From Writing

New Look – Again

Tonight, I relaunched my site with the focus being my videos. It’s meant to serve as a reminder that I need to generate more content. The good news is, I have one live action short (The Do Over) in the can and a new short script that needs a quick polish before I turn on the¬†production machine. With the new one, tentatively titled Two Days, the aim is to rely on visual elements to tell the story as much as possible and shoot it for under $500.

The Do Over was shot for less than $1,000, and about half of that went to equipment that I’ll be using for upcoming productions, so I think a budget of $500 is definitely within reach.

I’m also working on the outline for a new feature, taking my time and making sure the mechanics of the story and character trajectory works before writing. The only remaining piece is the latter half of the second act, but I’m happy with the ending, which gives me something to write towards. Additionally, I’m working on some new stand up material that I’ll hopefully be performing within the next two weeks.

Weird Day

Today has been a bizarre one. I woke up extra when my puppy started scratching the side of his mattress. He wouldn’t stop until I rolled out of bed and fed him. This was at 7 A.M. Coincidentally, his food bowl is still three quarters full. I guess he wasn’t that hungry after all.

After that, I couldn’t fall asleep. Instead, I took the little guy out for a walk. He’s recovering from getting neutered earlier in the week, so he has a lot of pent up energy. Surprisingly, he wasn’t an asshole on the walk, but when we got home, he refused to climb the stairs to our apartment. I ended up having to drag him the rest of the way.

After that, we sat on the couch and watched The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert. It was the first time I had seen it since the early 90s, when I was too young to understand anything more than the fact that it was about a trio of gay dudes. I completely forgot who was in it and was blown away by seeing Agent Smith, The Limey, and Memento strutting around in elaborately sequined gowns and lip-syncing to Abba songs. The movie is great and the performances are pitch perfect.

Once the movie was over, I sat down and struggled with app development for a few hours. I managed to get a screen with text reading “get fucked” to display in the emulator, which was a huge win for me.

One more baby step towards making a game. I think I’ll dust off my guitars and see if I remember how to play any of my half-written songs.

New Look

I decided to update the look of my site a bit and make the blog the primary focal point. In the coming months, I’ll be posting some new content from web series projects that Jim and I are currently developing under our new banner, Captin Marlan.

I might sneak in a little cartoon here and there, but that’s never really been the primary objective. It’s time to pull the lever on the content machine.

Always Be Learning

I never understand people who have given up on learning. I’m a very independent person, and I hate having to rely on anyone other than myself for anything. Now, you might wonder why I got into filmmaking and creating content, which is largely a collaborative effort. The fact is – I don’t mind working with people that approach the work from the same ego-free, D.I.Y. mentality, and thankfully, I’ve had the privilege to meet and work with many people with those characteristics.

Along the way, however, I have encountered lots of people who are reluctant to learn how to do anything. This used to drive me crazy when I worked for a large internet company. Every day, I found myself explaining the same things over and over again to the same people that had previously asked the same questions at least a dozen times. Writing that sentence almost gave me a headache. Living it almost gave me an aneurysm.

Even though that day job wasn’t directly related to making the kind of content I want to make, there were valuable lessons to learn. I became comfortable enough with web design and development to start making basic sites (like this one), which easily could have cost at least $1K. By picking the brains of people that were smarter than me, I not only showed an interest in understanding what they need to get their jobs done (this is an important lesson that can be applied to anything), but I also picked up expert tips on design principles, color schemes, and branding, all things pertinent to creating content, as every web series, movie, podcast, or independently produced half-hour pilot needs branding in order to effectively share and market it.

My love of learning isn’t based upon any desire to know everything. It’s based on the philosophy that if I at least have a top level understanding of the mechanics of something, when/if I need help dealing with it, I’ll know how to communicate with whomever I hire/contract/beg for assistance. You don’t need a degree or a certificate. You just need the resolve to get past the inevitable obstacles and push beyond the plateaus.

