December 29, 2009


“Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.” – Aldous Huxley

One of the great mysteries of life is that the passage of time can seem simultaneously fast and slow.  The six years between December 29, 2003, and the same date in 2009 is my personal proof.

I’m typing this entry exactly six years after I last saw my little sister.  I’m struggling with words.  I hate admitting the truth.  I hate that because of an idiot drunk driver my sister didn’t get to have her 19th birthday.  I hate how dark it is this time of year.  I hate that she’s gone.  I hate that she’s gone.  I hate that she’s gone.

It seems like we were just playing Catch Phrase, quoting episodes of the yet unfinished Friends series or Dumb and Dumber.  It doesn’t seem like that long ago I was telling her about this new band, Evanescence, that I thought she would like.  I’m pretty sure six years ago today that I did my awful Jack Sparrow impression for her at least a dozen times.  We probably jabbed playfully at our other sister at least half that on this day during her first college Christmas break.  And I remember well her descriptions of a new boy she was sure would finally meet my strict standards.

In many ways, six years doesn’t seem long at all.

But sometimes I feel myself taking important things for granted again which would imply six years has been a lifetime in which I haven’t learned a thing about appreciating what’s in my life while it is.  How can this be?  How can I let the sun go down while I harbor anger or resentment toward loved ones?  Or loathed ones for that matter?  How can I excuse myself from visiting family and friends because of gas prices?  How can I rank work ahead of playtime with my kids?

With uncertainty the only certainty, we would be wise to appreciate every moment we have, especially with those we love.  Had I known my phone would ring at 4:30 in the morning six years ago with my other sister sharing what would turn out to be the worst news of my 27 year life, I would have hugged my baby sister that much tighter, told her I loved her that much more, and kept her under watchful eye for as long as I could.

She’s my company’s namesake and continues to be a muse to me.  I miss her.  I love her.  I can still hear her, see her, and smell her.  And at times I can feel her as if she’s been here the last six years.

But I’m still allowed to cry.  Especially today.

December 22, 2009

Brittany Murphy

“A human life is a story told by God” – Hans Christian Andersen

It’s easy to express token condolences amidst tragedies involving public figures.  For many, sincerity is purposed but rarely achieved.

I didn’t know Ms. Murphy personally.  I am saddened by the news and I have and will continue to pray for the family and friends she has left behind.  But an attempt to claim personal devastation over Ms. Murphy’s sudden death would only insult those who are truly mourning the loss of their daughter, wife, sister, and friend.  It is for them that I mourn.

On a personal level, this death resonates more than, say, Michael Jackson, Patrick Swayze, or Farrah Fawcett.  By no means am I ranking the loss of one over others– that’s ridiculous – but I had felt Ms. Murphy’s and mine were paths that would one day cross.

She was on my shortlist of actresses I hoped one day to offer a role in a movie I’d like to produce in the next few years.  Her talent, looks, and demeanor were perfect for said role.  As an actress, Ms. Murphy’s range was wider than perhaps all of her peers – check her out in Don’t Say a Word for proof.

But it wasn’t her professional skills that drew me to her.

I listen often to Brittany Murphy in a short audio clip I lifted from the commentary track on the Just Married DVD.  At the end of the credits roll, director Shawn Levy makes a plea to anyone listening who has a dream of building a career in Hollywood to just go for it.  Co-stars Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy added their inspirational thoughts, with Ms. Murphy breaking into an audible prayer of thanksgiving.

Maybe I’m the sucker for buying into the words of three mega-rich celebrities.  After all, Hollywood is a town built on lies.  And maybe I’m putting too much stock into 75 seconds of improvised audio commentary at the end of a movie I enjoyed more than I should have.  But the sincerity seemed genuine.  Mr. Levy, from Montreal, Mr. Kutcher from Cedar Rapids, and Ms. Murphy, from Atlanta, all followed dreams and all found success.

Ms. Murphy’s new successes will be experienced on a completely different plain.  Maybe she and my sister will hang out.  Kenzie was a big fan of Clueless.

December 13, 2009

2009 Screenwriting Expo – Closing Thoughts

Over the last several blog entries, I’ve shared brief notes from each of the sessions I attended at the 2009 Screenwriting Expo.  But the sessions were only a small part of the overall experience.  Just being around so many other aspiring screenwriters was worth the trip.  New friends, new connections, new excitement for continuing this journey.

It wasn’t easy for me to pull this trip off.  I am – how can I put it delicately – quite careful with money.  I had frequent flyer miles saved up for the flight, but Expo registration and hotel fees were still significant for my family.  Time will tell, but so far I am happy with this investment in my career.  If finances allow, I hope to take the trip again next year.  Maybe the family can come with and we can spend a day together at Disney Land.

Here’s a short article I wrote about the Expo for the MN Film Board.  Now, enough talk about the Expo.  It was great.  It was worth the trip.  But it was more than a month ago.  Onward and upward.

December 10, 2009

Gary Whitta – Breaking In

I jumped at the chance to take a class from Gary Whitta.  Who wouldn’t?  What – you’ve never heard of Gary Whitta?  Neither had I.  I signed up for this session at the 2009 Screenwriting Expo based on its title – Breaking In.  That’s what every screenwriter wants to know, right?  What’s the secret to breaking in?

Gary Whitta’s secret?  A spec script of his was accidentally placed in the wrong pile at an agency which led to his screenplay being read, which led to his signing with the agency.  Sometimes it’s that simple.

But here’s the thing.  If Mr. Whitta’s script sucked, it wouldn’t matter how many times it got placed in the wrong pile.  Luck may play a big role in breaking in to this industry as a screenwriter, but it certainly is not the only role.  Talent.  Desire.  Hard work.  Resiliency.  Without these, luck will do nothing.

Mr. Whitta understands that.  He also understands that the secret to breaking in to this industry is that there is no secret.  He was quick to question other sessions at the Expo which claimed to have the secret to selling screenplays.  “If they know the secret,” he chuckled, “why are they writing books and teaching classes for peanuts when they could be making millions putting the secret to their own use?” (my paraphrasing)


But I am thankful for all the teachers who have helped me understand the nuts-and-bolts side of screenwriting.  Without them, I would be lost.  Some are successful screenwriters.  Some have “made it.”  All have offered plenty of useful advice.  While Mr. Whitta is right to question those who claim to know exactly what Hollywood is looking for in a script, who am I to prove they don’t?

One thing’s for sure – Mr. Whitta is on the right track.  His first studio produced movie, The Book of Eli, starring Denzel Washington, is slated for an early 2010 release.  Having just watched a pre-release screening, Mr. Whitta was very pleased with the result.

Early in pre-production, Mr. Whitta was invited by Denzel Washington to the mega-star’s home where the Oscar winner shared notes by the pool with the rookie screenwriter.  Mr. Washington showed up with his Bible riddled with notes and bookmarked passages which he felt were important for the story.  According to Mr. Whitta, the host was gracious, passionate, and easy to work with.

Hanging out at Denzel’s pool, working on a project together.  Not too shabby, eh?

December 7, 2009

Bob Kosberg – Selling Your Idea to Hollywood

And the award for Most Entertaining Speaker Not Named John Cleese at the 2009 Screenwriting Expo (at least out of the speakers I saw) goes to Bob Kosberg.  The award for Longest Award Title goes to me.

The way he commanded the classroom it’s no surprise Bob Kosberg is known as “King of the Pitch.”  Something about him reminded me of Ted Danson, though Mr. Kosberg is perhaps even smoother than Sam Malone.  His producer credits include Commando, Twelve Monkeys, and the forthcoming Ben Stiller Hardy Boys flick, The Hardy Men.

As confident and outspoken as he was, Mr. Kosberg didn’t come across as arrogant or smug.  He admits his success depends on others’ ideas, and he invited each attendee to pitch him via e-mail.  If an idea strikes him as a potential money-maker, he’ll partner with the pitcher and work at making a sale.  Not a bad offer from someone plugged in.

