Monday, January 18, 2010

MLK Straycation

Westcott House, Springfield Ohio. I always had heard Frank Lloyd Wright was odd but I didn't realize he was truly wacky until I saw his work firsthand.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Disco Ball Is Just Hanging By A Thread

I'd like to ring in 2010 by giving a quick shout-out to my pal, Cuban filmmaker Miguel Coyula.  Quite a few years ago now myself and some pals ran a site called Microcinema Scene which dealt with the emerging grassroots DV movement.  At that time we got probably 5 to 10 tapes and DVDs a week from all kinds of filmmakers from backyard horror directors to true auteurs.

But there was nothing quite like Red Cockroaches, a Shakespearean-sized sci-fi epic shot in NYC for $2,000 that looked like two million (with a priceless storyline too baroque to go into here). We realized then that we had found microcinema's first true rising star.

In 2004 I was a judge at Microcinema Fest in Rapid City, South Dakota, as well as taught video workshops at the Dahl Arts Center with Boston-area filmmaker Jason Santo. Santo connived to get Red Cockroaches screened at the Fest, which basically blew the face off of Mt. Rushmore and the minds of everyone in a several-mile radius. But I did Jason one better by conniving to share a dorm room with Miguel at National American University during the Fest.

Ah, how young and full of hope we were then; I was just getting going as a screenwriter in the direct-to-DVD market with Among Us hitting the shelves and Miguel had just finished his first major feature. And today, Miguel has a movie playing at Sundance and I...well, perhaps it's better to dwell on the success of friends.

Strangely, it has been almost ten years since I gave myself, on my 34th birthday, one year to break into screenwriting. And every year on my birthday I take stock and decide whether I want to keep going one more year.

In between, I was hired to write or re-write twenty screenplays: PLAYER IN THE GAME (Myriad Entertainment Group), MECHANIZER (Sterling Entertainment), AMONG US (Polonia Brothers Entertainment/Intercoast), BURNING GROUNDS OF THE UNDEAD (Polonia Brothers Entertainment/Intercoast), PETER ROTTENTAIL (Polonia Brothers Entertainment), RAZORTEETH (Polonia Brothers Entertainment), GIZZARD GUTS (Polonia Brothers Entertainment), DEMONS ON A DEAD END STREET (Polonia Brothers Entertainment), DEAD LAKE (for producer Bob Dennis), SEX MACHINE (Asphalt Planet), THE PAYBACK MAN (for producer Ivan Rogers), DEAD KNIGHT (Cine Excel), COWBOY (for producer Terrence Muncy), SPLINTERHEAD (Polonia Brothers Entertainment), PRIMAL (Sterling Entertainment), NEW JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (Polonia Brothers Entertainment), MENTAL SCARS (for producer Richard Myles), and three scripts under nondisclosure.

Twenty screenplays in ten years has a nice ring to it, really.
You can buy or rent or see on TV or see at a film festival six of these (MENTAL SCARS just came out this December on DVD). They are on Amazon and Netflix and ebay and available in dollar bins on DVD double features.
One other came out without any of my rewrite. One I think is still stuck in post-production. Two started shooting but never finished. The rest...well, you just never know what might happen.
Somewhere in there I found time to write a few specs, including HANDS DOWN, ONIBOCHO THE DEMON KNIFE, RING OF THE SORCERESS, ROOK, and my modern dress/original prose adaptation of Shakespeare's TIMON OF ATHENS (yes, you read that right). Three of those five have had interest at one time or another, but nothing has really happened on them to date.
For aspiring screenwriters, that's right; nobody has ever bought one of my specs, which I mostly wrote for fun anyway.
I have been proud of everything that left my keyboard and I have never used a pseudonym, two things I promised myself I would hold to all those years ago.
Part of the reason I haven't blogged much lately is that on 2009's birthday I just flat didn't know what to do next.
I took a lot of 2009 off from freelancing. I had done it once before, for the entire year of 2006, when a lot of personal and professional changes warranted it. This year, I changed jobs again and thought I would take six months off, which more or less turned into a year when I turned down two mockbusting jobs knocking off TWILIGHT and 2012. The good thing is that every time I take some time off there are still people that want me when I come back.
Way back in 1999 I thought the direct-to-DVD market was going to blow up and need content in the same way that the rise of mom and pop video stores launched the VHS boom a decade or so before. So I was able to position myself to be there when that was needed.
When I started seeing the grassroots DV movement taking off, I was lucky to be able to turn it not only into freelance work but an actual job. But about a summer ago I declared that grassroots DV was dead and it was time to usher in the next incarnation if I could only figure out what that was.
I spent a lot of time looking into social media and certain interesting not only philosophical but technological trends, such as the idea of truly free information and entertainment (like via Creative Commons). Strangely, I worked so hard at it as a freelancer that I got myself another real job doing it and all of a sudden was talking to other people about it.
I am still thinking about what that next-gen model is and how I can get involved in it as a freelancer. If 2010 brings less talk about rubber-suited monsters and more on these philosophical subjects, I apologize in advance. It will take something special or of great interest to me to keep doing what I have been doing for the past ten years on the freelance front. But time will tell.
Give me a shout at

Friday, January 08, 2010

Nerd Roadshow

Found by a friend's mom in the attic and given to said friend who was eager to just throw these relics of his childhood in the trash, rescued at the eleventh hour by yours truly. Yes, that's some 60s Silver Age Spider-Man, X-Men, Daredevil, Nick Fury Agent of Shield, Batman, Adventure Comics featuring the Legion of Super-Heroes and an admirable slice of Gold Key Turok, Doctor Solar, Magnus Robot Fighter and more. Not to mention all the stuff I didn't care to take a picture of, like old Harvey comics, Uncle Scrooge, and a ton of Archie comics.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

52 Weeks, 52 Books

This was the second year in a row that I vowed to read 50 books in a single calendar year. Somehow I was able to squeeze in 52. In retrospect, I had several snowbound days and a handful of beach days that helped up the numbers a bit. I could have used a few more beach days and less snow days but all's well that ends well.

After swearing off at the end of 2008, I think I will go for a hat trick and try to read 50 books again in 2010. I am one of those people that have four or five books going at once and I don't see that slacking off any. I ended 2009 reading Assignment Treason by Edward S. Aarons, The Penultimate Truth by Philip K. Dick, House Dick by E. Howard Hunt, Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Lethem and Tamar by Mal Peet (which hopefully will all give me a good head start on 2010).

In the meantime, here are my five favorite books that I read in 2009 and five honorable mentions. If I were to write this list again tomorrow, the top three would probably stay the same but everything else would undoubtedly be up for grabs.

Top Five Reads of 2009:

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.

Lunar Park by Brett Easton Ellis.

The Murderer Vine by Shepard Rifkin.

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill.

An Evil Guest by Gene Wolfe.

Five more:

Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami.

Babylon Babies by Maurice G. Dantec.

Citizen Vince by Jess Walter.

Missing by Karen Alvtegen.

Real World by Natsuo Kirino.

As always, happy reading.