Friday, February 4, 2011

Switching sites

With production beginning on my new comic book, I'm moving my blog to:

There I'll be posting more information on the comic book, upcoming projects, and other fun tidbits.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

RANT: Vitriol

I know John Stewart's been pretty preachy this week, but I've been enjoying his message. I'm so sick of the rhetoric from both sides of the aisle. Here's a newsflash, Obama is neither the savior of the world or the Antichrist. We're neither going to turn socialist or tyrannical. Obama is neither incompetent or the most brilliant mind in a generation.

One thing is for sure, he is your damn president -- all of you. Hate it or love it that's how it'll be for two more years and I'll tell you what Republicans, if your current crop of talent is any indication he'll probably be in there for another 4 as well. So while you're feelings may be hurt and your ego bruised, deal with it. It's not enough to say "Well, they did it to Bush so we should be able to do it to Obama." Be better than that and take the high road. You're grown ass adults for Christ sakes.

And on the other side, just because your boy's now in office doesn't mean you can just ignore everything from the other side of the aisle. Sometimes they have good ideas and you should listen to them. After all, it's not like they're idiots. They all have degrees as well. Their opinions are just different. If you don't give credence to other's opinions then where are we at as a country? There's no need to be school yard bullies.

Let me be clear, there is NOTHING wrong with questioning those in power. In fact it should be encouraged. Hell, it's the bedrock principle by which our country was founded. There's some weird sh*t going on right now that needs to be questioned. However, when that questioning turns to vitriol that's when the dialog become unproductive.

As an example, I think everybody's had an argument with their friends about something divisive. It starts out cordial enough. Both people are speaking their minds and exchanging their ideas. Voices are mutes and attitudes are calm. Heck, you might even learn something you didn't know before. Your opinion might even be swayed a little. It probably won't change completely, but the needle might move a little in the other direction.

Eventually though, once you realize you can't change their opinion it gets more vicious. You start calling the person an idiot, adding more insults and eventually you are shouting at each other. Soon enough, you both throw up your hands and walk away, pissed, feelings hurt and sure that the other person is an idiot. Who knows, your opinion of them might be forever marred.

Now, imagine those arguments happenings 50x a day on tape all over the country on multiple networks, plastered for the entire world to see? How does anything get done that way? And to think, if you had just stayed cordial there might have been a real exchange of ideas. Hell, you might even learn something important.

So to both sides of the aisle, suck it up, quit acting like children, and get some work done.

Friday, January 7, 2011

RANT: When one door closes...

This is the first draft of a monologue from an upcoming script I'm writing:
When one door closes a window might open somewhere... but I'm not a criminal. Why do I want to crawl through a window? What if it's not on the first floor? I should be grateful to shimmy up opportunity's trellis and break into her third floor bedroom? Have you ever crawled through a window? It sucks. You always end up sliding on your stomach and hurting yourself when you land hard on the floor.
Additionally, I've never closed a door and opened a window personally. I don't enter my house and night and immediately crack the window in my dining room, unless of course it's stuffy and needs more airflow. But for that to happen every single time, it's just not realistic. Who would do that? A crazy, fickle b*&%h, that's who. Plus, that sort of behavior is sure to alert the police. 
Besides, it's way easier to go through a door. So, next time opportunity closes a door for me, I'd appreciate it if another DOOR opened. Preferably close to the previous one so I don't have to expend that much energy. After all, I'm tired from all the windows I've had to climb through.


(click here to be redirected to Netflix page)

In my first installment I wanted to bring something back from my childhood.  It's usually hard to watch movies from your youth because they don't always (let's face it almost never) hold up to your memory of them.  However, there are a few movies from my youth that I found on Instant Queue so I thought I'd see if my memory of them held up.  I watched this movie with my wife and I'll give you both of our reactions.  

SUMMARY (from Netflix): 

In this Jim Henson-directed fantasy, teenage Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) embarks on a life-altering quest when she attempts to rescue her little brother, Toby (Toby Froud), from the clutches of treacherous Jareth the Goblin King (David Bowie), who lives in a castle surrounded by a giant labyrinth. With just 13 hours to plot a course through the dangerous maze, Sarah must grow up fast, learn her responsibilities and muster supreme courage.

