December 16, 2014

Sassy Cassie, never owned a Lassie

Funny. Sweet. Adorable. Talented.

These words describe me well, but today I want to get to my conversation with Ms. Cassie Daniels, a cool cat herself on her way to fame. And I don't mean the TV show.

If you haven't listened yet to the On the Page podcast on which I discovered Cassie and her writing partner, Cheryl Texiera, you need to. Skip breakfast. Skip hygiene. Download the podcast. Cheryl and Cassie are inspirational. Seriously.

Cassie Daniels and I seem to have a lot in common. Our first names are each two syllables, we both like broccoli, and I'm pretty sure we both have ten fingers and at least nine toes.

But it doesn't stop there. Like yours truly, Cassie started writing out of her frustration with acting. "I was sick of only [getting auditions] for Hooker #3," she reflects, "[so I] began my new venture as a hope to create opportunities for myself."

I didn't get very many auditions for Hooker #3, but I was only being sent out for Young Dad, and I wanted to play something I wasn't. The irony is that now I'm not Young Dad anymore - sigh. Still, Old or Young Dad aren't the auditions that excite me. I wrote Horror House so I could play a character that my agent would never have sent me on an audition for.

Cassie has written eight screenplays, two television pilots, and three web series in six years. That's a faster pace than I'm on. Plus, she's sold two features. I've produced two features and optioned another, but I've yet to cash a significant check for anything I've written.

The selfish side of me wanted to know how Cassie connected with buyers for her scripts. "I send lots of emails, reach out to industry professionals, and am constantly pitching my projects," she said.

Not the magic beans answer for which I was hoping, but it serves as a reminder that I need to just keep plugging away and not let rejection discourage me. The rejection comes not from those who read my scripts... the rejection comes much sooner than that. The few industry pros who have read my work have given glowing praise for the most part. As a glass half-empty guy, I tend to ignore the positive responses I've gotten and focus more on the dead-end connections I try so hard to resuscitate.
Actor/Screenwriter, Cassie Daniels

I love Cassie's motto and practice it myself, but I need to adopt it fully instead of only when my mood embraces it: "My motto is to reach out to people and not wait for them to discover you. You have to be proactive and get your material out there. Don't wait for an agent; you are your agent. There is no one in this world that can more passionately pitch your script than you. If no one is reading your script right now, it's no one's fault but your own. There is too much damn opportunity at your fingertips to get it in front of people."

Amen, Cassie. Amen.

Cassie sold her first two screenplays without representation, one being sold through the website, She remembers, "I got pretty lucky on Virtual Pitchfest. Within a week, my script was ranked as the third most requested script and it was optioned within two weeks."

It's been probably ten years since I posted a script on Looking back at that script now, I recognize just how poorly written it was. And the concept of alien robots changing into cars and airplanes was pretty ridiculous, don't you think? Okay, it wasn't a Transformers script. It was about transvestite gardeners. I called it Transfarmers. *

What I've learned in the last ten years is invaluable and knowing Cassie had success with an online screenplay hosting site, I'm motivated to post a script or two as well.

My website of choice is going to be The Black List. I'll probably post the screenplay that I'm currently developing with a financier even though I can't sell it right now. It's time to get some recognition from industry folks for work I know is high quality. I'll keep y'all posted. Both of you.

Like Cassie, most of my writing these days is focused on low-budget indie fare. "My script, Bachelorette Weekend, found success quite easily because we (my incredible writing partner, Cheryl Texiera, and I) purposely wrote the script small and self-contained," Cassie explains. "I always say, when you are starting out, give people few reasons to say no to your idea."

I'll add this to Cassie's great advice to keep your first scripts smaller in scope: Until you've sold a few screenplays, JJ Abrams is not going to buy anything from you. He won't read it. Nobody who does big-budget tent-pole movies is going to be interested in anything from a newbie writer.

There's always going to be an exception, of course, but it makes a lot more sense to put your effort into playing the odds. With so many odds against anybody making it in Hollywood, it's best to resist the urge to try to be another exception to the rule.

So there you have it. Cassie Daniels is working hard and getting her name out there. She's making her own opportunities, building her own career. That's the way to do it. Hollywood doesn't send out invitations for free. Invitations must be earned. She's earning hers, and I applaud her for her attitude and effort.

And she likes broccoli. "Who doesn't?" she asks. "I will tell you who... psychopaths."

Follow Cassie on Twitter @MsCassieDaniels.

Follow me on Twitter @Just_Over.

Follow the yellow brick road.

* I haven't written a script called Transfarmers, but it would be hard to beet a script like that. Too corny? Don't have a cow.

December 15, 2014

Sassy Cassie, not from Tallahassee

After a late summer storm tore apart my kids' playset, I was building a bigger, better scrap-lumber fortress, distracted by a marathon of podcasts. Sure, I stared blankly at the growing structure from time to time as the voices coming through my earbuds mesmerized. I may have mismeasured a few times and accidentally trimmed a fingernail with a miter saw, but I have no regrets. I love learning. I love multitasking. I even multitask while typinggnngn ngingnnkdk...............

While I impersonated Bob the Builder, I listened to an episode of Pilar Alessandra's On the Page screenwriting podcast (episode #369) with her guests, Cheryl Texeria and Cassie Daniels. Aside from wondering if Cheryl had a Yankee first baseman for a husband or if Cassie had a Dumb and Dumber dad, I really enjoyed their well articulated syllables. They were bubbly, funny, upbeat... just a bundle of shared positivity. Check out the podcast. It's ear candy.

I love reaching out to people on their way to success, so I tracked down Cassie and asked her a few questions before she blocked my e-mail address. I'm not sure she's getting my faxes, so I'll fill in any gaps with my own answers.

Why Cassie? Why do I spend more time asking others about their experiences than sharing my own in this blog that I foolishly subtitled, Reflections on my journey from small-town Minnesota to Hollywood?

Truth is, I don't relish talking about myself. I don't feel the need to put into the universe answers to unasked questions. I know there are a few who take interest in my escapades in this crazy industry, but really, I'd rather make small-talk about the weather and illnesses currently going around than talk about my acting/writing/directing career.

Okay, that's a steaming pile of reindeer poo. I hate small talk. But I don't like talking about my own experiences in this industry unless I feel someone is genuinely interested. And I don't know that many are. Certainly not enough to warrant my own little corner here in Internetblogville.

Then there's the fact that I've been chasing this Hollywood dream for a solid fifteen years with only modest success. The subtitle of this blog should be, Reflections on my journey from small-town Minnesota to moderately-sized-town Minnesota since that's all the further I've made it.

So back to Cassie Daniels. I'm interested in her career for two reasons. First, our backgrounds and interests in the industry are similar. Second, she and Cheryl sounded delightfully cool on Pilar's podcast. I like cool people. I root for cool people. If I can do anything to help cool people out, I do it. Introducing Cassie Daniels to my three blog followers is going to do wonders for her career and then the karma chameleons will slither their way to me.

See. It's all selfish. Just my way of manipulating karma.

At least I'm not delaying the point of this blog entry. Time to dive in and talk about Cassie Daniels, someone who is going to be huge soon. I'm lucky I got to her when I did.

But let me just say first, as I sit here at the coffee shop, I was struggling with the decision to buy a hot or cold drink this morning and I chose cold. Now I'm chilled. Not chilled enough that I need my coat back on, but I wish I had a thicker shirt or a sweatshirt to throw on. Do I regret my decision to get a cold drink? No. I regret my decision to wear the shirt I wore.

The color is nice. It's blue which brings out my eyes.

But enough about coffee and shirts and karma chameleons. Let's talk about Cassie Daniels.