How to Keep Your Office In Tip-Top Condition

The first principle of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success, and two key focuses are Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. I key to keeping your business running optimally is keeping your office in tip-top condition. It can be done if properly planned for. The following contributed post is entitled, How to Keep Your Office In Tip-Top Condition.

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Your office might not be the top of your priority list when it comes to your business, but it is worthwhile paying attention to, for one simple reason: it can have a big impact on how people view your company. You’d take a company with a clean and well put together office more seriously than a company that worked out of a dark and dingy office, wouldn’t you? As such, it’s important that you’re taking steps to keep your office in tip-top condition. It’ll boost your company’s appearance and overall morale.


Clearing Out

We’re beginning to understand much more about what the mind needs to work at its best. If your place is cluttered, dark, and dingy, then the whole mood of the office space will be brought down. On the other hand, there’s much to enjoy when it comes to working in a light and spacious workspace! It has been some time since you’ve had a clear out, take a look at going through your office and getting rid of anything that is no longer needed. You might just be surprised at how much better the space looks afterward.

Regular Cleaning

Your space might be free of unnecessary items, but that won’t solve the problem of dirt and grime, which can build up over time, and significantly compromise the overall quality of your office space. As such, it’s recommended that you hire a cleaner. Some offices try to keep the job in-house, but it never works out — all it takes is one busy day, and all of a sudden, the task has been overlooked. If you hire an outside cleaner, you’ll know that you’ll always have a tidy space to work in, no matter how busy you are. Even if you’re OK with a little mess, remember that your office visitors may not be.

Beware of Mother Nature

It’s all good and well taking care of the general mess that accumulates, but what about the big issues? If you live in an area that gets extreme weather from time to time, then you run the risk of arriving at your office one morning and seeing a terrible sight. As such, it’s important that you’re taking steps to ensure that mother nature can only do minimal damage to your office space. For instance, performing regular checks on the roof and other vulnerable spots, and also having commercial window film by SolarTex installed. It’ll help contain any broken glass contained by heavy hail or other weather. You’ll also want to brush up any outdoor areas that are affected by extreme weather — even if it doesn’t technically belong to you, those entrance ways do have an influence on how people perceive your business.

Furniture Upgrades

Your office might have looked the part when you first arrived, but if that was ten years ago, then it’s probably time for an update. Because we see our office every day, we usually don’t notice that it’s beginning to look a little behind the times until it’s way outdated. Make a habit of upgrading your infrastructure before it’s too old.

Choosing The Perfect Premises For Your Business

Two of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. One of the most important considerations for your business is its location. In choosing the space, there some important aspects to consider. The following contributed post is entitled, Choosing The Perfect Premises For Your Business.

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When you have an idea for a business, the lightbulb moment can send your heart racing as you begin to branch out more and more ideas in your mind. You have the chance to create something and take this project to heights that perhaps you couldn’t have dreamed of before. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility for something like this to take off – those at the very top are just regular people like you, remember.

There are a bunch of aspects in the business world that you must look into and research before committing. It sounds like a difficult thing to approach, but it’s not a terribly challenging task. One of the things to consider is simply where your business is going to operate. Different premises are needed for different types of work, so it’s something that shouldn’t be brushed past too lightly. If you’re currently in a position where you’re looking to get an idea up and running, or you’d just like to be made aware of what’s out there, let’s have a little chat about just some of the avenues you can head down.

Office Spaces

If your business is primarily a sit-down job with lots of administration, then you’ll probably need to check out any offices that are available to rent. You could be a digital marketing company, a law firm or an accountant. Office spaces are typically built with enough space to house a group looking to sit at a bunch of desks all day. Working in a fresh and pretty-looking office also helps with professionalism – it beats working in the back of a store, above a nightclub or something else less fancy.


Fabricating stuff is a gritty process that can get dirty a lot of the time, so a pretty environment isn’t necessary. Groups, like WES engineering solutions, that are looking to manufacture products and provide similar services will often need factories that will house the appropriate machinery or apparatus. Whatever you’re looking to make, there needs to be clear and safe premises for it to take place.


A warehouse is traditionally a place for companies to store their products or raw materials so that they can distribute them or work on them. Whilst they’re necessary for this kind of work, warehouses are fairly flexible and can be used for multiple ventures. For example, if you want to open up a gym or something similar, then you need a large space to keep the equipment. A warehouse is a perfect place to run one.


Finally, if you’re someone looking to bootstrap a business and creating something fairly low-key, then there’s no reason why you can’t use your own home as a place of work. Sure, if you’re looking to bring in employees to help you on your journey, then your home office or living room won’t cut it. If you’re a writer or hoping to start a little marketing venture, then creating a professional setting in the comfort of your own home could work wonders.

Think Strategically About Remodeling Your Business Space

The first principle of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success, and two key focuses are Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. Your business concept/idea is important but your business space is as well. The following contributed post discusses important considerations for your business space and is entitled, Think Strategically About Remodeling Your Business Space.

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Picture by Laurie Shaw

Choosing to remodel the building or space where your business is based is on the plus side exciting, on the other hand, it can be quite an overwhelming task to behold. Unless you work in construction or have experience in the trade, knowing where to begin, what to do and how much it’s all going to cost may leave you feeling baffled.
To remodel your business space with confidence, take on board the below tips to think strategically when creating a plan of action to give your business space remodeling some much-needed structure.

