Everyone loves a good blockbuster—a film that has it all: action, stunts, special effects, thrills, and the potential to dominate pop culture conversations for years after its release. It is often said that Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975) was the first blockbuster film, and that along with Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977), it launched a new era in the history of Hollywood filmmaking: the Blockbuster Age, which continues to this day. And while there is no doubt that Jaws and Star Wars led Hollywood to push to release many more high-budget, effects-heavy movies deliberately aimed to have mass-market appeal, were these two films really the first of their kind? Looking back in film history, I can see many earlier pictures that, at first glance, could seem to match our modern definition of a “blockbuster”, from James Bond films like Goldfinger (Guy Hamilton, 1964) all the way back to the works of Georges Méliès during the very early years of the silent era, beginning with his now-legendary 17-minute picture A Trip to the Moon (French: Le Voyage dans la Lune, 1902). Which leads me to what would seem to be the central question I want to address in this essay: did Méliès create the world’s first blockbuster film in A Trip to the Moon? Continue reading “Was “A Trip to the Moon” the First Blockbuster Movie?”

Beware the Tooth Fairy

This semester I had the privilege of working as an editor on a short comedy film for the Maryland Filmmakers club at the University of Maryland, College Park. The film is called “Overthinking”, and it was written and directed by Michael Zimmerman. At the Maryland Filmmakers 2020 student film festival, our film won Audience Choice for Best In-Club Submission!

It was a lot of fun to be a contributor for such an important part of the filmmaking creative process, and I hope to do more creative work like this in the future! If you like coffee, fairies, or laughs, or if you just tend to think too much, I invite you to give it a watch!

For the past several months, I have been considering setting my next D&D campaign in the Old Empires region of the Forgotten Realms setting. It’s a fascinating region, loosely inspired by the ancient Eastern Mediterranean/Levantine Sea region of Earth, resplendent with crumbling pyramids and ziggurats, volcanic islands, nations ruled by physical gods, ugly wars, and endless storytelling possibilities.

However, running a 5th edition campaign in this setting takes more work on the part of a Dungeon Master than running a campaign set in a more popular region of the Realms such as the Sword Coast or the Heartlands, since the region has undergone great changes throughout the previous editions of the game, and very little has been published about where the Old Empires stand by the time of 5th edition. Thus, to update the region for the present day so it can stand alongside the rest of the 5e Realms, a DM will likely wish to put in a good deal of work on multiple fronts, including:

  • collating previously published information about the setting and filling in the gaps for adventures set in the present day of the 5e Forgotten Realms
  • examining the setting from a sensitivity standpoint, and revising aspects of the 30ish-year old setting that may reflect harmful ethnic, racial, cultural, and gender prejudices
  • creating an up-to-date map that reflects the topographical changes the region has  gone through over the course of the last several editions, which is what I am showing off today Continue reading “A Map of the Old Empires for the 5e Forgotten Realms”

 

In my current 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons campaign, one of the player characters is a druid of the circle of the moon, who can transform himself into animals at will. Throughout the campaign I have taken fairly seriously the requirement that the druid can only morph into animals he has seen before, and so I have kept a greater focus than I normally would on the animals that appear in my campaign. Continue reading “Using Fauna in D&D”