His foremost piece of advice was to keep story ideas simple.  If the movie idea can’t be summarized in a sentence or two, it’s not going to sell as a pitch.  Visualize the movie poster, Mr. Kosberg advised.  Movies today are all about marketing.  Executives don’t care about changing the world or tugging at an audience’s heartstrings… unless it makes them money.  We, as artists, must don our best business hats and develop a marketing plan right out of the gate.

When I signed up for Mr. Kosberg’s class I didn’t even realize he co-authored Pitching Hollywood, one of only a few books I’ve read more than once.  I don’t claim to be a good pitcher, but if I want success in this industry, I’m going to have to become one.  Maybe Nolan Ryan can give me a hand.  Or Sam Malone.

December 2, 2009

Mark Golik – Breaking in Miles from LA

Dynamic.  Engaging.  Polished.  In his session, Breaking in Miles from LA, up and coming screenwriter Mark Golik was none of these.  Neither was he any of these: Pretentious.  Aloof.  Arrogant.

While some speakers at the 2009 Screenwriting Expo were masters of pomp and circumstance (which, for them, worked just fine), Mr. Golik was one of the most genuine presenters.  A Pittsburgh resident, Mr. Golik admits the option deal for his first screenplay, The Color of the Puck, was lucky.  But, like Thomas Jefferson said, the harder you work, the more luck you’re bound to have.

Mr. Golik’s success story is the exception to my newly adapted rule that queries don’t work.  It was through a query letter that he secured his manager who subsequently marketed his screenplay and penned an option deal.

Overnight success?  Hardly.  Mr. Golik sent countless queries before signing with his manager, and his manager pitched the script for more than a year before getting the option deal.  Oh, and the option deal?  Not exactly mucho dinero.  But it is a huge step in the right direction – just don’t expect the humble Ohio screenwriter to admit it.

The sincerity and candor from Mr. Golilk was refreshing.  He underplayed his success and promoted routes that I have been hesitant to accept – namely screenwriting contests and an Industry website, Inktip.  More on Inktip in a future blog entry.

A quick summary of my notes from his class:

Learn your craft – be open to criticism – don’t beg – promote the heck out of yourself – palm up, not palm down (offer a favor from yourself before asking a favor of someone else) – do cool things for others – be proactive – focus on boutique agencies and avoid the big ones *

* this note contradicts some others’ beliefs that the larger agencies have more room to add clients while the boutique agencies are swamped with the clients they already have.  I think both are correct.  Like I’ve written many times before, this is the grayest of industries.

November 29, 2009

Victoria Wisdom – How to Get Your Script Read

With a name like Wisdom, how could I not sign up for a session with her?  Her middle name may very well be Passion, or Motivation, or Energy – she spoke with much of each while living up to her surname.

To sum up her class in a blog entry would be impossible, so I’ll do my best Chris Berman impression and give a few highlights.

Learn the rules so you know how to break them – Know Hollywood statistics – Know who the up-and-comers are – Know your competition – Most common genres, in order, are action, comedy, thriller, and drama – 50% of audience is under the age of 24 – In a meeting, you have 15 seconds to capture the attention of an executive – Don’t query (heard this many times at the Expo) – Execs will read e-mail, but you have 3-5 seconds to capture their attention

Ms. Wisdom wasn’t shy in lecturing her crowded classroom.  When most of us were unable to name the all-time Australian Academy Award winning movie, Somersault, we were given an earful.  Really?  Is it imperative that we know something so trivial?  I’m going to have to defer to Ms. Wisdom and agree that knowing this industry inside and out will offer a distinct advantage.

It goes back to the premise of this entire blog – education.  The more ammo in the magazine, the better equipped one will be for this battle to enter the well defended Hollywood fortress.  It’s funny how many people embark on this journey assuming it’s an easy ride.

Did I say funny?  I meant sad.

November 24, 2009

Pilar Alessandra – You Had Me at Page One

Along with Creative Screenwriting’s weekly interview podcast, Pilar Alessandra’s On the Page podcast is an essential listen for any screenwriter.  If you have iTunes, subscribe to both.  Now.

Ms. Alessandra taught all day Friday.  Because of scheduling I I was only able to take her You Had Me at Page One session which was, for me, the weekend’s most interactive engagement.  Using examples from popular screenplays including The Bourne Identity, written by the masterful Tony Gilroy, and The Hangover, penned by hot hands Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, Ms. Alessandra invoked thoughtful discussions on the importance of a remarkable first page of one’s screenplay.

As a former studio reader, Ms. Alessandra emphasizes the importance of hooking the reader as early as possible, forcing the reader to turn through the remaining 89-119 pages.  Readers take home large stacks of screenplays (metaphorically speaking as pdf files are now replacing hard copies) and are looking for reasons to not like each one.  It’s much easier for them to pass on a script than to hand it up to an executive.  Consequently, many scripts get tossed after only the first few pages have been skimmed.

Page one of a screenplay must invoke emotion in the reader – fear, anger, sadness, happiness, whatever – something that will provoke the reader to turn the page.  There isn’t time for elaborate character description, flowery location setup, or frivolous scene direction.  Save that for your novel.

November 17, 2009

Talent Managers Panel featuring Philippa Burgess, Christopher Pratt, and Andy Corren

“Queries don’t work.” – Philippa Burgess, Christopher Pratt, and Andy Corren

Earlier this year I made a concentrated effort to fully research and query specific agents and managers.  Personalizing my queries, I reasoned, would more effectively prove my worth as a client.  My indiscretionary efforts are explained in this blog entry from March.

I’ve read from multiple sources recently, and Ms. Burgess, Mr. Pratt, and Mr. Corren confirm, that query letters simply do not work for securing literary representation.  I had suspected as much even before making my Spring push of query letters, but I reasoned that pitching myself as a multi-hyphenate and tailoring each pitch specifically to the intended recipient would increase my chances.  It very well may have, but only in the most miniscule degree.

Each manager in this panel at the 2009 Screenwriting Expo noted that exceptions exist for every statistic, but they recommended strategies other than querying, including networking, screenplay competitions, or self-producing.  I feel good about my current tract of networking and self-producing, and I am considering the competition route despite the steep cost of entering.

Ms. Burgess, who spent three years at ICM before starting her own company, stressed the importance of creating content, specifically blogs, DVDs, webisodes, and news articles.  Check, check, check, and check.  I’m doing all that.  If I build it, they will come – right?  According to the managers on this panel, yes.

November 12, 2009

Michael Hauge – Sell Your Story in 60 Seconds

I’ve read Michael Hauge’s Writing Screenplays that Sell and listened to his CD lecture Screenwriting for Hollywood.  His and Christopher Vogler’s The Hero’s 2 Journeys is a DVD I’ve been slowly working my way through over the last year or so – it’s not that it’s terribly long, it’s just a bit prosaic for my ADHD mind.  Mr. Hauge doesn’t go for style points in presentation, but he offers a lot of useful information.

His lecture, Sell Your Story in 60 Seconds, based on the book of nearly the same title, was the second session I attended at the 2009 Screenwriting Expo.  It fell on Friday morning, two days before I was scheduled to offer pitches at the pitch fest.  Maybe the class helped – maybe it didn’t.  It certainly didn’t hurt.

Mr. Hauge reminded us all that we should have one goal, and one goal only, when pitching – to convince someone to read our screenplay.  The greatest pitch in the world won’t do anything for an awful concept.  Conversely, the worst pitch in the world could still work if the concept is brilliant.  Once again, everything comes down to having a story worth telling.

Mr. Hauge developed a list of 8-steps to pitching.  Without his permission, I hesitate to include the steps here, but I found them all useful, albeit a bit obvious to an intuitive mind.  That said, the most obvious of suggestions are oftentimes the most overlooked.

Now, the one caveat to all the teaching Mr. Hauge puts out through his books, DVDs, and seminars is that he hasn’t, to my knowledge, ever sold a screenplay himself.  That fact doesn’t discount his claims – after all, I’ve only optioned a screenplay and produced one of my own, yet I’m ‘teaching’ through this blog – but it does cause one to step back and consider the source.  Like any research, the learning one seeks in screenwriting should be filtered by the student from a variety of teachers.  Mr. Hauge certainly belongs on the list of screenwriting teachers for the diligent screenwriting student.  I, on the hand, don’t belong on that list, which is why I’m trying to point in the direction of the teachers I’ve enjoyed along the way. :)

November 8, 2009

George Escobar – The New Christian Film Movement

“Movies have become more influential than the church.” – George Barna

How can one ninety minute seminar be equally inspiring and disparaging at the same time?  George Escobar’s was the first session I attended at the 2009 Screenwriting Expo and I came away with mixed emotions.