Purpose Of Remodelling

Before you begin brainstorming ideas of what you would like to change in your business space, it’s firstly necessary to consider why you want the remodeling to take place. In doing so, you will have a purpose and an end goal to work towards. The leading causes owners tend to remodel are mainly due to the following;

• To take responsibility for repairs and replace old electric and pipe systems
• To adhere to health and safety regulations
• To add personality to your office in line with your brand
• To entice clients to your business
• To update or refresh tired, shabby decor
• To change the design of the office, e.g. to open plan
• To generate new departments as the company functions and processes change
• To improve employee productivity at work by creating an aesthetically pleasing environment
• To launch a new business image

The purpose you choose for changing your business space might include a few of the above. If so, note each point down and refer to this during the remodeling process to ensure you don’t deviate from the objective.

Budget-Friendly Ideas And Next Steps

With the aim confirmed, it’s now time to brainstorm ideas and solutions to meet this goal. This will be directly linked to your chosen purpose(s). For instance, if it’s a new office image to represent a new brand you seek, with an open office plan space and an environment that increases productivity for you and your employees, your ideas will be linked with this objective in mind. This could mean;

Idea – Knocking down any existing walls within the business space, bar toilet, and staff rooms.

Next Steps – Checking whether there are any load bearing walls or walls that have electrical wires and pipes running through. To obtain quotes from a few handymen to assess the work.

Idea – To replace the existing flooring for durable, hard-wearing, modern flooring, such as concrete.

Next Steps – This is a task that would logically take place after knocking the walls down. You would need a professional such as a concrete contractor, R&M concrete to assess whether the flooring you require is possible in your building and a quote for how much it will cost.

The remodelling plans for your business space should be thought through to assess if the work is both practically possible and affordable. If for instance, the ideas you devise are not cost-effective regarding the budget you have, you will need to think of alternative approaches to reach your objective. Solutions to this could be, choosing to remodel at a later date when you have the funds to put your ideas into action or applying for a business loan to put your plan into motion sooner.

How To Create The Perfect Home Office Space

Two of the focuses of my blog are Financial Literacy/Money and Business/Entrepreneurship. As an entrepreneur working from home having quality office space is critical as it can help maximize your output. The following contributed post discusses creating the perfect home office space and in entitled, How To Create The Perfect Home Office Space.

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Photo by Georgie Cobbs on Unsplash

If you’re an entrepreneur working from home then it is absolutely essential you have an office space that both inspires and motivates you to do your best work. Often people will work from whatever space they have available, but this can be damaging to your overall productivity and the level of work you produce.

With this in mind, here are 6 different ways to create the perfect home office space:                             

     1.  Use A Colour Scheme That You Like

If you’re able to decorate the room that you’re designating to be your office, decorating it in a colour scheme that you like will encourage you to spend more time there. There is nothing worse than sitting in a room that is poorly decorated, or that is designed in a way you absolutely hate. Not only does it have you worrying about if you’ll ever get around to renovating, but it puts a dampener on your whole mood.

    2. Have Wall Art And Decorations That Inspire You

Accessorising your office is not a necessity, but it can definitely help inspire you on a day to day basis. The little touches you make will truly make the office yours, making it space you’re happy to be in for up to 8 hours a day. A popular way to decorate an office among entrepreneurs is to create a wall of different sized, motivational prints, something which looks incredible when done properly.

   3. Ensure You Have A Large, Sturdy Desk

Having a desk is important in a home office, but ensuring its one that can take at least 8 hours of work each day is absolutely essential. There are lots of good desks available on the high street, but if you want to something that suits your working style, you could try creating your own our of various different materials including wood and steel.

For more information on using steel, you can visit Wasatch Steel online steel sales here.

   4. Make Lots Of Space For Storage

Chances are that working from home will mean you’ll have lots of bits and pieces you’ll need to store. Whether they’re notes for conference calls, old invoices or stock and merchandise – storage space is incredibly important to the look and feel of your office as it means you’ll be able to keep everything neat and tidy. You know what they say, a tidy office makes for a tidy mind!

   5. Have A White Board To Note Down Creative Ideas

You never know when inspiration may strike and although jotting down ideas in a notebook is perfect, having a whiteboard handy to plan out your ideas beforehand is a great way to encourage creativity. It can be used to put together lose plans that can in the future be turned into official notes in your notebooks, avoiding wasting paper and making your office an eco-friendly space!

Do you work from home? What key features do you have in your home office? Let me know in the comment section below?

A review of Hidden Figures

I recently co-wrote movie reviews with my brother Amahl Dunbar for Marvel’s Dr. Strange and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – both of the Super Hero and Science Fiction genres.  This review will switch gears slightly and focus on a film with more of a historical focus; Hidden Figures based upon the book Hidden Figures: The American Dream and Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margo Lee Shetterly.  The film starred Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae, Octavia Spencer and Kevin Costner.  Unlike the previous reviews which were done in a conversational format, Amahl and I will independently give our thoughts on what stood out to us about the film.

Amahl:  In terms of Hidden Figures, I was impressed with NASA mathematician Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer).  In the story, when IBM first delivers the computer to NASA, the engineers figured out how to assemble it, but they couldn’t operate it.  The computer was critical for expediting NASA’s space travel calculations.  Dorothy saw tremendous opportunity and acted on it.  She had the foresight to learn the programming language Fortran (Formula Translation), from a book at a local library.  When she demonstrated she could operate and program the computer, she was immediately promoted and transferred.  She also had the foresight to teach Fortran to the other female African American mathematicians thus ensuring their long term employment at NASA.  So I think her having the insight to see the opportunity in front of her and then the assertiveness to take advantage of it were huge and great teaching points.  These are two very important ingredients for success.

Hidden Figures is as culturally and historically relevant as all the seasons of the Cosby Show.  I can’t wait for it to come out on Blue-Ray.

