Monday, December 31, 2007

And That's It

Saturday night we had our second Christmas with my brother-in-law's family from Georgia, driving from water scarcity to cold a-plenty. We cheered on Peyton's younger brother, who tried to upend the evil Patriots, the only force capable of stopping the Colts' rightful place at the throne of a second straight Super Bowl. Unfortunately Tom Brady, the spawn of Great Cthulhu who throws out a "Hail Satan" before falling into a drunken stupor every night on a pile of newspapers in the park, is now charted on an inevitable course to face the sainted Peyton Manning, who drinks milk every night before dropping to his knees and praising the Baby Jesus for his God-given talents on this righteous team. If only a wall of holy fire would sweep across Foxboro and wipe this blight from the Earth, our Colts could have what is theirs by right. Soon we will know how it all plays out.

Meanwhile, 2006 kinda sucked but 2007 was better. I had my most productive year freelancing, finishing seven scripts for hire, some of which will hopefully see the light of day in 2008. SEX MACHINE came out in May, THE DA VINCI CURSE came out in Japan on DVD but has yet to appear in the U.S. and AMONG US started playing on the Space Channel in Canada. My day job was fun and challenging. My daughter graduated high school and I started empty nesting. I almost peeled my thumbprint off in an accident. There was a blizzard back there and a trip to Florida and another Microcinema Fest and the Small Press Expo and the Phantoscope Film Fest and a bunch of other stuff. The Colts won the Super Bowl and I have been married for twenty years. For the one zillionth straight year I am holding the course with the same resolutions to lose weight, be more productive and steer my family from danger.

Happy 2008, everybody!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Green Christmas

Not everybody likes a green Christmas, but I do. There's just too much driving around to do. If it starts snowing on a Friday night and stops Sunday night that's about the perfect winter for me.

It was a good Christmas. I got a 32" LCD television from my in-laws, and as I've stated before the bigger the television I own the less liberal I feel. But damn it looks nice. My brother got me Darwyn Cook's THE NEW FRONTIER ABSOLUTE EDITION which is excellent, but at about ninety pounds is hard to read on the toilet. I bought him AXIS AND ALLIES: GUADACANAL which is like buying myself something because we will play it together. My daughter bought me some good 70s compilation CDs and my son bought me a bottle of wine from an Indiana winery. My wife bought me a nice leather coat with a Sopranos-ish feel. I got a bunch of new clothes and two new pairs of shoes with my Christmas money and shaved off a little "mad money" to buy the novel TREE OF SMOKE that I really want to read, as well as THE BEST AMERICAN COMICS 2007 in hardback, then a GUILD WARS upgrade for my online game. But I was 2/3rds good on my spending, and I still have $25 left.

My son Daniel and my brother Eric and my old pal Hal played the annual seasonal gaming session by re-creating the Battle of Endor with the Star Wars miniatures game. I took the Ewoks because I knew nobody else wanted them. The rebels won fairly handily considering that the Ewok general led them to somewhat gleeful suicide, a fuzzy little shield wall protecting Han, Leia, Chewie, and the droids, who overran the bunker.

I've dozed a bit and eaten pretty well and shopped until I was tired and seen a couple of movies, and it's almost time to face 2008. I hope all of my loyal readers had a good holiday as well.

Until later, holiday wishes can be sent to johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Frosty Eve

We always frost cookies on Christmas Eve, a holiday tradition from my childhood. Naturally, my own children hate this sacred custom.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

The Hustled

Me at my mother-in-law's Christmas Open House. I always look forward to the liver pate.
I think I won this game when somebody else shot the one black ball in. Paul Newman eat your heart out.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Deck the (Day Job) Halls

Me directing the live television side of a local traditional Christmas show simulcast on radio and television in our area.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

From Croatia With Love

Says the Goran Visnjic fan site, about John Oak Dalton's blog, "that one actually made me laugh out loud."

Hey, if you write enough b-movies, you start taking praise where you can get it.

Ever since I posted about my wife stumbling into Goran Visnjic and Maura Tierney in Chicago on a shopping day my site has been getting slammed by hits from Visnijic's fan site, as well as an ER fan site. Fortunately my wife never reads my blog, or she would find out the existence of such places, and she would be gone from me for good, watching THE DEEP END over and over.

She just didn't believe me when I told her I had read in the paper that Visnjic was trying to mend his broken heart--after being dumped by Antonio Banderas--in the arms of George Clooney, himself only recently dumped by Johnny Depp.

You know what would really help me? If Gorn Visnjic would play a gay guy in a movie. My wife's burning passion for James Purefoy, featured in HBO's ROME as Mark Anthony--or as my wife called him, Mark Hotony--cooled a bit when I told her he had also played costar Kevin McKidd's boyfriend in BEDROOMS AND HALLWAYS. When it was all burnished helmets and clashing swords that was one thing, but once the other idea was planted it couldn't quite be shook loose.

You know what is really a pretty good movie with Maura Tierney? SCOTLAND, PA.

Everybody has their "free passes" in their marriages, and my wife suspects mine is Maura Tierney. Even though her rather lengthy list is shared openly, long-married dudes know to keep theirs under wraps. I was a bit astounded at another couple we were having dinner with last Friday, who revealed theirs were Harvey Keitel and Jami Gertz. Harvey Keitel! And the husband's choice of Jami Gertz was not only a shade esoteric--I had to hit IMDB to make sure I knew who he was talking about--but potentially dangerous, because there is always a chance that Ms. Gertz might one day pass through Indiana in some sort of traveling dinner show or something, and your free pass has to be somebody completely unreachable by mortal people.

Husbands, if you want to be safe, mention women that are only accessible by time machine--like Linda Stirling in about 1944 (check out PERILS OF THE DARKEST JUNGLE), Suzanne Pleshette in about 1966 (although 1969's IF IT'S TUESDAY, THIS MUST BE BELGIUM got burned into my brain at a young age), Lynda Carter in about 1975 (scratch that, she still looks pretty good, and so does Jaclyn Smith, now that I'm googling names).

In other news, friends in California were facing wildfires, friends in Oklahoma are blacked out and under a sheet of ice, and my brother-in-law in Georgia was within a few short weeks of being COMPLETELY OUT OF WATER because of the draught. There are worse places to live than Indiana, methinks.

Give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Book Beat December 2007

My latest BOOK BEAT column for "Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence," the magazine of the Magna Cum Murder Mystery Conference:


STALIN’S GHOST by Martin Cruz Smith
Rewarding new entry in the long-running series about Russian police detective Arkady Renko, from Martin Cruz Smith. Every installment reflects something new in the political landscape of Russia, and this one is no different as Renko, long politically out of favor, is put on what seems to be the ludicrous case of several subway passengers seeing Stalin’s ghost. This becomes a jumping-off point for a typically tangled web of lies and murder that stretches all the way from Chechnya back to the New Russia. Really solid entry in the series.

A CINDERELLA AFFIDAVIT by Michael Fredrickson
Very chewy legal thriller features an inexperienced criminal lawyer whose client is killed, and how the lawyer’s insistence on clearing his name uncovers connections to police corruption and an east coast crime lord. Paints a vivid portrayal of various citizens in Boston from the lowest snitch to the future governor, and dense with courtroom scenes; a strong debut from Michael Fredrickson.

VOICES by Arnaldur Indridason
Icelandic crime novelist Arnaldur Indridason is back with mournful Reykjavik policeman Erlendur Sveinsson in tow, this time finding a murdered Santa in a compromising position over the holidays in a nice hotel. Indridason’s writing is dark and often darkly comic, full of clear-eyed observations and hard-boiled plotting; but what I enjoy most is his parallel storytelling, plumbing the depths of his flawed protagonist as his own life is revealed in the tragic crimes he investigates. A new favorite of mine.

LOST by Michael Robotham
Rough-hewn London copper Vincent Ruiz returns in Robotham’s sophomore mystery, which opens with Ruiz shot up and left for dead in the Thames after a botched undercover job. He recovers, but memory gaps leave his colleagues suspicious and the detective straining for answers as he pieces together what happened. A kidnapped girl is at the center of it all, and Ruiz races the clock to save the girl and his reputation. Strong characters buoy a somewhat rickety plot, but remains interesting throughout.

KILLING FLOOR by Lee Child
The first in Lee Child’s long-running Jack Reacher series features the hard-nosed ex-military man turned drifter on a “you killed my brother” bent through a sleepy Southern town. Child rather cheerily strains believability, as within a matter of a few days Reacher has the town’s police force answering to him and has bedded the only female police officer in town, and routinely fights four or five men at a time. But Child’s interesting characters, keen eye for detail, and brisk plotting glosses over the gaps.