Mr. Escobar spoke of Sherwood Pictures’ Fireproof and Facing the Giants as the gold-standard in Christian entertainment.  Financially speaking, he’s absolutely right – Fireproof alone raked in over $30 million theatrically against a reported budget of $500,000 – but from a creative slant both movies fall far short of excellence.  Don’t get me wrong, I love the messages of both movies, but the execution is painfully amateurish.

I’m optimistic about the upcoming movie, One Good Man, produced by Mr. Escobar’s Christian production company, Advent Film Group.  Mr. Escobar was quick to separate his new film’s production quality from the Sherwood efforts.  And he did so in a humble, non-incriminating manner.

However, Mr. Escobar also claimed to be unable to produce a Christian-themed movie that could compete with blockbusters like Transformers or The Dark Knight.  “I’m not talented enough yet,” was his claim.  Maybe by earthly standards he is correct, but even if he isn’t talented enough, there are many talented individuals out there, Christian or otherwise, that could turn mediocre into outstanding.

I hear the argument already.  When so-called industry experts are brought in, the Christian message is compromised.  I agree with Mr. Escobar’s assessment that Hollywood adapts a world-view instead of the Christian Godly-view.  That’s why it is imperative that we Christians work our way into leadership positions within the industry so the Godly-view can prevail while Hollywood quality standards are upheld.  Is this a paradox?  I certainly don’t think so.

While I don’t aspire to make Christian movies, I do aspire to be a Christian who makes movies.  I have a Christian screenplay sitting on my shelf, but before I do anything with it, I need to secularize it a bit.  Preaching to the choir is not my mission, nor is it my strength.  Fireproof and Facing the Giants may have their choir audience, but I’d rather reach the crowd outside the church walls.

Advent Film Group looks like a wonderful organization poised to groom Christians to fill prominent creative positions in Hollywood.  I just hope the groomed don’t turn out to be Sherwood Pictures clones content to make below average movies with above average messages.  Judging by Mr. Escobar’s desires, I’m optimistic that Christian movies will one day turn a corner and be good enough to compete with the summer blockbusters.

October 28, 2009


“Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” – Voltaire

I am inanely annoyed by most sports broadcast analysts.  They get paid handsomely to repeat recycled comments week after week after week.  Gee, did you hear Adrian Peterson has a firm handshake?  Did you know Kobe and Shaq had a falling out?  Did you know whenever the [insert team] play the [insert team] you can throw the records out the window? 

What bothers me most, though, is the way these suits in the booth second-guess everything on the field or court.  And they do it with such certainty.  If they know so much better, why are they not coaching themselves?  We’re all entitled to our own opinions, and we’re likely to disagree from time to time with the decisions made by our beloved sports authorities, but what gain can come from berating their every move?

When it comes to decisions, we all make bad ones.  Coaches.  Players.  Actors.  Moms.  Dads.  But we all make good ones, too.  I have a theory that while bad decisions are very much a part of everyone’s life, wrong decisions do not exist.  Just as every action has an equal and opposite reaction (thank you, Mr. Newton), every wrong has to have an opposite right.  Otherwise, how could we be assured it is wrong?

Once a decision is made, there is no way of ever knowing what the result of an opposite decision would have been, unless we are Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day.  We can speculate, and in many cases the speculation leads us to believe strongly that a different decision would have yielded a better result.  But that’s the key – it’s speculation.

So I’m living my life knowing that every decision I make is the right decision.  Don’t get me wrong, many (maybe most?) of those right decisions are still very bad decisions, but at least I don’t have to burden myself with worries of making a wrong decision.  Good or bad, I can only make right decisions.

Time will tell if my decision to spend money I don’t have on a trip I can’t afford will prove to be good or bad.  I know it was the right decision and I’m glad I made it when I did.  I met many wonderful people and learned from some of the great screenwriters working today.  I’ll share in the coming entries some notes I took from the 2009 Screenwriting Expo.

If I’m lucky, some expert sports announcers will critique all the notes…

October 22, 2009


“To travel hopefully is a better thing than to arrive.” – Robert Louis Stevenson

I plan to soon share my experiences from the 2009 Screenwriting Expo, but I received my weekly Max Lucado e-newsletter today and found its message remarkably poignant for anyone trying to keep their head above water these days.  We creative types are certainly of no exclusion.

So I share, with permission from UpWords Ministries, this excerpt from A Love Worth Giving, copyright 2002, Max Lucado and Thomas Nelson Publishers.

When You Are Low on Hope

by Max Lucado

Water. All Noah can see is water. The evening sun sinks into it. The clouds are reflected in it. His boat is surrounded by it. Water. Water to the north. Water to the south. Water to the east. Water to the west. Water.

He sent a raven on a scouting mission; it never returned. He sent a dove. It came back shivering and spent, having found no place to roost. Then, just this morning, he tried again. With a prayer he let it go and watched until the bird was no bigger than a speck on a window.

All day he looked for the dove’s return.

Now the sun is setting, and the sky is darkening, and he has come to look one final time, but all he sees is water. Water to the north. Water to the south. Water to the east. Water to the …

You know the feeling. You have stood where Noah stood. You’ve known your share of floods. Flooded by sorrow at the cemetery, stress at the office, anger at the disability in your body or the inability of your spouse. You’ve seen the floodwater rise, and you’ve likely seen the sun set on your hopes as well. You’ve been on Noah’s boat.

And you’ve needed what Noah needed; you’ve needed some hope. You’re not asking for a helicopter rescue, but the sound of one would be nice. Hope doesn’t promise an instant solution but rather the possibility of an eventual one. Sometimes all we need is a little hope.

That’s all Noah needed. And that’s all Noah received.

Here is how the Bible describes the moment: “When the dove returned to him in the evening, there in its beak was a freshly plucked olive leaf!” (Gen. 8:11 NIV).

An olive leaf. Noah would have been happy to have the bird but to have the leaf! This leaf was more than foliage; this was promise. The bird brought more than a piece of a tree; it brought hope. For isn’t that what hope is? Hope is an olive leaf—evidence of dry land after a flood. Proof to the dreamer that dreaming is worth the risk.

Don’t we love the olive leaves of life?
“It appears the cancer may be in remission.”
“I can help you with those finances.”
“We’ll get through this together.”
What’s more, don’t we love the doves that bring them?
Perhaps that’s the reason so many loved Jesus.

To all the Noahs of the world, to all who search the horizon for a fleck of hope, he proclaims, “Yes!” And he comes. He comes as a dove. He comes bearing fruit from a distant land, from our future home. He comes with a leaf of hope.

A Love Worth GivingHave you received yours? Don’t think your ark is too isolated. Don’t think your flood is too wide. Receive his hope, won’t you? Receive it because you need it. Receive it so you can share it.

Love always hopes. “Love … bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13:4–7 NKJV, emphasis mine).

October 17, 2009

Soap Athetic updated links

I realized some time ago that the Soap Athetic links in earlier blog entries are now dead.  We removed the show from Numa Network, but I have re-cut it into three segments and inserted a few extra jokes that weren’t in the original release.  So here are the three segments and the gag reel for you to laugh at hysterically all over again. ;)

Soap Athetic part 1

Soap Athetic part 2

Soap Athetic part 3

Soap Athetic Gag Reel

I am now in full pitch mode in search for a home for my little mock soap opera.  Good news to come.  I know it.

October 1, 2009

Quick backup tip

I suppose I’m late to the party on this one, but I’ve recently started e-mailing my script to one of my Yahoo e-mail accounts every time I finish writing.  It’s a quick and easy way to back up my work.  I haven’t seen the tip anywhere else, so here it is, free of charge.  ;)

September 18, 2009


“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” – William Penn

I spent several hours the last couple days researching and e-mailing casting directors in LA and NY.  The Hollywood Creative Directory is a great resource for gathering contact information for casting directors, managers, and agents.  I cross-referenced IMDb credits with other websites and educated myself on each of the agents to whom I sent a link to my current demo reel.

