The real and imaginative adventures of Dennis Spielman

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Reflecting on 2020

Well…

Hello, Adventurers! Typically, I write my end of the year reflection on New Year’s Eve, but I was working with the Oklahoma City Arts Council on a big live-streaming Opening Night event. This reflection is going to be a little different, but last year was a different kind of year.

This is the part where I share numbers on how much I created, but the statistic that matters the most, I’m reminding myself, is that I made it through the year. Also, I made more videos for other people than myself. I’ve been able to help many organizations connect with their audiences through video content and live-streaming shows. I’m proud of that fact.

In the summer, I live-streamed a concert every week for the Arts Council OKC and then again in the fall, but every other week. For Oklahoma Contemporary, I made them about two videos a month. I helped take a live play Namron Players Theatre had planned and turned it into a movie for them. I worked with Therapy in Motion and the Norman YMCA to do a Healthy Living Series. I got to do a big New Year’s Eve show, which was a goal I noted in my previous reflection. Plus, I helped other businesses with some internal videos too.

To thank my clients for this year, I worked with Design Pickle and they made me this thank you card that I sent (and still sending out) to all of my major clients for the year.

The 2020 Client Thank You Card

Overall, I am grateful and proud of what I did create in the year, regardless of who it was for.

Uncovering Oklahoma in 2020

At the beginning of 2020, I raised the bar by producing videos in 4K HDR and closed captions on every episode. Pre-pandemic, I started strong with stories in Tulsa and Guthrie. I released 27 weekly episodes along with three art and event pieces.

With my growing library of content, videos I made in previous years picked up in popularity. Even though I didn’t make many new videos, the watch time in hours for the YouTube channel was 2,542.3, which was about what I got in 2019. Subscribers grew by 365, putting me over 1,000! According to my YouTube channel, these were the Top 5 watched videos in 2020.

5. Gathering Place in Tulsa
4. Magnetic Hill in Springer 
3. Black-Owned BBQ Restaurants Vol. 1
2. Press Waffle Co at The Collective
1. Great Salt Plains State Park

The title for the most-watched 2020 story goes to The Study in Oklahoma City, which was the second episode I did when the lockdowns lifted. The first story I eased myself back into filming was on the Winchester Drive-In Theatre in Oklahoma City, which was my second most popular 2020 video and most-watched via Facebook. Sergio’s Italian Bistro, Pink Elephant Coffee, Re: Earth, and The Study were the most-viewed via Facebook.

Tales Unveiled in 2020

Jeff and I got three episodes recorded before the pandemic hit. We picked up recording later in the summer and released a total of 11 episodes for our third season. Our episode on Bartlesville was our most popular. Despite the shorter season, we had quality episodes. Great stories from guests all around!

Quarter Minutes in 2020

We made one episode! Go us!

Yes! Science! and Art & Victory in 2020

Due to the audience nature of these shows, I felt it was best to postpone them until the time was right.

The 16th Phoenix Universe in 2020

What’s this? A new category? One of my personal goals was to release a new short story every week for the year. With the exception of A Killer Among the Spaceship Game Show, which was released in two parts and the first part took two weeks, I kept up with my goal. I wrote 48 short stories!

Still, no new books. They were looking good in the first half of the year, but when client work picked up, writing time got spent on short stories.

Make sure to follow the 16th Phoenix Facebook page and Reddit account for more updates.

Top Songs of 2020

According to Spotify, which is how I mostly listen to music, this was my 2020 soundtrack. As always, keep in mind I will often put a song (or playlist) on repeat when writing or for inspiration sessions. Maybe you’ll find a new favorite song?

Plans for 2021

Although it’s a new year and I’m optimistic, but I’m going to be careful with my plans as we’re still dealing with a pandemic.

For Uncovering Oklahoma, with COVID cases rising, I’m playing things safe. It’s annoying when I’m filming a restaurant and someone walks past me to go to the bathroom without a mask. On top of all that, businesses are going out left and right. I’m going to focus on retail businesses and concepts where I can control the environment to be safe. I don’t foresee me making as many episodes as I did in 2019. I hope to get back to doing collaboration episodes soon.

For Tales Unveiled, Jeff and I did leave the show open for more episodes. I would love to travel out of Oklahoma this season or next. We plan to start recording season four in the spring with a fall release. (There’s a Friday the 13th in August.)

For the studio audience shows, I honestly don’t know when I’ll start those up again. I might do them without an audience or I might do something entirely different.

