January 31, 2009


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

One month down, eleven to go. I promised myself 2009 would be the year I firmly establish myself in the entertainment industry, which I lovingly and loathingly term Hollywood. Thirty-one days into the year, I have finally narrowed the ambiguity of the goal. And here it is.

* To achieve a level of success in 2009 that allows my wife to quit her job and become the full-time mother God has groomed her to be.

It's an impossible goal. Not only is she the sole member of our household with an income right now (essentially all my earnings are being re-invested in my company), but her work is our source for health insurance. In order to replace her income and cover the [ridiculous, insane, stupid, inhumane and downright evil] costs of health insurance, I would need to a) make an insane amount of money in a short amount of time... or b) make a sane amount of money and join the Screen Actors Guild or Writer's Guild.

Since entry fees for either guild are unaffordable right now, and I haven't even met the prerequisites to join the latter, I guess I just need to rake in a couple hundred thousand dollars. Screenplays are sold all the time for six or seven figures, and upper echelon actors pull in 6, 7, or 9 figures yearly, so the money's there, right?

Not for me. It just doesn't happen that way. For obvious reasons. Throw out the Will Smiths and Matt Damons. Throw out every Oscar winning writer. Throw out the cousins, neighbors, friends, and dentists to the stars. Throw out the already wealthy crowd with means to buy their way into Hollywood. Throw out the ridiculously good-looking. Throw out everybody with a .1% chance of making it in Hollywood and there I am. The guy who is still going to fight to make it in spite of the immeasurable odds against him.

Call me crazy. Call me naive. Call me ignorant. You'll get no argument from me. I simply can't see myself doing anything other than making movies. It's too expensive to do as a hobby so I have to make a career out of it somehow. And before I can assess myself as successful, I need to reach a point where I am providing abundantly for my family. Step one is bringing my wife home. And I want to do it this year.

It won't happen. It can't happen. Too many obstacles block the path. Then again, if I can just look past those obstacles, maybe, just maybe...

January 20, 2009


"Nothing you do for a child is ever wasted." -- Garrison Keillor

Rewards come in various forms - money, trophies, your picture on a magazine, your name on a shoe, your image attacked by a talk radio host (now there's a true sign you've 'made it,' right?). All these rewards would be great (except maybe the talk radio blasting), but the greatest rewards in my life are the intangible ones.

This weekend I directed a group of elementary students in a musical performance of "Hansel and Gretel." We'd been rehearsing since late September, once or twice on stage, but mostly in the cafeteria or hallways. We lost some practices because of scheduling conflicts and even lost our dress rehearsal due to a weather-related school closing.

The kids weren't ready to perform for an audience, but the old saying, "the show must go on," was validated Saturday night. These kids had worked so hard and I felt so badly for not preparing them as well as I felt I should have. Most of the cast had never had a prominent role in any performance of any kind. Several had never performed on stage, period. Yet here they were, under the lights, giving it their best to a relatively large audience.

And they blew me away. Not only did they run the show with minimal mistakes, but they performed it with an energy I'd never before seen from them. I was so proud of them. My eyes welled as they took their final bows.

Am I making too much out of an elementary school play? Perhaps. I tend to over invest myself in most things I do. But this performance, by these kids, is a memory they will have the rest of their lives. I am so happy to have been a part of it and the reward I felt as I watched them smile on stage and accept accolades from their adoring fans after the show was better than any check I've ever received for acting, directing, or producing.

Now if only those intangible rewards could pay the bills... :)

January 13, 2009


"Most look up and admire the stars. A champion climbs a mountain and grabs one." -- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

I might add to Mr. Brown's quote that many who admire the stars boast of their ability to one day reach the stars. Yet, these big talkers often sit with an open net, waiting to catch a star instead of scaling the proverbial mountain. Others, of course, take a few steps up the craggy obstacle and turn around at the first adverse circumstance.

My promise to you, kind reader, and to myself, stubborn writer, is to be the champion from the above quote by the author of "Life's Little Instruction Book." Why should you care? If I reach my goal of rising to a new level of Hollywood success this year, then there's no reason you can't do the same. If I fall short of this year's goal, you can step in and show me how it's done. Just one thing - I won't fall short.

Granted, my goal is not entirely lucid at this point. Reaching a new level of success in Hollywood is as ambiguous a goal as I could set for myself. I'm going to work on further defining this goal. After all, an immeasurable goal is as useful as a [insert clever simile].

