February 27, 2009


Following in the footsteps of RAR, RWR is a Random Waffle Resource, although waffle is actually a reference to writer. Maybe I should just call this Random Writer's Resource then. Hmm.

Interviews from StoryEdge.com

Though there are only eight interviews here, each is packed with valuable insight for budding screenwriters. Read what agents look for in a screenplay, or, just as important, what they look for in a query letter. The StoryEdge website is a screenplay consultation service. I have no affiliation with the company so I can’t vouch for their services, but if anyone has ever worked with the company, please do share your experience with the rest of us!

February 26, 2009


Here begins a new recurring entry theme, RAR, Random Actor's Resource. It's not a resource for random actors, but rather a random resource for actors. Just wanted to make that clear.

Tony Martinez book reviews at Amazon.com

The auther of one of the better books I've read recently, An Agent Tells All, shares succinct reviews of four books, none of which I've read, but since Mr. Martinez recommends them, I soon will. If you beat me to any of them, please share your thoughts!

February 25, 2009


"There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure." -- Colin Powell

If Mr. Powell's words are true, then my success is imminent. If nothing else, I've had bounteous opportunities to learn from failures. Fantasy Football drafts aside, I've made plenty of mistakes on my path to Hollywood. More on those later.

Had my story unfolded according to the dreams that were overtaking me circa high school, mine would already be a household name, for better or for worse. I was going to be a successful working actor with a part-time residence in Pasadena or Beverly Hills or Malibu. I didn't know when, but it would happen before the gray age of thirty. Right?

Wrong. At the rate I was going, it was going to happen never. Sure, I was being cast in a decent amount of productions, and when I wasn't cast, I was at least being called back. I was getting to know the casting directors in town; they seemed to like me. Acting colleagues were becoming friends and the support system was growing.

I'm embarrassed to admit it was only five or six years back that I realized Hollywood wasn't going to come knock on my door in demand of my acting services. So I figured I'd learn screenwriting. I'd write parts for myself, sell the scripts to Hollywood, and then they'd finally seek out my acting favor.

Problem is, I sucked at it. I've since learned that everyone does at first, so that's at least meager vindication. The formatting came easily. Not much rocket surgery in that. But what about all that jargon of character arc, structure, protagonist, antagonist, inciting incident? Isn't screenwriting just storytelling?

Years later I can answer that question with an irrefutable yes. And no. Great storytelling adheres to myriad rules, the knowing of which is a prerequisite to any desired breakage. I'm still learning when to break and when to take, and I'm still frustrated by paint-by-numbers movies that follow, unashamed, the exact formula that makes too many movies irritatingly predictable. Maid of Honor, anyone?

So that's my big screenwriting dilemma. Do I follow the rules to prove I know them? Or do I break the rules to prove I'm original? Or, am I only proving I'm confused by the whole screenplay business? After all, I'm trying to sell material to the same folks who green lit [insert awful movies here -- I would, but I may want to work for the producers].

At least I've got another iron in the fire.

February 24, 2009


"What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say." -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Talk is cheap. It usually serves as a replacement for achievement. Over the years I've found the bigger the talk, the smaller the walk. In so many arenas.

For the purpose of this blog, the talk/walk relationship will be narrowed to the entertainment industry, and specifically for this entry, my place within it. I've talked enough - time to walk through the last several years of this journey.

Acting is and always will be my first love in this industry. I don't recall a cathartic moment when the venom of the acting bug really took hold inside of me, but I can't remember a time in my life when I didn't want to act forever. Well, until junior high school I probably wanted to be a professional football player, but what growing boy doesn't share that first dream?

Growing up in a small Minnesota town hours from any metro area, the opportunities to act were as plentiful as heat waves in January. Sure, I did plays at school and church, but I wanted to be on Family Ties. I made one or two trips to Minneapolis, auditioned for a Pop Tarts commercial or two, met with a talent agent, and duped myself into believing I was on my way. Aside from the support of one dear friend and her family, I was on an island.