On a side note: if anyone who ever reads this understands how the stock market works, I’d love to hear from you. That is one baffling beast.

Who Do You Write For?

On Monday, I attended a screening of Bobcat Goldthwait’s new movie God Bless America, hosted by Jeff Goldsmith. The movie was great, but what really stayed with me from the whole event was something that Bobcat spoke about during the Q&A session that followed.

After discussing Hot To Trot at length, he segued into how he approaches making his own movies. For years, I’ve tried to balance writing commercially with writing personally. I wasted a lot of time trying to write what I thought would be a really cool vampire movie. I say the time was wasted because instead of staying true to my vision of the rules of that universe, I started to compare it to all of the new vampire movies being released.

Big mistake!

After seeing each new mediocre offering, I became flustered and would rewrite my script in fear of it being compared to already produced and released movies when read, should anyone even want to read another vampire script at this point. With each iteration, the script became less about the very original scenario I initially conceived and more about ensuring that the rules of vampirism were unique, but still made sense. It was a fool’s errand, and by the end of it, I hated the concept. What does this have to do with what Bobcat said? Well, during the Q&A, he talked about making movies for himself.

I took those words to heart and felt a new kind of freedom in regards to writing the Old Stud feature, which I had been somewhat blocked on for the last few weeks. I don’t know that my work will ever be “commercially viable,” but I do know that I am more inspired than ever to continue making content that tells a story that’s interesting to me, with characters that I care about.

If I can stay true to that, I’m hoping the authenticity will emanate and people will respond my work. We’ll see how that goes, I guess.

On Collaborations

One of the most challenging aspects of writing is finding your voice. For me, this required writing half a dozen screenplays that felt like masterpieces upon completion, but in retrospect, were nothing more than 600 pages of shit that amounted to an invaluable learning experience.

Writing is a skill, and just like any physical skill, it requires conditioning. If you get in tip top shape and then suddenly stop working out for months, you’re all but guaranteed to perform on a subpar level the next time you engage in any physical activity. The same can be said for writing.

It’s all about momentum.

Now, you may have discovered your voice, exorcised all the hackneyed prose and clich√©d, lazy devices, and that’s all well and good, but can you handle writing collaboratively?

Not many people can. Writers are a peculiar sort, typically introverts that resent folks that love the spotlight. So how do two people with these personality quirks join forces and generate something that incorporates a fair share of voice for both parties in the final product?

That…is the million dollar question.

In my experience, actually writing in the same room doesn’t really work. When I began writing Old Stud, Jim contributed heavily to the development of the characters and the story, but I did the actual writing. In part, we worked this way because it was important to me to have a produced solo writing credit, but it was also out of necessity, because I had a clear vision for the tone, and Jim respected that. Since the physical production was a tremendous task, I made sure that he felt his ideas were represented in the script to an appropriate extent, and thankfully he did. We also had several discussions on set and during post, and he helped me navigate through some challenging logistical and creative problems, resulting in a product that we both owned and for which we felt pride.

I have had other experiences in the past that did not turn out so well. Writing, and in particular comedy writing, requires people to be on the same page. If you’re contributing to a line, scene, act, or anything meant to be humorous and your take on the joke doesn’t align with that of the other contributors, the piece will be in danger of failing. It’s unfortunate when this happens, and it ties into the personality issues mentioned earlier. On any project, there needs to be an alpha, who will shepherd the project to completion. There needs to be a hard ass that will argue the shit out of every point so that only the worthwhile ideas remain among the weak concept fatalities. This requires that the other contributor(s) be aggressive, too, and defend their own ideas.

I love arguing, but not for the sake of arguing. I love it because it exposes the flaws and weaknesses of a concept. It’s much better to piss off your writing partner and tear apart his or her take on something than to sit back politely and let a subpar idea stay as it lays, only to manifest itself as a weakness in the text, and possibly the resulting episode or movie.