This blog will serve as my journal along the way. I will do my best to heedfully report my progress, but more importantly, I will share my findings so that others with similar goals can benefit. Thank you for stopping by. May God bless all who embark on this, or other similar, difficult journeys.

January 7, 2009


"I am not a fan of the expression, 'It's not what you know; it's who you know.' In fact, I vehemently disagree with it. Get out there. Get meetings. Begin to work on projects and forge relationships... Do not blame failure on lack of connections. Go and make connections. Start with a couple hundred phone calls." -- Jonathon Koch, from his book, Pitching Hollywood, co-authored with Robert Kosberg

A few days ago I blogged about my lack of Hollywood nepotism. It's true I have no built-in connections to the entertainment industry. But I've slowly assembled my Twin Cities network to include talented actors, writers, directors, producers, agents, lawyers, musicians, marketers, and more, and I am going to rededicate myself to expanding my network in Hollywood.

A couple years ago I bought a handful of calling cards and starting cold-calling agents and producers in LA and NY. I hated it. I still don't like making cold calls, and I admit I've slacked considerably in what may be the most important step in establishing yourself in the Hollywood circle. But reading the above mentioned book reminded me of the importance of making those calls. Yes, I will continue to get 49 nays to every 1 yay, but I have to take it in stride and remember I only need that one right yay to be the salve for the sting of all the nays.

State lotteries have never been an attractive product for my limited money, but millions play games with odds of winning in the millions to one. You have a better chance of getting hit by lightning than you do of winning the Power Ball. I have certainly not made a million phone calls and I never will. But I've made a couple hundred. My success rate is very low, but a low success rate is better than no success rate. The Hollywood Creative Directory will become my bible for the next few months (though I won't stop reading the real Bible!) as I enter the query world again after a year-long hiatus.

If you have a screenplay that you've written and rewritten and rewritten again, I encourage you to do the same. Buy the Hollywood Creative Directory and start researching production companies that may potentially be interested in taking a look at your script. You'll get an obscene number of rejections, but if you create enough luck for yourself, you'll get a few nibbles, and each nibble is one more step in establishing a solid network of necessary connections.

January 2, 2009


"I find the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have" -- Thomas Jefferson

I am an inherently unlucky person. Sure, I'm blessed with a beautiful wife, an amazing daughter, a roof over my head, food on my table, and much more than I deserve, and believe me, I take none of this for granted. But when it comes to the little things, I rarely catch a break. Example: I dropped the lid of a jar of homemade jelly on the kitchen floor the other day. It landed jelly-side up! I was so amazed that I started to comment on the unlikelihood of the occurrence, but before I could get the words out, I picked up the lid only to have it slip and fall jelly-side down on my slippers. I laughed.

Sulking in my lifelong curse of bad luck used to be my reaction of choice, but one of my top goals for 2009 is to counter the unlucky breaks with extra motivation to overcome the obstacles with hard work. I am going to test the validity of Mr. Jefferson's claim.

My industry of choice is one that seems to invite only the lucky, making my pursuit for a seat at its table feel insurmountable at times. I don't have nepotism on my side. I certainly don't have money on my side. And at times I question my own talent, the one constant I've leaned on in my years of chasing Hollywood's carrot. One thing I do have on my side is the unflappable desire to be a part of the business that is like no other. It is my God-given vocation. The work for which I am most qualified. A labor that is truly a love.

So 2009 is the year in which I will reach a new level of success in the film and television industry, dubbed 'Hollywood' by most in recognition of its implied geographic center. My referral to 'Hollywood,' however, is more for simplicity's sake. Whatever I can accomplish in my lovely home state will not be discredited because of cartographical tenets. After all, there is a Hollywood, Minnesota, through which I have driven many times.

Why blog about this? Two reasons, really. One, by publishing a goal, albeit it to only the three or four people who will actually read this, the motivational fire grows hotter if only to validate my claims and save dignity. The more important reason is to share my mistakes (and successes) along the way so others (the three or four who actually read this) can benefit and learn. I really want to help others along the way and bring as many as I can with me.

So if you're interested in the entertainment industry, read on! And don't hesitate to share thoughts or questions along the way. If my ramblings can help even one person, I will consider this blog a worthwhile endeavor. Who knows? Maybe your stumbling across this blog will be a lucky break for you in 2009. ;)