REVIEWS (From Rotten Tomatoes):

Henson's imagination is boundless. But his movie has no pep. It's a dream in neutral. - Wesley Moore,  Boston Globe

An innovative mix of sophisticated puppetry and special effects, Labyrinth has all the components of classic myth. - Steve Rea, Philodelphia Inquirer

Unfortunately, this contemporary (at least, for the era) fairy tale, directed and co-written by Muppets creator Jim Henson, never sets a timely tone beyond the 1980s. It remains disappointingly tethered to yesteryear. -Denson Thomson, Washington Post

A real masterpiece of puppetry and special effects, an absolutely gorgeous children's fantasy movie.- Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune


You can see the reviews were mixed.  It received a 50% on rotten tomatoes, so it's exactly in the middle.  And from my wife and my reactions it was the same split.  First, my wife fell asleep about halfway through the movie.  It did nothing for her.  When she woke up I was told that even when she was awake it basically bored her to tears.  

I on the other hand loved the movie.  It was everything I remember from both my childhood and one viewing in college.  In fact it was better because there weren't 10 people piled onto a little couch.  This is my second favorite movie from the good old days, right behind Return to Oz.  

I know it's corny and cheesy, but I really think this is Jim Henson at his best.  All of the puppets are funny and add charm.  My personal favorite is the worm toward the beginning who initially gets Connelly lost.  Every moment it's on screen makes me laugh.  

The world itself is populated with tons of little oddities that you only really catch if you look closely.  On the surface it's a kids movie, but in reality it scared the crap out of me as a kid as much as it made me laugh as an adult.  

The one thing I would say is that I wasn't all that impressed with David Bowie's role and the goblins are really irritating.  Still, even with them I enjoyed it.  I'd never call this a good movie, but it's a great guilty pleasure.


Definitely watch this one if you're like me and saw/loved it as a child.  I wish they had more movies like this online like Willow, Return to Oz, etc.  I'd enjoy the heck out of them.  If you have kids this is a great movie to show the brilliance of Jim Henson.  However, also be aware that you might as easily hate it as love it.  

What's new in 2011

So I've tried a couple times to reboot this site, but I'm confident I'll be able to keep it going this time (it's either because of hopeless optimism or from that mule repeatedly kicking me in the head over Christmas).  As I've mentioned before, I'm committed to not posting any more career advice until I have a steady paycheck or have sold a project.   No more posts about the nuances of the studio system and no more discussions on whether you should move to LA or stay in Nebraska.  Frankly, I don't know is the answer and unless you're asking John August or another established name, I would think twice about taking their advice either.  The only thing I can incontrovertibly say is that the weather is way better here that wherever you are right now.

However, I will still entertain questions, comments, and concerns about MY personal experience writing a project and will most likely post articles and link to articles which will attempt to enrich your personal development.  I just don't feel it's appropriate to answer questions when I am in the same position as most of you.  That being said, the moment I figure it out, land an agent, sell a project, etc, etc, questions and posts will open up about that topic.  Until that day (crossing fingers it's soon) there are lots of cool things happening over the next year that I think will hopefully get you excited.

  • The first thing is that I'm throwing my inconsequential weight (figuratively, my physical weight is far more substantial after the holidays) into the comic book world.  Last year I created a couple of preview issues, and I'm close to beginning production on a full 4 issue mini-series.  I'll keep you updated on how that is going, along with giving glimpses of character designs, and maybe a couple panels.  In addition, I'll let you in on the process of creating the book and pitching it, hopefully all the way through the final process.  You can check out all of the previews at:

  • The second thing needs to be prefaced.  I work from home and because of that I watch a lot of Netflix Instant Queue.  I watch so much Netflix I'm literally running out of things I'm interested in watching.  I've gone through tons of tv shows and movies, found some awesome gems, and some real stinkers as well.  However, now that I'm looking for new shows to watch, I find that there's not a lot of resources out there that can help me weed through the terrible.  So, I've decided to create a running column about movies and TV shows I've watched on Netflix and post my reviews.  There really are a lot of awesome things on the queue, but you have to dig through garbage to get there.  

  • Additionally, I've written, or am in the process of writing a middle grade fiction book called GUMSHOES.  I haven't decided whether to post it online or submit it to publishers, but I'm sure that you'll find some information about that on this site as well.   It's not fit to be shown right now, but once I've finished and buffed it out then I will give you guys previews and will definitely have a post about what I enjoy and hate about writing books.
There are other odds and ends I'm sure will come up.  I might do something I haven't done since high school and start posting humorous rants online about different topics or news articles I find.  Basically, I'm trying to find something that I find fun and would read.  So, I hope you stick around for that.


Monday, March 1, 2010

The Pitch

My absolute least favorite part of the entire process of writing/production is the pitch.  Why?  Because it's talking to someone you don't know, usually, about a project that's foreign to them.  It's like speed dating, and I'm no good on a first date.  Heck, I've been with my wife since I was 21, I couldn't remember how to act on a first date if I wanted to.  The only misery I have to remember the process is when I have to either pitch a project or go to a networking event.  

