July 12, 2013

"Plastic Donuts" by Jeff Anderson is a great introduction to spiritual giving

As a member of Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group's Blogging for Books program, I get free copies of Christian books in exchange for posting reviews.  With MN 2 Hollywood focused on the film and television industry, the books are often not particularly in line with my purposes for maintaining this blog.

But my faith is important to me.  Not because I want to shove it down other folks' throats, but because the core teachings of Jesus Christ center on loving God and each other.  Christianity aside, nobody can convince me that love is not the exact thing this world needs.

The most recent book I read through this program is "Plastic Donuts" by Jeff Anderson.  It's about tithing, giving to God a portion of what He first gave us.  My view of tithing is likely inconsistent with the view of most Christian leaders in this country.  I don't believe we are called to give specifically to a church, but to give to outlets to which God leads us to give.  This very well may be a church (or churches), but it could also be a charity dedicated to helping others.  I believe we are called to spread the gospel of love that Jesus preached while He was living among us.  I don't believe we are required to fund fancy sanctuaries, extravagant light and sound systems, and inflated pastoral salaries.

But that's another topic for another time.

Here's the review I posted at Amazon for "Plastic Donuts."  I truly do think it's worth a read, especially if you've been hesitant in the past about tithing.

This is a short, easy read. Light on theological jargon, heavy on practical insight, Plastic Donuts is a great introduction to the idea of spiritual giving.

Rather than pound out black and white laws about giving, author Jeff Anderson approaches the subject in a loose manner. He doesn't answer longstanding questions about whether a 10% tithe is intended to come from one's net earnings or gross earnings or whether or not 10% is the benchmark for being right with God. It's a matter of giving what one's heart feels compelled to give, whether it be more or less than 10% and whether that 10% is calculated to the penny off gross or net income.

Nor does he demand a person's tithe go entirely to one's church. Spiritual philanthropy is a far too often overlooked calling for God's people, and Mr. Anderson's words inspire readers to cheerfully give back to God a portion of what He first gave us, whether that be directly to church or to help our brother man.

The parallel between a child offering her father plastic food and God's children offering a portion of their finances to Kingdom work is a little thin, but the message within these concise pages is desperately needed, especially in today's first-world consumerism.

May 22, 2013

Limitations: Recognition vs. Acceptance

"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." - John Wooden

Somebody once commented that Michael Jordan couldn't hit a curveball with an ironing board.  His .202 batting average during his one year stint in the minor leagues certainly doesn't press a wrinkle into that claim.

The greatest basketball player of all time failed as a professional baseball player.  He let something he couldn't do get in the way of what he could do (better than anybody else on the planet).

Or did he?

MJ had conquered the NBA, so who's to blame him for nurturing his inner Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders? He couldn't have known definitively he wouldn't break into the bigs without giving it a try.  And, truth be told, hitting .202 in AA ball is better than 99% of the rest of the world could do.  But minor league baseball wasn't his goal.

The Michael Jordan that returned to basketball after his ill-fated MLB experiment was not the same Michael Jordan that left after his third NBA championship.  He still led the league in scoring three times, but he relied more on jump shots than high-flying, rim-attacking highlight reel plays that defined his younger-legged days.  He wasn't better or worse; just different.  He, as much as any player before and since, understood the difference between what he could do and what he couldn't do.

The creative world is no different from the athletic world in that limitation recognition is key to achieving success.

On the other hand, limitation acceptance is a sure way to fall short of your hopes and dreams.

The solution?

Operate in the present within your limitations with the goal of stretching those limitations in the future.

To paraphrase the late, great John Wooden, don't bog yourself down with your current limitations.  They don't have to be limitations forever.  Do what you can now; it may be more than what you could do in the past and less than what you'll be able to do in the future.  What seems impossible today may be routine tomorrow.

As for those limitations that are here to stay, use them as motivation to excel in other areas.

I struggle.  I want to be able to do everything now.  As I've written before, there are times I loathe myself for not pursuing acting right out of high school, for not moving to LA when I had the chance, for not quitting this crazy dream years ago when I nabbed my sensible bachelor's degree in elementary education.

But loathing myself is stupidly counterproductive.  I'm in a good place with too much for which to be thankful to second guess the path I've followed thus far.