So I went to college as a computer science major. A career in the computer field seemed just a bit more realistic than a starring role on the next Cheers spinoff. When I realized companionship from a blinking cursor was no match for human amity, I grabbed onto a business major. For a semester. But I couldn't fight the urge any longer, so I joined the theater department, officially ending any chance I had of later trying to walk-on to the football team. I was now a theater dork. For less than a semester.

Practicality again trumped happiness, and I made my last Major change to Elementary Education. The promise of indissoluble job opportunities for a male elementary teacher was too sensible to pass up. I scratched my athletics itch by walking onto the track team and getting coaching endorsements while tearing up the intramural fields and courts. I was finally content. I would become a teacher for a few years, then work my way up the coaching ranks. Acting? It felt good to finally squelch that childish dream.

After a year or two of filling the crater with boulders, the volcano hadn't gone dormant, but had actually pressurized. Either the volcano would blow, or I would.

I was now teaching in the Twin Cities area where exists abundant opportunities to get on stage or in front of a camera. On a whim, I went to an audition for an independent feature. Two callbacks later and some ridiculous compliments from the woman director (I look like James Dean in certain lighting? Really?), I didn't get the part. But finishing runner up for my first real audition wasn't too bad, I reasoned, so I looked into classes and found an agent.

Fast forward seven or so years and I've acted in about 50 movies, shorts, commercials, and industrials. I've made a little money along the way, met a bunch of wonderful people, and learned a lot about myself. But overall I am still dispirited with my career progression. The dominant forces in Hollywood are generally getting younger and younger. Look at the biggest stars out there right now. Many of them aren't even old enough to vote! Here I am, on the downhill side of 30, still trying to reach a level of success that can at least buy groceries on a consistent basis.

So, just in case the acting gig doesn't reach a desired culmination, I've thrown some other irons into the fire. But I think I may have reached the sensible entry limit for today, so I'll expound upon said irons later. Oh joy.

February 20, 2009

List 2 -- Online Resources

John August.com
One of the Hollywood screenwriters to whom I most look up. Not only is he the writer of one of my favorite movies, Big Fish, but he shares openly with all of us 'not-quite-Hollywood-yet' screenwriters.

The Artful Writer
The blog of Ted Elliot and Craig Mazin. Mr. Elliot has an impressive resume, including a co-writing credit on a little trilogy of movies called Pirates of the Caribbean. Mr. Mazin is a writer and producer in the Scary Movie series, among others.

Ken Levine's blog
Emmy award winning television producer, writer, and director who's credits include some little shows called MASH, Cheers, The Simpsons, and many more.

On the Page
Hollywood script consultant, Pilar Alessandra hosts my favorite podcast. Find it on her website or search iTunes for 'On the Page'.

Film Specific
Stacy Parks, author of The Insider's Guide to Independent Film Distribution, featured in my book list a few entries back, formed this community that boasts a wealth of knowledge for independent moviemakers.

This is just the start to a list of links that will find itself, sans descriptions, embedded in the sidebars of this blog. As you can see, there are plenty of industry people out there blogging who have just a wee bit more credentials than I.

So I guess this is good-bye. Sniff.

Oh, I must have something unique to offer. Shame? Humility? Delusional visions of grandeur? Well, as I mentioned last post, I have yet to find a blog from an actor/writer/director/producer. And even if such a blog exists, the author does not live in Minnesota. I would know him or her if he or she did. I think.

So for now this niche is all mine. And if you've got a niche, scratch it.

February 17, 2009


"I've got to keep breathing. It'll be my worst business mistake if I don't." -- Steve Martin

Steve Martin. Few are worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as the brilliant comedian, actor, writer, producer, director, genius. One of my favorite works of his is the 1998 publication, Pure Drivel. Irreverent and trivial with no cohesion, it is as funny and smart as anything I've read.

If Mr. Martin's collection of hilarious commentaries really is drivel, then no word exists to define the vast majority of blogs floating in the World Wide Interweb dot com net. Truth be told, I have no evidence to support my claim that most blogs are as important as a toothbrush user's guide. My small sampling of the blogosphere is no proxy for Mr. Gallup or Mr. Nielson (George and Arthur, respectively, for those trivia hounds out there). Just call it a hunch.