Anwar:  As a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) advocate and professional myself, a current challenge is getting African American students interested in STEM, and then empowering them to stick with it.  Recently at the kickoff for the Toxicology Mentoring and Skills Development Training program’s inaugural weekend, I had a discussion with the chair of the program and we discussed the difficulties in getting minorities involved in Toxicology (and other STEM careers).  At the same meeting one of the speakers noted that the majority of the time when minority students get discouraged and leave the sciences, they usually change their majors to one of the Humanities or the Arts.  This is not a knock on the non-science fields but instead in part is a reflection of how the sciences are viewed by students of color – especially for those who have no STEM professionals in their families – our case as children.  For me, this is the beauty of Hidden Figures.

Without giving away the plot beyond what my brother described above, Hidden Figures tells the story of Katherine Goble Johnson (Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Monea) who all greatly impacted the Space Race of the early 1960s between the United States and the Soviet Union.  Each of the three leads played key roles in the United States’ mission to put a man in space – optimization of the space craft (Jackson), implementation of the IMB computer to expedite NASA’s calculations (Vaughn), and performing the initial critical calculations for the astronauts’ space travel (Johnson).  Taraji P. Henson’s portrayal of Katherine Goble Johnson seemed to be the main story line as she was central to working out the calculations for John Glenn’s orbit and re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere.

Hidden Figures is a valuable film in that it shows African American women portrayed in ways that we’re normally not used to seeing them in media.  While she’s most known these days for playing “Cookie” on Fox’s Empire for example, Taraji P. Henson’s role as Katherine Goble Johnson is arguably a more important as it depicts an African American woman performing complex mathematical calculations impacting NASA’s space missions.  Most importantly, the film highlights the contributions of African Americans to one of the United States’ most celebrated breakthroughs; manned space travel.  Unfortunately prior to the movie it wasn’t widely recognized who all contributed to John Glen’s mission – something that occurs often in US History when it comes to people of color.

Hidden Figures is a very important film to see particularly for young children who haven’t decided on a career path.  If they have an inkling of an aptitude for STEM, films like Hidden Figures can definitely help encourage them to pursue a STEM career.  A film like Hidden Figures would have been very valuable in my own youth though I was fortunate to have the pieces in place to allow me to pursue my own careers in Pharmacology and Toxicology – environment and mentors.  It’s not that way for every child/student.

Our Twitter handles are @amahldunbar and @BWArePowerful. If you liked this review, please do click the “like” button, leave comments, and share it. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add the link to my RSS feed to your feedreader. Lastly follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Swamp Media Group discusses release of Space Detective film part two

This article is part two of my interview with the Swamp Media Group regarding the upcoming release of its new independent film, Space Detective.  In part one, founders Antonio “Tony” Llapur and Matt Sjafiroeddin discussed how they started the Swamp Media Group, their backgrounds and love for Science Fiction (Sci-Fi), and finally, their full length production, Space Detective.  In part two, Antonio and Matt continue their discussion of Space Detective, in addition to lessons learned, and future creative aspirations.

Anwar Dunbar:  So Matt, you said Space Detective is a Noir story?

Matt Sjafiroeddin:  Yes, it’s very Noir, a very classic conventional Noir.

Antonio Llapur: Film Noir was a movement in cinema in the 1940s and 50s to make dark films.  The themes are usually dark and involve a femme fatale – a lady who is going to screw over, or do harm to, or mess up the life of the protagonist which is usually a cop, district attorney or detective.  So Space Detective literally took all of the elements and added outer space and aliens – it’s pretty much a Humphrey Bogart movie from the 1940s – like The Maltese Falcon or The Big Sleep, a Sam Spade or a Phillip Marlow movie; along those lines.

14291715_10154466227454603_5502618745684795128_nWe added this crazy element of it being in the future, essentially in a galactic community.  So rather than our story taking place in some hard-boiled American city, it takes place on this space station called ‘Carina Dawn’ which is floating out in the middle of nowhere close to the Carina Nebula, which is a real Nebula by the way.  It’s like a domed Las Vegas-like pleasure center. We re-interpreted and inverted the tropes of the Noir detective movies and put it in an outer space environment much like what Ridley Scott did with Blade Runner; that involved detectives and took place in Cyber-Punk reality.  But Space Detective isn’t as dire as Blade Runner.  Space Detective is a hilarious fun movie.  It’s serious and it’s funny, and there are all kinds of crazy things going on in it.

MS:  There’s also a lot of mystery going on because the Space Detective is human and he’s in this galaxy, a galactic community of aliens.  He’s a rare breed because humans haven’t been spread out in the galaxies.  There’s a mystery about him.  Why is this human out here in the middle of the galaxy?  He’s got these weird, special alien powers, and so one question is where did he get those powers from?  Some of the questions are answered by the end of the movie and some of them are left unanswered for possible follow up stories, just to keep people interested.  So there’s the possibility of this movie moving forward in other serials, or other sequels, or even a television show that we hope people will be interested in.

13007160_10154091556354603_8070129816005573364_nAL:  But the basic plot of the movie is that Shiro (the protagonist) gets a phone call from his ex-girlfriend.  She says, “Come back to Carina Dawn.  I need some help getting away from my gangster husband.  He’s not good.”   And essentially that’s it.  He’s going to help this girl get away from her gangster husband and he gets mixed up in a crazy plot involving space terrorists, mobsters and the fate of the galaxy.

AD:  Tony, give me the name of the Nebula again.

AL:  It’s the Carina Nebula.  It’s actually pronounced Car-I-na, but we pronounce it Car-EE-na.  So what we did for the special effects is went on the Hubble website, and I downloaded a bunch of their free use images.  Their policy is, “Use whatever you want, but just make sure to give us credit for it.”  I think Hubble is the greatest thing in the universe.  Our Nebula is actually based on a Hubble image.  We basically photo-shopped in some of the colors, which allowed us to include some semi real geography.