For the 16th Phoenix Universe, instead of a weekly short story, they will be monthly. Writing every week has helped me build my fictional universe. I want to take some time on the stories and maybe release longer stories. I want to build upon other stories I’ve written in 2020 for 2021 and allocate writing time to other works. I plan to revisit all the 2020 stories, send them to an editor, and publish a book collection.

Also during the weekly short story creation, I’ve started two new books. One is based on A Question for the Writers and the other is from Upgrade Cave. I want to finish my other books before I get too involved in those stories.

Now, for new projects! Last year, I did start writing a feature film script although my writing time got spent on short stories. I would like to get that written out at least this year.

One of the first major projects I have in the works for the first half of the year is an interactive branching narrative that takes place in Downtown Norman. More about this later as we’re planning an April or May release.

Finally, I’m researching a project that might be a huge move I’ll make to get closer to the studio goal. Way too early for me to say anything about this publicly yet.

Thank you for following me throughout this year! You can join me on Patreon to help support these projects and get special rewards.

Here’s to happy adventures in 2021!

Reflecting on 2019

Hello, Adventurers!

It’s time for my New Year’s Eve tradition of reflecting back on the year. I like to start off with some numbers in regards to my accomplishments.

Uncovering Oklahoma Episodes: 52 (more if you count Artist Statements and event coverage)
Yes! Science! Episodes: 6
Tales Unveiled Episodes: 14
Quarter Minutes: 4
Art & Victory: 6

Before I talk about how each of the series did, I want to note that this year I made a big step toward my TV studio goal. I bought live-streaming equipment and started live-streaming shows! I got familiar with the equipment thanks to Startup Grind OKC as I live-streamed those fireside chats. I also filmed shows with a live audience!

Uncovering Oklahoma in 2019

Since Uncovering Oklahoma was my biggest project for the year, I’m going to start off talking about that series.  Here were the top ten most viewed videos on both Facebook and YouTube. This list only includes videos that were made in 2019.

Top 10 Made in 2019 Videos Watched via YouTube

  1. Oklahoma State Fair Food 2019 (2,881)
  2. Poe Bouyz House (2,636)
  3. Black-Owned BBQ Restaurants Vol. 1 (1,017)
  4. Press Waffle Co at The Collective (893)
  5. Dead People’s Stuff (816)
  6. Factory Obscura Mix Tape Phase 1 (589)
  7. The Musical Swings (499)
  8. Scissortail Park: A Brief First Look Tour (488)
  9. Creative Burgers Vol. 1 (380)
  10. Michael Murphy’s Dueling Piano Bar (334)

Top 10 Made in 2019 Videos Watch via Facebook

  1. Cornish Smokehouse (8.1k)
  2. Brielle’s Bistro (6.4k)
  3. Parlor OKC Sneak Peek Tour (4.3k)
  4. Oklahoma State Fair Food 2019 (3.4k)
  5. 3Sixty Restaurant & Bar (3k)
  6. Dystopia Rising (2.9k)
  7. Creative Burgers Vol 1 (2.6k)
  8. Magnolia Bistro (2.4k)
  9. Freezing Cow (2.4k)
  10. Creative Burgers Vol 2 (2.3k)

Same deal as last year, YouTube count is based on views while Facebook is from minutes watched. I upload episodes directly to each platform for maximum reach. My total minutes watched from all videos (includes previous years) via Facebook was 107.1k, which was up 3.8 % from the previous 365 days. As for Uncovering Oklahoma’s YouTube analytics: Totals views: 61.2k (up 49% from 2018), watch time in hours: 2.5k (up 62%), and 351 new subscribers (up 81%).

Uncovering Oklahoma is still growing! At the time I’m writing this post, likes for Facebook was 15,946 (was 13,130 at the start of the year), Twitter was 3,962 (3,549 last year), Instagram followers was 2,550 (1,426 last year), and YouTube subscribers was 669 (351).

I released a feature documentary, Welcome to the Plaza Walls, which premiered at the Tower Theatre on April 15, the ten year anniversary of Uncovering Oklahoma. It was a wonderful treat! After some feedback at the screening, I made some changes and released it for free shortly after. It was the only feature documentary I made during the year, other than a compilation for Amazon Prime. My focus has been weekly episodes.

My collaboration episodes included Creative Burgers Vol 1 and 2, Black-Owned BBQ Restaurants, Oklahoma State Fair Food 2019, Zero-Proof Cocktails, The Collective, Streetcar Ghost Stories, Parlor OKC, and Downtown in December. All of the collaborations were a hit. I was inspired by how well the ones I did in 2018 that I had to do more in 2019 and I plan to be doing even more in 2020.