So how do I keep this blog from dropping into obscurity? More accurately, how do I guide my blog out of obscurity? Today, in true Hollywood wannabe fashion, I spent an inexcusable amount of time trying to make my blog prettier. I got my blog registered with the search engines, and I learned a decent amount of HTML, XHTML, CSS, XML, and SOL along the way.

Time well spent I'm sure. The reality is, no matter the cosmetics of a blog, it's the content that brings people back. I was lucky enough to find a handful of blogs that could prove useful to you, dear reader, and me, dear writer. Interestingly, I think we're the same person. Anyway... I'll share useful links in an upcoming entry, thereby eliminating any need to come back and visit this blog. Sniff.

Except for the one or two things that make my blog unique. In my tepid blogosearch, I came across some excellent screenwriting sites, but few good acting, producing, or directing blogs, let alone any blogs that encompass all those facets of the movie industry. So my first claim to sui generis (God bless you, Thesaurus) is that I consider myself a legitimate actor, screenwriter, director, and producer. Legitimate, of course, is the arguable term, but give me time.

So my basic direction for this blog is to be a one-stop shop for all other aspiring (or legitimate [insert smiley face]) quadruple threats. Until Clint Eastwood, Woody Allen, or Steve Martin start blogging, this may be the only place for us.

And to those who check in to see my progress out of interest, pity, or self re-affirmation - God bless you all. I'll still update a bunch.

February 16, 2009


"Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater." -- Gail Godwin

Last night I finally watched, thirteen years after its theatrical release, Mr. Holland's Opus. Really a fantastic movie. I can add the Richard Dreyfuss triumph to my short list of movies that made me cry. Here was a man (forget he was factitious) who dreamed of conducting a symphony performing his own composition but wound up falling back on his teaching degree to support his family. His dream took a backseat to reality, but he touched the lives of many who later applauded his efforts in one of the more touching scenes to grace my 37 inch Panasonic.

I could be Mr. Holland - I have visions of grandeur for my life - I have the teaching degree to fall back on - I'm going to lose my hair.

But I've already fallen back on my teaching degree. In six years as an elementary school teacher, I was the victim of budget cuts three times. Most frustrating for me is that I was an excellent teacher. My connection with my students went well beyond textbooks and answer keys. I found myself invested in developing these young people into upstanding citizens who practiced courtesy, confidence, and integrity. That just wasn't enough to de-throne the tenured statues in adjacent classrooms.

So what happens when your safety net is full of holes? I guess you just work harder on your highwire routine without looking down, without giving up. At this point, I don't even want the safety net. The intimidation of the concrete below shrinks proportionately with each step across the highwire.

Of course, it wouldn't hurt to catch a few falling Benjamins while I'm up here.

February 14, 2009


"We judge ourselves by what we feel capable of doing, while others judge us by what we have done." -- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

So I've read a few books about making movies. Big deal. No matter how much I feel I know about the world of talkies, the knowledge is useless if not applied. The last thing I want to be is a well-read wannabe. I'm applying the teachings of others to my own projects, but the gained knowledge is no vaccination from my own mistakes.

Isn't that the case no matter the endeavor? Flight simulators can emulate cockpit conditions remarkably, but would you hop on a DC-10 with a pilot trained solely by a computer game?

It is only through doing that one can become what they aspire to be. So what am I doing? I'm acting. I'm writing. I'm directing. I'm producing. I'm editing. I'm composing. I'm querying. And I'm looking into the school of anti-redundancy school.

But in order to do all I want to do, I need to continue to learn from those who have already done it. And I need to continue to learn from my own experiences. Every day brings a new mountain to climb, and the more I know about mountain climbing, the easier the scaling will be.

February 12, 2009

List 1 -- Books I recommend

3= Must Read!
2= Good Read!
1= Mediocre Read.
0= Don't Waste Your Time.