Is it worth the time?  Out of the 35 e-mails I sent, the optimist in me (he’s pretty small) hopes at least 5-7 will actually follow the link to the reel while only about half will be annoyed to be bothered with another e-mail from another actor trying to get his foot in the door.  The pessimist in me (the optimist’s bigger, stronger bully) thinks all 35 will be annoyed and none will click the link.

So why bother?  Because optimism and pessimism aside, the success rate if I don’t try is 0%.  I’d rather take my chances by trying than passively wallow in self-pity because Hollywood hasn’t come out to find me yet.

This blog entry from Bonnie Gillespie destroys a good chunk of my optimism, but it’s still a numbers game.  The more hooks I put out there, the better my chances of getting a bite.

September 9, 2009


"You can't wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club."
– Jack London

Mr. London, though not admirable for his political views, offers a brilliant quote especially appropriate for me.  Too often I find myself waiting for that proverbial stroke of genius.  When it eludes me – as it all too often does – I am disgusted with myself for wasting my limited writing time.

In lieu of inspiration, persistence is king of success.  No matter a writer’s perceived talent, it is his or her perseverance that will determine success.  I like Sophy Burnham’s message below because it keeps me optimistic that all this hard work will pay off.

"There are so many different kinds of writing and so many ways to work that the only rule is this: do what works. Almost everything has been tried and found to succeed for somebody. The methods, even the ideas of successful writers, contradict each other in a most heartening way, and the only element I find common to all successful writers is persistence – an overwhelming determination to succeed." – Sophy Burnham

Here’s to more late nights and early mornings!

September 7, 2009

Crack That Whip

Drew Barrymore has a movie coming out this fall called “Whip It".  Curse her.  Now every time I see the title, from newspaper ad to trailer, my subliminal Devo cover band will don their red hats and crack that… well, you know.

I hate when this happens.  My daughter recently found a book at the library called “If I were Your Mother”.  I’m sure few others even know the Bon Jovi song of the same title that entered my head each time the book was read.  It’s not as bad as Whip It, but it certainly wasn’t “Wanted Dead or Alive”.

Ob la di, ob la da, life goes on, right?

This interview with Drew Barrymore from Film Independent is a quick, interesting read.  In it, Ms. Barrymore alludes to the fact that she doesn’t watch the monitor while she’s directing, but rather watches the live action.  I can appreciate her desire to be ‘in the movie’ but how do you know what the movie is going to look like if you’re not aware of the framing?  I’m completely opposite from the actor-cum-director – when I’m directing a scene, I’m glued to the monitor.  I have to know exactly what the camera is picking up or I feel I’m not doing my job as a director.

Is my way better than Ms. Barrymore’s?  Of course not.  Just a personal preference.  I wonder where the majority of directors fall on this topic…

September 2, 2009


“If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” --  Frederick Douglass


It means many things.  My birthday.  Football season.  The end of summer.

This year, more than any before, the end of summer is unequivocally uninvited.  I remember previous Septembers when I couldn’t wait for a crisp fall evening, the turning of the leaves, and hot apple cider by the fire.  I can’t remember a September when I’ve dreaded those very things like I do now.

Not that the crisp evenings, fall colors, and hot cider will go unappreciated this year, but the season they preclude looms more ominously as it draws ever nearer.  I abhor winter.  And that’s putting it mildly.  While a gentle dusk snowfall as I sit atop a deer stand is a wonderful, almost spiritual experience, the fact that dusk falls before 5:00 for three months out of the year is a depressing, soul-wrenching reality.  As someone who hopes one day to make drama the central part of his livelihood, I assure you, my disdain for the dark months hovering around the final solstice of the year is not at all exaggerated here.

But I’ve hated the darkness of winter as long as I can remember.  Why does it feel worse this year?  Is it because summer seemed shortchanged this year with nary a single 90-degree day in July?  We had several in August, but still…  Is it because my wife and I haven’t slept a night through since our new little bundle arrived at the end of June?  Technically, I’ve had more waking hours this summer than probably any before which should render it a longer summer…

Or is it because 2009, the year I vowed to make it in Hollywood, is now two-thirds of the way over?  With my promise in January to plant myself firmly in the entertainment industry in order for my wife to retire far from fulfilled, perhaps it’s the realization that I may, in fact, fail to meet that standard set before me.

Or maybe it’s just that winter really, really sucks.

August 26, 2009

Toy Movies

In writing the screenplay for the announced Lego movie, I wonder if the screenwriter will actually seek writer’s block…

Check out this article and be sure to read the second to last paragraph for an indication of Hollywood’s future.  Brand recognition is leaving originality in the dust.

August 23, 2009

We all live in a...

I have great respect and admiration for Robert Zemeckis, one of the great directors of the 80s and 90s, but his recent efforts, technologically groundbreaking as they’ve been, lack the endearing qualities of his earlier computer aided movies including the Back to the Future series, Forrest Gump, and my favorite, Cast Away.

Can you fault him for making movies he wants to make?  Of course not.  But his former brilliance seems to be giving way to technology lust in movies like Beowulf and the upcoming motion captured 3D digital remake of Yellow Submarine.  No, seriously.  Read about it here.  I’ll see Yellow Submarine and I may like it, but I still long for the Zemeckis of old.

One day, I hope to get close to Mr. Zemeckis’ level so I can make whatever movies I want and let random bloggers rant about how they miss my earlier work.  Maybe then I’ll be satisfied with my progress in this industry.


August 21, 2009

August 16, 2009


“We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” – Sir Winston Churchill

Admittedly, this link is somewhat off-topic, but I’m making a general assumption that anybody wanting to work in the entertainment industry has an interest in making life better for others.  After all, isn’t entertaining simply one’s effort to brighten the days one’s audience members?

My naivety not withstanding, I offer this link for anyone wanting to share some of their own blessings with others:

Formerly known as, this branch of the Better Business Bureau is a one-stop resource for pinpointing a charity that shares your morals.

August 12, 2009

John Hughes Podcasts

"One thing about writing movies: It's different every time. When I finish a script and sit down to write a new one, I have to learn it all over again. Every single thing is completely different; there are no rules. As soon as you start to follow rules, your stuff becomes formulaic. Then you can forget about it." – John Hughes

Honoring the late John Hughes, AFI has reissued a pair of podcasts featuring the iconic moviemaker.  You can follow the embedded link above or search for AFI on iTunes.  You’ll stumble upon a bevy of equally relevant podcasts from AFI as well.

And speaking of podcasts, if you are a screenwriter and do not yet subscribe to the On the Page and Creative Screenwriting podcasts on iTunes, I highly recommend you take a look… I mean, listen.

August 10, 2009

Paycuts in Hollywood

“I have enough money to last me the rest of my life, unless I buy something.” – Jackie Mason

A recent LA Times article paints a grim picture of the state of Hollywood salaries.  Seems an actor who could rake in $15 million for a role a few years ago will likely only receive $10 million today.  How can they survive on that?

It was only a few years ago that head-case, Latrell Sprewell turned down a $21 million dollar contract offer from the Minnesota Timberwolves.  Demanding more money, his famous quote was, “I’ve got my family to feed.”

Really?  Twenty-one million dollars isn’t enough to feed your family?  Am I supposed to feel sorry for Mr. Sprewell or for the stars in Hollywood taking these big pay cuts?  It will be interesting to see how things pan out, but in the midst of our country’s biggest recession in more than two decades, I have to admit I’m pleased to see some of the outrageous Hollywood salaries come down.  Let’s hope Major League Baseball follows suit.

Sure I want a piece of that million dollar pie, but, really, wouldn’t I be just as happy with $10 million as I would with $15 million?  I could feed my family much better with that than my five figure salary right now!

August 7, 2009

Blake Snyder

Both of Blake Snyder’s books are on my Amazon list on this blog.  His second, Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies, is the better of the two, but the first, Save the Cat! is a necessary prerequisite to benefit fully from the second.  John Hughes’ death grabbed the headlines, but budding screenwriters lost one of the better, more approachable teachers on August 4, 2009.

