ok, since my journal is regularly inflicted with my posts my autobiography isn't going to last very long, so here is the abridged and expanded version:
I Want My AMV
One sometimes hears about life-changing moments, the kinds of moments – large or small – which mark a definite bend in the road and take the traveler places they otherwise would not have visited. This happened to me approximately 10 years ago when I accidentally saw half a commercial for Final Fantasy VIII on MTV. “Accidentally” because I never watched MTV, was not supposed to be watching MTV and never saw that commercial again. Nevertheless, my life altered course in those 40 seconds.
One aspect of my personality, which actually takes a lot of people a very long time to discover, is that I go through regular periods of obsessive interest in things. Most likely I inherited this trait from my father, although it’s much more obvious in him because it manifests itself in the hobbies he takes up. I, on the other hand, get obsessed about ideas. If those ideas happen to relate to someTHING then of course my interest gets a little more obvious, but even then no one usually realizes how much is really going on upstairs. If I am obsessed with something, I think about it 24/7, non-stop. A good example is when Advent Children came out. I lived, breathed and slept AC for about six weeks (particularly Vincent) and was absolutely euphoric the whole time. A psychiatrist once told me this is abnormal - that one should constantly be thinking about things - but I haven’t killed anyone yet so what’s the big deal?
In any case, this is how half a commercial for a game I’d never heard of (although I had heard of FF7) wound up having so much influence. I saw it, I had to find out more about it, I went online and landed on a site full of information about the game, discovered the fun of forums and chatrooms and eventually was initiated into the early realm of file sharing, a la bittorrent and IRC. This is Napster-era, I’m talking about, when you got your fansubs not from download links on Web sites, but by scouring the bittorrent/IRC highways and never really gave a second thought to fansub quality, viruses or whether it was ok to download anime for free. At some point one of my online friends passed me an AMV made with “Enter Sandman” and FFVIII, which I promptly fell head-over-heels in love with and would watch at least 20 times a day. At that time I didn’t know it was an AMV – in fact in 1998 it probably wouldn’t even have been called an AMV – and I’ve never found it again, although it might exist on the Tube. I was 21.
By 1999 I had been introduced to all kinds of people who were introducing me to all sorts of other things, particularly anime, which I’d always been fascinated with but had never had a means of obtaining. Amazing what kinds of new worlds a cable modem can open up to you. By 2001 I was a bonafide America otaku and, in the course of searching for the FFVIII AMV (which I’d lost after my father reformatted my hard drive without my knowledge/permission), discovered a-m-v.org. Wonder and amazement ensued, along with another obsession.
This time, however, it was of a horrifically frustrating and depressing sort. For one thing, I couldn’t get my head around the technical aspects of the endeavor – it must require use of the side of my brain I don’t use very well – and for another, I became extremely…disgusted…with the AMV community found here, so much so that I eventually associated the place with a bunch of elitist bastards. A very closed community, one which made newcomers feel like outsiders - that was my
. I hated that feeling and - not being the sort who grovels to people I feel are elitist bastards - after a year or two I basically said “screw you, a-m-v.org” and went off to be obsessive about other stuff. I wasn’t getting anywhere with AMVs, after all, and it didn't seem like the welcome mat was out for anyone didn’t make AMVs or who wouldn’t fall into step and worship those who could. The fact that I’d failed at something I really, really, REALLY wanted to be able to do burned me up, but I refused to admit defeat – I was *just* taking a break.
Anime Boston 2006
For the next few years I did my otaku thing without much in the way of hardcore AMVing and eventually wound up in the audience at Anime Boston’s 2006 AMV competition. That was the first year the con was held at the Hynes Convention Center and the year I got to see both “Hold Me Now” and “True Fiction” in person, on three huge screens in the middle of an audience of 4-5,000 people (not quite sure what the Hynes' crowd cap is, but I know they can pack a lot of people into main events).
To say I was blown away is an understatement. That competition remains the highlight of all my convention experiences, which is saying something considering what happened two years later. What particularly impressed me was the ability of those AMVs to get up in front of the crowd and say “Get ready, because I’m going to show you a REAL good time” and then put on a fantastic performance. Most importantly, it gave me the feeling that their creators were pleased to put on this show, that they greatly enjoyed the chance to contribute to an awesome con experience for thousands of people. I wanted to do that – I wanted to make something that was an EXPERIENCE for people (a really good experience). I drove home from AB that year with completely renewed determination and desire to make an AMV and had the fortune to hear a song on the radio as I was driving back (in the pouring rain at 11:30 p.m. – I remember it quite well) that literally made me shout “OH YEEESSSS!!” and begin to howl with mad laughter.