AD:  That’s really interesting because you guys know that whenever a Sci-Fi movie or show comes out, whether its something like Prometheus or The Martian, there are always Sci-Fi groups who rip the science in that particular production.  Dr. Neil DeGrasse Tyson does a lot of that.  So it sounds like you did your research on what’s known about our natural world and universe in the production of Space Detective.

AL:  Yes, a little bit.  We tried to do that.  Let’s face it, it’s a silly space movie-cartoon. You’re going to hear lasers when they’re flying in space. We obviously know that sound doesn’t work in space, but we don’t care.  We grew up watching Star Wars movies and when we can throw something at someone and it’s legitimate, I think it lends something to the movie and it enriches the universe a little bit.  I understand Dr. Tyson’s frustration when he sees something and he says, “Obviously that constellation isn’t there that time of the year”, whatever – and I think that’s cool that he does that.  I don’t hate on him for it.

Matt’s like that too.  I’ll want to do something because it looks pretty and he’ll say, “That planet won’t have rings around it for this reason, this reason and this reason,” and I’ll say, “Dammit Matt.  Curse you and your Vulcan logic (laughing).”

carina-dawnMS:  I’m really big on astronomy, so while making this movie I did want to make sure some of the science was on par. I’ll watch science fiction movies and I’ll say, “Wait a minute, that’s not how that happens.”  But making a movie and telling a story, there are certain things you just have to bend sometimes, like sound in space for example.  If you watch Star Wars movies when the ships are fighting each other in outer space and you do it with no sound, it’s boring.  There are just certain rules you have to bend sometimes in terms of telling the story.  But if you try to keep things as scientifically accurate as possible, then people will enjoy it.  People like Tyson will enjoy it if he knows this and that don’t happen.  He’ll at least know this is right and that’s right.

AL:  But don’t get me wrong.  I wanted to experiment with some stuff with sound too.  In certain parts I’ll say, “Let’s make this a little more realistic.  Let’s make it muffled.”  I’m a big fan of Battlestar Galactica, the new show.  They tried to do stuff like that – muffle the sound when the ships were out in space, but that didn’t work with Space Detective either because it’s so bright and colorful and cartoony that it begged for those engines and those super loud explosions in space.  It was like it said, “No, please treat me silly”.  But things like the nebula and having the movie take place geographically on the Orion Arm of the Milky Way Galaxy, we incorporated into the back story.  We tried to give it some semblance of reality, but ultimately we just want the audience to have some fun with it.

AD:  Yes you can really see how all of the effects come together in the trailer.

AD:  You used real life actors in the movie, and from the snippets that I’ve seen, it has a really unique look.  Has this technique been done before, or are you pioneering this look?

11988413_10153727330919603_2828824418057083117_nAL:  Oh yes, this is all us, man.  That’s something that we cooked up.  There’s a similar technique they use called roto-scoping where they will trace over actors to creates an animated look.  We didn’t do that.  We did everything in camera.  We put makeup on our actors – almost kabuki style.  The style of film is very striking – we shot it in front of a green screen and then we put that in the computer and processed it a little bit.  We adjusted the contrast, the black and white levels, but its still actors and we didn’t change it that much.  We’re just doing a visual crunch, if you will, on their images.  We use a lot of puppets too.

MS:  It’s funny because some people look at it and it reminds them of Sin City.  And it is like Sin City in space, a detective film which is really dark and Noir.  They say its funny because Sin City is one of the inspirations for this movie, and the actual Sin City comic book illustrations are really high contrast black and white whereas if you watch the movie it’s more shades of gray.  So it’s unusual that people will look at this and say, “Oh, it looks like Sin City in space”.  Making it in this particular style allowed us to get away with so much.  I built a lot of the props and-.

AL:  What do you mean you built a lot of them?  You built all of them.

MS:  Okay yes, I built all of them.  In this black and white style I was able to get away with a lot because I built a lot of things with cardboard and trash bags, but it doesn’t look like it.  That’s one of the things about a lot of the Indie Sci-Fi films being made out there. They’re really expensive to make which is why a lot of Indie film makers make dramas and comedies. When they do make Sci-Fi it actually looks like it’s made out of cardboard and trash bags. What’s unique about our movie is that it doesn’t look like it was made of cardboard and trash bags and in actuality, it is. We were able to get away with so much and cut so many corners that that square turned into a circle, and people are really going to enjoy it I think.

AL:  I was more in charge of the visual effects so I did a lot of computer imaging and it allowed me to get away with a lot too.  Like I said, Amahl Dunbar, who created the 3-D animation of our ships, was able to populate one of the scenes with hundreds and hundreds of characters in the background.  The fact that he didn’t have to render different textures and colors and shading, saved him a lot of time and he was able to do the work of ten dudes.

MS:  Yes, a lot of Amahl’s 3-D models and spaceships are awesome.  When you do special effects, a lot of time is taken up with the skins of it – making sure it looks metallic, making sure there are proper shadows, reflections, etc.  But with this movie we didn’t need any of that.  We just needed it to be black and white and that’s it.  Amahl was able to make designs and not worry about making shadows or reflections.  We just needed the baseline model and it works.

14390665_10154492658709603_2194268707253942364_nAL: Yes, so to describe the visual aesthetic of the movie, everything in Space Detective is black and white – high contrast black and white with no shades of gray.  And then the rest of the movie is literally splashed with color.  However, it’s splashed with purpose so anything that generates energy in the universe, that’s a color.  If you see a laser gun, the beam is going to be a bright orange or a blue.  If you see an exhaust from a ship, it’s going to be a bright color.  If you see lights on buildings, they’re each going to be different colors.  The movie has its own unique look.  I remember Matt mentioned the Sin City comic book because I was obsessed with that comic book, especially in college.  I grew up worshipping Frank Miller and his work.  One of the first comics I ever read was Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, for God’s sake.  Anyway, the color has a purpose in it.  Everything found a purpose, not just to cheat, but man did it help us cheat.