THE WOUNDED AND THE SLAIN by David Goodis
Absolutely bleak noir, in the Hard Case Crime series of forgotten classics of the genre, from one of my favorite little-known pulp writers David Goodis. Here a frigid wife with repressed memories is in conflict with an alcoholic husband while trying to patch up their marriage at a resort. Bursts of violence shatter their reconciliation, though Goodis allows for the faint whiff of redemption in the closing pages, amidst the spatter. The Hard Case Crime series continues to please with one of my favorite entries in the series to date.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Take the Skinheads Bowling

We've had big slugs of snow, and then rain, and today ice. We are all hunkering down. Normally this would include football but since Thanksgiving--when my wife declared that football ruined Thanksgiving, which to me is like saying turkey ruined Thanksgiving--football has been absorbed in covert glances here and there. Our new neighbors from California looked rather dour when I was at the mailbox yesterday. Y'all are in Indiana now, I thought--and it's only just begun.

Yesterday I bowled four games, two at the Big Brothers/Big Sisters Christmas party and two at my nephew Jesse's 11th birthday party. I bought him the RISK board game, which he and his fifth-grade posse fell right on. Last year the same happened when I bought him STRATEGO. Take that, Wii. Earlier I bowled two good games for me--a 121 and a 132--but I've got a blister today that I get reminded of the more I type here.

So signing off at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Life in the ER

Last night was the ER episode that my wife wandered into on a bus trip to Chicago with my mother and mother-in-law. They turned the wrong way off of the bus and soon were in the midst of a bunch of trailers and tents and all of a sudden there was Goran Visnjic and Maura Tierney having a pretend fight. Since my wife loves Goran Visnjic she described him as dashing and handsome in real life and chatting up the crew and since she suspects I like Maura Tierney she described her as pale and wan and standing off by herself with the hood of her coat pulled around her face to ward off the cold. She has since expressed an interest in the movie DOCTOR SLEEP, an agreeable enough supernatural thriller with the faint whiff of crapola wherein Mr. Visnjic plays a psychologist with the psychic power to invade dreams, the kind of stuff my wife would normally avoid with a passion. If Visnjic gets cast on DOCTOR WHO or the STAR TREK movie this might work to my advantage; otherwise I must monitor this situation closely, and Visnjic's career with deep suspicion.


In other movie news, I went to see BEOWULF. I liked it well enough that I am re-reading the great Seamus Heaney translation. But on the other hand I don't know why they felt they had to mess with the story; somehow people have liked it for thousands of years just the way it was. Although I think their depiction of the dangers of sleeping with Angelina Jolie were well documented.

In other entertainment news, I finished a truly excellent book called THE BRIEF WONDROUS LIFE OF OSCAR WAO by Junot Diaz that I strongly recommend to all of my nerd friends. It's like an urban version of FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE by Jonathan Lethem, one of my favorite books of the last few years (along with THE BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DEAD by Kevin Brockmeier and CARTER BEATS THE DEVIL by Glenn Gold).

I'm getting tired of taking the rest of the year off from writing and wondering what the new year will bring. Until then, give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I Thumbed Right Through My Little Red Book

The interwebs is funny. Like sometimes you start getting a bunch of hits from a site which I think is a French message board about the Japanese release of a movie you wrote called THE DA VINCI CURSE. Babel Fish might not exactly hit it right on the head, but the (translated) comments are interesting nonetheless:

In short, one has the impression that it is a film of pals, made with a little means.

Well, I can't say my French brother was 100% wrong.

It is realise by the Polonia brothers who seem to be specialists of this kind of tricks.

Two for two!

Find on the blog of the guy who has ecrit the scenario http://johnoakdalton.blogspot.com/ C is funny but my premiere opinion on this film has ete "holds one would say an adaptation of a scenario Cthulhu 1945 fact one following day of cooked by a band of pals". But the reading of the blog has, one wonders whether it is not Ca. One can same have doubts about the dimension assumes trick.

I don't fully understand this post but I will fess up to playing some "Call of Cthulhu" back in the day, though THE DA VINCI CURSE had more to do with my love of books like THE BIG RED ONE and THE NAKED AND THE DEAD.

Feel free to give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Friday, November 23, 2007

European Front

An annual Thanksgiving tradition...the playing of Axis and Allies amongst the menfolk, here represented by my son Daniel, my brother Eric, and myself. An added holiday bonus was that the Colts were beating up the Falcons at the same time. Unfortunately the U.S. was slow to destroy the Nazi U-Boats and staged an invasion of France too late to save a valiant Russian defense. Another parallel universe falls.

Monday, November 19, 2007

And He Hath Given To The Earth People To Sit And Look Profound

In reference to the post about my picture hanging up in the new Letterman Building at Ball State, infrequent reader Nancy writes: Found your pic outside WCRD in a case. No mullet. That's someone else. You have short hair and look, maybe, 13.

I look pre-pubescent? Not great, but at least there's proof that I DIDN'T HAVE A MULLET.

My old pal The Mighty Caveman wrote and asked if I would like to join up with a group of people who want to read and then blog about 50 books in 2008. You know I'm about the nerd extreme sports. I am so there.

On the literary tip for a minute, I would have to say that it's just as likely that Orson Scott Card read Alexei Panshin's RITE OF PASSAGE before writing ENDER'S GAME as it is that Stephen King read Samuel R. Delany's THE EINSTEIN INTERSECTION before writing THE DARK TOWER.

Give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Let the Stars in the Firmament Remain as Bait

Somebody asked me if I stopped writing for the year because of the Writer's Strike. Actually I had stopped because I already wrote SEVEN DAMN SCRIPTS this year and that was enough for one humble Hoosier. But the more I learn about the strike the happier I am that I am chilling for a little while.

In other writing news, somebody else reported that they saw my photo hanging up in a display case at my alma mater, Ball State University, with other Letterman Scholarship winners in the brand new Letterman Building. I hope to get a second verification of this sighting, as this person reported that I had a mullet. Although it was in the happy year of 1987 A.D. when I won the Letterman Scholarship I NEVER HAD A MULLET. I was sporting hardly any business up front and almost no partying in the back.

Give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A Face, A Voice, An Overdub Has No Choice

A lot of brothers smarter than me are writing about the Writer's Strike. Some guys I read, for instance, like Kung Fu Monkey John Rogers. Or guru John August. Also Artful Writer Craig Mazin. And hipster Ken Levine.

And there are lots and lots of cool videos here.

And finally this United Hollywood blog will 'bout take care of anything else you want to know.

I know, I know, you're probably thinking I'm like a homeless dude eating out of a dumpster wondering if Donald Trump enjoyed his lunch. But in the end we're all in it together.

Give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Toast and Marmalade for Tea

I thought I would take a moment and answer a few questions posted at my blog.

Longtime reader and independent cartoonist Tom writes, have you any thoughts on Muncie's new film festival? The start of something good or an one hit wonder? (And thanks for the comics, Tom!)

I thought my hometown's film festival was a good idea, but they should be brave enough to show only the independent work from Indiana instead of feeling they have to couple each work with a more famous mainstream work with Indiana ties, like HOOSIERS. Film festivals at that level should represent work not available anywhere else, especially not down the road at Blockbuster. Or maybe I'm just sour because nobody invited me. How many scripts does a brother have to sell to get a shout-out from his own hometown?

Mad pulp bastard Bill writes, I remember the Cougar and the whole of the Atlas line of super stars...

I do more than remember, thanks to ebay and studious attention to quarter bins at comic book shows I have quite a lot of them. And some of them ain't bad, especially DEMON HUNTER, THE HANDS OF THE DRAGON, and WULF THE BARBARIAN--athought two of those three only lasted one issue! An awesome site here.

Filmmaker Pete writes, Seven scripts in one year?!?!? Are you kidding me? My goal has always been to write one feature script a year. And that's a chore! How do you do it? Write a blog entry about that. I would love to hear your process.Also, what are the titles of the scripts... just curious.

You have to develop discipline enough to keep distractions at bay, like comics, TV, and Colts games (or in your case, Bucs games) and stop listening to that little voice in your head that tells you nobody cares but you and nothing will ever happen with the project and nobody will ever read your work. Although creativity is important, there is a lot of craft involved ; there are plenty of creative people in the world who can't stop playing XBox long enough to get the work done. And there is a lot of butt to chair involved.