His was one of the sessions I planned to attend at this year’s Screenwriting Expo, but his untimely death reminds that tomorrow’s plans can never exceed tentativeness.

August 6, 2009

John Hughes

One of the greats has now passed on.

For my money, John Hughes is one of the great screenwriters of our time.  His movies were iconic for any child of the 80s.  Two of my top-ten favorite movies of all-time were penned by Mr. Hughes: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and The Great Outdoors.  Most would rank Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off ahead of my favorites, and I would not argue.

His IMDb credits list is astonishing.  Check it out and leave a quick comment about your all-time favorite John Hughes screenplay.

August 2, 2009

MN 2 Hollywood: The Movie

The new Nora Ephron helmed flick, Julie and Julia, is apparently based on a blog conceived back in 2002.  Read about the jealousy inducing journey from blog to screen here.

Diablo Cody’s rise from blogger to Hollywood A-Lister is well known now, and others are rising from blogscurity to bloglebrity.  Check out I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell to follow the journey of one man’s drunken confessionals to big screen release this September.

Am I jealous?  God-willing, I will overcome that crippling sin.  Really, this should breed optimism that anything can happen to anyone anywhere.  Is MN 2 Hollywood destined to be a movie?  Of course not.  But perhaps the right executive will stumble across something I’ve written and be crazy… I mean… moved enough to see what else is in this tank.

August 1, 2009


“Acting is the most minor of gifts and not a very high-class way to earn a living.  After all, Shirley Temple could do it at the age of four.” – Katherine Hepburn

So the inspirational cookies and ice cream I’ve shared over the past seven months are all good and fuzzy, but what about something tangible an aspiring actor/writer/director/producer can take home with them?  Where does one really start?

While I do think it is imperative to prepare yourself mentally for a career that will at some point massage your insides with a rusty chainsaw, eventually you need to throw on the hard hat and climb the girders.  I’ve recently sat down with several different peers to point them toward that first rung, which is not necessarily easy to find.

One approach is to dive in and start auditioning for student films, independent projects, and open calls.  Craigslist has become a dumping ground, for better or worse, for any producer, legitimate or otherwise, to announce the breakdowns for their projects.  Oftentimes these projects are open to any and all who want to audition, experienced or not.  These projects, almost always unpaid, are great opportunities to get your feet wet and start the ever important networking.

But that may even be putting the cart ahead of the horse.  Even if you have all the natural talent in the world, attending classes will introduce you to others in the same boat as you.  You may charm your way into an aspiring producer’s next project, or a plugged-in actor may introduce you to his or her already broadening network.  And maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize you aren’t the greatest natural born entertainer this world has ever seen and the classes may actually teach you something.  I certainly have and hope to continue.

Sure, many have made a splash without much schooling in the industry, but they are the exceptions.  We all want to be exceptional, but why wait around for luck to find you when you can go out and make your own?  Learn from others’ successes and failures.  I’m happy to continue sharing mine here in this blog, but I’m going to shift my focus a bit and try to be a conduit to other resources detailing the successes and failures of those more established in this business than I.

July 28, 2009

FX Seeks Comedy Rx

A recent Variety article announces a new push by the FX Network to bolster their comedy presence.  Perhaps I could prescribe Soap Athetic as a nice compliment to It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia

July 25, 2009


“A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth it.” – Alfred Hitchcock

P.M. Dawn had a song in the early nineties called “Reality Used to Be a Friend of Mine.”  I think I may have first heard it in Encino Man, which featured the brilliant Pauly Shore.  That’s a sarcastic brilliant for those unfamiliar with sarcasm.

The poppy, repetitive song found its way into my encephalon when I read this article featuring wisdom from Peter Jackson and James Cameron.  Seems the two opulent directors are convinced the falling box office numbers will turn around if more 3-D screens are introduced in theaters around the world.

Leave it to those to whom money is as much an afterthought as water, electricity, or post-Taco Bell farts, to overlook the real reason for relatively modest box office numbers.  People can’t afford to go to movies like they could a decade ago when Mr. Cameron’s pockets were filled to titanic proportions.  Should the general public fork over more coin to experience in 3-D something that may or may not be any better with the extra dimension?

As a soda and candy smuggling matinee attendee, I’d rather keep things simple and – well, cheap isn’t the right word – um, less gouging.  Maybe in a few years when Obama has rescued the economy like he promised we will be able to dole out a Benjamin to bring the family to see Terminator vs. The Hobbit in 3-D.

So financial reality may not be a friend to the Peter Jacksons and James Camerons of the world, but I was relieved to see Mr. Jackson quoted at the end of the article saying “movies and technology is, to me, just a huge red herring, because movies are all about story and character.”

At least some of the big directors still get that.

July 23, 2009


“Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary.” – Winston Churchill

I’m not one to put a lot of stock into the words of film critics.  I find myself all too often in complete disagreement with much of what the self-appointed experts have to say.  But I recently read an article from Roger Ebert in which he had written some agreeable insights.

The article, now several weeks old, is a response to the implied hordes of Transformers fanboys calling out Mr. Ebert’s ignorance in blasting this summer’s sequel’s substandard semblance.  I have yet to see the tent-pole sense stimulator, so I can’t pick a side in relation to its quality or lack thereof.  However, I find most of Mr. Ebert’s generalities right on the button.

I find one point the Chicagoan makes to be most profound.  He writes “that many Americans have an active suspicion and dislike of the ‘educated.’  They ask, ‘what makes you an expert?’ when they’re really asking, “what gives you the right to disagree with me?’”  There is such a big push today to glorify the individual – with which I don’t disagree – but when that translates to, “I’m always right no matter what anyone else thinks,” we are setting ourselves up for endless, unwinnable battles.

What does this have to do with making movies?  Well, looking back at some earlier entries in which I encourage feedback from unbiased sources, I think it’s important for all feedback to be considered regardless of the giver.  Don’t be too quick to judge another’s viewpoint simply because it differs from your own.  It is, of course, our job as the creators of entertainment to ultimately pick and choose which criticism we want to accept.  It’s just way too easy to label as “wrong” the opinions that are simply “different” from our own.

This is an ongoing battle for me.

July 21, 2009


“Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” – Pablo Picasso

Ah, artistic integrity.  The catch phrase is comforting and scary at the same time.  A filmmaker’s artistic integrity is often praised by critics when audiences loathe the final product, and conversely admonished when a filmmaker “sells out” for commercial success.  A filmmaker can tout artistic integrity as an excuse for either critique.

Only two kinds of filmmakers can afford to consider artistic integrity: those with already established careers and those with no desire to ever have a career.  I’m willing to sacrifice my own artistic integrity to join the former club.

Am I jaded?  Maybe.  But at this point I have to approach the film industry as the business it is.  Ultimately, I’m okay with that, because I’m in this business not for my own gratification, but to make others happy because of something I offer them on the screen.  In that sense, my artistic integrity is based solely on the reception of my products.  If they like it, I’m satisfied; if they don’t, it’s back to the drawing board for me.

July 11, 2009


“50 million Elvis fans can’t be wrong.”  -- title of Elvis Presley’s ninth album, 1959

So Uncle Harry, Aunt Rose, and Cousin Cletus all offer the same glowing review of your latest efforts.  They must be onto something, right?  Perhaps.  But it’s probably best to seek out a few more worthy opinions.  Brett Favre probably isn’t one of them.

I’m amazed by the selective hearing so many creative types employ.  They treat favorable reviews as gospel while dismissing negative reviews as misguided tripe spewed forth by disgruntled wannabes.  I’m certainly guilty of filtering feedback, though I tend to dwell more on the negative than the positive, an equally unhealthy habit.

A middle ground exists between languishing in only positive evaluations and loathing in only the jarring criticism.  The law of averages comes into play and eventually the perspective of the masses is identified.  It’s up to each of us to sieve through the crystal blue persuasions offered by all the hanky pankies of the world until our crimson and clover are aligned like mony mony.

Uh, in other words, invite feedback often, and utilize the most oft recurring notes to better shape your craft, whether the craft be acting, writing, painting, or singing in a Tommy James and the Shondells cover band.

