I was just settling in at my new duty station. My wife and I had two weeks earlier moved from our last base and were getting settled into housing. I had come out of my second command right before the move. Exhaustion was my watchword. The prospect of a cozy staff job was exciting.
I was happy not to worry about the every day struggles of leading a Company. Dealing with the constant worry of property issues, maintenance issues, taskings, staff call, training meetings and PFC Snuffy's penchant for trouble. As much as I enjoyed my time in command, I was absolutely drained.
So two weeks into my job, I was over my head in finance reports and online training courses. But a funny thing happened after the first week of playing catch up: I had nothing to do after 1600. It was odd. I had not had this feeling for quite some time. I could go home before 1700, hit the gym and have some time to myself. No one called, no big issues came up at the last second and I knew that when I left work, my work stayed there.
And I got bored.
Hobbies that I had before command were either not available to me now, or they lost their flavor. I had always enjoyed video games, but they just did not have the appeal that they did when I was a Lieutenant (though, I will be the first to admit, as soon as the next Mass Effect game comes out, I will buy the X-Box One). But I had started to get more into reading and history. I also started watching more YouTube videos. The uniqueness of the content available was refreshing. I started with the Vlogbrothers and their educational show, Crash Course. That lead me to CGP Gray and Kurzgesagt. And I loved them all and watched them fanatically. Finally, after watching a video about how Majora's Mask was an analogy for Death (my inner nerd showing here), I noticed a video from the guys over at Extra Credits.
Now, like I said, I was not really into video games anymore. And, you would think, a Vlog exclusively about video games and the industry would not interest me much. But it was not necessarily the content that they covered (though it was very interesting), but the way they presented it. You could tell that they loved their industry. Sure, they loved games. But they loved their industry. They examine every part and facet of their industry and how games are made. They examine side issues that relate to gaming. And it is all very well thought out. And I though, "Why is there not something like this for the Army?"
Don't get me wrong, the Army offers plenty of opportunities online for officers and senior NCO's to come together and discuss issues that are professionally important. Some of these communities offer a lot of tools and expertise. But the Army has a way of making them so... whats a professional word... unappealing. If they are not unappealing, they are nearly inaccessible.
So, I thought, why not make my own Extra Credits style video for the US Army.
I started looking for artist in January to help me create my style. I found my first artist on reddit.com/r/forhire. It was... disappointing to say the least. Not only did the artist charge me much more than I was willing to pay, but the art was not on point.
So, the project got put on the back burner. I had written up a script for my first episode, along with drawing descriptions, but I got busy with other things. Focused on working out a little more (to counter the effects of the good beer that is available here), did some more reading and got out in the community a little. I even tried my own video log for my family (but found out quickly that I have no idea what I am doing with light and sound and cameras).
While I work out, I listen to audio-books or podcasts. I just find I can't listen to music unless it is a speed-run. And I had downloaded an episode of the NCO Guide podcast (it has a lot of potential, but it ends up like listening to your CSM drone on at final formation before a four-day). But the host had mentioned freelancer.com. So, I decided to give it a try and look for an artist. So I found Marah.
Her style was perfect for the show. I became inspired by it. It was simple and easy to produce, but fun to look at. It is exactly what I wanted.
So, I hired her and forwarded the first script. Between some revisions and script changes, the first video was done in a month. I showed the video to a few people at work and got some notes. The first thing I noticed was the poor quality of the sound and the lack of variety in the pictures. The main character, the Captain, only had 3 or 4 poses that were repeated over and over. It was kind of tiresome. So I hired Marah and another artist, Amy. Soon, I had more than enough art to go around.
Still, I did not fully like the video. So I re-did the script and re-recorded it. I got a new Blue Yeti mike. Again, it was not what I wanted. But, I knew that, however much I did not like it, I needed to get it out there so I can figure out If people even liked the style or if there was an audience for it. So, on 28 April 2014, I published my first video. I didn't tell anyone I knew or my family that I had posted it, but I did promote it to one community. Reddit.
The response was overwhelming. Though there were some things that I could have done better, for sure. And, as you would expect from Reddit, they gave me all the criticism I needed. But, unlike Reddit, it was actually all good and constructive (except for one comment- below).
So, seeing such positive outreach, I decided to keep making these. I figure, at a minimum, I will do one year of videos. It will be tough to have one done every week, but I think I can make it happen.
I was not the perfect LT. I screwed up. A lot. I got the mission done and did my duty (several OIF rotations), but I could have done better. The way I figure is that people who do everything right should not do videos like this because, well, they don't know wrong. People who did everything wrong should not do a video like this because, well, all they know is wrong.
But I know what right and wrong looks like. And I have to pass this on.