That being said, it was my busiest year since I started really chasing freelancing in 2000 A.D. and I'm not sure that feat could be repeated.

This year was great for me in that I took '06 off because of a change of job and some family issues and I didn't know if I had been away too long. But right away I did SPLINTERHEAD and NEW JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH for Polonia Brothers Entertainment, a rewrite of the bigfoot movie PRIMAL which I believe came out from Automatic Media (though it came out without my rewrite), a rewrite of a serial killer movie MENTAL SCARS for producer Richard Myles, supernatural thriller URAMESHIYA (GHOST SCREAM) for New Zealand director Amit Tripuraneni (though we are still rewriting), and two projects I did on a nondisclosure that hopefully one day I can talk about, a sci-fi and a war movie.

Old gaming pal Barticus Rex writes: You can't drift from The Shield. Seriously. And check out Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother on CBS Monday nights.

Thanks for the leads. I hate missing THE SHIELD but it is too hard-core for my wife's delicate sensibilities. That's what DVD box sets are for, I guess.

New reader Brian writes, Law and Order:CI is still good. A better switch to USA.

This turned out to be true! I didn't realize this had even happened, so I found it and started watching it. It looks a little less glossy but, in my mind, is better than SVU (or as we call it in my house, SUV) right now.

Thanks for the feedback! Give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Friday, November 09, 2007

On the Picket Lines

Much respect to the people from "The Office" for this viral video about the writer's strike. I have joked about it a bit but the serious shit is going down. And even though I will probably never get in the Guild I will probably never play for the Pacers either, so good luck to them.

Actually, it doesn't matter on what level you write, and I think I've said this before, but by and large being a writer is like being a virgin. The captain of the football team calls and calls, but as soon as you give up what you got the phone stops ringing.

I've been reading a lot of the excellent Hard Case Crime paperback series lately, and straight up, a lot of those bastards died penniless and alone. And, of course, many, many others, from comic book writers to Edgar Allen Poe.

I will bet you anything Shakespeare was hearing some shit like, "Well, we've got this new paradigm, and as soon as we figure out this whole letting women play women instead of having young dudes play women thing, you'll get paid."

True story: once I was pitching some scripts to a pretty well-known direct-to-DVD producer and he interrupted me and said, "All I need is a title and box cover art, I don't need to know about the script." And that's about it.

Give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Centurions Roll Call!

In solidarity with my writing brothers I too am going into repeats of a kind. Once upon a time I played a lot of role-playing games with my pals, including the Marvel SAGA system. Naturally our fertile minds created our own Centurions Universe.

Pretty soon as we became scattered far and wide we moved into message board turn-based gaming. We had a "web page" written with that crazy stuff called "HTML" and everything. I learned a lot about the interwebs that way. As the site got crazier and more elaborate I did a couple of "Sunday Comics" featuring our characters which were then computer colored by a fellow gamer and the world-builder, the Caveman.

Here is Issue One, featuring my character The Mote, Don's character The Marksman, Dave's character Hydromanex, and Doug's character Silent Majority.

Introducing The Lug

In the Caveman's computer coloring, he glommed onto my clever homage to a certain hulking antihero.

People Bug Lug!

Nothing beats a good old-fashioned Roll Call. Astute readers of my rickety comic book "Volunteers" might notice that I re-used this story in one issue. I was merging the universes, sort of like when Charlton got bought out by DC, only without Steve Ditko.

Excelsior!

Well, this gets me hankerin' to play more Marvel SAGA. The Mote returns in "Mote Revenge Squad!"

Monday, November 05, 2007

Boom! Boom! Boom!

Well, nobody asked me to go on strike with y'all, but I'm no scab (unless somebody wants me to reboot BIONIC WOMAN for them), so here are some previous articles I wrote, for another website, about some wayward comic books from the dustbins of history...The Secret Tomb of Brother Voodoo, where the sad, forgotten, misfit heroes come home to rest. Let's look inside, shall we?


THE FOX
Steel Sterling #49
Mighty Comics Group, 1967
Just because The Fox has a blue costume and pointy-eared mask and drives a Fox-mobile with a pointy-eared mask on the front and has a cave called The Fox Den does NOT mean he is a Batman ripoff! This guy is MUCH more emotionally troubled than Batman. For instance, his alter ego Paul Patton, "a hip leader of the swinging set", loves Delilah, a "go-go dancer" (read between the lines here) at the Emerald Room. She loves him, but Paul blows her off. Says one jealous onlooker at the Emerald Room, "Wotta cool operator! Fabbest dish in town is ape for him! And he exits like King Lear! It can't be harmonies! Wonder what's his favorite breakfast cereal?" Say what? Anyway, The Fox takes time off from fighting "The Gasser" (don't ask) to chill at the Emerald Room himself. What gives? Says The Fox, "She loves Paul...thinks The Fox is a repulsive weirdo...if I can get her to love me as The Fox, she won't insist I drop this identity after she marries me! That is why I am MY OWN RIVAL!" Aren't we all, baby.


THE COUGAR
The Cougar #2
Atlas Comics, 1975
Stuntman Jeff Rand is not only The Cougar, but he played him in a movie. The movie, Jeff's only starring role, bombed, but apparently he couldn't live without the red jumpsuit open to the navel, the long blue gloves and boots, and the dinner plate-sized Cougar belt buckle, so for some inexplicable reason he now wears the movie costume of this fictional character ALL THE TIME. Most people would find their relatives putting them in a special home, but Jeff still finds gainful employment on several horror movies. Of course, in true Scooby-Doo fashion there generally ends up being a real murder on the set…


TIGERBOY, "The Boy Who Hates Us All"
Unearthly Spectaculars #2
Harvey Comics, 1966
Paul Canfield is a mod Jimmy Olsen-looking kid with a bad 'tude--namely, he hates the whole human race! That's cuz he's actually a Venutian, stuck on Earth in a plaid sportsjacket. But one day he realizes that "some humans are worse than others," and takes on some baddies as Tiger Boy! He actually turns into a Tiger, but strangely, keeps his own human head. In the middle of the heated battle, he also turns into Steelman, and then Rubberman when convenient (they each get their own head, however). He heads home after the battle and finds his mom and dad doffing their human guise and sporting their original Venutian appearance, apparently giant bees. They convince him to use his shape-changing for good, though TB ends with "I hate them as much as they hate each other!" With friends like this...


DRACULA
Dracula #7
Dell Comics, 1972
No, not that Dracula! This Dracula, a descendant of the original, opted to try to help the world by using a "bat serum" to cure brain damage. And, for obvious reasons, he has to try it on himself. Next thing you know he has the power to turn into a bat, but none of the nasty side effects, like drinking blood, for instance. What's a boy to do? How about put on a purple leotard with a pointy Batman-like mask and start fighting crime? A character truly from the beyond.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Two Plus Two is Three, and Other News

It's true, Daylight Savings Time kills people and destroys marriages. I was reading in the paper about how pedestrians in big cities get messed up during DST and walk out on the street during rush hour, thinking it's earlier or later. This was an actual true study; pedestrians are more likely to get killed during DST changeovers. The other evidence is more anectdotal; my wife and I argued about whether we were supposed to turn back the clocks tonight or last night and wasn't it last week last year? And when I found out I was wrong and it was last night, I got tired realizing I got up too early and wanted to go back to bed. Year Two of DST's seige on Indiana is not going well. It seems Orwellian to us that one day it's one time and another day it's some other time. Why have the rest of you not risen up and fought this?

I have been crazy busy at my day job and have decided, with the holidays fast approaching, to take the rest of the year off from freelancing. I completed seven scripts this year and that's enough for any one dude to contemplate. I'll probably celebrate by playing Guild Wars with my brother tonight after the Colts game, the first time we've played in a couple of months.

I took my Little Brother Harold and his cousin Timmy out trick-or-treating this year. Taking the two of them around reminded me a bit of me and my brother back in the day, when my dad took us around. All the dads did in my neighborhood, because Big John who had the house at the top of the hill always had cold beers out for the dads, so that's where everybody ended up after making the lazy figure-eight around our neighborhood. Big John's house would probably be burned down today, with all the people upset about scary costumes and the religious implications and so on. Back then you went as gore-spattered as you cared to (though the improvisational hobos and eyehole-sheeted ghosts were popular) and rampaged from one blazing porch light to the next. The 70s were probably the last fun time to be a kid.