The biggest limitation in my career is simply access.  Hollywood is a tough nut to crack and with so many crazy squirrels trying to get through the shell, it's no wonder the industry isn't welcoming outsiders with open arms, especially ones from flyover country.

I mentioned in my last entry that producer Gary W. Goldstein (Pretty Woman, Under Siege, The Mothman Prophecies) is running a Kickstarter campaign for a new guidebook for newbie film producers.  The campaign ends early Friday (May 24, 2013), so now is the time to jump in and take advantage of some of the cool rewards he is offering.

I had the opportunity to ask Mr. Goldstein what advice he would give to writers/directors/producers living outside of LA and he said, "Move."  He was kidding, but he went on to say, "If you choose to stay where you are to create a career, it is tougher [to break in].  This means you have to take each of your relationships very seriously because you can't simply walk around and make new ones.  You must keep in touch with your network and contribute to the relationship authentically and regularly even from a distance.

"Also, on a regular basis, fly to LA with a plan to network, almost like you'll be going on first dates with some and maintaining long distance relationships with others."

Living outside of LA certainly limits one's ability to network to the fullest, but with hard work and directed efforts, geographic limitations can be overcome.  It takes disciplined persistence and full commitment in researching and learning about the people you'll be reaching.

And thick skin.

An excerpt from Gary W. Goldstein's upcoming book reminds Hollywood outsiders that the path isn't paved with gumdrops, lollipops, and rainbows:

"My failures or obstacles have been a constant for as many years as I can remember.  I've become a black belt at failure, and that's paved the way for my successes.  It's up to you how you classify or view any moment or event.  Every film I've ever championed was a failure many times before I ultimately got it produced.  For every film I've produced, there are another six or ten films I failed to get produced; I invested years of my time, plenty of money, and a big piece of me in those as well.  There are films I worked on for years and years before it became absolutely impossible, legally or financially or practically, to get that particular film into production.  Until that moment I arrived, I never quit.  Never."

And despite my present limitations, neither will I.

May 16, 2013

Bent, Not Broken

"If I'd observed all the rules, I'd never have got anywhere." - Marilyn Monroe

I cheated.

Please don't judge me.

It's admirable that I am admitting it, isn't it?

Truth is, I'm pretty sure my wife would have done the same thing had she been in my shoes.  We are only human, after all.

I cheated and I don't regret it and I'll probably do it again!

Any parent who claims not to have cheated at Candy Land is lying.

My 3-year-old had reached the second to last square on the board and the chance of him not ending the game with his next draw was literally about 10%.  The game had already dragged on (as every game of Candy Land does), so it was time to be done.

It's not that I don't enjoy playing games with my kids.  I really do.  But I consider Candy Land only marginally a game with its mindless path crawling and sadistic redundancy.  A 3-year-old's attention span can barely handle a full game of Candy Land.  Neither can my son.

I sneaked a peek at the next two cards in the deck.  Sure enough, his next draw would have yielded him the gumdrop sending him back near the beginning of the game where I was still trudging along having drawn the gingerbread man almost immediately after drawing the coveted ice cream cone.  And the cycle would have continued.

Candy Land is a game that, statistically speaking, could continue in perpetuity without a little persuasion from time to time, so I was happy to manipulate the system a bit to reach the goal.

And there it is.  The phrase that transitions to the filmmaking industry.  Took me long enough to get there, huh?

To make it in Hollywood, you almost have to manipulate the system and bend the rules.  Once you've made it... well... you still have to bend the rules.  Call it cheating if you must, but it's more about adapting and manipulating the rules to best accommodate your own situation.

That sounds narcissistic, but it's less a reflection on the individual bending the rules and more an observation of the circumstances surrounding a person.

We Davids tend to defend our own rule bending as noble and resourceful while we abscond the Goliaths for doing the same.  The Veronica Mars Kickstarter campaign raised nearly $6 million dollars in donations and Zach Braff's campaign is above $2.5 million with over a week left.

How dare they!  Kickstarter is for us little guys!  We are fighting tooth and nail to scrounge up whatever finances we can while the already rich and powerful take money that should have gone to us!


Who's to blame the 91,585 people who pitched in some money to fund a Veronica Mars project they'd love to see?  If Larry David put up a campaign to do a Seinfeld reunion, you bet I'd support him.  Not because he needs any financial support necessarily, but because I need me some more Seinfeld.