July 3, 2009


“Never trust the advice of a man in difficulties.” – Aesop

Brett Favre.  His laid-back drawl and fist-pumping antics have been fixtures on SportsCenter for a decade and a half.  This summer, like last, has been a wait-and-see game for us Purple faithful while Mr. Favre teases us with his desire to once again end his faux retirement.  The latest rumor today is that the immortal #4 is house-hunting in the Twin Cities.

Were Brett Favre to write a book on decision-making, I wouldn’t spend the gas money to go snag it from the library.  A book about quarterbacking?  Favre’s take on the subject would intrigue me as much as anybody not named Montana.

Brett Favre has accreditation as one of the most successful quarterbacks to ever play in the NFL.  His accreditation in decision-making has waned as much as his natural hair color over the last several years.

As mentioned in my previous post, I think it’s important for each of us to receive feedback for the work we put out there.  What I failed to mention is that the source of the feedback is as important as the feedback itself.  While there are many qualities desirable in our trusted critics, accreditation must be first and foremost.  No matter how much your Uncle Harry claims to know about Hollywood, unless he’s actually been in the trenches, his critique is about as useful as marriage advice from Jon and Kate.

Come to think of it, so is mine.  I haven’t been in the trenches, but I’ve learned from those who have.  My hope is that anyone (the one?) who reads this, will seek advice from worthy sources.  Don’t rely on Mom and Dad to steer your career (unless you’re Sean Astin or Colin Hanks).  And don’t rely on Brett Favre for decision making advice… or acting advice.  Have you seen There’s Something About Mary?

June 28, 2009


"Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal." -- Henry Ford

Each season I'm distracted by the first several episodes of American Idol. Once the delusional contestants are eliminated the show loses its appeal to me, but those first few weeks of painful auditions pique my morbid curiosity. There's just something about watching these people with not even an ounce of singing ability argue with established (?) veterans in the music industry. I feel for the contestants, if for no other reason, because of the obvious lack of self-awareness due to candy-coated dishonesty from friends and family.

While teaching, I saw the trend heading toward neutral assessments. The theory, of course, is to spare self-esteem by offering only positive feedback. Let the child believe 2+2=5, but don't criticize him by telling him he's wrong. What is there to gain from this philosophy? We're training our youth to believe they can do no wrong, and that's one of the leading culprits of the rising trend in kids' rebellion to authority.

I'm not a proponent of harsh criticism, but when I'm wrong, I'm wrong. And I don't mind being told I'm wrong (as long as there is evidence to prove it). Don't mistake me - I don't like being wrong, but it happens so often I just have to accept it. It's called accountability. Fewer and fewer are accepting accountability and I think it's because we're teaching our kids they don't have to be accountable. If we teach them they’re never wrong, for what do they need to be accountable?

But I digress…

I may be wrong to pursue a career in Hollywood. No matter how spiritually destined I feel in this journey, the fact is I struggle with discerning the voice of God from the voice of... well, me. I just hope someone, somewhere along the way, will have the decency to tell me I'm wrong if they indeed know better than I. Don't let me be one of the horrendous contestants on American Idol. Then again, maybe I'm already a victim of Idiot Idol Idiosyncrasy.

June 22, 2009

Give us this day our daily bread

The following is an excerpt from Max Lucado’s book, The Great House of God, copyright 2001, Max Lucado and Thomas Nelson Publishers. It is printed here with permission from UpWords Ministries. I include it here as a reminder that God never promised us an abundance of easy days, but if we can get through the difficult ones, how much more will we appreciate the easy ones?

“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”

What a statement of trust! Whatever you want me to have is all I want. Some days the plate runs over. God keeps bringing out more food and we keep loosening our belt. A promotion. A privilege. A friendship. A gift. A lifetime of grace. An eternity of joy. There are times when we literally push ourselves back from the table, amazed at God’s kindness. “You serve me a six-course dinner right in front of my enemies. You revive my drooping head; my cup fills with blessing” (Ps. 23:5 MSG).

And then there are those days when, well, when we have to eat our broccoli. Our daily bread could be tears or sorrow or discipline. Our portion may include adversity as well as opportunity.

This verse was on my mind last night during family devotions. I called my daughters to the table and set a plate in front of each. In the center of the table I placed a collection of food: some fruit, some raw vegetables and some Oreo cookies. “Every day,” I explained, “God prepares for us a plate of experiences. What kind of plate do you most enjoy?”

The answer was easy. Sara put three cookies on her plate. Some days are like that, aren’t they? Some days are “three cookie days.” Many are not. Sometimes our plate has nothing but vegetables—twenty-four hours of celery, carrots, and squash. Apparently God knows we need some strength, and though the portion may be hard to swallow, isn’t it for our own good? Most days, however, have a bit of it all. Vegetables, which are healthy but dull. Fruit, which tastes better and we enjoy. And even an Oreo, which does little for our nutrition, but a lot for our attitude.

All are important and all are from God.

The next time your plate has more broccoli than apple pie, remember who prepared the meal. And the next time your plate has a portion you find hard to swallow, talk to God about it. Jesus did. In the garden of Gethsemane his Father handed him a cup of suffering so sour, so vile, that Jesus handed it back to heaven. “My Father,” he prayed, “if it is possible may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39).

Even Jesus was given a portion he found hard to swallow. But with God’s help, he did. And with God’s help, you can too.

June 17, 2009


“All life is an experiment.  The more experiments you make the better.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

In all my research and experience, I’ve learned a lot of gray.  If any truth exists in this industry, it’s that there is no predestined path leading to success.  What worked for John C. Reilly or Lisa Kudrow or Michael Bay or Bryan Singer likely won’t work for you and me.  That means we just have to experiment until we carve our own path to success.

I started acting professionally eight or so years ago.  That didn’t take off as quickly as I’d hoped – was it really too much to expect starring roles in Hollywood movies within a couple years of graduating from college?  With a degree in education? ;) – So I started writing screenplays a couple years later.  I figured I’d sell a screenplay in which I could star, thereby launching my career.  Didn’t go quite as planned.

Well, the next logical step seemed to be to produce a short.  I would write, direct, and act in it, send it to a few festivals, win a couple awards, and hire a secretary to handle the resulting inundation of phone calls.  Again, fate let me down.

Alright, might as well produce a feature-length movie, sell it, earn enough money, clout, and adoration to make more movies, win an Oscar, buy a winter home, and secure retirement for my parents and in-laws.  Alas, the feature didn’t require the hiring of a cartographer for my name.

How about a television pilot?  Might as well give it a shot.  Thus, Soap Athetic was born.  Zero budget.  Zero leads for selling it once it’s finished.  Zero calories in mustard – sorry, needed another ‘zero’ to finish the trifecta.

With Soap Athetic, I had an outlet to release it online, earning a few dollars along the way.  Foolishly, I thought it would maybe catch a break on YouTube and reach several hundred thousand people, create a buzz, and at least garner a phone call from the people who hired the “Ask a Ninja” guys to rewrite “Attach of the Killer Tomatoes.”

The YouTube release of Soap Athetic has come and gone with little fanfare.  It was received well, earning high ratings and overwhelmingly positive comments, but with a viewership smaller than Duluth, it didn’t exactly take the community by storm.  Luckily, YouTube was only part of the journey, not the destination.  What will become of it, I don’t know.  It’s just too good of a show to passively set aside.

No matter what becomes of Soap Athetic, I will not consider the experiment a failure.  Nor will I consider any of the aforementioned experiments failures, for each has brought me one step further along my personal path to success.  It may not be the same path taken by Shia LeBeouf or Evangeline Lilly or Harold Ramis or Sean Levy, but I do believe it’s heading in the same general direction.

See you along the way when our paths cross.

June 11, 2009


“Chance is always powerful.  Let your hook be always cast; in the pool where you least expect it, there will be a fish.” – Roman Poet, Ovid (43 BC – 17 AD)

I didn’t know a thing about Ovid before stumbling upon the above quote by chance.  I found it apropos (how’s that for a pretentious word?) for a fisherman and bonehead trying to do something just on the edge of statistical impossibility.  My lack of success on the lakes gives me hope I’m due for success as the bonehead.