The Descent Part II
I spent the next year attempting to make that AMV and getting nowhere. I still felt I could make an AMV – in fact I felt sure I could make a really good one – but what I had taken to calling AMV gods were clearly against me. Every possible problem that one can imagine cropped up at every single turn. It’s really quite mind boggling, all the crazy stuff that seemed to happen just to prevent me from making AMVs. It got so bad and so unbelievable that I started – out of sheer frustration – chronically my spectacular non-progress in the nifty journal a-m-v.org had. It made me feel like I was a part of the community even if I was off in a corner somewhere, ranting and raving with only the occasional passerby checking in to say “Yep, she’s still at it and she still can’t do it.”
All-in-all, by 2007 I had probably spent upwards of 500 hours on AMV-related stuff with nothing to show for it. ZEEERO. I took to stating that I – with no AMVs to my name – could be said to have more experience at AMVing than someone who’d made 10 AMVs (assuming a 40-hour per project ratio). Meanwhile, I also decided that I really enjoyed graphic design and went back to school to get that piece of paper that said I had a knack for it. Getting more familiar with a variety of design programs improved my ability to work with video editing programs and gave me all kinds of ideas for fun things to do with AMVs that I wasn’t really seeing anyone else attempting…but I still thought of myself as an AMV editor wanna-be because I hadn't managed to finish one (or, more accurately, make more than 20 seconds of one...NOT for lack of trying).
Despite a vague kind of commitment to make an AMV and enter it in Anime Boston’s 2007 AMV competition, I failed utterly that year and contented myself with instead writing “An AMVer’s Guide to the Pen Tool
.” It took about 80 hours, all told, bit I figured that at least proved to folks hearabouts that I was capable of undertaking a large project and finishing it. Plus, it was the first time I actually got the impression that the community had changed a little, that even if you weren’t a “real” AMV editor you still had something to contribute. That was cool. So I made it and - while I have no idea how many people have used it or what good it’s done - I also don’t see as many god-awful masks as I used to so maybe people got the hint and put down their dratted magic wands and lassos. I now intend to re-make it, because I can’t stand the way it’s put together, but I’m kind of busy with other stuff at the moment.
More Than “Just” An AMV
When AB 2007 rolled around, I had no AMV whatsoever. To make a long story short...I don’t really remember how it started, but it ended with someone making a theoretical bet that I couldn’t make an AMV that would get into the competition…or something like that. Well…that just really stuck it to me. I was getting to the end of my rope anyways, where AMVs were concerned, but that just sent me over the edge. I had a great deal more technical know-how than I ever had before, lots of ideas, a decent amount of intelligence…why the HELL couldn’t I “get” this AMV stuff? What wasn’t clicking?? Was I really incapable of making an AMV??
The issue was quite concerning to me, as my entire life I’d operated under the assumption that if I believed hard enough I could do something, then I could do it. I really did believe I could make an AMV…but if I gave up, if I failed, then one of my fundamental beliefs would be proved invalid, sending shockwaves through all sorts of other beliefs. This may sound very grandiose and dramatic…but that’s the way it was. I’ve done a number of things with absolutely no assistance from anyone else solely because I believed I could do them and this was the first time I had failed at it. The whole situation was just about incomprehensible and a real Big Problem, in terms of my self confidence. So, being that life had kind of smoothed at around me and I also finally had the time and resources to devote to AMVs, I decided it was do or die for AB 2008.
Ding Ding Ding
I made my first AMV. I don’t even remember, anymore, what I was originally working on – it was something with Advent Children – but I was up until 11 p.m. fighting with my footage (age-old AMV god curse going on), then I went to bed and had bad dreams about it and woke up to “That‘s All” by Genesis. Instant light bulb, instant obsession, instant ability to make an AMV. Looking back it was quite incredible, like someone threw a switch and suddenly I “got” it – I “got” how to put an AMV together. It still took me a heck of a long time and it was quite difficult, but I managed to muddle through and in the fall of 2007 released my first AMV, Sephiration Anxiety
. Finally…after years and years of trying…I was now a “real” AMV editor. Most importantly of all, however, I had proved I could do what I believed I could do.
Do or Die
My next AMV attempt, I decided, was going to have to be my big AB AMV competition endeavor. I’d made an AMV…ok, but now I had to make a REALLY good one. I had to make it count, it had to be the very best I could possibly do, a 150% effort that cut no corners, that was designed exclusively to get into the finals of that competition. This had been my goal for quite a few years but – finally – it seemed within reach. Most people, of course, would have said it was a completely ridiculous and over-zealous goal for someone like me to have. Ok, so I’d made one AMV…but I’d failed miserably for about six-seven years running and the one AMV I HAD made wasn’t exactly anything to jump up and down about. Most anyone would have said it was a long shot – heck even I thought it wouldn’t happen – but I refused to even consider the possibility that I didn’t have what it took to do this.