There’s been so much to cover that I started releasing videos on Tuesdays in addition to my Thursday videos. The ones one Tuesday were more time-sensitive, such as event coverage and artist statements. I renamed the Tuesday Treats feature to Creator Conversations and moved it to Wednesdays.

Website traffic is down again this year, however, video views and social media engagement is up, so I’m happy. I want people to watch the videos more than I want them to visit the website.

Tales Unveiled in 2019

Tales Unveiled took off in popularity this year. Episode download averagers for the first season were 2oo to 300 while the second season averages were over 1,000! We were featured on Stitcher, Oklahoma Gazette, and Oklahoma Today, which you can read about that coverage here.

The most downloaded episode was Creepy Conversations with 2,167 downloads, The Return to Chandler came in second with 2,160 downloads, third was The Ritz of Shawnee at 2,008, fourth was The Tombstone Tales of Enid at 1,746, and fifth was Embark on a Ghost Streetcar Tour at 1,571.

Yes! Science! in 2019

Taking advantage of my new live-streaming setup, I reinvited the series as a talk show hosted by Pallas the Librarian. We started the new season in March, doing monthly live events for six months. The show didn’t take off in popularity but the series was well received. Pallas has been an amazing host. All of the guests have enjoyed their time on the show. Plus, I learned so much from producing it. I’m taking the knowledge I’ve gained to make a better season for 2020.

Art & Victory in 2019

A new series! Art & Victory is a panel discussion series for creative entrepreneurs. Themes range from industry-specific discussions to more broad topics for all creatives working to make a living with their art.

Due to the lack of good wifi at the venues, I wasn’t able to do this a live-streaming show, but I did do it with an audience. Another step closer to the studio goal!

Quarter Minutes in 2019

After not making any in 2018, we made four stories in 2019. We enjoy making these super short films and I’m determined to keep getting better. I had a goal of releasing one a month, but when my other series started to pick up, Quarter Minutes fell through the cracks. With as much as I do, perhaps one every other month or every quarter would be a more realistic goal for 2020. 

Top Songs of 2019

These were my most played songs in 2019 according to Spotify, which is how I mostly listen to music. Keep in mind I will often put a song (or playlist) on repeat when writing or for inspiration sessions. It’s all good fun.

Plans for 2020

My plans for 2020 are to keep upping my game.

For Uncovering Oklahoma, I’m going to start releasing videos in 4K HDR. I’ve released videos in 1080p simply so I could get creative with my framing, but I want to flex my skills. I recently got an HDR computer monitor and I’m in love with HDR. My Panasonic GH5 is capable of shooting 10-bit HDR, but I never really used it until recently. I know it’s going to be overkill, but this move will be more about producing higher quality content.

I want to take Yes! Science! to the next level. I want to build an elaborate set and up the overall production quality. I would also love to get it on a major streaming service to fund the series so I can bring out of state guests.

For our third season of Tales Unveiled, Jeff and I are going to continue traveling the state for ghost stories. We are planning to start recording in January this time as Jeff is still working on his ghost stories of Oklahoma book, which he plans to release in the fall.

I’ve been picking up more freelance work and I’m worried that will take away time from all my shows, but I need the money to make those shows happen. On the subject of balance, I’m getting better at balancing everything I do.

In my past end of the year recaps, I talked about my books and how those are so close to being done but never get released the following year. I have written out Intertwined by Cracks, which has undergone some major changes this year and needs some more work as the last feedback I received was that the story moved too fast. Collecting Cassie’s Soul, the sequel to The Crashing of Heaven and Hell, has been finally written out all the way! I’ve also been working on a third book this year, but not much as the other two have been my main focus.

I’m looking into starting a political satire series in 2020. Been learning what it takes to do a live show in 2019.

There are some random things I want to do: create some interactive public art piece, film a Borderlands short fan film out in the Little Sahara, write weekly short stories, make a feature-length horror movie, film something out of state, make a scripted mini-series, do a space drama podcast, take more artsy photographs, do a big New Years Eve special show for those that want to stay home, and get some famous women on Yes! Science!

I feel so inspired. There’s so much I want to do. Seriously. So much I want to create. I want to thank you for following and if you want to support these amazing endeavors of mine, join me on Patreon.

Happy Adventures!

A Discussion on Filmmaking

Art & Victory is a free monthly panel discussion series designed for creative entrepreneurs. Ran by The Show Starts Now Studios in collaboration with the Norman Arts CouncilThe DepotNorman Film Fest, and OkSessions, the topic for September’s panel was Making Short Films, in honor of the Norman Film Festival. Christian Pearson from OkSessions hosted for this panel discussion. 