Still, the sticky wicket of the whole situation is that if you want to succeed in this town, you have to be good "in the room" as they say.  It might seem idiotic to think about, but if you can't pitch your project well, it probably won't get bought/made/optioned/looked at.  

Often, I hear my bosses talk about the difference between being good "on the page" and being good "in the room". Both are equally important, but think about it this way:  being good on the page gets you into the room for someone to hear your idea, but being good in the room gets your project bought. 

Why is this?  Well, because if I buy your project, I have to sit in the room with you, give you notes, talk with you, have meals with you, and generally be your best friend for the next few months to few years.  In addition, when I buy your project, I'm hoping to build a relationship with you that lasts for a long time.  Why would I want some dour apple that's a pill to be around for the next year?  I want fun, interesting, funny, exciting people who'll make me laugh, generally make the development process less he**ish, and who'll be amenable to change.  Development is enough of a headache with someone you like.  Trying to deal with someone you don't get along with is downright impossible.

To sum up, being great on the page is one thing, but it's certainly not the only thing.  It might not even be the most important thing.  After all, if you're a writer, you dang well better be good on the page. I wish I had advice on how to do this better, but unfortunately, it's just something you have to do.  Just like writing, you have to pitch and you have to get out there and meet people.  The more you do it, the easier it is.  End Rant Now.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Writing for Production

So, most of my life is spent writing, obviously.  I toil away in small, cramped spaces, devoid of life and light.  I come up for air long enough to deliver a draft and get copious notes.  Then, I crawl back in my hole and do it again.  However, every once and a while, I get attached as a producer and/or director to a project, have to dust off my goin' out pants, brush up on my producin' knowledge, and pound the pavement trying to get a project off the ground.  And it got me thinking about how different writing for sale and writing for production really are and I thought I'd share a couple of difference with you. 


When I was a noob writer, I thought about everything in terms of production.  Mainly because I came from a production background and wanted everything to be shootable.  Then, as time wore on, I realized that producers want to read cool, not manageable.  So, I started adding a lot of pizazz to the script which was usually wholly unnecessary, but much more fun to imagine.

But, here's the sticky wicket, when a project actually gets the green light, all of that fun, cool, interesting bs you added in is quickly yanked out to cries of "what were you thinking", "we can't afford that", and "you don't know the budget".  It's sad but true.  So, as a producer and writer, you have to scale back your writing and think about what can be produced.  That car chase ain't gonna work on this budget, maybe a run through the streets.  Oops, can't pull of 30 second flyover of Los Angeles.  All of those cool moments you added in as a writer immediately pop out of your head.  Even if you could afford the 30 second flyover, is there a better way to use that money?


Writing for the page and writing to be spoken are two very different things.  Things that sound good on the page and sound good in people's heads sounds terrible when spoken out loud.  Unless you're Tarrentino, maybe Kevin Smith, that dialog you love is gonna have to change.  Sometimes, you might have to make scripts much more dependent on dialog because you're locations fall through, or because the action can only take up 10% of the overall structure.  Other times, you realize too far into prep that the writer you cast can't act quite as well as you thought, and you have to start gutting dialog because it's too late to recast them.  Still at other times, maybe you wrote your script for a nerdy white rich teenager and you end up casting a street smart African American in his 30s.  Well, that's a big change in the script you have to deal with. 

In addition, you might have 50 speaking role in the project, but the budget can only support 10, so parts have to be hacked, melded, swapped, combined, and generally mutated to the confines of the budget.  


You're script calls for 20 locations, all of them with equal screen time.  However, your budget can only support 5 locations and only 2 main locations which have to encompass 85% of the script.  That's an issue.  What are you going to do as a writer and/or producer?  You gotta significantly change the script or scrap the project and chances are next to nothing you're going to scrap a greenlit project, unless you're either really well off or really principled. 

Why does it matter how many location you use?  Here's an non-exhaustive list: 

1) If you have 20 scenes in the same location, you can bang out a lot more in a day than if you have 1. 
2) Every time one changes locations in a day, the entire cast and crew has to move, called a company move, but that time, better spent shooting, is instead used to pack and unpack gear.
3) You can often store gear in a space overnight if you're shooting in the same location the next day, which cuts down on your tear down at the end of the night. 
4)  Locations are expensive, and the longer you can keep a location, the more of a deal you get on it.  A location could cost 10k for the day, or 20k for the week.  If you're trying to find a free location, it's a lot easier to find 1 free location than 20.  Trust me. 

For all those reasons and more, less locations are more cost effective.  A small scale project in my eyes (and many others) is seen as under 8 actors and under 5 locations.