As a struggling David (not Larry) in the film industry, I'm less than thrilled to see established Hollywood Goliaths running Kickstarter campaigns, but I'm not crazy enough to believe they are taking any money away from me or other little folks.  Jealous?  Sure.  Resentful?  No.

Are they breaking any rules?  Of course not.  Breaking tradition?  I guess.  The filmmaking landscape is an evolving beast.  The rules that applied in days past don't necessarily apply today, so creativity is needed not only on the screen, but behind the scenes.

True, the rules of the motion picture industry are about as clear as the smog that blankets its major studios, but one must know and understand what has and hasn't worked for others in order to best establish themselves in this crazy business.

A forthcoming book by producer Gary W. Goldstein (Pretty WomanUnder Siege, The Mothman Prophecies) appears destined to become a cornerstone of any upstart producer's library.  The book is currently seeking publishing funds via Kickstarter.

Producer, Gary W. Goldstein
What?  Another Hollywood Goliath asking for money?

Oh. The. Humanity.

Here's the cool thing about Mr. Goldstein's campaign - for only $15 you get a digital copy of the book before it goes on sale to the public.  That's about what you'd pay for an already published book.  By contributing to the Kickstarter campaign, you're essentially buying a book and receiving it as fast as you possibly can.  It hardly seems like a donation.

Throw in a few more bucks and you can receive a number of career building opportunities from Mr. Goldstein or another from his team of Hollywood professionals.

And his goal is $12,000; not $2,000,000.

Mr. Goldstein seems committed to helping others achieve success similar to his own.  My interactions with him have been supremely pleasant and I get the impression he's a genuinely good guy.

I asked him why he went the Kickstarter route and he commented, "[Kickstarter] fascinates me with the amount of engagement that happens not by putting something up for sale but by asking a community to breathe life into a project.  I like the idea of actually being able to connect to each person, to provide things beyond the book that might not be readily available."

Gary W. Goldstein's approachability and cordiality has convinced me his heart is in the right place.  I'm happy to support people with heart, whether they are a David or a Goliath, a gingerbread man or an ice cream cone.  Truth is, Mr. Goldstein is too humble to claim to be a Goliath in this industry.

April 15, 2013


"The final test of a gentleman is his respect for those who can be of no possible service to him." - William Lyon Phelps


I shouldn't be surprised.

And yet I am.

I pulled up to the stop sign, ready to make a right turn after the car on the crossroad sped past.

Just as I pulled out, the car at the opposite stop sign pulled out in front of me, turning left into my lane despite his nonexistent turn signal.

Bit of a close call, but I quickly slammed my breaks and surrendered to this too common occurrence at this intersection.

And he gives me the look.


Okay, truth be told, I gave him quite a look, too.  And I tailgated him with a fierce scowl sure to make him think twice about pulling that stunt again.

Yeah, I taught him a lesson by repaying his idiotic move with my own idiotic tantrum.

But nevermind my shortcoming in this instance.  Let's focus on the dude who is too important to use his turn signal and too self-righteous or perhaps ignorant to acknowledge his own inconsiderate behavior.

Turn signal ignorance is a peeve of mine.  Aside from the potential danger in moments such as the one I described above, it's just annoying to see cars turn without warning or whip from lane to lane with nary a heads-up to fellow road warriors.

What's so hard about flicking the little stick on your steering wheel column to protect yourself and other drivers?  I don't understand.  Is it too much hassle with your hands occupied by your cell phone, coffee, Big Mac, or nostril mining?

By choosing not to use your turn signal, you are sending a clear signal that you deem yourself more important than everyone else on the road.  Your lack of respect turns all other drivers into Rodney Dangerfield.

Time to take a turn or two and drive this writing to an unyielding film-centric point.  Maybe.

I've contributed to 20 - give or take - independent film projects over the last few years.  As someone struggling to get my own projects off the ground, I know how important it is to get support from peers.  I'm happy to offer what little I can, and I admit my contributions make only the tiniest dent in the big picture.

But I give because it's the right thing to do.

Sometimes my gestures are rewarded with a DVD of the finished project or a credit in the movie or a shout-out on Facebook.  Really, the reward is inconsequential.

But the one thing I do appreciate - the one thing I expect - is a thank you.  It doesn't have to be a public Twitter or Facebook gush.  I actually prefer private thanks unless the public broadcast encourages others to offer support.