ABOUT THE PANELISTS:

Laron M. Chapman is an actor, screenwriter, director and co-producer from Oklahoma with a BA in Film and Media Studies and a background in journalism and film production. A passionate screenwriter/filmmaker, his work spans from reality TV featured on the Food Network, FOX, Discovery Channel, and the Oklahoma-filmed, Academy Award nominated film August: Osage County (starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts). Laron made his directorial debut in 2017 with his now multi-award winning feature film, “You People.” He has since co-directed the five-part anthology film “Mono” and is currently working on his second sure fire-hit feature, Freaky AF.

Alyx Picard Davis is the Director of Festival and Operations for deadCenter Film Festival. Originally a long-time volunteer in host, events, transportation, and programming, she came on board full-time in 2013. She worked with budding rock stars at ACM@UCO and served on UCO’s Alumni Board. Alyx worked in the production office on The Killer Inside Me, the star-filled serial killer film made all over Oklahoma. She co-produced Lance McDaniel’s award-winning film Swirl, 2017 OKC48 film Previously on Alley Cats…, directed the 2018 OKC48 film Escape, and tries to produce a couple of short films every year, including the award-winning The Stand-In. She currently serves on the board of directors for the Film Festival Alliance, creating a collaborative global community for mission-driven film festivals.

Kyle Roberts is an Emmy Award-winning director with over 10 years of experience. Roberts specializes in film projects including stop motion animation and music videos. He serves as the Founder/ Creative Director of Reckless Abandonment Pictures LLC, an independent motion picture company based in Oklahoma City, OK. Roberts worked at NewsOK.com for 7 years where he produced a local music show ‘Static’. After obtaining millions of views on Roberts personal youtube channel, he was selected to compete on Syfy’s first season of ‘Viral Video Showdown’.

In 2017 Roberts directed two stop motion animated series for Mattel’s Thomas & Friends. In 2018 Roberts directed a stop motion animated series for DreamWorks Trolls and a national commercial for LEGO.


Art & Victory could use your support! Join the show on Patreon with The Show Starts Now Studios. As a patron supporter, you can get early access to new videos, bonus content, ad-free podcasts, and more. 

Art & Victory is available as an audio podcast on Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotifyStitcher, and anywhere you listen to podcasts.

Acting with Kristy K. Boone

In this intimate Art & Victory fireside chat with actress Kristy K. Boone, Kirsty shares her story about her acting career along with advice for severing the vision of the project, perusing SAG status, differences between acting on stage vs film, and more. 

Art & Victory is produced by me at The Show Starts Now Studios in collaboration with the Norman Arts Council, MAINSITE, and hosted by Christian Pearson from OkSessions.

Making Money as a Visual Artist

The Show Starts Now Studios in collaboration with the Norman Arts CouncilResonator, and OkSessions presents Art & Victory, a free monthly panel discussion series designed for creative entrepreneurs. The theme for July’s panel was Making Money as a Visual Artist, which included topics on becoming successful, how to get your art displayed in galleries/businesses, working art festivals, pricing your work, pitfalls to avoid, and hustle tips.

Christian Pearson from OkSessions hosted this panel discussion with artists, Jessica Legako and Jason Wilson. 

ABOUT THE PANELISTS:

Jessica Legako – Jessica Legako is a painter who primarily works in oils; her work often involves texture and gestural movement. Her current work involves a focus on distance and depth involved with landscapes. She has earned her BFA in Studio Art from the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Oklahoma. Born and raised to a farmer and a teacher, she was enriched with an outdoor lifestyle. This allowed undisrupted observation, which fed her imagery. She currently lives and maintains her studio in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Jason Wilson – Forty years ago, a young boy watched his Native American grandmother design, assemble and sew his family’s quilts. Today, contemporary Perceptual artist, Jason Wilson, influenced by his grandmother’s quilts, gives new life to old concepts. Jason says his designs are about building the painting as much as painting the painting, involving hours of construction. To this end, Wilson developed his own unique acrylic paint formula to hand paint his canvas. The result is a technically perfect, remarkably flawless finished canvas. By bringing his designs to life, Jason Wilson hopes to delight and inspire others.


It was our biggest crowd yet! What was really fun was we some people sketching the panelists and making art during the show. I do have plans for the next three Art & Victory sessions. August is Intro to Acting, September we’re talking about making short films, and in October we’ll discuss starting your own podcast.

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