MS:  The movie ended up being more colorful than we realized.  It was one of our biggest concerns when we started – if it was going to be black and white and hurt people’s eyes.  Now we’re at a point where we realize how colorful it is.

AL:  There was a French movie called Renaissance which did a similar thing with black and white, and it’s hard to watch.  They don’t have any color in it.

MS:  But that was all animated and they had no live action actors.

AD:  So ballpark, your goal for releasing Space Detective is the next month, two months, half a year?

MS:  We are having our world premiere at the Miami International Science Fiction Film Festival in January 2017.  We’re so thrilled about it.  It’s so exciting.

AL:  I really think we have something special and the festivals are really going to enjoy us and want us to be a part of them.  It’s a really unique movie.  It’s a different kind of movie.  The story is fun.  It’s intriguing and it’s funny.  The characters are rich and original and look completely different than anything you’ve ever seen.  It sounds amazing – thanks to the music that Matt’s older brother, Marcus, composed for it.

12260_10153822145274603_7895615237706236118_nMS:  My brother, Marcus, is a classically trained musician.  He played in the Las Vegas Philharmonic.  He has been in bands since he was a kid, and he’s got two decades of recording experience in studios.

AL:  He’s a great rock and roller.

MS:  He really elevated this movie in terms of sound, and a lot of people will tell you that half of a movie is what you hear, so my brother is really responsible for half of this movie.  He helped to record all of the dialogue.  He helped to create all of the sound effects and he helped compose all of the music.  It’s just fantastic.  The quality of the audio and the music is just so amazing that it really elevates this movie to professional levels I think.

AL:  Yeah, and as the director and the producer, it really makes Matt and me look good.  Matt plays the main character Shiro, and it really looks cool when he’s beating up a bad guy and leaping through the air.  I’m like, “Oooh, that’s cool.  We’ve made a real movie here.”

AD:  I’ve heard that before about films and their scores/soundtracks.  I watched a documentary where James Horner discussed composing the music for Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn.  He described how some of the most memorable films are perfect marriages between the film and the music, and so what you remember is the two together and not separately.

I know that you probably already have sequels in mind, but I won’t ask you about that.  Discuss the major learning points in the production of Space Detective?

MS:  I learned that we could make a feature film. To be honest, I learned what it means to be a producer.  I went through college learning all kind of things and you know what an actor, writer, and editor do, but it’s hard to know what a producer does.  I’ve learned that a producer produces, and that’s what I’ve been able to do over the years whether it’s been producing practical effects, make up, wardrobe or anything like that.  Just to get things done as the producer, you have to be on the ball and get it done.  That’s probably the biggest thing I’ve learned is how to produce.

tony-directingAL:  I agree with Matt.  We learned that we can do it.  I was always scared of directing growing up.  I would say, “I can’t come up with all of these shots.  I don’t know what I’m doing.”  But I actually do know what I’m doing.  I’m pretty good at it, and Matt’s pretty good at it.  I’ve learned that I think directing is probably the hardest thing that anyone can possibly do.  It is the playing soccer of art making.  It is all about endurance.  It is all about not giving up.  It’s about trying to con your friends into doing insane things, and then trusting them.   It’s about leadership and a lot of other things.

MS:  I think the biggest thing we learned is that we can make a movie on our own for freaking nothing.  We can do it ourselves and we can make it look good.  So I try to think that if we can do it on our own with nothing but chicken scratch, imagine what we could do if someone gave us a real budget, a multi-million dollar budget.  You can imagine what we could do with the actual resources to get things done.

AL:  And I’m not even talking about Marvel money, or Batman and Superman money.  I’m talking about ten million bucks (laughing).  I mean what could I do with ten million bucks?  I could change the world with ten million bucks.  We could change movie making with that, and yeah, I’m not going to lie, I think one day Matt and me should be able to tackle a Batman movie or something like that because hey at the end of the day, it’s just more expensive and it’s just the same stuff we did with Space Detective.  There’s a bad guy, some colorful villains and there’s a town that he has to protect.  And there’s a crap-load of special effects going on in there.  We can handle that.

AD:  Is that what you would like to tackle some day?  A Batman movie?

AL:  Sure, a Batman movie, an X-Men movie, any of those.  We’re both comic book nerds so we love that genre.  Anytime one of those big movies comes out, we’re there.  We’re like excited 11 year olds.  That’s not to say that we’re not influenced by other things.  I’m a big George Lucas fan.  He’s my hero.  I love Akira Kurosawa. I love Terry Gilliam. Orson Welles – I was just reading a bunch of articles today on Citizen Kane.  It’s the 75th anniversary of its release and it’s probably my favorite movie.  That being said, capes and laser guns are where it’s at man.  It’s so much fun and I think those types of movies and those types of stories are great mirrors on society and humanity.  They show the things that we can accomplish in the future, or things that we can do today as far as – I’m just rambling, but I just think that popular entertainment is more important, more artistic than people give it credit for.  And with Space Detective, I think we tried to make a popcorn film that would reflect that kind of movie.

space_detective_poster_a_webAD:  Well gentleman, thank you both for this interview.  I look forward to seeing Space Detective and your future productions.

AL:  Thank you, Anwar.  This is our first interview.

MS:  Thank you, Anwar.

AD:  No problem guys.  I suspect it will be the first of many interviews that you will do, and I’m honored to be a part of the first one.

Visit the Swamp Media Group website to learn more their current projects and upcoming productions.  Thank you to the Swamp Media Group for generously sharing their trailer, and or the photos used in this post.