Today is the day. The sainted Colts against the evil, bullying, score-piling Pats. SuperBowl Something and a Half is really being built up here. Last year I kept saying the Colts were the worst undefeated team in football, and they won the Super Bowl. This year they look better, so I don't know what will happen. The Pats sure seem to be getting more attention, outside of our TV market. Today is my dad's birthday and we will be planted right in front of the TV eating cake at 4 p.m. No better place to be.

Give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Too Many Broken Hearts Have Fallen In The River

Once upon a time I would get the Fall Preview issue of TV Guide and carefully pick through and figure out everything I was going to watch and how to hammock it all together. This year's Fall TV season has barely made a blip on my radar. I think I was too willing to invest in new shows last year that went belly-up and a lot of my old favorites are on the fade. I also think it's because a lot of my favorites, like LAW AND ORDER and LOST and the love that dare not speak its name, AMERICAN IDOL, are all starting late. For whatever reason.

Of the new shows, I thought BIONIC WOMAN was like a pretty good show on the USA Network in the early 90s, but I fell asleep during the first two episodes so I quit watching. PUSHING DAISIES has a really neat look but I can't see how it will sustain itself so I quit watching. DIRTY SEXY MONEY is interesting, but like STUDIO 60 last year has one of those big expensive casts of movie and TV people so I sense the stink of doom around it and quit watching.

I have drifted away from BOSTON LEGAL, DESPERATE HOUSEWIVES, MEN IN TREES, THE SHIELD, and BROTHERS AND SISTERS. I watch COLD CASE, CSI, CSI: MIAMI, and WITHOUT A TRACE whenever I can but don't miss it if I'm busy. I try a little harder to catch the LAW AND ORDER shows. I finally broke it off with the dry husk that is ER but truly enjoy the early lineup of MY NAME IS EARL, THE OFFICE, SCRUBS, and 30 ROCK. If there is anything else on I'm forgetting it.

Yeah, I know, HEROES and BATTLESTAR GALACTICA and DOCTOR WHO and some of that other stuff on cable is good, but for the last five years it's been me and my wife and my daughter so the Lifetime network wins out over the Sci-Fi Channel 2-1 most all the time. I try to catch up with Netflix.

Netflix will kill your network television habit in a snap. But it's like quitting coffee and starting on meth. Pretty much all of the shows I watch I get through Netflix anymore. Recent marathon sessions have included SOPRANOS, DEXTER, ROME, DEADWOOD, ENTOURAGE, EXTRAS, and a lot more.

Is there anything I should be checking out on regular TV? Snap my ennui in the comments, please.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Weather's Turned, And All the Lines Are Down

My ass is busy and my mind is full. I've got a third draft of URAMESHIYA: GHOST SCREAM at the keyboard and a secret project or two to buff up. Here are some links to hold you over:

Bill Cunningham has a way of getting me all fired up.

Overall, these are my kind of peeps.

This kind of stuff I love.

My brother bought me this which I have enjoyed like life itself.

A pal who owns every one of the DVDs made from my scripts (which actually I don't even own) brought me a box o' this. And who wouldn't want that for Halloween?

Give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Monday, October 08, 2007

She's A Free and Gentle Flower, Growing Wild

I went for a little fall camping this weekend to clear my mind and it turned out to be the hottest weekend on record for October. So it goes. But I picked up another of my old nerd habits again, though this one might be considered in the tech-nerd subcategory which is more widely accepted than, say, the D&D nerd category, the comic book fan category, or a number of others that I belong to.

We went with another couple who are into Geocaching, which I dabbled with before the ominous shadow of the Patriot Act made it undesirable to be snooping around places with a GPS. We found a neat historic church with a grisly past and then found a geocache in a nearby state recreation area, placed there as part of a statewide geocaching contest by the Indiana DNR. Follow the link if you still don't know what I'm talking about.

My pal Dan and I hiked uphill in the blazing sun a mile or two back into the park, dutifully following the trail. Suddenly the GPS arrow towards the cache pointed hard left, even though the trail meandered along straight ahead out of sight.

Wringing wet and thinking about a pork loin cooking over the campfire way behind us, I suggested we cut cross country to the cache site, cutting a mile or two off of the walk. Unfortunately the arrow told us to go down a ravine and pop up on the other side.

We thrashed around for a bit in the back country before we suddenly, thankfully, found the hidden cache in a hollowed-out log. The joy that replaced the bitter anger in our hearts was short-lived when Dan slipped off the hollow log and began to tumble back down into the ravine. Fortunately a sapling smacked him in the head and broke his fall. It was one of those things that you sort of hold your breath for a moment, then laugh like dumbasses.

On the way back, my heart stopped for a moment when a camouflaged hunter stepped out from behind a tree. People asked me later why I didn't question him hunting with his friends in the state recreation area. Instead, with "Dueling Banjos" playing in my head, we loped for home.

Despite two near-death experiences, I think I'm ready to dust off my Garmin and hit the coordinates again.

Until later, give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Sweet Escape

B-movie fan Tim Shrum made this Bigfoot cake based on the Polonia Brothers' horror feature AMONG US. I never pictured this happening when I wrote the script, that's for sure--a cake based on one of my scripts! Save a brother a piece, Tim!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Feed Your Head Fall 2007 Edition

My quarterly mystery review column for the magazine "Pomp and Circumstantial Evidence":

HOLLYWOOD STATION by Joseph Wambaugh
Joseph Wambaugh has written a number of cornerstone crime novels, among them THE CHOIRBOYS and THE ONION FIELD and others, but has largely been away from the scene for some time. HOLLYWOOD STATION is his return, and he picks up as if he had never left, with crudely funny, caustic, horrifying tales from the lives of the men and women of the LAPD. Wambaugh retains his knack for dialogue and his penchant for bleak humor in this expansive, edgy tale. Fans who remember Wambaugh’s work will definitely want to seek this out, while new readers who have come up since Wambaugh’s heyday will have a welcome surprise.

THE OVERLOOK by Michael Connelly
In my view, few series have been more rewarding in pure storytelling and character development than Michael Connelly’s mature thrillers centered around LA police detective Harry Bosch (although Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins series is quite close). After stints working as a private investigator and on the Cold Case squad, Bosch is back front and center leading a new investigation with political and emotional undertones. Connelly writes in a clipped style, but has created a resonant world for his long-running protagonist.

THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN by James Lee Burke
New Orleans-area policeman Dave Robicheaux returns to a post-Katrina world in James Lee Burke’s latest mystery in this long series. Though the procedural elements are fairly straightforward, Burke’s vivid writing on the hurricane’s aftermath makes THE TIN ROOF BLOWDOWN one of the stronger entries among the Robicheaux novels. Burke’s powerful prose detailing the tragedy stands as a fine piece of writing on its own merits, and will certainly please fans.

NIGHT WALKER by Donald Hamilton
I haven’t been able to praise the “Hard Case Crime” series enough, with its retro-pulp covers and lineup of lost noir classics. This one comes from Donald Hamilton, whose muscular Matt Helm novels were a far cry from the go-go Dean Martin films of the 60s. NIGHT WALKER is a tough little thriller where a soldier gets mistaken for a dead man, with two femme fatales along for the ride to get this hapless mug into more bad news. Hamilton’s writing is brusque and clear-eyed, with all of the noir trappings intact.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I See Your Eyes, A Funny Kind of Yellow

Friday night I helped with the Richmond (Indiana) Art Museum's film series, where we screened 2001 in all its oversized glory. There was a nice crowd there and everybody came out after looking either drowsy or mind-blown or both. It was cool to see it with fresh eyes. I have always dug that "look" that was the perceived future from a 60s-70s perspective. And what was neat was that a lot of people stood around in the lobby and talked later. It reminded me how great true cinema is. I've never stopped loving it.

Bill Cunningham is smarter and cooler than me in so many ways, not just cuz he loved Sex Machine. Here he tells you the real deal, so I thought it was worth linking. It's 100 percent true you can sell a movie based on having a script and a cool poster alone; some people I have worked with have done it.

My longer reviews of festival fare from Microcinema Fest are starting to crop up over at Microcinema Scene, if you want to check them out.

Until later, give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Them!

I don't make it a habit of pooching off of other people's websites, but I thought this would be enjoyable to readers of this blog, and sort of has to be seen to be believed. This looks like the poster for a 50s Red Scare movie but is actually promoting the new NBA developmental league team debuting in Ft. Wayne, Indiana this season. They allowed the people of Ft. Wayne to vote on a team name. Obviously there are a lot of crazy MFs in Ft. Wayne. Now I have a new favorite sports team, based on the poster alone.