Just a simple note: "Thank you.  I/We appreciate your support."  That's it.  Is that too much to ask?  Have you so little respect for your peers that you can't even send a note of thanks when one of them gives up a couple Blizzards or Concrete Mixers or Mocha Lite Coolers to help you chase your dream?

What kind of signal are you sending when you accept a gift and ignore the giver completely?  You're not only refusing to use your blinker, you're actually flicking the right-turn signal and then taking a left turn.

In the span of a couple days a couple weeks ago, I contributed to a couple Kickstarter projects.  One project creator (a team of people, actually) made no effort to thank me.  I heard absolutely nothing from them.  They are new to the scene as far as I can tell.  I don't know them.

The other project was created by a professional writer with a major motion picture credit to his name.  Less than 10 minutes after I contributed, he sent me a personal, specific message.  I didn't know him when I contributed to his campaign, but I'm getting to know him now.

He also went on to send an update to all backers inviting us to set, inviting us to be part of the process, and inviting us to ask him for career advice/insight.  He thanked us 99 backers profusely and made genuine effort to show his appreciation.

Who do you think I'll support more ardently moving forward?

I'm not angered by the former's lack of a thank you message.  The tone of this writing is meant to be more of bewilderment than anger.

We struggling independent filmmakers want respect and support so badly, but when we get the support, we don't all appreciate it.

Is it entitlement?  Self-centeredness?  Conceit?  Once you get money from somebody, do you feel they no longer have anything to contribute?  Are you done with them?

When I ran my Kickstarter campaign a year and half ago, I received 134 separate donations.  Those are 134 relationships I intend to foster for years to come.  The money they contributed is nice, but the gesture of support is worth more than any mula.

We have to learn not only to appreciate the support others give us, but learn how to show appreciation.  Ignoring somebody's support is not the signal you want to send.

Neither is tailgating in anger.  But that's another issue for another time.

April 2, 2013

I wouldn't eat that if I were you

"All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on." - Havelock Ellis

Little fingers find the littlest trinkets and treasures.  Little mouths, like vacuous black holes, absorb everything those little fingers find.

My 11-month-old discovered an eraser today, a half-inch cube.  From where I do not know.  The level of his eyes introduces him to a world few walking erectly ever see.

Our eyes locked.

He smiled proudly.

I shook my head and lunged toward him, narrowly dodging the blocks, books, and bears scattered across the floor.

My old-man grunts were drowned out by his mocking laughter as he pushed the eraser in his mouth at Usain Bolt speed.

My arms thwarted his attempted escape and I quickly rolled him over and plunged my finger into his swimming pool of a mouth.

His laughter stopped when I successfully extracted the eraser and he gave me an "oh no, you di'n't" look.

Then the tears.  Oh the tears.

I just saved your life, young man!  And this is how you thank me?  With a tantrum?

You could have choked on this eraser and --

-- um --

-- wait a sec --

That's not an eraser.

It's cheese.

When was the last time we had cheese in the living room?  Couple weeks?  Month?

This cube of cheese was a little harder than an eraser.  Full of hair, dust, and probably enough microbials to give even the strongest of digestive tracks a good flush.  Pun intended.  Duh.

I had the disease-cheese safely contained, but baby boy wanted it back.

In his mouth.

And then in his stomach.

"Don't you get it?"  I wondered rhetorically.  "This is bad for you.  I took it away for your own good."

Cue the painfully obvious parallel.

How much month-old cheese am I still clinging to?  Why do I continually throw tantrums when God does His best to rid me of the intestine attacking milk curds?  It's for my own good!

I'm getting better.  Gradually.  Like a fine aged cheddar.

The less I whine over other actors getting roles for which I felt I was more qualified, the more roles I tend to get.  The less I sulk at another producer's connection to financiers, the more connections pop up for me.  The more I applaud others' fortunes and accomplishments, the more fortunes and accomplishments seem to come my way.

I'm getting better at letting the hard hairy cheese go and just living with the cheesiness of my parables, metaphors, and allegories.

But it's a process.  Like Velveeta.

And yes, Chad, I used the word "erectly".

March 18, 2013

I predict unpredictability

"The future depends on what you do today" - Gandhi

Thirteen degrees.