Books on screenwriting:

(3) The Screenwriter's Bible; David Trottier
(3) The TV Writer's Workbook; Ellen Sandler
(2) Screenplay; Syd Field
(2) Save the Cat!; Blake Snyder
(2) Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies; Blake Snyder
(2) The First Time I Got Paid for It; Peter Lefcourt, Laura J. Shapiro

Books on making an independent movie:

(3) Film and Video Budgets; Deke Simon
(3) From Reel to Deal; Dov S.S. Simens
(2) Digital Filmmaking 101; Dale Newton, John Gaspard
(2) Filmmakers and Financing; Louise Levison
(2) $30.00 Film School; Michael W. Dean
(2) So You Want to be a Producer; Lawrence Turman
(1) What They Don't Teach You at Film School; Camille Landau, Tiare White

Moviemaking insight:

(3) Rebel Without a Crew; Robert Rodriguez
(3) Pitching Hollywood; Jonathan Koch, Robert Kosberg
(3) The Real, Low Down, Dirty Truth About Hollywood Agenting; Rima Greer
(2) My First Movie; Stephen Lowenstein


(3) An Agent Tells All; Tony Martinez
(3) The Dream Giver; Bruce Wilkinson


(3) MovieMaker
(3) Creative Screenwriting
(3) Scr(i)pt

I imagine I'm leaving several works off this list. For one thing, I read biographies of Steven Spielberg and Frank Capra, both of which were outstanding, but neither for which I can remember the author.

So this will have to do. It's a start. Notice I didn't rate any of the above books a zero (0). I don't think any reading is ever wasted. Then again, reading up on the business of Hollywood can become an easily defended form of procrastination. So can blogging. ;)


"I find television very educational. Every time someone switches it on, I go into another room and read a book." -- Groucho Marx

Granted, when Mr. Marx was later finding success as the host of "You Bet Your Life," he qualified the above quote with, "...now that I'm a part of television ... I don't mean a word of it." I assume the latter statement is all in good Groucho contradictory fun.

I watch TV. I enjoy TV. I'm not one of the pretentious dramatists who claims to be above boob-tube drivel. Whether indulging in a new episode of "Lost" or "Two and a Half Men", popping in a DVD of a movie that promises to be 'one of the year's best', watching Season 4 of "Friends" for the seventh time, or cringing at my Minnesota semi-professional sports teams (seriously, I don't think we have an actual professional team, do we? Wait... the Gophers are good this year), there are times when the dancing HD pixels are the only thing on which I am willing to focus.

But usually I'd rather read. At the end of each day, I want self affirmation of at least nominal accomplishment. Having three or four nonfiction books going at a time gives me ample opportunity to further educate my diminutive mind, not to mention my subscriptions to Creative Screenwriting, Script, and MovieMaker magazines. Then there are the myriad worthwhile online resources hidden amongst all the obdurate Internet distractions - I'm looking at you, Facebook!

When my desire to work in television and movies professionally overtook my own common sense, I set out to find what would be commonly regarded as the best books on any and all subjects pertaining to the entertainment industry. Instead of finding Steven Spielberg's list of recommended books on producing and Tom Hanks' acting book recommendations and Ron Howard's list of suggested director books, I found little to no canonical reference to books about the industry.

In light of this deficiency, I offer in the next post, a non-exhaustive list of entertainment industry books I have read and a simple ranking for each.

February 9, 2009


To laugh often and love much;
to win the respect of intelligent persons
and the affection of children;
to earn the approbation of honest critics
and to endure the betrayal of false friends;
to appreciate beauty;
to find the best in others;
to give of one's self;
to leave the world a little better,
whether by a healthy child,
a garden patch,
or a redeemed social condition;
to have played and laughed with enthusiasm
and sung with exultation;
to know that even one life has breathed easier
because you have lived -
this is to have succeeded.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Mr. Emerson's famous success quote has appeared in various forms all over the world. Words are sometimes rearranged and stanzas left out, but his message is clear in all reiterations. Success is easily attainable by all who care to accept it in its simplest form.

Trusting Mr. Emerson's words, I label myself a success, but there's room for so much more. I vow to laugh and love more than ever, to appreciate the beauty that surrounds me everyday, to ignore the faults of others in lieu of their best, and to give more of myself for the benefit of others.

In the coming months I will dedicate entries in this blog as resources for anyone interested in anything to do with the entertainment industry. I am no authority, but I have learned and continue to learn from those who are. I don't know what higher purpose any of this blogging will accomplish, but if even one life can breathe easier because of my efforts, I will consider this blog a success.