Friday, September 21, 2007

PoBros Day 07

The complete lunatics at the Polonia Brothers Fan Club have decreed another Polonia Brothers Day next Friday, their birthday. The total eclipse and rain of frogs during the last PB Day was a pure coincidence. So rush out and snag one of my favorites of theirs--incidentally written by me--AMONG US, from a dollar bin near you! Or, if you really want to celebrate, fly to Japan and check out THE DA VINCI CURSE--also incidentally written by me! Tell my pal Shogo I sent you!

Monday, September 17, 2007

Microcinema Fest 2007: Saturday Highlights

The Saturday screenings started with a blast with HOW MY NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOUR DISCOVERED LIFE ON MARS, a near-perfect slice of life short that sent chills down my spine. A boy fantasizes about traveling into space, and an elderly neighbor watching out a window helps him on his journey. Beautifully shot, flawless sound design, just highly imaginative work. Australian director Austin Andrews put it all together here.

Next was a pleasant little short from Todd Tinkham called SADIE TURNS SEVEN, a cute look at a little girl's birthday by the seashore.

More family fare next with LETTING GO, Dan Masucci's pleasantly shot, and passingly pleasant, short story of a boy and his blanket going their different ways.

I have said before that fimmaker Matt Meindl is one of the more creative rising talents in microcinema, with his wholly unique perspectives and his deft use of mixed media. His short LOLLY GAGGER may be one of his most accomplished yet, both in terms of production design and storytelling.

Nashville filmmaker Chase Kuertz brought an earthy, downhome feel to his family tale THE JOURNEY, a short about two brothers and their ailing father. Kuertz showed nice tools in production and also in his performance. His work is really growing stronger.

In the closing evening, AESOP'S DINER led the charge with the second short of the day to send chills down my spine. Cara Maria O'Shea's pitch-perfect urban fable about the dissolution of a rising band features great performances, solid production values, and a knockout soundtrack that my brother and I listened to driving home the next day. In my top three favorite projects in the Fest.

Steve Gelder's easygoing short comedy ARC played next, where two slackers go on a voyage of discovery (of sorts), and you can read what I first thought of it here.

Next was Bill Sebastian's big Texas drama MIDLOTHIA, which snagged a handful of Awards Sunday and was much admired at the Fest for its good performances, honest script, and solid production work. I think MIDLOTHIA has great crossover potential from micro to mainstream, and Sebastian's cast and crew deserve wider recognition for their work. This one snagged Best of Fest and others.

PETER'S PRICE is a crackling noir where a rising exec is robbed by somebody who turns out to be an old friend, and where their conversation leads is the suprising core of this crisp short. You can read more of my original take on it here.

New Zealand filmmaker Amit Tripuraneni's FIVE finished out the Fest on a strong note. Of course, loyal readers of this blog know I am working on a project with Amit, but setting that aside I enjoyed this work on its own merits. Tripuraneni coached naturalistic, almost improvised-seeming performances from his leads, coupling that with energetic visuals and a crisp pace in his "Twilight Zone"-flavored tale of camping friends and the revelations a long weekend at a remote cabin reveals.

And that's MCF 07! Some of these first-impression reviews will be turning into full-length reviews in the days and weeks and months ahead at Microcinema Scene.

Until then, give me a yell at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Microcinema Fest 2007: Friday Highlights

I MC'd the Friday afternoon session and had a solid line-up.

First was the action short CYN from director Alex Ferrari. Ferrari played in the Fest before with BROKEN, a sharp, FX-laden short which garnered some notoriety when the DVD came out with tons of "how-to" extras. CYN is more of the same, a technical exercise that could have used a bit more heft in the storytelling department. But if Ferrari puts out another DVD loaded with peripheral material again this one could also catch the rocket.

Next was YELLOW FELLAS from Canadian director Tetsuro Shigematsu, a comedy-drama about racial identity that has some laugh-out-loud comedy as well as some surprisingly sharp political statements. Hammers its points a few too many times and is a bit uneven in spots, but a worthy feature from a new voice.

Fellow Hoosier Peter O'Keefe and I have been circling a lot of the same places, including teaching a screenwriting workshop together in Palatine two summers ago. As long as we never circle the drain together we'll be okay. I liked seeing his strong short LULU TAKES A LOVER with fresh eyes. To see what I thought about it the first time, go here.

I have said for a while there should be more connectivity between aspects of the DIY culture, and Joe Biel's zine documentary A HUNDRED DOLLARS AND A T-SHIRT shows one way how that can happen. Although technically wanting, I think the audience had their eyes opened a bit by the doc's content. I gave Biel's work a look before, here.

After a really good Chinese dinner during the break, we came back to some old school ReWinders from the early days of the Fest bringing the game with GRIM CIRCUMSTANCE. Erin Arbogast's tense, sidewinding short thriller has a RASHOMON by way of PULP FICTION feel.

The gut-busting comedy short SIMPLE TASKS from Tim Wilkerson was next, an absurdist parody of "how-to" videos of days gone by. Biggest laughs of the Fest.

Australian filmmaker Austin Andrews was next with KITE CIRCUIT, a visually arresting but thematically curious short about intertwining lives on a mild afternoon. Great shooting and editing, but eclipsed by a project Andrews screened later in the Fest that I felt was my favorite of the year.

THE CHEMISTRY OF DATING was a genial comedy feature from director Matt Olson which gets an uptick from a strong performance from Brandon Rowray, a lonely collegiate who tries to apply scientific principles to finding the perfect mate. Although the character is a bit pickier than I might have been during my bloom of youth, I found myself rooting for him throughout. Rowray is complemented by a well-rounded supporting cast, with John Snipes as a professor just phoning it in especially memorable.

CLEAN BREAK, a hip comedy short about trying to break off with an unflappable girlfriend, had a funny little riff throughout.

Next came the coming-of-age drama COOP'S NIGHT IN from director Joe Burke, which many people named as their Best of Fest. It was telling to me that despite being acknowledged as strong in many categories, the short was shut out of the awards (as one of my other favorites, screened Saturday, AESOP'S DINER). It just shows the strength of this year's festival. Good performances carry the day for Burke's work, and you can read the rest of what I thought here.

Next was the edgy, hardboiled INTOXICATED DEMONS, whose content sent a few ripples through the audience. See what I first thought here.

Next came a dramatic short from Canadian director Carey Lewis, ROSE, an interesting character sketch of a disturbed young man. His STREETS OF WONDERLAND remains one of my favorite microcinema features, and blew the lid off the Fest two summers ago.

Finishing out the night was Scott Beck and Bryan Woods with the faux-spaghetti western THE BRIDE WORE BLOOD. This directing pair from Iowa have screened at the last few Fests, and I think this was one of their best works. They have been able to surround themselves with many talented actors--Travis Shepherd, Justin Marxen, Jim Siokos and Sabien Minteer among them--but I would like to see them tighten up their storytelling, both on the page and through their shooting and editing.

A long day with a lot of good screenings, but there's one more day to go--and my two favorites of the Fest. And that's next time, with more reviews from the gut.

Friday, September 14, 2007

MIcrocinema Fest 2007: Thursday Highlights

This year, my brother Eric and I got right to business in Palatine, hitting a drive-thru with Illinois filmmakers Jon Solita and Jeremy Neander and Canadian filmmaker/Fest founder Wally Fong on the way to Cutting Hall. There were more than 30 entries to screen in three days and some butts needed to get in some seats. Later Solita would write me that he had a massive bruise on his ass from twenty hours of movies. But it was game on from when the lights dimmed forward.

First was OMEGA 35 from young Florida auteurs the Dastoli Brothers. I have been saying these dudes are young for quite a few years and they are still young, as they started bringing the goods back in high school. This FX-laden sci-fi short harkened back to my high school days, giving off an early-80s vibe with a BLADE RUNNER/OUTLAND-type story set in a dystopian future. The Dastolis remain long on style over substance, but their style is worth just sitting back and enjoying.

Next was PRETTY DEAD FLOWERS from Justin Liberman, a dramatic short which gave off a different retro vibe, more of a French New Wave thing, as a an aging model engages a flippant young photojournalist in a meeting of the minds. Shot in luminous black and white, with mature storytelling and nuanced performances, PRETTY DEAD FLOWERS was a nice surprise and one of my personal top three favorite projects in the Fest.

IMPRINT from the Linn Brothers was the first feature of the Fest, a polished supernatural drama featuring a largely Native American cast. This is another pair of brothers who I have been following since high school, though they are much closer to my age. They have delivered a mature, resonant work with nice shooting and acting throughout. The Linn Brothers, the original Fest hosts, were given an Alumni recognition at the Awards Banquet Sunday, much deserved.