Windchill: four below.

That's the MSP International Airport official temperature at this moment as I type another blogsterpiece.

This day last year saw a high of 79.  In 2011 it was 40.  2010: 64.

A year ago I ran 4.5 miles in shorts and a t-shirt.

Today, the ground is buried beneath a foot of snow.

The high temperature in the Twin Cities on March 9, 2012, was 39 degrees Fahrenheit.  It was the last day of the 2011/2012 winter in which the high temperature topped out below 40.

This year?  Not a predicted high above 32 over the next seven days.

The weather here is volatile to say the least.  Three months from today, we could hit 100 degrees like we did last summer.  Tomorrow night, the low may dip below zero.

Minnesota weather, like my roundabout path to a point in each blog entry, is maddening.  We have spectacular moments throughout the year, especially late spring and early fall, but we have to bear that sadistic Jack Frost's fury far too long.

Life is like Minnesota weather.

Holy underwear, that's cheesy.  I may as well plop myself on a park bench with a box of chocolates and wait for a feather to float to my dirty sneakers.

But I'm going with it.

As someone whose mood is affected profoundly by the weather, I'm struggling today.  Seven weeks ago I rejoiced as the oozing pustule of a month, January, finally retracted its numbing grasp.  Then February, with its unreachable back-itch annoyance, retreated to the hell from whence it came.

In comes March, the last ice dam blocking the infusion of April's showers, May's flowers, and June's 15 hours of sunlight each day.  I know you, March.  You bring snowstorms.  You bring cold.  I've met you before.  But what you're doing this year is just cruel.  Not even a sprinkling of relief amidst the torturous nether of white, lifeless ground and red, runny noses.

Oh, we probably deserve this after last year.  The string of upper 70s, low 80s we were gifted 52 weeks ago certainly couldn't become a trend.  Even the global warming alarmists didn't expect Minnesota Marches to suddenly become the new May or September.

But that doesn't help me today!  Or this week!  I want good weather!  And I want it now!

And I want to make movies with budgets!  And I want to be a series regular on a popular TV show!  And I want Forrest's box of chocolates!

And I want the exclamation point to replace the period as the preferred sentence-ending punctuation!

Like the weather, we can try to predict the lunch we'll eat tomorrow, the movie we'll see next weekend, the project we'll undertake next month, or the better job we'll accept next year, but inevitably, something will prevent us from fulfilling at least some of our self-prophecies.

My 22-year-old self wouldn't have predicted where I'd be today, and my current self has all but given up making predictions.  The best we can do is work toward a satisfying goal.  Along the way, there will be 2012 Marches with little to no snow, record highs, and ice-free lakes; but there will also be 2013 Marches sucking the very will to breathe.  Nay, sucking the very ability to breathe.  It hurts.  Oh how it hurts.

We can't change the weather (unless we're Steve Martin in LA Story), so we need simply accept it for what it is, knowing it too shall pass.  Today is nearly over and tomorrow is predicted to be -- um -- even colder.  But then the next day is -- colder yet.  But maybe - just maybe - next week will bring a few hours of above-freezing temperatures.  Then the 40s, 50s, and 80s aren't far behind.

My career may be stuck in 2013 March, but it can't last forever.  While I'm here, I can whine about the frozen expanse of emptiness or I can continue planting seeds in preparation for the thaw. Even if I'm stuck in the cold a while longer, eventually it will warm up.  Right?

Life is like a box of Minnesota weather alright.

March 11, 2013

When you got a job to do you gotta do it well

"Whatever your life's work is, do it well.  A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

The regular delivery of my neighbors' mail in my curbside box is annoying, but tolerable.

Watching her clench a letter in her lips before putting it in my box is gross, but not deplorable.

The breaking of my and my neighbor's mailbox flags is a nuisance, but I suppose it happens.

And the time she refused to bring a package to my door last winter because I hadn't yet shoveled the inch of freshly fallen snow from my walk was flabbergasting, but I got over it.

But now she's making Newman look good.

My neighbors and I do our best to clear the snow from the curb beneath our mailboxes, but our latest powdery cloud dump left a pile of white fluff that was admittedly an inconvenience for the stubby little truck with the steering wheel on the wrong side.

An inconvenience.  Certainly not an insurmountable obstacle.