So I made my second AMV – 'Bustin
– and spent a good deal of time blowing off steam and de-stressing in my journal, without which I’d have probably have been even closer to a nervous breakdown than I already was after four months or so of work on that project. I was so burned out and frustrated by the end of it all that I had real doubts about whether the AMV was good enough to get into the competition. For one thing, I knew no one had ever really done anything like it, which possibly meant it was too bizarre and outlandish to be acceptable, and for another I was quite aware of how much the AMV had failed to live up to my expectations. I ran out of time to do everything I wanted and could personally barely stand to watch it anymore.
This kind of attitude led me to release ’Bustin prior to Anime Boston. In retrospect, if I'd had a clue what kind of reception it would get I'd have held off for awhile, but I didn't realize what I'd gotten myself into. I knew I’d made something unique, but I wasn’t sure if it was actually any good or would be …appreciated…by anyone. That AMV was a HUGE personal accomplishment on a number of levels…but most other people could care less about what it meant to me, about why it was so important to me long before it ever went public. The truth is that I was never as proud of my AMV (or myself) as I was the moment before I officially uploaded it here.
That about sums it up. Although “You’ve got to be kidding me/OMG/Someone slap me/How the hell did THIS happen” also apply. My second AMV was greeted with an astonishing level of enthusiasm and praise and...I made it into the finals at Anime Boston.
The AB event went down far beyond my imagination. I'd attended its AMV competitions over the years and so was familiar with how the crowd (which is usually awesome at AB) reacted when the winners were announced, but this time I was the one who won - Best Concept, the only award I felt I actually had a decent shot at. It happened to be the second AMV winner announced and I saw " 'Bustin" come up on screen and - to my surprise - the whole crowd cheered. Things had seemed kind of subdued for my AMV during the actual competition screening, so this just came out of nowhere. Nothing like sitting in the middle of a filled-to-capacity main events watching thousands of people thoroughly enjoy your AMV to make you say "wow." I remember almost covering my ears when Vincent came on screen, because the fangirl screams (and probably fanboy, too) reached deafening levels. I sat there the whole time with my mouth hanging open thinking, "Whoa...I guess I got it right."
That was a pretty darn spectacular conclusion to many years of wanting very much to make AMVs and finally - after an enormous amount of hard work and failure after failure - succeeding. I didn't expect it to turn out that way, but it did and it was really awesome.
As it turned out, my AMV got into the finals of every competition I entered and won awards at all but one of those competitions. It was all very unexpected and it took me awhile to get a handle on it, which accounts for why I now say I would have done things differently if I’d had any inkling as to what WAS going to happen when I made that AMV. It also accounts for why - by the time it was all over - I felt it making a popular AMV had been a very unpleasant experience. A lot of stress, a lot of mistakes, a lot of getting involved in things I didn't expect to be involved in. I came very close to wishing I'd never made it, any number of times, but now I'm ok with it, now. It's my second AMV, an endeavor that represents a heck of a lot more than most people realize.
Number Three and Four
I released a third AMV which sometimes I call my second AMV, but usually call MSAMAMV (My Song Ate My AMV
) which was something I’d mostly put together at the time ‘Bustin took shape. Didn’t announce it – MSAMAMV was just a failed experiment – and people stumble over it however they can. It did better than I’d expected, although after I took the “DO NOT DOWNLOAD THIS AMV” headline out of the comments area, the ratings predictably started to drop because, I guess, less open-minded folks were watching it. hehe
Then, feeling like I wanted to put my second AMV behind me, I tackled one of my oldest AMV concepts – a video set to “Hoe-Down” – which unfortunately proved to be quite challenging and nearly caused me to fall back into my old ways, namely not finishing AMVs. With the assistance of several beta tester-type folk, I persevered and released my third/fourth AMV Takeout
in fall 2008, almost exactly a year after I released my first one. It also was received better than I anticipated, but most of all gave me the satisfaction of knowing I could finish an AMV even if I didn’t like the cards I was dealt (which is good, given that I largely deal them to myself).
At the moment AMVing is taking a backseat - there are a number of things I’ve put off doing because AMV-related matters took up so much of my time, but I don’t want to put them off anymore. Plus, I am a very slow editor, often I say bad editor (because I’m slow) and admit I don’t really have any natural talent at this stuff. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that if I want results, I need to put in the time. I’m not as bad as I used to be, fortunately, which proves I’m making progress, but I am slow.
Also, right now I feel like I accomplished not only what I set out to do, but a ton of things I never even dreamed of accomplishing. My goals have all been met (they weren't extraordinarily high to begin with - make an AMV, get into the finals at AB) and now I have to set new ones. Fortunately I thrive on challenges, and I'm happy to say the proof is my AMVs.