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you enjoyed it, you may also enjoy:

A review of Solo: A Star Wars Story
A review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
A review of Marvel’s Avengers Infinity War
A review of Marvel’s Black Panther
A review of Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok
A review of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming
A review of Marvel’s Dr. Strange

If you’ve find value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment.  To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout the site.  Lastly, follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on Instagram at @anwaryusef76, and on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page.  While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM, and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Swamp Media Group discusses release of Space Detective film part one

In May of 2016 I conducted my very first interview related to Science Fiction and Cinema.  I talked with Antonio Llapur and Matt Sjafiroeddin, founders of the Swamp Media group about their upcoming independent production The Space Detective – a film created independently with no outside assistance.  The only reason I knew about this project is because my brother Amahl Dunbar worked very closely with the Swamp Media Group to produce the film.  I’m thus also one of the lucky few to have seen the movie, and I must say it is quite impressive.  Part one of this interview was actually published prior to the Examiner closing down its operations, so part two was never published.

At the time of the interview Antonio and Matt were finishing up production of the film, and they are currently actively submitting the film to festivals and looking for a distribution home.  They’re also looking to do a local screening in 2017 in Las Vegas where the Swamp Media Group is based.  The three of us had a lot of fun discussing Space Detective, the Science Fiction genre, and our favorite Heroes, Franchises and TV series growing up, so we covered a lot of ground.  Enjoy.

Science Fiction has long been a vehicle for entertainment – whether through books, television or cinema.  The popular genre serves as an escape from real life; a vehicle to look at science and the cosmos, and a means of speculating on where science is going.  It further serves as a canvas for commentary on humanity and the current social, spiritual and political issues of the times.  Lastly, Science Fiction can simply be a vehicle for storytelling and a means to take part in spectacular and other world adventures.  On May 2, the founders of the Swamp Media Group, Antonio “Tony” Llapur and Matt Sjafiroeddin, granted an interview to discuss their backgrounds and the upcoming release of their new independent Science Fiction movie, Space Detective.

Anwar Dunbar:   First, Tony and Matt, thank you for this opportunity to interview you guys and to help promote Space Detective.  I write for the Examiner on literacy and in many instances Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) related topics.  I also volunteer at the David M. Brown Arlington Planetarium here in the Washington, DC metro area.  With our full dome shows and guest speakers, we promote STEM education and we actually have a Science Fiction (Sci-Fi) weekend every year in the spring focusing on the genre.  At this year’s weekend we had some guests from the Star Wars films including Storm Troopers, an Imperial Commander, and a Jawa.  Sci-Fi is something I grew up with and even now as an adult, I am still consumed by it to a large degree.

When I saw some of the promotional media for Space Detective, I thought the images were very compelling and that it would be exciting to talk to you both about what you’re doing and how you created the movie.  So with that, let’s get started.  Where are you from originally and how did you start the Swamp Media Group?

Antonio Llapur:  I grew up here in Las Vegas.  I was born in New Jersey and we moved here when I was a little kid, when I was four or something.  I met Matt in a production class at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV).  We shared a cigarette and started talking about Batman comics and have been friends ever since.

Matt Sjafiroeddin:  I grew up in Oklahoma and I moved to Las Vegas to go to college.  I followed my brothers out here and that’s where I met Tony, at film school at the UNLV.

AD:  What’s the significance of the name ‘Swamp Media Group’?

swamp-media-groupMS:  It’s funny because we’ve been roommates for a while.  We live in a house now and we used to live in an apartment.  We used to call our place ‘The Swamp’.  Do you remember the Television show MASH?  Hawkeye and BJ used to call their tent ‘The Swamp’. So we started calling our place the Swamp as well, and it just kind of went from there.  The ‘Media Group’ is our production company.  We didn’t want to be called ‘Swamp Films’ because that’s just dumb, so we went with ‘Media Group’ because that involves things beyond just movies.

AL:  The Swamp makes a reference to MASH – whacky doctors and Media Group makes it sound kind of important I guess (laughing).

AD:  What are you backgrounds?  It sounds like both of you have backgrounds in media, production and writing screenplays.

MS:  Both of us have a background in theater as actors.  I was originally a theater major before I switched to film.  Through film, we learned all of the processes of film making: production, editing, and screenwriting.  I think we both fell in love with screenwriting.  We’ve written several things together and it just kind of grew from there.

AD:  What in particular did you like about screenwriting?  Was it the whole creative process or something else?

MS:  I’ve always loved stories and telling stories.  My dad was a big story teller and it was good to be able to finally write my ideas down.  Being able to take a class to learn the format of screenwriting really helped open the doors for me personally to be able to write stories and get things down on paper.



AL:  I’ve wanted to be a movie director since I was a little kid.  I would see things and say, ‘Okay I would do that different and do that different’.  I learned a little bit at a time.  My first thing was drawing, then I learned acting, and then I learned writing and then it all coalesced into directing.  I was born with a pencil in my hand so my stuff is always very visual and it compliments Matt because he’s a strong writer, and we play off each other really well.

AD:  So you said you were born with a pencil in your hand.  Does that mean you grew up drawing and illustrating?

AL:  We both did.

MS:  Yes we both did.  We had a lot in common before we met.  We both drew and we both loved movies.  We both loved Batman, and we were both the weird kids in school and were thus both really connected since day one.

AL:  I think we were both the youngest in our families too.

AD:  You both have a love for Batman.  What superhero or science fiction series had the biggest impact on you?  Was it cartoon series like Robotech or Voltron, or was it movie franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars?