AN APOLOGY TO THE DEAD was the next feature, and shows the dangers of a professor becoming too close to an eager student who happens to work in a massage parlour, a predicament I faced time and again during my teaching days. Despite some shortcomings in the technical and storytelling mechanics, I thought the two leads were quite strong and created some memorable moments.

Next time--more off the hip reviews of Microcinema Fest 2007!

Monday, September 10, 2007

The Start of Microcinema Fest 2007

A threepeat in Palatine. Here is the lobby of the beautiful Cutting Hall, where the Fest played. This year there were cool new t-shirts and a raffle, in which I won two memberships to the Gene Siskel Film Center, which is all I wanted in the world.

The Real Start of Microcinema Fest 2007

Jagermeister-masters Jon Solita and my brother Eric start off the Fest in style. There was at least one night when my brother was going to bed when I was getting up.

Iron Man

Canadian filmmaker Wally Fong, longtime Fest anchor and founder of ReWind, updates the ReWind site at around 3 a.m., which was like noon to him. I know it was at least that late because we didn't go to Spunky Dunkers for donuts until after midnight every night. Wally posted a bunch of pictures of himself getting drunk and hanging around with young girls. Apparently the wives are more understanding in Canada.

Meat Skillet Challenge Year 3

The traditional filmmaker's breakfast at Billy's Pancake House, a place I fantasize about eating at when I'm away. Check out Wally Fong getting ready to take the Meat Skillet Challenge, a heaping pan of heart blockage that has broken many a man on its back, including me. Filmmaker Jason Santo increased his street cred the previous year by being the first person in Palatine history to finish one, a feat not dimished by the revelation that he used the burning ulcer in his stomach to access additional space in his body cavity. Later filmmaker Brian McQuery also ate one, leading people to theorize that the formula was changing. The feats of these two great warriors was still being discussed this year. A friend of Brian's who first came to the Fest this year said the story has passed into legend in certain parts. He declined to sample one himself.


Crossing the Finish Line

Wally Fong cowboys up and finishes the rest of the skillet with a straw while Jon Solita records this monumental event. The shamefaced competitors who fell weeping were not recorded.

There Can Be Only One

Wally Fong said he was drinking water here but I think he was throwing up in his glass. But much respect for completing the Palatine Triathalon: drinking all night, eating a meat skillet, then watching movies all day.

Hoosiers

Cool Indiana filmmaker Peter O'Keefe, at the afterparty and post-screening of his short LULU TAKES A LOVER. Peter and I taught screenwriting at a workshop in Palatine two years ago. Even sitting down, he's taller than me.

Rollin' With My Homie

Microcinema Scene O.G. Gary M. Lumpp and I reunite at the Fest again this year. Gary and I met on the Triggerstreet message boards and wrote and critiqued each other's work for a long time before we ever met. The interwebs is a funny thing.

Brain Trust, with Donuts

It was hard as hell to judge the Fest this year, as there was a ton of good stuff. We were up until I think about 3 a.m. trying to get it right. Naturally, I brought the Spunky Dunkers but forgot a pen.

Awards Banquet

The home stretch, the Awards presentation, with a nice buffet on Sunday morning. As I've said before, you will never go hungry in Palatine.

The Winner Is...

Wally Fong and I help Fest organizer Jeff Greene of Theatre Nebula hand out the awards. I was there as the eye-candy, sort of a micro-Vanna White.

Nashville Skyline

Me and talented Tennessee filmmaker Chase Kuertz at the banquet. He's from Nashville and my daddy's from Crossville, so we're probably cousins.

Like Mike

CNGM dude and former Fest organizer Mike Noens has slept maybe four hours a night for about six or seven years. He has so much energy he's like standing next to human cocaine. He is going to Flashpoint Academy and probably getting some sort of computer brain put in or something.

The Tao of Steve

Last year's Fest organizer Steve Coulter and me. I wanted to give him a shout out because a cute girl at the Fest told him he was like a brother to her. That's worse than the friend zone! I wish I could help a brother out, but I'm not much of a wingman since the last stone fox I pursued was probably before Steve was born. But Steve is out in L.A. now and hopefully will remember me when he needs his car washed.

Dinner for Four

Wally Fong and I snap a picture with filmmakers Cara Maria O'Shea and Peter Kohl, who made AESOP'S DINER, one of my two favorite projects in the Fest. My brother and I listened to the cool soundtrack on the way out of Chicago.


Return of the Five Deadly Venoms!

It's hard to believe it was four years ago that I shared bunks at American University in Rapid City with these dudes. All they have done since then is work harder and get more mad skillz. That's Wally Fong, me, Jeremy Neander, Jon Solita, and Jay Neander. We missed honorary Venoms Tyler Wilson, Miguel Coyula, and Jon Clark. We always say we'll see each other again before a whole year goes by, and I hope that's true some day.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Good Night, Palatine

Back from Microcinema Fest 2007 in beloved Palatine. I have had little sleep and my brother Eric even less. I will update more soon with blackmail photos and unvarnished opinions, but in the meantime go over to ReWind to see video and photos of the long weekend.

Meanwhile, while I was in Palatine my alma mater's most famous grad, David Letterman, came back to campus to dedicate the new building named after him. I wish I had been there to thank him for the check he wrote me back in 1987, when I won a Letterman Scholarship.

Also, the Colts won! Life is good all around. And better after I get some sleep.

Give me a yell at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

In A Far Away City, With A Far Away Feel

Loyal reader Dave writes, about DC Comics' "52" event:

I was suprised you hadn't already read it. You're in for a heck of a read, but I think my enjoyment of the series was greatly enhanced by the Comic Geek Speak (podcast) monthly specials, reviewing/discussing the 52 issues that came out that month. HIGHLY recommended if you have some free listening time to fill.

Though it is hard to believe, some epic nerd events have transpired without me. I am trying to play catch-up.

Microcinema Fest 2007 starts tomorrow: you can read my war journal of last year's event right here. Check out this year's lineup here. Look for posts on 2007 right here at this blog and probably at ReWind soon!

Until then, give me a yell at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

300 MPH Torrential Outpour Blues

A student asked me to give him a list of books to read to learn about screenwriting in particular and the grassroots DV movement in general. Obviously this wise youth wants to avoid the terrible pitfalls that have befallen me, and learn from my bitter mistakes. It was nice to be asked and set me to thinking. In the end, I came up with the following list. There are some about screenwriting and some about the industry and some for inspiration. Your additions welcome.


Alex Epstein, Crafty Screenwriting

William Goldman, Adventures in the Screen Trade

William Goldman, What Lie Did I Tell?

Jones & Jolliffe, The Guerilla Film Maker’s Handbook

Lloyd Kauffman, Make Your Own Damn Movie!

Robert Rodriguez, Rebel Without A Crew

Shari Roman, Digital Babylon

John Russo, Making Movies

Rick Schmidt, Extreme DV

Rick Schmidt, Feature Filmmaking at Used Car Prices

Bret Stern, How To Shoot A Feature Film For Under $10,000 (And Not Go To Jail)

J. Michael Straczynski, The Complete Book of Scriptwriting

Give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Makin' Love is Like Sifting Through Sand

A local group has decided to put on an Indiana film festival, where either the films have to take place in Indiana or have a writer/director/actor/somebody involved who was an Indiana native. They are sticking with older movies at first and have included such titles as FRIENDLY PERSUASION, KNUTE ROCKNE ALL-AMERICAN, THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS, BREAKING AWAY, SOME CAME RUNNING, A PLACE IN THE SUN, RAINTREE COUNTY, and TWENTIETH CENTURY. More modern titles that I thought of include CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, which takes place in my hometown of Muncie (and check out Richard Dreyfuss in the "Ball U" t-shirt) and THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, where Tim Robbins plays a bumpkin from the same said locale. As the saying goes, there is more than corn in Indiana.

Unfortunately I learned that artist Mike Weiringo died. He did a lot of good mainstream work, but on the independent tip check out TELLOS.

My pal Doug brought me the entire stack of DC's 52 yesterday and I stayed up late reading the first couple of issues. Better than Marvel's event, CIVIL WAR, by a stretch.

Give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Moonlight and Stars in your Strawberry Wine

Yesterday marked the 41st year I have spent on the earth. It has been seven years since I decided, after a long layoff, to get back into freelancing.