After a day without mail, we received this note:

As did several neighbors.

Just the note.  Not our mail.

Our lovely carrier managed to get to our mailboxes to drop these notes but opted to keep our mail at ransom.

Oh well.  Not the end of the world.  I had intended to make a clearer path anyway.

So I did.

And did she deliver our mail the next day?


How 'bout the next?


I finally got to the post office and explained my displeasure.  I wasn't alone.  Nor was I offered an apology or an adequate explanation.

Turns out the carrier, that very day, delivered a package to my neighbor's door and explained that the snow wasn't adequately cleared.

Luckily, my local newspapers are delivered via Sherman Tank so they're able to get through the vast dam of snow - nay - frozen rock without leaving behind tactless notes.

Was there a time when people would do their jobs without manufacturing excuses and blaming others for their decision to underperform?  Or have we always been this lazy and unappreciative of actually having work?

There are countless folks who would absolutely love to have my postal carrier's job.  Is mail delivery a life passion of many?  Probably not.  But it's a job.  A good job.  With benefits.  How many people don't have that luxury?  And here is a woman who refuses to bend an inch when saddled with even a minor inconvenience.

What is this rant's relevance to a blog supposedly centered on a guy's journey from small-town Minnesota to Hollywood?

I'm glad you asked.

Well, I'm glad I asked.

In my efforts to establish myself in the entertainment industry, I have been burdened by more than a Crayola crayons' box worth of menial, uncreative projects or parts of projects.  Putting finishing touches on a video of drying paint in the middle of the night isn't exactly living the dream, but doggone it, I don't want to phone it in on anything.

(For those literalists out there, I've never actually done a video of drying paint.  It was a metaphor.)

The end results - drying paint videos or otherwise - don't always prove I gave my all, but it's not for lack of effort.  I have a hard time investing anything less than 100%.  Usually.  I mean, sometimes I vacuum lazily or buy canned chicken stock or run at a slower pace than I'm capable...

I digress.

My point - no, really, I have one - is that work is a privilege and should be treated as such.  And lest I write myself into a corner here with implications that I really am committed 100% to everything I do, the full disclaimer here is that I'm reminding myself to appreciate any work I get.  If it helps pay the bills and buy Barbies and Matchbox cars, it's a blessing.

We don't have to love what we are doing, but whenever we have something to do, we should be thankful.  As Harry Connick, Jr. croons in Hear Me in the Harmony, "There's a whole lotta hard workin' people that could take my place."

February 28, 2013

A Perfect Life

"Dear God, please give Denise and her family more money so they can have a perfect life like we have." - P. Overlander


Heart melting.

Perspective granted.

Remember Rolf and Leisl chirping back and forth about being 16 going on 17 in The Sound of Music? My oldest is 7 going on 17.  She speaks of a boyfriend.  She demands a cell phone.  She begs to wear makeup.

This little girl, anxious as she is to grow up, has always had a heart of gold.  From her delicate way of prefacing criticism with: "I don't want to hurt your feelings, Dad, but..." to "I don't want to hurt other dads' feelings, but you're the best dad ever," she has me wrapped ridiculously tightly around every one of her fingers.

Yet she still floors me from time to time.  Like the night she said her table grace and threw in the above request.

Denise is a little girl from the Philippines that we sponsor through Compassion International.  She's been a remote part of our family for a few years now, sending notes and drawings regularly, occupying our prayers daily.  I've heard my girl pray for her many times.

It's impossible to know the exact image of Denise's family my daughter holds in her heart, but it's clear she understands that Denise's isn't a life of prosperity.

But how can my little girl think ours is a perfect life?  Doesn't she know that most months our bills are greater than our income?  Doesn't she know her dad is lustful of a bigger home, a lake home, a California home?  Doesn't our worn, stained carpet torment her like it does me?  What about our toilet than runs unless we lift the tank lid and wiggle the doohicky connected to the thingamajig?  And don't get me started on our yard.  And kitchen.  And my wardrobe.

Lest I paint myself a materialistic covetous whiner, please know I appreciate my blessings of which there are many.  Too many to count.

But I dwell too often on the have-nots in my life.  We all do.  Except my little 7-year-old.  She has it right.  In this instance, the student has outclassed the teacher by a mile.