According to an article from the September/October ‘08 issue of Script Magazine, only 2% of independent films ever get any kind of distribution (theatrical, DVD, cable, anything).  I’m not sure how to feel about that statistic.  On the one hand, I’m thrilled my first self-produced feature, Horror House, is in that 2% statistic.  On the other hand, how depressing is it that out of every 100 independent movies made, only 2 are picked up?

With my first movie being picked up (albeit by a very small label), am I now in line for 49 movies that don’t receive any kind of distribution?  Or does cracking that 2% barrier keep one firmly placed on the good side of the stat?  The answer, like just about everything else in this industry, lies somewhere in the gray between.

As Benjamin Disraeli said, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  Let us not allow stacked odds to dissuade, but rather motivate.  Those in the statistical minority are the exceptions, and my goal in life is to be exceptional.  Who’s with me?

June 7, 2009

Soap Athetic #6

The sixth installment of Soap Athetic is up on YouTube.  A project that began as something I thought we’d carry through for months or years is now nearing its end… at least on Numa Network.  Online release was the original intention of the show, but as I wrote it, I decided to turn the script into a pilot.  I wrote 7 segments that could stand alone online, but put together, would stand as a half-hour sitcom pilot.

I’m happy with the finished product and am certainly not giving up on the prospect of doing this or a similar show for a more substantial entity than YouTube.  But honestly, I’m ready for the Numa run to be over.  More on that later…

Soap Athetic Episode 6

June 1, 2009

Soap Athetic #5

My favorite ‘episode’ thus far is now online.  The face Nick’s dad (Gary Keast) makes is absolutely hilarious!  Then at the end of the episode, I use my old standby matte technique to get Keri on screen talking to herself.  That last scene we shot late Tuesday night.  Nothing like squeezing things in at the last minute.  ;)

Soap Athetic Episode 5

May 27, 2009


“It is not enough to have a good mind; the main thing is to use it well.” – Rene Descartes

Watching the Twins tonight I am, for the first time, experiencing the ridiculously slow-paced East World hurler, Daisuke Matsuzaka.  Everything he does is in slow motion.  Pitch the ball!  Would ya?

Watching the Boston Beaner gets me wondering if God is a frustrated spectator pleading to me to stop pacing around the mound, flipping the rosin bag, and shaking off my catcher in favor of actually doing what I’m supposed to do.  Flawed metaphor and discrepant personification of my creator aside, I do think it’s time to pitch.

I just don’t know where to pitch.  My recent efforts to attract attention from LA agents and managers have proved fruitless.  Reading quotes from a couple agents in Chad Gervich’s excellent book, Small Screen, Big Picture, I am no longer surprised by the wallish reception to my cordial outreach.  Essentially, those poled for the book acknowledged that querying agents or managers is a waste of time.  The consensus recommendation is to simply let your work speak for itself.

So I will continue to work.  We continue to exercise our minds, but as Mr. Descartes eloquently coined nearly 400 years ago, building our minds up does little unless we apply that knowledge.

The path to success in this vainglorious club is nebulous.  The only thing of which I am sure is that it takes hard work and a consistent counterstrike to the attacks of the procrastination enemy.  No more lingering on the mound - one way or another I need to hurl some pitches up there and see if I strike out or hit a homerun.

And there… the metaphor officially fizzled.

May 24, 2009

Soap Athetic #4

Episode 4 is online now.  Keri did a phenomenal job with the delivery of the ridiculous soap opera dialogue.  She did it all straight faced in spite of her always giggling scene partner. ;)

Soap Athetic Episode 4

May 20, 2009


“A good film is when the price of the dinner, the theatre admission and the babysitter were worth it.” – Alfred Hitchcock

So what makes a movie great?  Critical acclaim?  Box office success?  Oscars and Globes?  Great being an arbitrary term, a consensus definition cannot exist.  I’ve seen very few of what I would call great movies – Raiders of the Lost Ark, Jurassic Park, and Jaws among them (see a pattern?) – but I’ve enjoyed a lot of flicks.  Ironically, many of my favorite movies are, admittedly, not great movies.

Take my second all-time favorite, Twister.  Sub-par acting, plot holes, continuity errors littered throughout, yet I watch it at least once a year at the arrival of storm season.  I love it.  The aerial shots of the expansive plains, rumbles of thunder in the rear channels of the soundtrack, Mark Mancina’s brilliant score, and flying cows – does it get any better?

For many, yes, it gets much better.  I know I’m in the minority for regarding the movie as highly as I do.  But that’s what makes movies such an important part of our culture.  Just as everyone favors a particular brand of toothpaste or shoes or ice cream, we all have our unique tastes in movies.

Our goal in making movies should be to make the finished product as appealing to the masses as possible.  Filmmaking is a business, and Hollywood has enough renegades throwing money away in pursuit of near-sighted art.  I’ll settle for making commercially successful movies that allow me to bring home bread for my family.

Is this the way to go about making great movies?  It all depends on your personal definition of greatness.  2008’s Academy Award winning Best Picture, Slumdog Millionaire, ranked #16 in last year’s top grossing movies (according to Box Office Mojo).  Fellow nominee, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, ranked #20.  Next?  The Reader at #82.

Hollywood seemingly lives now by the dichotomy that prohibits a movie from being a financial success simultaneously while being an Academy success.  The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Titanic are certainly two significant exceptions of the past fifteen years, but more and more the list of Best Picture nominees is filled with lengthy yawners I watch out of obligation rather than desire.

Maybe that’s why I haven’t made it yet.  My preference for Twister over The English Patient could be my doom.  I hope not, because I think there’s room for both kinds of movies.  And sometimes, both movies come together into one.  Maybe one day I’ll be a part of a Titanic or Lord of the Rings.

May 16, 2009

Soap Athetic #3

Part 3 of the 7 part series is available online now. Check it out and if you have a YouTube account, please rate it and favorite it and leave a comment or two.

I put up a short gag reel from the episode, too. Aaron and especially Meisha had a tough time getting through the silly setup without giggling. It plays funny in the episode, but it was even funnier the night we taped it simply because it was an awkward setup with Aaron getting right into Meisha’s face. Remember the closer-talker episode of Seinfeld? It was kind of like that. ;)

Soap Athetic Episode 3

May 9, 2009

Soap Athetic #2

Episode 2 of my mock soap opera is online now at Numa Network. Hard to believe for a 3 minute episode it took us three nights of shooting. Of course, we were picking up footage for other episodes at the same time. Thankfully the cast and crew were phenomenal throughout!

Soap Athetic Episode 2

May 6, 2009


“I always wanted to be somebody, but now I realize I should have been more specific.” – Lily Tomlin

At an audition the other day I was asked what kind of character I saw myself playing.  The question caught me off guard.  I answered as honestly as I could by saying I view myself as a chameleon.  The response was, “so you see yourself as a character actor?”

Character actor seems like a redundant term, doesn’t it?  Isn’t all [good] acting character acting?  I do my best to make sure I’m not myself in every role I play.  Given the opportunity, I truly believe I could convincingly play any role set before me.

That’s not to say I could be Danny Ocean the same way George Clooney was; I’m not tall, dark, and ridiculously handsome like he is.  Nor do I think I could pull off Steve Buscemi’s Fargo role for the opposite reasons.  Poor Mr. Buscemi is my go to name when I describe my physical appearance as ‘somewhere between Brad Pitt and Steve Buscemi.’

You know what, though?  I don’t think Mr. Buscemi would mind.  He’s made an excellent career for himself.  How?  By being comfortable in his own skin and accepting his niche in Hollywood.  Oh, and he’s good.

If we have any hope of becoming professional actors, we have to know our own identity.  And we have to be accurate.  In her book, How to Sell Yourself as an Actor, K Callan offers the following story from a New York talent agent:

“I had a funny looking lady come in, mid-30s, chubby, not very pretty.  For all I know, this woman could be brilliant.  I asked her what roles she could play; what she thought she should get.  She saw herself playing Sandra Bullock’s roles.  Meg Ryan’s roles.