I would have to sit down and count but I think I have written somewhere between 15-20 screenplays on assignment since then and maybe two or three specs. I have about a half-dozen or so you can go out and get on the shelves with a few more in the chute. But every year on my birthday and evaluate where I am and whether I want to go one more year.

In 2006 I took a year off from writing. I had just changed jobs/careers and coupled that with some family issues. Last December I decided to pick up the pen again and was surprised to find that there were still people wanting to work with me after my self-imposed exile. Since December I have done SPLINTERHEAD and NEW JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH for Polonia Brothers Entertainment, PRIMAL for director Michael Su (which has since come out, minus my rewrite, but that's how it goes sometimes), MENTAL SCARS for producer Richard Myles, and am working on URAMESHIYA/GHOST SCREAM for director Amit Tripuraneni, with another secret project in the offing. I have worked pretty steadily since I started back up, pretty much picking up right where I left off.

This year I want to expand my base a little bit and look harder at other elements of the writing world I have been interested in. To that end I started keeping a new blog, THE HOMEMADE WORLD REVIEW, which you can check out here. Hopefully you will see more efforts in the coming months.

I had a nice birthday. I got some after shave and a new wallet and some clothes, and a gift certificate to "Books A Million" from my daughter. We had pizza with my parents and then went to the home opening football game of my alma mater in their shining new stadium. But they broke my heart, losing by one in the waning seconds.

Until next year, give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Ghostbusters 3

It's good to feed the muse once in a while. My wife and I made a quick trip up to Chicago and checked out the Art Institute. This is a great place that has such works as Edward Hopper's Nighthawks and Grant Wood's American Gothic. If you have ever played the game "Masterpiece" you know what I'm talking about.

More Art

Here we are in front of the Dayton Art Insitute in Dayton, Ohio. There was some interesting art, and a really good asparagus and blue cheese soup there in the cafe.

Up, Up and Away

A pretty cool sculpture that is a tribute to the Wright Brothers, at the Dayton Art Institute. This is my new desktop background.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Sure As You Can't Steer A Train, You Can't Change Your Fate

I saw THE LIVES OF OTHERS the other night and thought, damn I wish I had written that. Even though I don't know German.

Meanwhile, and I knew this day was coming, you can get several of my movies in dollar bins nationwide. As reported by Tim at the Polonia Brothers Fan Club, double DVDs of FEEDERS/AMONG US and HOLLA IF I KILL YOU/PETER ROTTENTAIL are cropping up in Dollar Stores across this great land. I grabbed myself one of each already.

Check out my pal Amit Tripuraneni's new movie FIVE here, with the first couple of minutes posted online. Looks like they shot the eyes out of this one. This will be playing at Microcinema Fest in a few short sweet weeks.

The return of mom and pop video stores? It does my heart (and my career) good.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Empire Star

A while back I wrote how I would love to go to Nigeria and become the William Goldman of the Nigerian film industry. Now I'm learning this emerging industry, which is all shot fast and cheap on video, almost entirely direct to video and largely genre-driven, is the third largest film industry in the world. They even have a name for it now--Nollywood. Damn, if I took the Polonia Brothers with me we could be like Dreamworks over there. I seriously would like to write something for that market.

These guys will give you a lot to think about. Especially this part.

Give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Zirn Left Unguarded, the Jenjik Palace in Flames, Jon Westerly Dead

I moved my daughter to college, my wife has been sick and also heartbroken, 50 to 75 percent of the people at my day job have been gone with various family dramas and illnesses, the midwest is facing a drought, I owe a lot of people a lot of emails, the great Pacer Reggie Miller may unretire and go play for the Celtics.

But the world is full of small happinesses. I found a 1,000 page omnibus at the library called THE SPACE OPERA RENAISSANCE which I love. I heard "Spinning Wheel" on the radio and thought about days gone by. A friend showed me a baby squirrel he found he is nursing back to health. My wife made homemade ice cream. The world is good.

Give me a yell at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning

The real world has encroached onto my blogging time quite a bit lately, but I hope to return to regular programming before long. But go check out the site for Microcinema Fest to see what promises to be a really strong lineup of projects from the micro world, once again in beautiful sunny Palatine Illinois. It looks like Amit Tripuraneni's FIVE will be closing out the Fest, the sweet spot where SEX MACHINE sat last year. If you're in the neighborhood come holla at me and my brother there this year!

In the meantime I am punching up a third draft of URAMESHIYA (GHOST SCREAM) for my pal, the aforementioned Amit Tripuraneni, and then seeing what the world brings.

I keep forgetting to tell people that I did this. I called it FRANKENSTEIN THUMB and will be making photocopies by the end of the week if anybody wants one.

I wrote in here recently that the Redbox in front of the McDonald's in the little town ten minutes away is now officially the closest video store to my house. I finally stopped and rented one and it was pretty cool. There was actually a line there, so I'm thinking I'm not the only one who feels the same way. When I walked in my wife narrowed her eyes and said, "You just couldn't stay away from it, could you?"

Give me a yell at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Grey Flannel Life

It's been one of those hairy days when you look around and almost two weeks have gone by. I hope to return to the blogosphere soon; in the meantime, check out my new blog here.

The yard is a blasted desert, the air God's hair dryer.

I did have a BBQ sandwich dressed with blue cheese chunks that I can't stop thinking about.

I stumbled across ON THE LOT again the other night, after I had sworn it off. I keep forgetting that reality shows aren't real, and I should have remembered that more clearly as ARMED AND FAMOUS came to my hometown not long ago to make a show about law enforcement and mostly used their time there to ridicule the populace.

So much alleged fakery and trickery sprung up around ON THE LOT, this supposed reality search for a new movie director, that many people jumped ship and formed their own website that is currently hosting its own contest. The whole thing makes me a bit tired so google it for yourself if you care to know more.

They are down to six people, two of whom I was suprised to see as they should have been kicked off in the first ten minutes. They are down to one episode a week and the elimination of contestants wasn't even shown live any more. They are wheezing to a conclusion and in the end I just feel sorry for the guys left. Some of them ransomed off their lives to be on this show and it's going to be a sad footnote. I wonder what work, if any, these guys are going to be able to get. I'm sure everybody involved feels a bit sick to the stomach.

Sadly for them, I'm getting more work than these guys. I am getting ready to do a third draft of URAMESHIYA (GHOST SCREAM) for director Amit Tripuraneni. More on this soon.

Give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Film Studies




Once upon a time, when I studied film, there was always somebody around who wanted to talk about "Breathless" or "Bicycle Thief" or "The Seventh Seal." I lamented at this blog that not too long ago I went out to dinner with a group of college film studies whose references were "Reservoir Dogs," "Boondock Saints," and the like. And therein lies the rub.

The great world filmmaker Ingmar Bergman died. Though his work can be some pretty tough sledding, might I recommend the archetypal world cinema classic "The Seventh Seal." Young readers might be surprised to learn that no less an august film than "Bill and Ted" paid tribute to this classic (and "The Virgin Spring" became "Last House on the Left," by the by). I am also a fan of "Wild Strawberries" and "Smiles of a Summer Night" (as light as you are going to get, and was adapted into "A Little Night Music"), and many people value "Personae" (as dark as you are going to get, probably).
Check out a nice story from the New York Times here.

We now return to our regularly scheduled b-programming.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

MCF

This is me and the great Boston-area filmmaker (and Microcinema Scene founder) Jason Santo chillin' like Bob Dylan in front of the theatre when the fest was in Rapid City, South Dakota a few years ago. Mostly I just posted this to remind everybody that the deadline for entries for this year's fest in Palatine, Illinois is tomorrow. You can check out more at the site here (www.microcinemafest.com), which was just updated today. I was surprised to find this shot in a cache of webphotos Jason had and I didn't think he would mind if I snitched it. Usually when I surf the interwebs googling my name I get to find reviews where people think I suck and wish that I would die. This was a welcome surprise.

Monday, July 23, 2007

My Cleanest Dirty Shirt

My friend Doug showed up Sunday with a grocery sack full o' comics, so I should be happy for a while. It was a nice surpise after a hellacious migraine on Saturday. Although apparently Marvel's "Civil War" is in there, way at the bottom.

My NZ pal Amit Tripuraneni, who I wrote URAMESHIYA (GHOST SCREAM) for, has a pretty interesting interview about his new horror film FIVE right here.

One of these things popped up in front of the McDonald's in the next little town over, making it the closest video store to my house. Has anybody else seen one of these, or tried one?

I don't know where my brother finds stuff like this (probably NSFW).