AL:  The earliest memory I have is going to see Star Wars at the movie theater as a little kid.  Star Wars was big for me, but the Star Trek movies were what drove me growing up.   I think Matt and I battled over Star Trek a lot in film school.  I think we were the only two Star Trek nerds in our film school.  Generally speaking, Star Trek and Star Wars were my biggest influences.

MS:  I’m a total Trekkie.  I mean I love Star Wars, but I’m nowhere near as big a Star Wars fan as Tony.  I grew up with Star Trek, and as far as Sci-Fi goes, we’re from that 80s generation so I grew up with the Transformers, G.I. Joe, Thundercats and all of that.

mr-blackAL:  Robotech was pretty big too.  I remember Robotech being that first cartoon I saw as a kid and thinking, ‘Wow this isn’t necessarily meant for an eight year old.  This is a little bit more intelligent’.  In the 80s there was a lot of really good Sci-Fi, a lot of good Space Opera, and a lot of the laser gun stuff.

MS:  My biggest influence growing up wasn’t Sci-Fi.  It was actually a comic book called Elfquest.  That’s where I get a lot of my inspiration for stories and characters.  I’ve been reading it since I was ten.  That’s been the biggest influence for me.

AL:  They’re really beautiful books if you ever get the chance to read them.  They’re really, really striking.

MS:  It’s got nothing to do with Sci-Fi though.

AD:  There’s a writer’s center here in Washington, DC where I’ve taken some classes myself and those two genres, Science Fiction and Fantasy, are always grouped together.

AL:  I read a lot of Vertigo comics in high school and college.  I always gravitated towards stuff that was a little weird and a little out there.  What I really loved about comics was that they always gave the chance to be out there and really do some crazy things like multi-verse and have things like clones. They it brings you back and it presents it in this silly caped form of simple morality tales – good guys and bad guys.  I’m a big fan of Jack Kirby.  That was a big influence on me and the look of Space Detective; the same with Frank Miller and a whole bunch of other guys like that.

AD:  Now before we move on, the thing I remember about Robotech was that there were a lot of mature themes in it.  I think Robotech and Voltron were originally Japanese cartoons which they took and dubbed over and created different plot lines for the United States market.

AL:  They rewrote them for essentially American audiences.  The Power Rangers, which is essentially after our generation, were originally Japanese shows that were reworked for American audiences as well.

AD:  We had the Voltron toys and I remember there was a Voltron II.  My brother and I looked at one another and wondered where it came from because no cartoon was released for it in the United States.

AL:  The Voltron with the cars?

AD:  No, that was Voltron I.  With Voltron II when you put the robots together it had multiple arms because it had-.

AL:  Yeah, yeah, yeah!  It was the three dude robots and they stacked into each other.

AD:  Yes, and Voltron III was the lions.

So let’s move on and talk about what you guys have been working so hard on, Space Detective.  First of all, I’ve seen bits and pieces of the concept art and it looks really cool.  The official trailer is pretty hot too.

AD:  Let me know how much detail you want to give about it because I know you probably don’t want to give the whole plot away before people see it.  Talk about the concepts behind Space Detective.  How did you come up the ideas for this production?

12143190_10153667532149603_3174277451153358555_nMS:  Well, we had just recently finished production of one of our other short films called, Joker Does Shakespeare!, which you can see on YouTube. And we were looking to do something new, another short.  We were actually going to do a short for Heavy Metal Magazine which is ironic because when a lot of people see Space Detective it reminds them something they would see on that particular publication.  This heavy metal short was black and white and it was Sci-Fi, and the guys in it had ray guns.  It was just a single guy running around in an industrial complex getting chased by cops and it was all very Noir-ish. It was very dark and there was no dialogue, just voice over.

We were going to make it a short, but somewhere down the line we’re writers and we realized that we like to write so we said, “Let’s just drop this concept.”  But we kept the idea of the black and white Sci-Fi Noir story, so we ran with that, and then we said, “Let’s add a little bit of color and some lasers, and some exhaust and robots.” Then it just started to blow up from there.  So this ten minute short then turned into this feature length film.

AL:  Yes, we just kept running with it.  We read our script and it was 40 pages. So we said, “Let’s just shoot it.  It’s going to run about 20 minutes anyway. So we got our first cut and it went about an hour and we said, “I guess we have a feature film”.  So we added to it and made it a little longer.  It’s a disadvantage that it took so long, but it was also an advantage.  We spent about a decade on it, but it grew a lot, so we just started shooting it and said to heck with it, we’ll just learn as we go.  It just ballooned and over the years we’ve gotten a little more sophisticated and we added some things to it, enriched the universe a little bit, and went with it.  It’s been a long time.

thu6MS:  We’ve joked that this film has been like our graduate school education in that we’ve had to do so much of it ourselves from the writing, to the acting, to the directing, the special effects, the practical effects, the sound, the music – we had to do so much of it ourselves in this tight group of us.   It felt like graduate school you know because we learned some of this stuff in college, but until you actually apply it to something, it’s all theory.  So making this movie has really helped us hone our skills as film makers and storytellers.

AD:  Well, you know when you build something from the ground up, there is a little bit of trial and error, and figuring things out.  It’s definitely not something for people with no staying power.

You know, listening to you guys talk about it reminds me of the documentary, The Making of Alien, where Dan O’Bannon and Ron Shusett discuss how they came up with the ideas for the movie, and then how they had to shop it around quite a bit before Fox agreed to make the film.  So when you build something from the ground up for the first time, sometimes it can take a while, but it sounds like you stuck with it and its going to bloom pretty soon.

