yes, I do.