In conclusion: stand up for your ideas, question them and those of your collaborators, and never make it personal. It’s not about ego or prestige; it’s about serving the project.

New Blog: People I Wouldn’t Fight

As it turns out, people are reluctant to share drinking stories or stories they’ve heard while drinking. Who knew?

Because of this, I’ve decided to spend less time on Top Shelf Tales, and more on my new project: People I Wouldn’t Fight.

P.I.W.F. is essentially a list of people that I wouldn’t fight and the reasons why. Since it will be easier to pick someone and make something up than to find authentic and interesting stories about bars/drinking, I feel like this Tumblr blog actually has a chance of finding a decent following.

Check it out. As always, feedback is appreciated.

Regrets of an Itchy Trigger Finger – Make V2 A Policy

For anyone that is predisposed to right-brain thinking, essentially all creative types, there’s a perpetual impulse to engage in the create and share cycle. Personally, I feel claustrophobic if I go too long without writing something or making a new cartoon. The challenge lies in the long form nature of many of my projects. Old Stud was a 10 month journey from conception to completion of the pilot. It was the single most challenging and rewarding project I’ve ever worked on, and taught me a lot about what I excel at and even more about where I could use some improvement.

One of my favorite aspects about the project is that Jim and I very meticulously planned every conceivable thing during preproduction. I can’t stress how important this is, because once we went into physical production, it was like a thousand neatly arranged dominos toppling over in succession, leaving little to no time to make adjustments before their momentum propelled us into the next shot, the next scene, and the next shooting day.

Conversely, I’ve come to realize that I tend to rush through the animation production process. I think it’s due primarily to the short runtimes of the pieces I create, which I use as an excuse to trick myself into taking shortcuts and publishing the cartoons perhaps prematurely. The craziest thing about this is – as soon as I click on publish, all of the mistakes and things that could and should have been materialize in mind.

I don’t regret putting any of the content on the web, with the exception of the second Washington episode, because it really wasn’t even a full version 1. To correct this habit, I have decided not to publish any V1’s going forward.

From now on, my policy will be V2 or bust. The result will enable me to get feedback from friends on the product and make any necessary tweaks and revisions prior to putting it out there for public scrutiny.

V1 publishing is dead. Long live V2 publishing!

New Project: Top Shelf Tales

Last week, I started a new Tumblr blog called Top Shelf Tales. Basically, the intention is to fill it with personal stories that gravitate around bars and drinking.

Over the years, I have heard and been party to some amazing stories in bars across the country. The blog is a venue for such tales, but it’s also meant to be a place where other people can contribute.

One of the Tumblr’s greatest attributes is the variety of media that it allows users to publish. My hope is that people will take advantage of this and I’ll receive submissions spanning the whole spectrum, from text and photos to audio and video.

The URL is: http://topshelftales.com

You can contribute your story here: http://topshelftales.com/submit

The Problem With Being Creative: A High Class Conflict

For me, creativity flows in a torrent or trickles down like the drops of air conditioner condensation. There is no in-between state. Thankfully, I’m currently experiencing one of those torrents. The only drawback to times like these is the fact that a person can only focus on one project at a time, yet the subconscious fires off random bursts of ideas for all of my projects, be they writing, music, animation, and more recently, entrepreneurial endeavors.

For instance: I’ve been getting ideas for a children’s book as I also conceive ways to continue the script I’m working on about an author of children’s books, while I’m also working on memorizing chromatic and tonic scales and modes so I can compose more sophisticated music. This all takes place as the latest cut of Old Stud renders out from Final Cut and I’m brainstorming scene ideas for the revision of the pilot script that we’re packaging with the produced version.

It’s like my subconscious is firing a gatling gun at me, and all I can do is try to position my body to get hit with the greatest amount of thought bullets possible.

Oh yeah – I also need to finish my stand up act and start going to open mic’s again.