AL:  When we started, we had a pretty cool little ‘short’- a proof of concept video.  Around that time I was writing for a local magazine and I was covering night clubs and stuff.  I wrote under the moniker ‘Digital Tony’, so I spent a lot of time in the night club industry.  I knew a lot of dudes with money and I knew a lot of guys who might be willing to make the investment in a picture.  No one gave us a dime.  I think the most we got out of someone was a broken computer.  We just said, “Screw it,” and kept shooting for a few years until we had another set of stuff to show off.  We found some people who were interested in financing it, but the housing market crashed and the economy went in the toilet and no one had any money to give us.

13782042_10154350899089603_8113530380274121943_nSo we just said, “Okay, let’s just keep at it”.  We got to point where people said, “Hey, we’d like to invest”, but we had come so far and we’re going to finish it ourselves (laughing).  So we own all of it. We paid for all of it and now we have an executive producer to help us with the Post and the Film Festival.  He was our cameraman, Aaron Goodwin.  He’s on the show Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel.  He started off as the cameraman and has been with us a number of years and he continues to help Matt and me out.  For the most part it’s been Matt, his older brother, Marcus, is handling music, Amahl Dunbar has been handling the 3-D animation, our homeboy Charlie Wilson has been our assistant animator and handling all of the lasers you saw, and myself.  Our buddy Rico Lee, Jr. played Zyzzo (the villain) in the movie.  He helped out with the music and all of the other cool stuff.  It’s been a small team and a family affair, but it’s just us.

space-detective-matt-sjafiroeddin-as-shiroMS: Yes, we started this so long ago that it was before Crowd Funding and Kickstarter.  There wasn’t any money anywhere.  Most people who try to start Indie-films today start on Kickstarter or they’ll start trying to crowd fund money.  We started so long ago that it wasn’t in existence so we just did it ourselves.

AD:  I’ll let you guys choose how you do this, but without giving the plot-line away, in general terms, what’s Space Detective about?  I’ve seen some of the footage and I’m looking at one of the promotional pieces right now and it has a kind of Blade Runner look.  So are we in a Blade Runner type of thing or is it something else in terms of the main character and the story?

jinksMS:  It’s funny, because people would always ask us, “What is this about?”  And the title tells you.  Space Detective is about a detective in space.  The title is so simple.  It’s like the Vermeer painting – The Girl with Pearl Earring — that’s what it’s about.  We took this really straight forward conventional approach to a Noir story.  It’s a very classic Noir story – this brooding detective gets hired by a femme fatale that walks through the door and hires him for a case to get her out of some ugly marriage, but then the case turns into something bigger.  The visual style is very basic – it’s black and white.  We took this basic approach to telling a detective story.

This interview will be continued Swamp Media Group discusses release of Space Detective film part two.  Follow the Swamp Media Group on Twitter or visit the Swamp Media Group website  to learn more their current projects and upcoming productions.  I want to thank the Swamp Media group for generously sharing the photos used in this post.

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you enjoyed it, you may also enjoy:

A review of Solo: A Star Wars Story
A review of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
A review of Marvel’s Avengers Infinity War
A review of Marvel’s Black Panther
A review of Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok
A review of Marvel’s Spider-Man: Homecoming
A review of Marvel’s Dr. Strange

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and leave a comment.  To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right hand column in this post and throughout this site.  Lastly follow me on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, on Instagram at @anwaryusef 76, and at the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page.  While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM, and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.


On the shoulders of giants

20161119_193757From November 18-20, the Friends of Arlington’s David M. Brown Planetarium hosted their third weekend of programming for the 2016-17 school year titled, “On the Shoulders of Giants”.  The weekend was dedicated to the most notable astronomers in the 20th Century, and their contributions to science.  As per usual the weekend featured a stellar lineup of digital shows in addition to an interactive panel discussion highlighting scientists and astronomers who laid the groundwork for modern astronomy and space exploration. 

On Friday November 18, there were viewings of the full dome shows Two Small Pieces of Glass and Cosmos: Harmony of Worlds.  On Saturday November 19, there was a viewing of the full dome show Natural Selection followed by a panel discussion titled, “On the Shoulders of Giants”.  On Sunday November 20, there were showings of the full dome shows Astronaut, and Accidental Astronauts.

Saturday’s discussion featured three very notable and knowledgeable speakers in the world of astronomy.  The discussion was started by Dr. Seth-Ann Howard who previously gave a talk at a Friends’ weekend titled, “4000 Years of Women in Science”.  She was followed by retired NASA scientist Steven Dick, and David DaVorkin who serves as a curator at the Smithsonian National Air & Space museum.  The panel’s discussion involved a host of visual images and simulations and was a “Who’s Who” of the astronomy world highlighting its most notable pioneers and their contributions to the field.  Some of the names included:

·         Cecelia Payne- Discovered what stars are comprised of in terms of chemistry;

·         Bertil Linblad- Discovered how the Milky Way rotates;

·         Karly Jansky- Detected radio signals from the Milky Way;

·         Joceylyn Bell- Discovered Pulsars;

·         Percival Lowell- Discovered the canals on Mars and;

·         George Elory Hale- Built the largest telescopes of his time.

20161119_210154Some of the more well-known names often used in entertainment world’s references to science were also mentioned.  Albert Einstein is frequently referred to in Science Fiction media for his Law of Relativity, and has been portrayed in various TV shows and movies.  Edwin Hubble had a telescope named after him.  Carl Sagan who is most known the TV series Cosmos, was also a writer (Contact which was adapted into a film), in addition to his research in astronomy, cosmology, astrophysics and astrobiology.  The interactive discussion was followed by a question and answer session from the audience.

The Friends will host special events at the David M. Brown Planetarium one weekend every month until the end of the school year. Each weekend will be geared towards increasing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education/awareness for all ages and will feature a specific theme.  For more information, visit the Friends’ website.  The theme for December’s weekend will be, “Finding the Christmas Star”.