“I could have been potentially interested in this woman in the areas in which she would work.  But it was a turn-off because, not only do I know that she’s not going after the right things, so she’s not preparing correctly, but she’s not going to be happy with the kinds of things I’m going to be able to do for her.  So I wouldn’t want to commit to that person.”

Know yourself.  If you don’t know yourself, ask unbiased outsiders.  Find out who you compare to in Hollywood.  If you look like Kathy Bates, don’t fool yourself into believing you’re going to play the romantic lead in Transformers 3.

Just be yourself.  That’s what Hollywood needs.

May 2, 2009

Soap Athetic

One of my latest projects is now online at my Internet channel, Numa Network.  Episode 1 was released May 1, with subsequent episodes being released every Friday at 7 Central for the next several weeks.  Check it out and let me know what you think!

Soap Athetic Episode 1

April 27, 2009

William Morris and Endeavor Merge

Two of the biggest talent agencies in the world have joined forces to form the William Morris Endeavor Agency.  This merger has little if any impact on an outsider like me, but this is big Hollywood news.  Read it about it here.

My only experiences with the formerly separate agencies were a query to William Morris a couple years ago and a brief series of phone calls discussing one of Endeavor’s talents who I was trying to attract to a project.  Both agencies were cordial in there rejections.  ;)

April 23, 2009


Random Writers Resource

Creative Screenwriting recently offered a PDF listing 50+ producers and agents who openly accept queries.  Cost is $19.95.  Might be a good investment if it opens the right door.  Click the pic below for details.

April 19, 2009


“Everything that can be invented has been invented.” – Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, U.S. Office of Patents, 1899

In his column in the January/February 2009 issue of Creative Screenwriting, Karl Iglesias offers a list of screenwriting resolutions.  I already follow several of his suggestions – Experiment in a new genre, Eat less junk food and exercise regularly, Never stop learning, Develop new relationships – but one very tangible goal that I’d like to adopt, even though I’m already behind by 3 months, is to develop a new script idea every week of the year.  That’s right, Mr. Iglesias suggests 52 new script ideas in 2009.

That’s a lot.  In my lifetime I’ll be lucky to write a total of 52 screenplays, so why bother trying to drum up a new idea every week?  There’s no way I’ll be able to turn more than four dozen concepts into feature length stories before some of the concepts lose their timeliness.  I think that’s one of the benefits of Mr. Iglesias’ suggestion.

For every great screenplay idea I have (no, really, I’ve had a few) I have many, many sub-par ideas.  In some cases the concept itself is unimaginative, while other times there simply isn’t enough meat there to cook a worthy stew.  So playing the percentages I’m bound to come up with at least a few ideas worthy of the transformation from concept to 100 page masterpiece.

It’s easy (and dangerous) to believe, similarly to Charles H. Duell, that every great movie idea has already been thought of by someone else.  It’s commonly suggested that only seven basic plots exist, so the trick is to choose one of the seven and tell it in a new way.

You never know where the inspiration for that new great story will come from – newspaper, magazine, book, mall, highway, backyard – so it’s best to be prepared and always looking to turn even a simple occurrence into a scene, character, or entire plot.  My problem is I don’t carry a tape recorder or notepad around with me, but I’m considering one or the other.  I’d hate to forget my idea about dinosaurs created genetically and placed on an island amusement park.  I think that idea could have some legs.

April 14, 2009


“Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes.” – Oscar Wilde

The story of new filmmaker Jacob Medjuck and his first self-produced feature, Summerhood, was featured in the January/February 2009 issue of Creative Screenwriting magazine.  Mr. Medjuck’s story is both inspiring and cautionary.

After a 30 day shoot for a movie funded by 44 private investors, Mr. Medjuck claims the first cut of Summerhood was as long as “all three Godfather films put together.”  Obvious exaggeration aside, his shooting script was a lengthy 130 pages, not a single word of which was offered for the investors’ approval.

The auteur laments of his herculean task in post-production of rewriting the movie, something he advises others to do at the appropriate time of pre-production.  The story and ending changed in post along with the dismissing of two central characters which he had to digitally remove from several scenes.

My post-production for Horror House lasted much longer than I anticipated or wanted to tolerate.  The major setbacks were due to technology, the troubleshooting for which I have little to no patience.  I can’t imagine going through what Mr. Medjuck went through in digitally removing characters and changing the entire movie in post.  Horror House, for all its imperfections, is at least a coherent story with no irrelevant scenes.  Of course there are scenes I’d change a bit if I could – a result of my obsessive self-loathing perfectionism – but outside of one tiny scene I dropped in editing, the finished movie is the movie we shot.  Preparation saved us from extraneous production which saved us money.

Horror House worked on the whole because we took the time to write and rewrite the screenplay a number of times.  But… it should have been rewritten again.  Nothing too significant, but the differences between a good movie and a great movie are rarely major.

The best place to start addressing those minor tweaks and adjustments is in the screenwriting phase where a delete key can be the needed messiah for your movie.  Why mediocre screenplays are continually made into bad movies is beyond me.

Just to be clear, I am not claiming Horror House would have been a great movie with one or more rewrites of the screenplay.  It could have been better than it is, but greatness was pretty much out of our reach.  We simply lacked the budget, equipment, and resources to achieve the level for which I ultimately aspire.  Then again, I hate excuses…

April 8, 2009


Random Writers Resource 3

Boy, if you’re able to attend this free screenwriting event, you definitely should!  Click on the picture for details.  If you go, take notes and share them with me!

April 2, 2009


“Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.” – Sir Winston Churchill

2009, thus far the most important year of my journey, is already one quarter through.  I don’t feel any closer today to my goal than I did three months ago, but validating Mr. Churchill’s claim, I have taken many fruitful steps – I updated my demo reel, updated my resume, sent a dozen or so queries, assisted in the launching of two new programs on my Internet channel, read a few wonderful books, listened to a number of excellent podcasts, connected with a few more industry folk, and put on a few more pounds of muscle.  No really, it’s muscle.  I swear.

I just started a new screenplay and I am in production of my new mock soap opera pilot which I will send out and release in short increments online.  In the coming weeks I hope to form a new group for Twin Cities screenwriters, and I have already talked with an actor friend about forming a support group for those of us in the community who are serious about making a career in the film business.

I’ve been approached by a few people looking at getting into the acting industry and offered as much advice as I was able.  And I started this blog hoping to assist others in the same boat.

Will any of my first quarter efforts draw me to my goal for this year?  It’s impossible to say at this point, but the destination matters only as much as the quality of the journey.

March 31, 2009


“If you have no confidence in self, you are twice defeated in the race of life.  With confidence you have won even before you have started.” – Marcus Garvey

Perhaps the one consistent trait of those with successful careers in Hollywood is that of confidence.  They’re not all beautiful.  They’re not all funny.  They’re not all brilliant (shock of the year).  But they all believe in themselves.  Those that don’t fizzle away.

So those of you joining me on a similar journey, do you believe in yourself?  Do you really think you have what it takes to ‘make it?’

“Well, sure, I know I’ve got the talent to make it, but I don’t have the connections…”

“I’ve written a better script than any movie I’ve seen lately, but nobody will ever read it…”

“Of course I’m just as good as anyone else in Hollywood, but I don’t have the money to get off the ground with classes and training and blah blah blah…”

Having confidence in self means believing not only in your talent, but in your ability to overcome obstacles.  This was a personal mental hurdle for many years.  Still is at times.  Let’s face it, nobody is at the top of their game 24/7/365.

But if your self-confidence is shaky, save yourself from the inevitable struggles and heartbreak tagging along on the journey.  Or better yet, address your self-confidence issues.  See a counselor.  Take a class.  Read a book.  Might I suggest “The Dream Giver”, by Bruce Wilkinson… or “The Encore Effect” by Mark Sanborn…or “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” by Stephen R. Covey (I have yet to read this one, but I’ve heard great things about it)

If you haven’t already done so, prepare yourself mentally for a career path that is as competitive as any.  Whether acting, writing, directing, producing, or anything else in the entertainment industry, rejection is the only guarantee.

Luckily for me, I’ve had plenty of practice handling rejection…