My desire to be a professional actor and writer and director and producer is still there and always will be, but if life is already perfect, what more could a career in those fields add?  New carpet?  New shoes?  A steak dinner?

I want to close this entry with a pious spiritual claim that if nothing were to change in my career path I would be content in this already perfect life.  But I can't.  Doggone it, I can't.

Eventually my 7-year-old will tot's be 17 like for realz.  Is that how 17-year-olds talk?  Um probs not.  Anyway, she'll have a new perspective on this 'perfect' life.  Hopefully she's able to find a middle ground between the perfect life she perceived at 7 and whatever melodramatic malady she's burdened with at 17.

At any rate, if the life we live today is perceived as perfect by my 7-year-old, it brings sunshine to my periodic pessimistic pity parties.  And that's close enough to perfect for me.

February 16, 2013

Cereal Suicide

"A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds."- Sir Francis Bacon

The morning was an anomaly.  We had five boxes of cereal open at the same time.  Not a practice I promote since cereals go stale readily in our house.

Enter my 3-year-old.  He's cute as can be - after he's had time to wake up.  But in those first minutes of the new day, he's John McEnroe down 40-love.

If I want my head bitten off, I simply need to offer him suggestions for breakfast.  You see, whatever he chooses to break the fast of night has to be his choice.  My jumping the gun can send him into a ten minute thrashing I'm certain registers on the Richter scale.

With the five cereal choices beckoning from our pantry, he decided he wanted all of them.  Mixed together.  He met my attempt to persuade him otherwise with a look that would send even Napoleon retreating.

Remember soda suicides where you'd mix a bunch of carbonated sugar water together?  This particularly fizzy morning, my son had a cereal suicide.

Corn Flakes.  Raisin Bran.  Grape Nuts.  Quaker Oatmeal Squares.  Froot Loops (actually, it was Tootie Frooties or something like that).  With milk.

Mmm.  What a combination.

And he ate it all.  Afterward, the monster had shed his horns and the angel with the blue eyes emerged.

In many ways I feel like I'm in the middle of a - forgive the analogy - project suicide.  I can't settle on just one attack, so - predictable analogy warning - I'm holding many irons in my fire.

Such is the way of the creative mind.  I need to have Corn Flakes ready if Corn Flakes are the breakfast of choice for the Movieland Monster.  But I need to keep Grape Nuts nearby on the chance that the Tinsel Town Titan craves tasteless crunchy nuggets.  And I'd sure be in trouble if the Hollywood Hooligan demanded Froot Loops but I didn't have any Super Frootie Tootie Circle Wheel Donut Puffs.

If analogy overkill is ever demanded, I'll be a Total success, raking in the Chex.

It's been more than a year since I raised money through Kickstarter to support my efforts to produce my Christian screenplay, Away.  When I launched the campaign, I had hoped I'd be shooting the movie by the summer of 2013, but that isn't going to happen.  Momentum is building finally as the screenplay was a semi-finalist in the Kairos Prize for Spiritually Uplifting Screenplays and was nominated for Best On-Screen Chemistry by the Fresh Voices Screenplay Competition.  If nothing else, I now have validation that it's a quality screenplay.  If that translates to selling the script or securing $1 million investment, we'll be Golden Grahams.  Sorry.  That one snuck out.

On television and movie sets there's an oft spoken phrase: "Hurry up and wait."  The phrase carries weight in every stage of development.  If there wasn't so much down time between contest entries, producer and agent responses, financier leads, and talent courtship, I could find contentment focusing solely on Away.  But I have to keep busy through the down times, too.

So I produced a micro-budget feature that is wrapping in a few days.  I'm developing a television pilot.  I'm putting together a presentation based on Matthew 22:34-40.  I'm helping produce a hunting show.  I'm considering producing a documentary on homelessness.  I go to auditions and act in other projects as opportunity presents itself.  I'm cast in two feature-length movies to be shot within the next several months.  I'm raising my kids.  I'm listening to my wife.  I'm bathing when I can.

Granted, my talk of projects on my pallet carries a little less weight than, say, JJ Abrams or Steven Spielberg's to-do list.  I'm closer to the street-corner derelict with my unsolicited phone calls to industry connections who likely consider changing their numbers each time I harass them.

Still, I wouldn't slow down if I could.  I won't back down even if I should.  We only get one chance to live this life.

This Cinnamon Life.