Give me a yell at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Back to the B-Mailbag

New reader Michael writes:

I googled your name and your Blog popped up. I couldn't help but notice we have many of the same interests -- screen writing, b-movies, film making, comics, gaming, Kurt Vonnegut, The Catcher in the Rye, etc. After discovering this and the fact you've accomplished many of the same things I want to accomplish, I had to stop myself from prostrating three times at your feet, and asking you to teach me the WAY (or at least be my mentor). But I thought that might be a little unprofessional.

Aim higher! I am still hoping for William Goldman or Michael Tolkin.

I'm looking forward to watching the movies you wrote. I actually purchased two online over the weekend, PETER ROTTENTAIL and RAZORTEETH.

Well, we'll see how much you want to prostrate yourself afterwards!

I watched the SEX MACHINE trailer, and it looks really well done. I see your friends with Bill Cunningham. I've read Bill Cunningham's Blog before and have rented SCARECROW... or maybe it was SCARECROW SLAYER... or both...

Bill is a smart guy with great advice on his blog, especially the part where he told everybody to watch SEX MACHINE.

Thanks for writing, and feel free to give me a yell at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Smells as Sweet

I don't do a lot of memes on my blog anymore, but sometimes one really strikes my fancy:

1. YOUR SPY NAME (middle name and current street name)
Oak Lone Oak. True!

2.YOUR MOVIE STAR NAME (grandfather/grandmother on your mom's side and your favorite candy):
Vermont York. OK.

3. YOUR RAP NAME (first initial of first name and first three or four letters of your last name):
J-Dalt. Yeah, 'bout right.

4. YOUR GAMER TAG (a favorite color, a favorite animal)
Blue Kitten. Don't understand this one, must be too old.

5. YOUR SOAP OPERA NAME (Mom's/Dad's middle name, and city you were born in):
John Muncie. Funny.

6. YOUR STAR WARS NAME (first three letters of your last name, last three letters of mother's maiden name, first three letters of your most recent pet's name)
Dalamspan. Good one.

7. JEDI NAME (middle name spelled backwards, your mom's maiden name spelled backwards):
Koa Smillaiw. Even better.

8. PORN STAR NAME (first pet's name, the street you grew up on):
Daisy Colson. Kind of limits the kind of parts I could take, unfortunately.

9. SUPERHERO NAME ("The", the color of shirt you're wearing and the automobile your mom drives):
Orange Olds. Not too inspiring.

10. YOUR ACTION HERO NAME (first name of the main character in the last film you watched, last food you ate):
Jaguar Ribeye. Kinda cool.

Not sure this one worked out the best for me, but there it is. Give me a yell at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

You Might Say I Was A Musical Proverbial Knee-High

On Friday an old friend invited me over to watch SEX MACHINE at his house, cook out, and have a few beers. My filmography always plays better that way. It was a nice evening and good to see SEX MACHINE through fresh eyes. I don't think I had watched it since it played at Microcinema Fest last summer.

My old pal Pete Bauer weighs in on SEX MACHINE here. Thanks, Pete.

I keep forgetting to post that the final chapter of my article I WAS BIGFOOT'S SHEMP was posted up at Microcinema Scene, here.

I shot off my second draft of URAMESHIYA (GHOST SCREAM) to New Zealand director Amit Tripuraneni on schedule Sunday. His new horror movie, FIVE, is winging its way to the U.S. from the opposite direction as we speak. I'm looking forward to seeing it.

Thinking about doing this now that my stitches are out. I love nerd extreme sports!

Give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Feel Sunshine Sparkle Pink and Blue

I take the bandages off of my thumb tonight, which is good because I need to finish up a few scenes for GHOST SCREAM this weekend. Still hurts a bit to type, though.

In the meantime, somebody found my site by googling boring facts about john dalton and when a squid is frightened, it turns red and Jeremy Mark Bolt needs to quit sticking out his stomach. I can promise the first but I'm not sure about the others.

Are these guys the future?

I love this kind of stuff. And this.

Give me a yell at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

On the Set of "Frankenstein Thumb"

I had sort of promised myself to stop typing in my blog until I got my stitches out. But last night I had another strange dream about the making of "Frankenstein Thumb."

My hand was throbbing and pulsing like a Bee Gees album and so I gobbled down some Vicodin and crashed out. And though I always thought Vanilla Coke was a good muse, Vicodin might even be better.

In this dream, I was an actor in the movie "Frankenstein Thumb." Something had happened to my thumb--it was implanted with a microchip, or it was a demon thumb, or something--and I was being interrogated by some mysterious people, being played by filmmakers I know from Microcinema Fest. And, curiouser still, I was being interrogated on the stage at Cutting Hall in sunny Palatine, Illinois, where the festival plays.

The fact that these people were mysterious was denoted by the fact that they were all holding flashlights under their chins, giving them Bela Lugosi shadows. I guess now even my muse is used to thinking low-budget.

Any interpretations of this dream are welcome. Until later, give me a shout at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Monday, July 09, 2007

The Making of "Frankenstein Thumb"

I had this really vivid dream that me and a bunch of filmmakers I have met at Microcinema Fest were making a movie actually at the festival. It may be because I am looking forward to this year's Fest. It also may have been because I was flying along on Vicodin. Which undoubtedly was because I almost peeled my thumbprint off opening a can of tuna for my cats.

I was using a hand can opener and it slipped out of my hands and fell into the kitchen sink. The first thing I said was, "I screwed up," which I knew I had because I didn't feel anything, just a wave of cold. Which was bad because my thumb was spraying blood on the kitchen floor. I looked closer and saw the ball of my thumb canted out away from everything else. So I wrapped a towel around it, but not before my daughter's friend glommed onto the whole thing and vomited. It was a zany few minutes. I had my wife drive me to the emergency room where after spending a few hours reading five-year-old magazines a friendly doctor put nine stitches in my thumb and patched it back together again. Though I suspect I will never be able to commit any left-handed crimes, because I think I am going to have a weird-looking thumbprint; sort of a Colts horseshoe.

The funny thing was that later my daughter and her friend found a piece of broken Cheeto on the kitchen floor and thought it was the tip of my thumb, until she picked it up with a spoon and butter knife and looked closer. I would have given anything to see my daughter creeping up on what she thought was the remains of one of my appendages with a spoon and a butter knife.

So the muse has gone silent here for a bit longer, maybe until I get the stitches out.

The name of the movie we were making? "Frankenstein Thumb." Ah, Vicodin, my fill-in muse.

Give me a yell at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Man Has Cried A Billion Tears

I just sent off a few new scenes to the Polonia Brothers for NEW JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH and am still punching up the third act of URAMESHIYA (GHOST SCREAM) for director Amit Tripuraneni. So let's go to the mailbag for today's entry:

Sporadic reader Joe writes:

Hi, I was watching a movie called Las Vegas Bloodbath, and in the credits, it credits the fx to someone named John Royal Dalton. Any relation?

Some research on IMDB tells me that this is actually David Royal Dalton. No relation. How come nobody wants to know if I'm related to Timothy Dalton?

Loyal reader Dave writes:

Hey, I just signed in to E-mail you. I decided to take a break last night from wrestling (as I usualy watch every night, but the Benoit thing has me reeling) and finaly got to watch Sex Machine. I dug it, you were right, my kind of movie. My only cretique of it has to do with the lack of a budget they had. I assume the budget =the bad ADR which was pretty distracting in some scenes, but other then that I enjoyed the hell out of it.

Thanks, Dave! Good luck with your wrestling career!

New reader Don writes:

During my hitch down in Louisiana (late '80s, early '90s), I remember watching a video from the rental store that a friend had rented, and I'm wondering if it isn't the Cannibal Campout listed under Jon McBride's body of work. I remember a chunky kid with an '80s haircut singing along to a song in a van on the way to the woods, and the bad guys pulling the guts out of a living victim while his buddy had to watch--not much else. Memories!

With that description, it could be nothing else but! Jon enjoys singing in his movies--check out "Bigfoot Stole My Six-pack" in AMONG US.

Write me at johnoakdalton@hotmail.com.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"We Need Weapons"


Another publicity still I shot for the bigfoot movie AMONG US, as Bob Dennis, Hunter Austin, and Jon McBride try to keep the critics at bay.

Bridge Over Troubled Water

This exclusive behind-the-scenes shot shows the incredibly rickety, dangerous bridge that the Polonia Brothers made use of in AMONG US. They made me carry a heavy tripod across this thing, figuring that the writer was probably the most expendable person on site.